Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101123

Financial Crisis
»EU Sovereign-Debt Leviathan Approaches Iberian Shores
»Eurozone Crisis: How Portugal Popped Its Cork
»Fed Weighed Setting Target for Inflation, Minutes Show
»‘Germany Must Make Clear That Its Capacity to Fund Bailouts is Limited’
»Greece Ordered to Cut Deeper to Get Past Debt ‘Crossroad’
»Ireland in Political Chaos After Bailout Triggers Election
»Van Rompuy Rows Back From EU ‘Survival Crisis’ Remarks
»Amil Imani: Obama: On the Horns of a Dilemma
»DHS & TSA Making a List, Checking it Twice
»Hate Crimes Against Muslims “Rare” Study Shows
»It’s Official — The FTC Will Vote to Take Over the Internet in December
»Kansas Pastor Warns of Creeping Shariah
»Lawfare: Hard National Security Choices
»NASA’s Spare Solar Sail Reaches Orbit
»Pravda Sez: “No Evidence of Hawaiian Birth for Aka Obama. What About Kenya?”
»The Consequences of Doom
»The Voter Fraud Hall of Shame: Milwaukee Voter Fraud Conviction Makes ACORN’s 2010 Total at Least 15
»Who’s Profiting on the TSA’s Use of Scanners? George Soros and Michael Chertoff
Europe and the EU
»3 Members of Sharia4belgium Arrested in Terror Sting -[Make That 15 People in Belgium]
»Anti-Terrorism Probe: Ten Suspects Arrested in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands
»Belgium Terror Probe Nets 11 Arrests
»Denmark Sees ‘New Indications’ Of Terror Attacks
»Fears Rise of Pre-Christmas Al Qaeda Terror Attack in Europe After Ten Suspects Arrested
»Finland: One Man Detained in Connection With Fatal Fire
»French Village Evacuated to Clear German WWI Munitions Depot
»Germany: Sex Abuse Victims Still Waiting for Catholic Church Compensation
»Italy: Muslims Protest Police ‘Cataloguing’ At Treviso Mosque
»Netherlands: Tourist Sector Fears Cannabis Ban
»Netherlands: PVV: No More Dual Nationality in Army
»New Indications That Groups Plan to Send Terrorists to Denmark
»Six Percent of Italians Were Crime Victims
»Ten Detained in European Anti-Terror Sweep
»Terrorism Suspects Arrested in Germany
»Terrorism Alert: German Police Want Army to Help Protect Public
»UK: ‘EDL Not Far-Right, ‘ Says Police Extremism Chief
»UK: Conference Promotes Muslim World Control
»UK: Husband Stabbed Wife to Death, Court Told
»UK: It’s the Saudis, Stupid
»Vatican: Cardinals to Discuss Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal
North Africa
»Algeria: Al-Qaeda ‘Banker’ Killed by Security Forces
Israel and the Palestinians
»Free Palestine!
»Palestinian Blogger Facing Prison for Islam ‘Insults’
Middle East
»Diplomat Whose Name is Dirty Word in Arabic Rejected as Saudi Ambassador
»Iranian Parliament Wants to Impeach Ahmadinejad
»Iraq: Mosul Christians ‘Terrorized’ And ‘Ready to Leave’
»Iraq: Two Christian Brothers Killed in Mosul
»Jordan: Thousands of Iraqi Christians Seek Refuge
»Shocking Photos of Indonesian Maid After Saudi Employer Hacked Off Her Lips
»Turkish Writers Boycott Istanbul Literary Event Over Naipaul Invitation
»Why Turkey Will Emerge as the Leader of the Muslim World
South Asia
»Fake Taliban Leader ‘Dupes NATO Negotiators’
»Indonesia: Sumatra: Local Authorities Close Catholic School Without Explanation
»US Asks the Netherlands for ‘Serious’ Afghan Training Mission Effort
Far East
»North Korea Fires Artillery Barrage on South
»North Korean Dictator-in-Waiting Linked to Deadly Artillery Attack
Australia — Pacific
»Ten in Court Over Record Drug Bust
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Gambia Deals Blow to Iran’s Africa Diplomacy
»Somali Piracy is a Problem for the World
»Somali Militia Issues Death Threat to Swedish Artist
»Australia: Punters Well Aware of Economic Case Against More Immigration
»Burney Asks British Govt to Ban Rehman’s Entry Into Country
»Egypt-Israel Wall Under Construction
»Iraq: After the Attacks on Christians in Baghdad, 40 Families Emigrate North
»UK: Migrant Workers to be Cut by a Fifth
Culture Wars
»UN Cowardice is a Betrayal of Its Gay Citizens
»The West and the Guest

Financial Crisis

EU Sovereign-Debt Leviathan Approaches Iberian Shores

The sovereign debt crisis behemoth that had shaken Europe to its core by the end of Monday appeared to be moving on southward to demand its latest victims as investors appeared unconvinced that the Irish bail-out plan was working. Dublin also announced it would hold elections early in the new year. Portuguese, Spanish and EU leaders, alarmed at the seemingly unquenchable vengeance of this marketplace leviathan, insisted that the two Iberian nations were very far from having to follow Ireland and Greece in asking for bail-outs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Crisis: How Portugal Popped Its Cork

The woes of crisis-stricken countries are not only due to international speculation and mismanagement of public finances, but also to their inability to create wealth. That’s what happened in Portugal, which never really adapted to the euro.

Stefano Cingolani

Let’s call it the cork parable. It takes place in Portugal, but applies mutatis mutandis to other European countries too. What’s it about? The Portuguese, the biggest producers and exporters of cork for bottle stoppers. Something made from the bark of cork oaks and the earth that nurtures them. Now what could be more solid and down-to-earth, unlike loans, debts, bills of exchange, derivatives — in a word all that “devil’s dung” that caused the crisis. If these bucolic premises were correct, the economic crisis on paper should not have spread to the cork. But what actually occurred was the opposite.

Why is it that little European nations like Portugal are now staggering under the blows of market speculation? The first reason is their size: in our day, their treasury bonds are bought and sold by financial leviathans with bigger budgets than many a state.

Secondly, they’ve got too much public and private debt on their hands: however austere their fiscal policies may be, the governments just can’t get a grip on it. Ireland’s economy accounts for 1.7% of the eurozone, and yet Irish banks grabbed a quarter of the funds made available by the European Central Bank (ECB). Greece, with 2% of the zone’s GDP, took in 17.3% of the cash from Frankfurt. Portugal, which accounts for 1.8% of Euroland’s gross product, was less greedy, now holding 7.5% of the loans. However, the fact is the Portuguese are even more indebted than the Greeks: taking households, private and public sector together, their debt comes to triple the GDP, as against 240% for Greece.

The third and definitely most important reason in the long run is that these countries fail to produce enough revenue to pay their debts. Portugal, with a 7.2% shortfall between GDP and debt, is looking for a 0.7% increase in GDP this year, but Standard & Poor’s, which moves the markets, is expecting to see a 1.8% recession there next year.

Things started going seriously awry in 2001

Which brings us from paper finance to the real economy, to the nuts and bolts of the Portuguese economy. Portugal took a long time to claw its way out of the underdeveloped hole in which António Salazar’s dictatorship had kept it stuck for so long. The 1975 Carnation Revolution brought democracy, not prosperity, at least not right away: the country had to wait till the 1990s to get its economy off the ground. Even so, it still has a marginal economy that exports goods with low value added. Its closest ties are to Spain, to which it has become an annexe of sorts, then to France, Germany, and Angola, its old African colonial dominion, which now mainly supplies oil. Portugal’s main manufactures are textiles, which remained competitive thanks to its low cost of labour…until Eastern Europe barged in on the scene.

And then came the euro. All of a sudden, Portugal found itself having to live, produce, sell and export on a strong currency, rather like the Deutschmark. So it’s no coincidence things started going seriously awry in 2001…

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

Fed Weighed Setting Target for Inflation, Minutes Show

Nearly three weeks before they announced a $600 billion effort to push down long-term interest rates and shore up the economy, officials at the Federal Reserve debated whether to adopt to a formal target for inflation, and whether the Fed chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, should “hold occasional press briefings” to explain the Fed’s economic outlook and decision-making.

Those steps would represent a sea change in how the Fed approaches monetary policy and how it communicates with the public. On Wednesday, the Fed released minutes of the Nov. 3 meeting of its Federal Open Meeting Committee, which sets monetary policy. It also disclosed for the first time that the committee met on Oct. 15 by video conference, the first such meeting since May 9, when the panel met to help address the European sovereign debt crisis.

[Return to headlines]

‘Germany Must Make Clear That Its Capacity to Fund Bailouts is Limited’

Ireland, which has applied for aid from the EU and IMF, is under mounting pressure from politicians in Germany and elsewhere in Europe to increase its corporate tax rate. Irish corporate tax is less than half that levied by other EU nations. German editorialists are divided on the issue of bailing out Dublin.

Following Ireland’s request for billions in aid from the European Union rescue fund, calls for the stricken EU member state to raise its corporate tax rate are increasing in Germany. In continental Europe, many countries have long been miffed by Ireland’s 12.5 percent corporate tax rate, which is less than half that levied by many other EU countries, including Germany. They argue that it leads to an exodus of jobs to Ireland and represents unfair competition. In an interview with Germany’s tabloid daily Bild published on Tuesday, however, Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan rejected those demands.

Lenihan also disputed arguments that Ireland had been the subject of “direct or indirect” pressure from the EU over his country’s low corporate tax rate. He said his country was competing with the Far East rather than other EU countries for much of its foreign direct investment.

The Irish minister told the paper that his country is neither bankrupt nor in recession. “We have €22 billion in reserves and a pension fund with €25 billion,” he said. The requested aid should show that Ireland, in the worst case scenario, has further avenues at its disposal for obtaining financing and that these still haven’t been exhausted, he added.

The finance minister said he was confident Ireland would be able to pay back any loans it receives, and that the country is thankful for the assistance.

Doubts over Ireland’s Future as a Low-Tax Country

In Brussels, officials assume that, in addition to making painful cuts in its budget, Ireland will also be unable to avoid raising taxes. “It is probable that Ireland will not continue to be a low-tax country,” a spokesman for EU Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn said.

Given that Germany will have to provide a considerable part of Ireland’s credit guarantees, criticism amongst politicians in the country over the Irish taxation system is growing. “It cannot be that the companies and residents in Ireland pay lower taxes than companies and residents in the countries that are providing the aid,” Hartmut Möllring, the finance minister for the state of Lower Saxony, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party, told the Braunschwieger Zeitung newspaper. “Irish taxes must at least be average or a little bit above.”

The finance policy spokesman in the German parliament for the Green Party, Gerhard Schick, also took aim at Dublin. Ireland, he told the Ruhr Nachrichten newspaper, had massively grown its financial sector through “unfair tax competition and lax financial market regulations.”

Ireland needs to “improve its banking supervision and increase its revenues,” said Carsten Schneieder, a budget spokesman for the center-left Social Democrats in the German parliament.

The irony here is that retaining all sovereignty on the issue of determining its corporate tax rate was a concession the EU, including the leaders of its member states, made to Dublin in exchange for support for the Lisbon Treaty after a first referendum on the EU reforms was rejected by Irish voters in 2008.

The bailout has plunged the Irish government into a deep crisis. On Monday night, Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced that parliament would be dissolved and new elections held at the start of 2011, once a budget for next year has been agreed.

On Tuesday, German editorialists view the developments in Ireland with concern, with some papers arguing it is time to strip Ireland of its tax advantage, others questioning the wisdom of rescuing the country and one paper of record arguing that the bailout is the best solution for Ireland and for Europe.

Business daily Handelsblatt writes:

“Germany and France have been complaining for years now about Irish tax dumping. But now, at a time when they could be forcing the country to correct its course, they appear to be backing down. The governments may still be spitting fire and brimstone over Irish corporate tax, but behind the scenes, Brussels sources say that no one is seriously pushing for an increase.”

“The European Commission never carped against the low Irish tax rate. On the contrary: It long argued that the EU member states must be competitive when it comes to taxation in order to prevent reaching too deeply into the pockets of their citizens and corporations. That argument might make sense if there had been true competition, but that was never the case. Ireland was only able to attract companies into the country through a low corporate tax rate because the government in Dublin also had another revenue source. For many years, Ireland collected many billions from the EU funds for structurally weak regions. Thus, EU net contributor Germany, through its contributions to Brussels’ budget, indirectly enabled an Irish tax policy that damaged Germany’s standing as a place to do business. The mistake now threatens to repeat itself. … But why should companies in Germany continue to have to pay 30 percent of their profits to the state if they only have to pay half that in Ireland? And why should German taxpayers indirectly support the exodus of jobs to Ireland?”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece Ordered to Cut Deeper to Get Past Debt ‘Crossroad’

(ATHENS) — Greece won approval on Tuesday for a new slice of rescue funding but the IMF and EU prescribed even tougher action on tax evasion, waste in health care and on state companies to merit another payout.

They also warned that Greek wages were too high and said the country, saved from imminent insolvency in May, faced potential problems in repaying on time — although solutions were available in that case.

The expert auditor from the International Monetary Fund, Poul Thomsen, said: “The programme is at a crossroad.”

The approval for the third tranche of rescue funds had been delayed by a day because negotiations on deeper austerity measures, described as “difficult” by the Greek side, were continuing, just as the European Union was putting in place a rescue for Ireland, the second eurozone crisis in six months.

The EU and International Monetary Fund auditors, saying that Greece was “largely on track” with reforms to correct its public finances, approved the release in December of 9.0 billion euros in rescue funds.

A fourth, far bigger slice of 15 billion euros due by March would depend on progress made with the latest requested measures to fight a massive budget deficit and national debt.

The auditors, speaking after a regular review of Greek public finances imposed under the 110-billion-euro (150-billion-dollar) May rescue, did not rule out extending the repayment timetable or providing a further loan.

The Greek government was determined to move on structural reforms, Thomsen said. “We are largely on track, with small deviations, we are close to targets.”

He said that “the main risks are linked with the possibility that reforms are delayed … This is the key question.”

For the European Commission, Servaas Deroose said: “Reforms have to be done in the labour market in order to restore competitiveness.”

Wages in Greece had doubled between 2000 and 2008, he said. “It’s an excessive evolution.”

The auditors from the IMF, EU Commission and European Central bank, said in a joint statement:

“New measures have been agreed to broaden tax bases and eliminate wasteful spending, particularly in the areas of health spending, which is inefficient relative to other eurozone countries.”

The statement also said that action was needed on “state enterprises, which are a heavy burden on the economy with perennial losses for Greek taxpayers.”

The government has to push on with reforms of the tax administration for which new measures to strengthen tax compliance were coming into effect.

Asked whether the May package could be extended, Thomsen noted that the initial loan was for a relatively short time.

“We are confident Greece will be able to return to the (financial) market before the end of the programme,” he said.

“But whether it’s going to be able to return to the market on a scale that will allow it to borrow, not only to roll over its obligations, on the market but also repay the IMF fund and the European partners, that is admittedly a question.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland in Political Chaos After Bailout Triggers Election

(DUBLIN) — Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen was fighting to keep his government together Tuesday after his call for an election early next year failed to stem the political crisis over an international bailout.

Cowen said late Monday that he would call an election but only when he had seen through a crucial budget, arguing it was essential to obtaining up to 90 billion euros (122.5 billion dollars) in loans from the EU and the IMF.

The beleaguered Cowen was responding to calls by the junior partners in his coalition, the Green Party, for an election in January.

But opposition parties want an immediate election and reports Tuesday suggested they may not be prepared to wait for Cowen’s timetable, which could mean an election in February or March.

The premier’s own Fianna Fail party — which has dominated Irish politics since the 1930s — is said to be restless, with several senior members said to have urged Cowen to stand aside after two troubled years in charge.

Cowen said the immediate priority must be to pass a four-year plan of austerity measures, which is expected to be approved at a cabinet meeting Tuesday morning and published Wednesday, and then a six-billion-euro budget is due on December 7.

However, two independent lawmakers the government depends on to pass legislation said they were likely to withhold their support, raising fears that the budget might not be passed at all.

“It is my intention at the conclusion of the budgetary process, with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the new year, to then seek the dissolution of parliament,” Cowen, known as the Taoiseach, told reporters.

He added: “It is imperative for this country that the budget is passed.”

Cowen called the leaders of the opposition Fine Gael and Labour parties late Monday to urge them to back the budget, arguing it was a crucial pre-condition for the bailout, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said.

The EU’s economic affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, insisted in Strasbourg Monday that the political upheaval in Dublin would not jeopardise the rescue deal offered by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

“I don’t see that it will threaten the EU-IMF programme or its negotiations,” he said.

He added: “Having said that, of course, sufficient political stability is important to pass next year’s budget in line with the four-year fiscal plan which will form the cornerstone of the negotiations.”

The euro rebounded against the dollar on news of the bailout, but it fell back again Monday.

Stocks in British banks also fell in London amid fears of their exposure to the Irish economy as traders anxiously watched the political fallout and its potential effects on the rest of the 16-nation eurozone.

Built-up opposition to Cowen’s government came to a head following its decision Sunday to accept a bailout for the debt-ridden country, ravaged by the global financial crisis and the collapse of a domestic property bubble.

In a shock move Monday, Green Party leader John Gormley, whose party has six lawmakers in the Dail, called for an election in January to provide “political certainty” for voters who felt “misled and betrayed” over the bailout.

The Irish Independent warned that waiting for the budget process to be completed before going to the polls may be too long. “The timetable will try the patience of the voters,” it said.

Lawmakers in Cowen’s party were to meet Tuesday to discuss the possibility of calling a no-confidence motion in the premier, the Irish Times said. Reports suggest the opposition Fine Gael and Labour may also call for such a motion.

In a sign of the public anger about the bailout, dozens of protesters forced their way through the gates of the parliament building Monday before being pushed back by police.

Adding to Cowen’s problems, the government faces a by-election Thursday in the northern constituency of Donegal South-West which it is likely to lose.

Ireland’s request for aid was approved by EU officials who were desperate to quell fears that other heavily-indebted euro economies such as Portugal could be sucked into the crisis.

The EU has agreed in principle to dip into a 750-billion-euro fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which was set up in May after a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout of Greece.

Britain will make a separate loan of seven billion pounds.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Van Rompuy Rows Back From EU ‘Survival Crisis’ Remarks

EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy has rowed back from his strong words from Tuesday (16 November) over the “survival crisis” of the euro and the European Union, saying his words had been misinterpreted. On Thursday, speaking to a group of politicians from the centre-right European People’s Party in the European capital, he said: “A reference to the ‘survival crisis’ of the spring … was wrongly interpreted as also referring to the present situation. Everybody in the audience who listened carefully to my words, was surprised by reactions afterwards.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Amil Imani: Obama: On the Horns of a Dilemma

“When seeking office, the aspirant must pretend to be what he is not. After seizing power, he should impose his agenda quickly and ruthlessly before his subjects realize what he is doing and have time to react.” Niccolo Machiavelli

With the underlying potential of upheaval within the Democrat Party and the Tea Party inspiring revolt against overreaching government, grassroots conservatives led a charge across the length and breadth of the United States on November 2, 2010 with the future of state, federal and local elections of 2012 in the balance. The Obama administration is on the horns of a dilemma.

           — Hat tip: Amil Imani[Return to headlines]

DHS & TSA Making a List, Checking it Twice

Following the publication of my article titled “Gate Rape of America,” I was contacted by a source within the DHS who is troubled by the terminology and content of an internal memo reportedly issued yesterday at the hand of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Indeed, both the terminology and content contained in the document are troubling. The dissemination of the document itself is restricted by virtue of its classification, which prohibits any manner of public release. While the document cannot be posted or published, the more salient points are revealed here.

The memo, which actually takes the form of an administrative directive, appears to be the product of undated but recent high level meetings between Napolitano, John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA),and one or more of Obama’s national security advisors. This document officially addresses those who are opposed to, or engaged in the disruption of the implementation of the enhanced airport screening procedures as “domestic extremists.”


For “any person, group or domestic alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel “disruptions” at U.S. airports (as defined above) in response to the enhanced security procedures, the [applicable DHS administrative branch] is instructed to identify and collect information about the persons or entities, and submit such information in the manner outlined [within this directive].

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hate Crimes Against Muslims “Rare” Study Shows

The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has claimed that “anti-Muslim hate crimes” have risen sharply in the U.S. since 9/11. In fact, the rate of such crimes has actually dropped, and as this new study shows, it is quite low compared to hate crimes against other groups. CAIR exaggerates the number and seriousness of hate crimes against Muslims because it knows that victimhood is big business: insofar as it can claim protected victim status for Muslims in the U.S., it can deflect unwanted scrutiny and any critical examination of how jihadists use Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence and supremacism.

Backlash! Anti-Muslim hate crimes only eight percent of hate crimes, far less than those against Jews

That’s most likely why CAIR and others have not hesitated to stoop even to fabricating “hate crimes.” They want and need hate crimes against Muslims, because they can use them for political points and as weapons to intimidate people into remaining silent about the jihad threat.

Reality, however, is a consistent witness against CAIR.

“Blacks, Jews most likely victim of US hate crimes: FBI,” from AFP, November 22 (thanks to JCB):

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Blacks and Jews were the most likely victims of hate crimes driven by racial or religious intolerance in the United States last year, the FBI said Monday in an annual report.

Out of 6,604 hate crimes committed in the United States in 2009, some 4,000 were racially motivated and nearly 1,600 were driven by hatred for a particular religion, the FBI said.

Blacks made up around three-quarters of victims of the racially motivated hate crimes and Jews made up the same percentage of victims of anti-religious hate crimes, the report said.

Anti-Muslim crimes were a distant second to crimes against Jews, making up just eight percent of the hate crimes driven by religious intolerance…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

It’s Official — The FTC Will Vote to Take Over the Internet in December

by Seton Motley

Details have been sketchy, and successive reports often contradictory, but what follows is what seems to be looming over us in December. (We will know for sure on Wednesday, November 24 — if the FCC maintains its current December 15 meeting date.)

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski appears to be preparing to dramatically increase the FCC’s regulatory role over the Internet (in TWO ways; more on that later).

He is doing so without the necessary Congressional authority — which he himself acknowledges he doesn’t have. And he is doing so by torturing and twisting the regulatory language he is drafting — so as to keep this extraordinary dictatorial seizure within the current Title I confines.

The latter is for The Chairman merely an optical effort. If he can feign the appearance of remaining within Title I, he avoids Reclassification to Title II — against which many of us have long been rightly fighting. He will then portray his fealty to Title I as testament to the alleged “moderation” of his (un)modest proposal.

This will be a totally bogus assertion, but he will make it — and the media will inparrot-esque fashion repeat it. The Chairman should bring crackers to the press conference.

Free Press and the Media Marxists — who have long cried for Title II Reclassification — will on cue rail against The Chairman’s “sell-out.” This will further “bolster” his claim that he has found the magical, mystical Third Way — winding a path between the leftist Open Internet absolutists and the evil telecom companies…


[Return to headlines]

Kansas Pastor Warns of Creeping Shariah

A Wichita, Kan., pastor who was defending himself on a charge of loitering for passing out Gospel tracts from a public sidewalk at an Islamic mosque is suggesting Shariah is creeping into America through preferential treatment provided by law enforcement and the courts.

Pastor Mark Holick of Spirit One Christian Center, who previously challenged Internal Revenue Service mandates that he not comment on politicians’ moral values in the midwestern state, was in court for a hearing on the accusation of loitering.

He said he was challenging the government’s version of events and asking whether it is procedure for captains in the Wichita police department to respond to calls about someone allegedly loitering.

“I asked them how often a captain answers a call for loitering. He said, ‘Well, I did it when I was an officer,’ but I said, ‘How many times have you done it as a captain?’“ Holick observed.

“I mean, what are the odds that a captain would respond to a call about people passing out the Gospel at a mosque? He was there in five minutes of the call coming in,” Holick continued.

Holick told WND the episode is evidence Wichita is moving to give wider latitude to Muslims operating mosques in the city.

He also believes that the events of the confrontation in August show the city of Wichita is willing to be at the disposal of the Islamic community.

Officials at the Islamic Society of Wichita have not responded to a WND request for comment.

The case developed when Holick set up a Gospel distribution project on the public sidewalk at the mosque on Aug. 27.

Holick told WND his group stayed on the public sidewalk and at no time attempted to block the drive or prevent any of the mosque’s attendees from leaving the parking area.

He believes mosque officials themselves called police to have the Christians removed.

“The captain arrived and told me that I couldn’t stand in the driveway and he told me that I had to keep moving. I kept moving and when I turned around, that’s when the captain arrested me,” Holick explained.

Holick says that he tried to defend himself during the court appearance on the accusation of loitering.

“Probably 75 percent of the questions I would ask were objected to and probably 90 percent of those were sustained. So I was simply not able to ask detailed questions,” Holick asserted.

He also believes the 30 church members in attendance in the court had an impact.

“Everybody who’s ever been to court knows that when you’re defending yourself, it automatically makes the court upset,” Holick stated.

“Then we had a number of our members there and it’s just my opinion that he’s not used to that. At one point the judge began to talk about how people were attempting to intimidate him,” Holick continued.

“All they were doing is sitting in the court room and I was asking questions. So I think it was just the Christians’ presence that made it difficult for him,” Holick added.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Lawfare: Hard National Security Choices

by Benjamin Wittes

A few days ago, in response to comments by David Remes, I asked for thoughts from criminal defense lawyers as to whether they would rather defend a terrorist case in federal court or in a a military commission. Yesterday, Linda Moreno-who has defended a number of high profile cases-send in the following:

I am a criminal defense attorney who has defended clients in several so-called terrorism cases around the United States since 2003. Following is a partial list:

United States v. Sami Al Arian, United States v. Holy Land Foundation, both trials, United States v. Aafia Siddiqui, Mohamedou Salahi vs. Barack Obama (a Guantanamo detainee), United States v. Muthanna al Hanooti, and others.

As a result, my perspective from the criminal defense trench makes me cringe when I hear lawyers and defense bars parroting the administration’s party line that the federal courts are preferred because they are so “transparent” and “fairer,” which is code for a guaranteed conviction. You see, Attorney General Holder and the government are correct, a conviction is nearly guaranteed in the federal court system; not only the devastating terrorism enhancements result in cruel and unjust sentences (for my client Ghassan Elashi in Holy Land, he received 65 years for feeding Palestinian women and children. . . . Of course, the government called that material support; for Dr. Siddiqui, she received 86 years for her convictions of attempted murder of American soldiers by shooting them in a hotel size room where no one was hit and no bullet holes were found), but the sword of classified evidence, the political nature of these prosecutions and the jurors who are often unfairly used/abused/scared into sending a message about terrorism help insure convictions . . . no matter what.

I agree with Mr. Remes and another writer who captured the federal court atmosphere in these cases with the headline, “Guilty Until Proven Guilty.” The issue is far more complex than one would realize after listening to the “cognoscenti” on TV; the American public has no idea what goes on in these trials. One of the jurors from Dr. al-Arian’s trial, who was a working guy much like my dad, and who voted for full acquittals, said he would never again listen to the news and presume to know something about a trial based on what some talking head had to say. Amen.

You ask what forum I would prefer to defend my client charged with terrorism. Others have written more eloquently than I about the infirmities in both forums. I write not as a scholar, but as a trial lawyer. I must always ask, “How is my client best served?” What is the venue like? Has the local press been virulent, making a “fair and impartial juror” impossible to find? Is the evidence of such a violent nature that military officers in a commissions setting might not be so emotionally affected as ordinary folks? Who is my judge, in either jurisdiction? Trial vs. plea? Who are the prosecutors? I could go on, but I think you get my point. The issue always is far more complex and worthy of discussion that what we are led to believe by the talking heads.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

NASA’s Spare Solar Sail Reaches Orbit

For years, solar sail tests have met with nothing but stormy weather. But the path forward finally seems to be clearing up. More than two years after a rocket failure destroyed a new experimental solar sail, NASA has successfully launched a spare into orbit.

NanoSail-D launched on Friday from Alaska. If the sail unfurls as planned in about a week, it will be the first NASA sail to be opened in space.

Solar sails, which can harness the force of sunlight to propel themselves, have the potential to carry spacecraft vast distances without fuel. But attempts to the test the technology in Earth orbit have met with repeated setbacks. In 2001 and 2005, launch failures scuppered two solar sail missions spearheaded by the Planetary Society, a space advocacy group based in California. And NASA’s original NanoSail-D, which was slated to launch in August 2008, was lost when its ride, a Falcon 1 rocket built by private firm SpaceX, failed to reach orbit.

Now the winds of fortune seem to be shifting. In May, Japan’s space agency JAXA successfully launched an interplanetary solar sail called IKAROS, which piggybacked on a robotic mission to Venus. JAXA later announced that the sail had succeeded in using sunlight to propel and steer itself.

But the effect of sunlight may be hard to discern on the newly launched NanoSail-D. Even at its altitude of about 650 kilometres, NASA says the drag of Earth’s atmosphere may overwhelm the push of solar radiation.

However, the atmospheric drag itself should help test whether solar sails could act as ‘orbital brakes’ to pull space debris out of orbit. The drag should pull the sail out of orbit within 70 to 120 days, Spaceflight Now reports.

A solar sail project called CubeSail, funded by aerospace company EADS Astrium, could launch in 2011 to demonstrate this same braking technology.

The Planetary Society is also working on a new sail. Dubbed LightSail-1, the sail will be larger than NanoSail-1 and will launch to a higher altitude. Increasing the distance from Earth’s atmosphere and the size of the sail should make the effect of the sun’s radiation on the spacecraft stronger and easier to discern.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pravda Sez: “No Evidence of Hawaiian Birth for Aka Obama. What About Kenya?”

Obama’s ‘Certification of Live Birth’ form reveals his Birth Registration was FILED in 1961 but was never fully ACCEPTED by the Hawaiian State Registrar’s Office…


This is a national disgrace that our entire system of laws including the Constitution and all legal records are being subverted and subordinated to cover up for Obama’s continued fraud on the nation as to his true legal identity. What is so important about this one man that Hawaii is willing to see the nation destroyed by his corruption and lies from birth by his family and continued on all his life by Obama. The man is a grifter and conman [sic]…


[ED: The tale continues]

[Return to headlines]

The Consequences of Doom

by Greg Gutfeld


…according to Cal-Berkeley shrinks, dire predictions about global warming can “backfire if presented too negatively.” Of course that raises one question: how do you present dire predictions, positively?

“Hey, were all gunna die. LOL.”

Which leads me to a theory: these Berkeley researchers are dopes.

Look the fact is, people like me questioned global warming evidence because we’d seen this hysteria before — with emotional warnings about the coming ice age, the dangers of nuclear power, artificial sweeteners and DDT.

And this caused us to grow cold to such crap, and overlook real threats like terrorism, the resurgence of malaria, and of course, the rise of Ed Hardy t-shirts.

Worse, with global warming, we saw that anyone who dare to question the hysteria would be labeled a “skeptic,” and treated like a “leper.”


But the climategate scandal proved that inevitably, these cocky GW experts would overstep the science, get humbled, retreat into therapy. (Have you seen Gore lately?)

So now, finally, shrinks are saying these experts should rethink their messaging.

Of course, this is still not tackling the real problem. Note that the shrinks aren’t telling experts to stop exaggerating consequences — instead, they say, “present solutions to global warming.”

Meaning: just assume your lies were right all along and push the curly light bulbs.


[Return to headlines]

The Voter Fraud Hall of Shame: Milwaukee Voter Fraud Conviction Makes ACORN’s 2010 Total at Least 15

Yet another former ACORN employee was convicted of voter fraud last week. This brings the total number of convictions for former workers from the embattled group to at least 15 so far this year.

Kevin L. Clancy of Milwaukee pleaded guilty last week to participating “in a scheme to submit fraudulent voter registration applications,” according to Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. Clancy admitted to filing multiple voter registration applications for the same individuals and registering himself and other voter registration canvassers to vote multiple times while working on an ACORN voter drive.

Clancy received a 10-month prison term for his crime. Clancy’s sentence will begin when he completes another sentence he is currently serving for armed robbery.

“The integrity of elections is dependent upon citizens and officials insisting they be conducted lawfully,” Van Hollen said. “Wisconsin’s citizens should not have to wonder whether their vote has been negated or diminished by illegally cast ballots.”

So far 2010 has been a banner year for ACORN voter fraud prosecutions.

In Milwaukee, former ACORN worker Maria L. Miles, who worked with Clancy, pleaded guilty to “falsely procuring voter registration.” She will be sentenced next month.

Also in Milwaukee, Frank Edmund Walton was convicted of “falsely procuring voter registration.” According to Van Hollen, Walton solicited voter registrations while working for a group called the Community Voter Project. Court documents indicate that after committing the crime he became an ACORN employee. Walton will be sentenced in December.

In Washington state, ex-ACORN canvasser Kendra Lynn Thill was convicted of voter registration fraud and given a 12-month deferred sentence.


[ED: Miami, Nevada, Pennsylvania, etc. The list goes on at the link]

[Return to headlines]

Who’s Profiting on the TSA’s Use of Scanners? George Soros and Michael Chertoff

Wonder why the TSA spent billions of our tax dollars on scanners that don’t detect explosives hidden in body cavities and can be easily fooled by someone who knows what he’s doing?

Wonder no more.

One of the major contractors for the machines is a company called Rapiscan, and their political connections are impeccable.

One of Rapiscan’s chief lobbyists is Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price, D-N.C., chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee who personally approved the contract.

Another shill for Rapiscan is George W. Bush’s Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, who earned part of his salary going a media tour promoting the use of these scanners without disclosing that he was a paid employee of Rapiscan.

And finally, the big enchilada. None other than George Soros, Obama intimate and the primary financier of the Left’s infrastructure owns 11,300 shares of OSI Systems Inc., the company that owns Rapiscan…


[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

3 Members of Sharia4belgium Arrested in Terror Sting -[Make That 15 People in Belgium]

[Prologue by Rusty: 11 people arrested in Europe in terror plot, some of them connected with the Ansar al Mujahideen English Forum and three of them to the Shari4 Belium group who’s website and YouTube page we have been aware of for some time. At least one member of that last website wrote me two emails earlier this year inviting me to Islam. UPDATE: Another 15 were arrested in Belgium bringing the total number of arrests up to 26! See update at bottom of post.]

I wonder how many members of Revolution Muslim — aka, Islam Policy — know those arrested?


Another thing to note is that the group is tied in with Bakri Mohammad and Anjem Choudary’s followers in the UK. And since the same group’s followers in the US are those that run The Islamic Thinker’s Society and Revolution Muslim (now Islam Policy), then SH’s guess that there is a connection is spot on.

For evidence of this, check out the graphic that I have placed at the top of the post which I lifted from their website.

On a related note, I did a quick search of my email. It turns out one of the guys that runs Sharia4Belgium called me to Islam…


[Go to the Jawa Report link, above, for whole post]

[Return to headlines]

Anti-Terrorism Probe: Ten Suspects Arrested in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands

Ten people suspected of planning terrorist attacks in Belgium were arrested in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on Tuesday. The raids were the culmination of months of investigation into international jihadist activities.

Ten people suspected of planning a terrorist attack were arrested in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany on Tuesday, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said.

The suspects are accused of preparing an attack on behalf of an international Islamist group, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said. The target of the attack was not known, she added.

The people arrested were Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Russian nationals. The spokeswoman said the arrests were made during simultaneous raids on 10 apartments, and that most of the suspects were arrested in the Belgian city of Antwerp.

International Jihad

The raids were the culmination of an investigation that had started at the end of 2009 in Antwerp. The suspects are due to be presented to a judge and remanded in custody later on Tuesday. The investigation had focused on “international jihad terrorism,” the office said.

Some of the suspects were accused of recruiting members for a Chechen terrorist group.

There was no immediate information from German authorities regarding the arrests. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière had issued a terror alert last Wednesday, warning that Islamists were planning an attack in Germany by the end of November.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium Terror Probe Nets 11 Arrests

(CNN) — Authorities have arrested 11 people in connection with a suspected terror plot targeting Belgium, officials there said Tuesday.

The suspects were using a jihadist website to plan an attack on an unspecified target, police said.

“Long months of undercover investigation” led to the arrests, the authorities said.

It was “clear to us that the target was Belgian soil, just not clear enough to say where and when,” Belgian public prosecutor Lieve Pellens told CNN.

Seven of the arrests were in Antwerp, Belgium, she said. One was in Aachen, Germany, and the other three were in the Netherlands. Those arrested are Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Chechen, authorities said.

A senior European counter-terrorism official told CNN that members of the group arrested in Antwerp, and their associates in Germany and the Netherlands, had discussed targeting Jews in Belgium as well as NATO vehicles in the country. However, officials say no specific targets appear to have been identified.

Authorities tracked discussions between members of the group through wiretaps, the official says, and a second European source confirmed the intercepts of discussions related to NATO. However, NATO’s headquarters in Brussels does not appear to have been a target of the group, the source told CNN.

Authorities are investigating the links between members of the Antwerp group and Sharia4Belgium, a Belgian Islamist organization, a Belgian counter-terrorism official told CNN.

The investigation, which also looked into the financing of what police called a Chechen terror organization, has been going on since late 2009, according to a statement from the Belgian prosecutor’s office.

On Tuesday, 10 of the suspects will face a judge, who will determine whether police can continue to hold them for more questioning, the Belgian officials said.

The arrests wrap up the investigation, Pellens said.

Several other people had already been arrested in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia during the investigation, police said, without saying when the arrests took place or how many people were detained.

The Antwerp investigation began after a U.S. intelligence agency passed on intercept information to its Belgian counterparts, an intelligence source told CNN. But Pellens said Belgian police were alerted to the group’s activity because they used the Ansar al-Mujahideen website.

An unrelated police operation targeting terrorist suspects is under way in Brussels, Belgian counterterrorism sources said.

The sources say police have visited 15 locations in Brussels, Belgium’s capital, as part of a continuing investigation into a terrorist cell linked to Bassam Ayachi, who was charged in 2009 with preparing terrorist attacks.

The intentions of that cell are “dangerous but not imminent,” Pellens said.

Ayachi, a French citizen, was detained in Italy in 2008. He was head of the Belgian Islamic Center (Centre Islamique Belge or CIB), based in Molenbeek in Belgium.

A senior European counterterrorism official also told CNN that one of the people targeted in the Brussels operation had engaged in jihadist activities in Iraq and returned to Belgium two years ago.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

Denmark Sees ‘New Indications’ Of Terror Attacks

There are “new indications” that Islamist terror groups are seeking to carry out attacks in Denmark, the country’s intelligence service said Tuesday.

“Statements from al-Qaida members and related groups underline the militant Islamist terror groups’ continued strategic focus on Denmark,” the Danish Security and Intelligence Service said in its annual assessment of the terror threat.

The agency, known by it’s Danish acronym PET, said the Scandinavian nation remains a “high-priority terrorist target” because of newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that sparked riots in the Muslim world in 2006. Individuals and locations linked to the cartoon case are specifically at risk, PET said.

It noted a series of recent attempts to carry out attacks in Denmark, including the September arrest in Copenhagen of a Chechen man who accidentally set off a letter bomb that PET believes was intended for the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that first published the 12 cartoons.

“Additionally, there are new indications that terror groups abroad seek to send terrorists to Denmark to carry out terror attacks,” PET said in a statement.

It added that some Danish residents have left for conflict zones, primarily in Somalia and Pakistan, to receive militant training or to take part in hostilities against foreign troops or local authorities.

“It is possible that a number of these individuals may return to Denmark and apply their skills to continued terrorist-related activities,” PET said.

In related news, ten suspects were detained after an anti-terror sweep in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, federal prosecutors in Belgium said Tuesday.

In a statement, the prosecutors said that those targeted in the sweeps were suspected of planning a possible attack in Belgium. Others were suspected recruiters for an alleged Chechen terror organization.

Ten homes were searched in the three nations on Tuesday morning, and 10 suspects of Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Russian nationality were detained.

The statement said that investigation had previously already led to arrests in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Fears Rise of Pre-Christmas Al Qaeda Terror Attack in Europe After Ten Suspects Arrested

Fears are rising across Europe of an al-Qaeda outrage before Christmas as intelligence services work frantically to track down radicalised western nationals returning from terror camps in Pakistan.

Ten suspects holding Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan and Russian passports were arrested in Belgium, Germany and Holland.

Prosecutors spoke of a complex plot involving an ‘international Islamist group’ in Belgium although a specific target was not identified.

Media reports spoke of a Chechen element involving Islamic separatists embroiled in a long-running struggle with Moscow.

Meanwhile across the border in Germany it was widely reported that two members of a six-strong suicide squad were already in the country.

The famed glass dome of the Reichstag building in Berlin was closed to tourists indefinitely on Monday amid interior ministry warnings that a strike could be expected in November or early December.

The feeling among intelligence services is that al-Qaeda is prepared to ‘go for broke’ with a bloodbath before Christmas using westerners who have converted to Islam to avoid detection at air and seaports.

Two scenarios are on the table; a Mumbai-style massacre using automatic weapons stored at safe houses or suicide bomb attacks using explosives also stored among radicals within the country’s massive Muslim population.

Tuesday’s raids — which have almost certainly prevented death and destruction in Belgium — were not linked to the Jihadists currently at loose in Germany.

They were the culmination of months of investigation. Most of the arrests took place in Antwerp, Belgium’s second city, while one German was arrested in Aachen on the German border with Belgium.

At least some of them are suspected of links to terror suspect Bassam Ayachi, who was charged in 2009 with preparing terrorist attacks.

‘Long months of undercover investigation’ led to the arrests, the authorities said.

‘The suspects were using a jihadi website to plan an attack on an unspecified target in Belgium,’ police said.

The suspects were due to be presented to a judge and remanded in custody later on Tuesday.

Meanwhile in Germany security is being tightened ahead of the opening of the traditional Christmas markets which draw tens of thousands of international visitors each year, many from the UK.

Germans are facing the prospect of seeing armed troops on the streets for the first time since Hitler’s armies were destroyed in WW2 as police leaders tell politicians they cannot contain the mounting terror threat alone.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Finland: One Man Detained in Connection With Fatal Fire

Police in Tampere have detained one man thought to be involved in Monday morning’s fatal fire in the city centre. Forensic evidence indicates that the fire, which took three lives, was intentionally set.

They announced on Tuesday morning they had taken one man into custody, but declined to say whether he was one of two seen leaving the scene.

Police are investigating the fire as a case of aggravated arson, three cases of first degree manslaughter and four cases of battery.

The blaze, which started in the foreign-owned Juliet kebab-pizzeria on the ground floor, caused the deaths of three and the hospitalization of another four people. Police say there is no evidence indicating that it was a crime specifically aimed against immigrants, but said that the theory could not be ruled out.

Three of the four who were hospitalized were released on Monday afternoon. One elderly woman was still in intensive care on Tuesday morning, but her condition had stabilised.

The dead were two men and one woman, all in their late 20s. They were found in stairwells on the first floor and between the 4th and 5th floors.

Police are asking the public for any eyewitness reports of people or vehicles seen near the site of the blaze just before or after the fire broke out aruond 5.26 a.m.. They have an eyewitness report of two figures dressed in dark clothing seen running from the area toward the Kyttälä neighbourhood just after the fire began.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

French Village Evacuated to Clear German WWI Munitions Depot

An entire village in northern France has been evacuated for a week while bomb removal experts clear 30 tons of shells — 1,652 in total — discovered in a German munitions depot from World War I.

A village in northeastern France has been evacuated following the discovery of a German World War I munitions dump containing 1,652 artillery shells weighing a total of 30 tons.

The 450 inhabitants of Coucy-les-Eppes north of Reims were ordered on Monday to leave the village during the daytime for the whole week while a bomb disposal squad removes the shells. They can return to their homes in the evenings when no shells are being moved.

“If the munitions aren’t being moved there is no danger,” said a spokeswoman for the local authority.

A total of 26 bomb experts are working to clear the shells and move them to military sites where they will be destroyed. The depot measured 16 meters long by 1.50 meters wide and was discovered one-meter below ground by a villager who was digging in his garden.

Experts believe the shells date back to between 1915 and 1917. The biggest shells have a diameter of 21 centimeters. The area was the scene of major battles on the Western Front in World War I.

Farmers and construction workers in France and Belgium still frequently find shells from the war in the former battlefields.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germany: Sex Abuse Victims Still Waiting for Catholic Church Compensation

As the Vatican prepares for a historic meeting Friday to confront sex abuse by priests, Germany is struggling to hammer out a compensation plan in the wake of scandals that rocked the Church this year.

Cardinals from around the world are due at the unprecedented gathering at the Vatican to review the Church’s response to molestation cases. In recent months there has been a deluge of such cases, particularly from the pope’s home country.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, chairman of the German Episcopal Conference, announced in September that Germany’s Roman Catholic Church was preparing to provide payments to victims of sexual abuse by its priests.

However it has not yet decided how much to offer, with critics accusing German Church officials of dragging their feet for years after major compensation deals were agreed in countries such as the United States and Ireland.

“They have not made a single official offer,” said lawyer Manuela Groll, who represents around a dozen plaintiffs, all of around fifty years old, who say they were victimised by Church priests as youngsters.

“Now we need to find out how much we think a shattered life is worth.”

According to press reports and some attorneys, the Church is considering payouts of between €5,000 and €10,000 ($6,800 and $13,500) per victim.

One victims’ group, Eckiger Tisch (Square Table), said a sliding scale ranging between €20,000 and €120,000 based on the severity of the case, or a one-off payment of €54,000 would be more suitable.

But Catholic leaders here have rejected the notion of a sliding scale, a path taken notably by the Church in Austria.

The onslaught of revelations began in January when it emerged that priests at Canisius, an elite Jesuit school in Berlin, committed dozens of sexual assaults on pupils in the 1970s and 1980s.

“Apologies are not enough. We need a symbolic gesture that recognises the suffering,” school rector Klaus Mertes told AFP this week, when asked about the issue of compensation for victims.

The Church in Germany has admitted it failed to investigate claims of abuse properly and that some cases had been covered-up, with paedophile priests simply moved elsewhere instead of being disciplined or reported to the police.

Benedict himself has faced allegations that when he (as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) headed the Vatican morals watchdog, and earlier as the archbishop of Munich, he failed to act against predator priests.

Authorities have opened several investigations, although in many cases the abuse is said to have occurred decades ago and thus falls under the statute of limitations, or the alleged perpetrators have died.

Since the emergence of hundreds of cases — the Church has not provided an official estimate of their number — Catholic leaders have announced measures to contend with future instances of abuse and step up prevention efforts.

In March, the German Church launched a telephone hotline for abuse victims, which has already received more than 3,500 calls.


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

Italy: Muslims Protest Police ‘Cataloguing’ At Treviso Mosque

(AKI) — A Muslim leader in Italy has deplored the ‘cataloguing’ by police in recent weeks of Muslims attending mosque in the northern city of Treviso and surrounding areas. Treviso is a stronghold of the anti-immigrant Northern League party.

“The incidents reported of what amounts to the mass catalogues of Muslims in the province of Treviso are of unpredecented in gravity,” the spokesman for Italy’s largest Muslim umbrella group UCOII, Hamza Piccardo, told Adnkronos International (AKI).

Piccardo, a Muslim convert said he had only learned of the situation on Friday when a Muslim told him police stopped him outside a mosque in Montebello in the province of Treviso and asked to see his documents.

The police also photographed all the Muslims attending Friday prayers at the Montebello mosque, Piccardo said.

“We interpret this as a very serious act of intimidation,” he said, nonetheless urging Muslims to report such incidents.

Hamza said local Muslims told him similar ‘cataloguing’ of the faithful has occurred at mosques in the towns of Cornuda and Castelfranco Veneto.

A similar incident took place in the town of Villorba, a member of the Consulta Islamica official body set up by the Italian government to dialogue with the Muslim community, Mohammed Ahmed, told AKI.

“What’s going on is wrong, because Muslims attending prayers at a mosque are not committing any crime,” said Ahmed, an Egyptian journalist.

Ahmed said he would bring up the issue at the next meeting of the Consulta Islamica in Rome.

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

Netherlands: Tourist Sector Fears Cannabis Ban

AMSTERDAM, 23/11/10 — The tourist sector fears that Amsterdam in particular will attract fewer foreign visitors if cabinet plans to exclude them from so-called ‘coffee-shops’ go ahead.

The cabinet wants the Dutch cannabis cafes known as coffee shops to be converted into closed clubs with access only for members. In order to be a member, people would have to be Dutch and aged at least 18.

According to the Netherlands Tourism and Congresses Bureau (NBTC), the decision will have negative effects on foreign tourism in the Netherlands. “And certainly in Amsterdam,” says a spokeswoman. “We will look into this further in the coming days.”

One-quarter of tourists visit a coffee shop, according to NBTC. One in 10 visit Amsterdam especially for the cannabis cafes.

Steven van der Heijden, CEO of the Netherlands’ biggest tour operator TUI, the move will undoubtedly turn out badly for Amsterdam. “The coffee-shops simply belong there. Just like the Red Light district. It is an enormous tourist attraction for the city, which will now just be messed up.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: PVV: No More Dual Nationality in Army

THE HAGUE, 23/11/10 — The Party for Freedom (PVV) does not want the army to recruit any one with dual nationality any more. This can lead to loyalty conflicts, said PVV MP Marcial Hernandez yesterday during a debate with Defence Minister Hans Hillen on personnel policy.

PVV is the toleration partner of the conservative (VVD) and Christian democratic (CDA) governing parties. Hernandez pointed out that the coalition accord states that the cabinet wants to combat dual nationalities. Defence could make a first step, in his view.

Hernandez wants to “rule out all possible dual loyalties.” By way of illustration, he referred to an American Islamic army psychiatrist who shot 13 men dead at a military base in Texas shortly before he was due to be sent to Iraq. Labour (PvdA) MP Angelien Eijsink considered it “scandalous” of Hernandez to give this example.

From the CDA, there also appears to be no support for the PVV. CDA MP Hanke Bruins Slot argued that if people with dual nationality opt for a job in the Dutch army, this actually underlines their solidarity with the Netherlands.

Hernandez also complained about Ali Eddaoudi, who is a Muslim spiritual counsellor in the armed forces. A few years ago, this Imam regularly made radical statements but he says he has changed since. Finally, the PVV called on Hillen to get rid of halal meals and the celebration of Islamic festivals at Defence.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New Indications That Groups Plan to Send Terrorists to Denmark

Domestic intelligence agency PET has asked the police to be extra vigilant after receiving new “indications” of planned attacks by foreign terrorist groups. “In light of the terror threats against Denmark and the rest of Europe, PET has asked the police to be on the alert until the end of December,” Jakob Scharf, director of PET, said. However, Scharf underscored that the general threat level remained unchanged.

“PET has taken the opportunity to highlight that there is a serious danger, and that there are specific terror threats against people and locations related to the Mohammed drawings,” he said in a statement. Although Scharf stated that the overall threat remains the same, he emphasised there are new specific terror threats.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Six Percent of Italians Were Crime Victims

(AKI) — Almost six percent of Italians were victims of a crime in 2008 and 2009, with theft of personal property leading the list of infractions, according to a report by state statistics agency Istat released on Monday.

Threats led violent crimes, while muggings and is the most prevalent offence against personal property during the two-year period, according to the report.

Most so-called offences against the family involved infractions that affected homes, means of transport and animals with robbery or attempted robbery, vandalism and animal abuse leading the list respectively. Sixteen percent of Italian families were affected.

The study can serve as a warning to be especially vigilant using public transportation. More than 33 percent of pickpocketing crimes happen on the bus.

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

Ten Detained in European Anti-Terror Sweep

Federal prosecutors said Tuesday 11 suspects have been detained in an anti-terror sweep in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Those targeted in the sweeps were suspected of planning a possible attack in Belgium while others were suspected of involvement inFederal prosecutors said Tuesday 11 suspects have been detained in an anti-terror sweep in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.

Those targeted in the sweeps were suspected of planning a possible attack in Belgium while others were suspected of involvement in recruiting for an alleged Chechen terror organization, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Seven were detained in Belgium’s port city of Antwerp, three in Amsterdam and one near the German city of Aachen.

The arrests were not linked to the recent reports of possible terrorist attacks in Germany, said Judith Sluiter, a spokeswoman for the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

Ten homes were searched in the three nations on Tuesday morning, and 11 suspects of Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan or Russian nationality were detained, all men in their twenties or thirties, said Leen Nuyts, spokeswoman for the Belgian prosecutor’s office. Initially there were indications one woman was among them.

They follow arrests in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, related to this investigation earlier this year.

The Belgian prosecutors said “there was talk of plans for an attack in Belgium by an international jihadist organization” that uses the website Ansar al Mujahideen. The place of the alleged attack had not been specified.

The police also targeted “the recruiters, candidate jihadists and financing” for the Caucasus Emirate, which groups insurgents who seek to establish an Islamic emirate in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. Its leader is Chechen rebelDoku Umarov.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police confirmed that one person was arrested near Aachen at the request of Belgian authorities, in connection with suspicion of recruiting young men in Belgium to fight in Chechnya.

In a statement, Dutch prosecutors said they had detained three men aged 25, 26 and 28 in Amsterdam at the request of Belgian authorities on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism.

The Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office said Austria was also involved in the action.

Dutch authorities said Belgium had asked for the extradition of the three suspects arrested in Amsterdam. recruiting for an alleged Chechen terror organization, the Belgian prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Seven were detained in Belgium’s port city of Antwerp, three in Amsterdam and one near the German city of Aachen.

The arrests were not linked to the recent reports of possible terrorist attacks in Germany, said Judith Sluiter, a spokeswoman for the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism.

Ten homes were searched in the three nations on Tuesday morning, and 11 suspects of Belgian, Dutch, Moroccan or Russian nationality were detained, all men in their twenties or thirties, said Leen Nuyts, spokeswoman for the Belgian prosecutor’s office. Initially there were indications one woman was among them.

They follow arrests in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, related to this investigation earlier this year.

The Belgian prosecutors said “there was talk of plans for an attack in Belgium by an international jihadist organization” that uses the website Ansar al Mujahideen. The place of the alleged attack had not been specified.

The police also targeted “the recruiters, candidate jihadists and financing” for the Caucasus Emirate, which groups insurgents who seek to establish an Islamic emirate in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia. Its leader is Chechen rebel Doku Umarov.

Germany’s Federal Criminal Police confirmed that one person was arrested near Aachen at the request of Belgian authorities, in connection with suspicion of recruiting young men in Belgium to fight in Chechnya.

In a statement, Dutch prosecutors said they had detained three men aged 25, 26 and 28 in Amsterdam at the request of Belgian authorities on suspicion of involvement in international terrorism.

The Dutch National Prosecutor’s Office said Austria was also involved in the action.

Dutch authorities said Belgium had asked for the extradition of the three suspects arrested in Amsterdam.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Terrorism Suspects Arrested in Germany

Terrorism suspects were arrested in Germany on Tuesday as part of a Europe-wide swoop that netted a total of 10 alleged Islamic extremists in three countries.

The arrests were part of “an inquiry into international jihadist terror,” a spokesman for Belgium’s federal prosecution office said. The alleged extremists were plotting an attack in Belgium, the prosecutor’s office said.

“In total 10 people suspected of preparing an attack in Belgium were arrested in Belgium, Holland and Germany,” he said.

The target of the plot had “not been determined yet” when the raids took place, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

The suspects are from Belgium, the Netherlands, Morocco and Chechnya, the statement said. Most live in Antwerp.

The arrests came as Germany remained on high alert amid fears of a terrorist attack. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière stressed that authorities were watching the “potentially dangerous people.”

“We know rather a lot,” he said on Monday night to broadcaster ARD. Authorities were “not so naïve” as was the case at the time of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, he added.

However security services are now particularly worried about what they call the “quiet observers” among Islamists in Germany, sources told news agency DAPD.

“They could exploit our security gaps and therefore, despite all our efforts at defence, hit us with attacks,” a security source said.

Among the hundreds of people regarded as “dangerous” are “experienced observers” who “are the best informed about the weak points in our security architecture,” unnamed security specialists said.

In the Belgian led arrests, the alleged extremists used the website Ansar Al Mujahideen as part of its plot. The arrests followed a months-long investigation that was launched by authorities in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp in late 2009, the statement said.

The investigation focused on recruiters, would-be “jihadists” and the financing of a Chechen “terrorist organisation,” it said.

Several other people have already been arrested in Spain, Morocco and Saudi Arabia as part of the probe, the Belgian authorities said.

The investigation was conducted in collaboration with several countries and the European Union’s judicial cooperation unit Eurojust.

Europe has been on high alert for several weeks over heightened fears of terrorist attacks. Western security officials have warned that al-Qaida may be planning attacks in Europe similar to those in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

The United States issued a travel alert on October 3 for its citizens travelling in Europe, citing the risk of potential terrorist attacks on transportation systems and tourist attractions.

Similar alerts were issued by Japan, Sweden, Britain and France. A plot to blow up cargo planes was uncovered at the end of last month after booby-trapped parcels were found at airports in Dubai and Britain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terrorism Alert: German Police Want Army to Help Protect Public

Germany is on high alert following last week’s terror warning. Now a police trade union has called for the army to be deployed to help cope with the terrorist threat. The government is also reported to be planning a big revamp of intelligence agencies and security forces.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘EDL Not Far-Right, ‘ Says Police Extremism Chief

The new head of police domestic extremist units was condemned today after denying that the English Defence League was a right-wing extremist group.

Detective Chief Superintendent Adrian Tudway, who took over the role of national co-ordinator for domestic extremism last week, claimed police had to walk a “tightrope” when targeting small groups which they believe are bent on violence.

Senior officers have gone on the offensive following the student protests and the resulting occupation of 30 Millbank two weeks ago, saying that more resources are being invested in identifying potential “flashpoints of disorder.”

Mr Tudway said his officers were focusing on the “fringe” where protest “spills over” into violence and disorder.

His comments came on the eve of tomorrow’s wave of protests against rising university fees.

The National Public Order Intelligence Unit, National Domestic Extremism team and National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit employ about 100 people with a budget of £8.1 million.

The police units, which are set to be integrated into the Met Police under a rebranding exercise, have come under fire for using intrusive surveillance tactics to identify hundreds of people who have attended protests and then sharing the information with other forces.

However Mr Tudway insisted that intelligence officials do not examine the work of trade or student unions and went on to say that the EDL was not an extreme right-wing group.

“The present particular challenge to us, constitutionally, is they are not extreme right-wing organisations,” he said.

“On the one hand, they are seen by many as the single biggest threat to community cohesion in the UK, but they are most certainly not extreme right-wing organisations.”

Communist Party of Britain general secretary Rob Griffiths said that “nobody should be fooled” by the claim that the police to not monitor trade unions and student groups.

“It is well known from recent history that the intelligence services disrupt trade unions and the peace movement by targeting socialist and communist activists within them and making this the excuse for spreading the net across the whole organisation,” he said.

“If he does not know the fascist affiliations of leading and founder members of the English Defence League then we should club together and buy him a subscription to Searchlight magazine, where he would find these links set out in fine detail.”

           — Hat tip: ICLA[Return to headlines]

UK: Conference Promotes Muslim World Control

Elliot Spitzer said on his CNN television program recently that Islamic activist Sheikh Anjem Choudary should be in jail for advocating violence against the United States.

The comment came after Choudary confirmed he was in contact with people inside the United States and was encouraging them to attack the United States.

But instead of being jailed, or even under investigation, Choudary soon will be addressing an international gathering of Muslims in London where a platform will be created to exhort attendees to work for the worldwide spread of Islam and Shariah.

The International Islamic Revival Conference is scheduled for Nov. 27, and Choudary is one of two headline speakers for the one-day event.

The British sheikh says organizers believe the international Muslim community is in disarray and the conference’s purpose is to reverse that process.

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“You see that Muslims are living in dictatorships and under tyrants who are promoting things that are anathema to Muslims, like democracy and freedom, which we completely reject. They have no foundation in the divine text,” Choudary stated.

“One of the main issues that should concern Muslims nowadays is to re-establish the khilafa (the caliphate) which is where the Shariah was being implemented on the state level,” Choudary continued.

This is where the security and the authorities are in the hands of Muslims and the Shariah is being implemented internally and even externally as a foreign policy, and where sovereignty and supremacy belongs to God,” Choudary added.

“This is a vital issue and you can see that most of the serious Islamic movements worldwide have this as their main, or maybe only, objective,” Choudary said.

Choudary’s emphasis is on the establishment of the caliphate and the imposition of Shariah law. He says there are many obstacles to this happening.

“The problem that we have obviously are that the obstacles that stand in the way of the implementation of the Shariah are both intellectual and physical. The intellectual are the lack of understanding of the masses of the Muslims, people adopting ideas that are alien to Islam such as secularism, liberalism, democracy and freedom,” Choudary claimed.

He says the physical problems include non-Islamic regimes.

“There are also foreign forces on Islamic soil which are trying to continue the status quo. Some of the leaders are Asians, Americans or British and they’re looking after their own interests be they economic, strategic or military,” Choudary claimed further.

He writes on his web page that he personally is working for Izharudeen, Islamic world dominance. This also happens to be the word used in the conference’s internet URL.

Choudary emphasizes that jihad is an integral part of Muslim policy.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Husband Stabbed Wife to Death, Court Told

A teenager has told a court how she watched her father stab her mother to death at their Hertfordshire home.

Ria Jumaily, 18, called 999 before taking the knife from her father and locking him in a room of the house, Luton Crown Court heard.

Retired GP Amad Jumaily, 60, is accused of murdering his wife June, 46, after she left him and began a relationship with another man.

Dr Jumaily denies murder on grounds of diminished responsibility.

The court heard Mrs Jumaily returned to the family home in Field Road, Letchworth, last December to talk to her husband about how to divide their belongings.

‘Repeatedly stabbed’

Prosecutor Michael Speak said: “Ria was upstairs and heard shouting.

“She went downstairs and found her father was attacking her mother in the kitchen.

“He was stabbing her repeatedly with a fairly large kitchen knife over and over and over again.

“Ria tried to stop him by shouting at her father and by physically attempting to get the knife from him.

“She got through to the operator and her mother was still being stabbed before her very eyes.”

A post-mortem examination found Mrs Jumaily had been stabbed 20 times.

Mr Speak told the jury that Dr Jumaily was arrested and on his way to the police station said: “Why did you sleep around? Why did you sleep with the neighbour? I still love you.”

           — Hat tip: GB[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s the Saudis, Stupid

That fine journalist John Ware has performed yet another important public service with his expose on BBC One’s Panorama tonight of the hatred and sedition with which children are being indoctrinated in some British Muslim schools.

His revelations were sufficiently shocking to have been exercising this morning’s papers in advance of this evening’s transmission. In some of these schools, even very young children are being taught to regard the country of which they are citizens as an enemy to be fought and defeated; how to murder homosexuals and where to cut off hands or feet of others who have transgressed sharia law; and to hate all unbelievers but especially the Jews about whom these children are taught monstrous lies and libels.

Of course the school inspection authority, Ofsted, is totally useless in even detecting let alone doing anything about all this. The Education Secretary Michael Gove — who in another life wrote a book about the global threat of radical Islam — declared on camera that, regardless of respect for freedom of speech, these materials ‘should not be used in English schools’ and that ‘We cannot have antisemitic material of any kind in English schools’. (To which one could say, well that means banning half the Eng. Lit. canon; the point that Gove undoubtedly meant, however, was that such bigotry must not be taught uncritically as if it is true and thus teaching racial libels and inciting hatred, which is what these Muslim schools are doing).

Does anyone think for one second, however, that the promises to reform the inspection system and get a grip on all this amount to more than a row of beans? Of course not. The Policy Exchange think-tank has produced a report to coincide with tonight’s Panorama which makes a number of suggestions about how to police all faith schools. Does anyone think for one millisecond that this list of worthy ideas will make a ha’porth of difference — to a problem which in any event involves only Islamic schools? Of course not.

What John Ware’s fine report has revealed is merely the tip of an enormous iceberg on which the UK Titanic has holed itself below the waterline. The most extreme material he discovered was in part-time weekend and evening Islamic schools, which are teaching from textbooks provided by Saudi Arabia and which teach the school curriculum of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is the wellspring of the Sunni Islam jihad against the free world. It is a foaming geyser of fanatical Islamic bigotry against unbelievers and especially Jews. It was Saudi Wahabbism that radicalised the Muslims of Pakistan who, when they immigrated in large number into Britain in the 1980s, accordingly imported with them jihadi educational institutions — which then radicalised Muslim children born and bred in the UK and turned them into fanatics, often to the utter dismay of their parents.

Saudi Arabia isn’t just behind some part-time Muslim schools in Britain. It is funding Islamic studies at British universities, subverting the very basis of objective western scholarship by turning such courses into fanatical religious propaganda. Saudi Arabia is also funding extremist mosques in Britain. Saudi Arabia is also promoting sharia banking in Britain. Saudi Arabia is also helpfully establishing partnerships with more and more cash-strapped British and multinational companies.

In short, Saudi Arabia is buying up Britain and establishing within it an ever-expanding bridgehead for sedition in the furtherance of jihad and the ultimate goal of Islamisation. The most important measure to be taken to rid British schools of the scourge identified by John Ware is not to beef up Ofsted or improve ‘due diligence’ in enforcing English law against extremism. It is to ban all Saudi funding of such schools — indeed, to ban all Saudi funding of British educational and religious institutions.

What are the chances of Britain taking such action against this arch-enemy of the west? Nil. For the British regard Saudi Arabia as its friend and strategic ally. Why? Well, because it has oodles of boodle and all that oil for starters (the reason the US, too, is in Saudi’s pocket). And also because, having spawned al Qaeda, it is now having to defend itself against the jihadi monster that regards Saudi too as its enemy — thus causing British diplomats to murmur admiringly about the clever and pioneering Saudi strategy of reprogramming jihadis into quiescent citizens. Well pardon me if I don’t send up a cheer.

Do the British know that the Saudis speak out of every side of their mouths simultaneously? Yes of course they do. But because they are British, they think they can outwit them. That’s because the British think they are wholly superior to backward Arab johnnies whom they’ve been dividing and ruling for centuries.They think this is the cleverest game in town.

But it’s the Saudis (along with the Iranians) who are playing the longest and the shrewdest game in history. While the British stupidly and suicidally appease the Islamists, trying to play one bit of the Muslim Brotherhood against another and blaming everything but Islamic fanaticism for global terror — thus refusing to acknowledge the religious war that is being waged against the west on many different fronts and thus ensuring that the British will be defeated by an enemy they cannot even bring themselves to name — the Saudis are reeling in the United Kingdom like a fish on a line.

That is the terrible truth behind tonight’s Panorama.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Vatican: Cardinals to Discuss Clerical Sex Abuse Scandal

Vatican City, 19 Nov. (AKI) — The sex scandal involving thousands of children in several countries by members of the Catholic Church was expected to be high on the agenda when when Pope Benedict XVI met with over 100 cardinals in Rome on Friday.

The rare meeting was also expected to discuss the decision to invite disaffected Anglican bishops and priests ahead of the elevation of 24 new cardinals in Rome on Saturday in Benedict’s third consistory.

The new cardinals include Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don of Colombo, Sri Lanka, and His Beatitude Antonios Naguib, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts, Egypt.

Four prelates and two priests over the age of 80 are among the new cardinals, making them ineligible to elect a new pope.

Analysts have described the event as pre-conclave — the meeting which follows the death or abdication of a pope to elect his successor.

The consistory will also debate religious freedoms following a recent rise in attacks against Christians in Iraq and Pakistan’s sentencing to death of a Christian woman for blasphemy.

It will also discuss the Vatican’s row with China over its ordination of bishops without papal permission.

Vatican radio said the meeting would examine the church’s response to the sex abuse scandal, amid criticism that it has not done enough to compensate victims or address the problems raised.

Benedict in an historic letter on 20 March expressed “shame and remorse” to sex abuse victims and their families for “sinful and criminal” acts committed by members of the clergy in Ireland.

The letter came after two Irish government reports uncovered widespread sex abuse in the country’s schools and seminaries and evidence Catholic authorities covered this up for decades.

Thousands of allegations that child abuse by Catholic clergy was covered up emerged in several European countries, including Benedict’s native Germany.

The allegations raised questions over the pope’s own involvement in concealing abuse while he was archbishop of Munich and subsequently as head of the Vatican body responsible for disciplining priests.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Al-Qaeda ‘Banker’ Killed by Security Forces

(AKI) — Algerian security forces have killed a high-ranking Al-Qaeda militant known as the group’s “banker.”

Izza Rezki, also known as Abou Djaffar, was killed on Friday around 50 kilometres from the Algerian capital Algiers, according to Alergian newspaper al-Watan.

Djaffar was around 40 years old and had been involved in armed Islamic militancy since 1994.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb operates in Algeria as well as other north African countries.

The group lays claim to a number of kidnapping and killings.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Free Palestine!

Can Palestinians abide a single free-thinking blogger in their midst?

Should the United States offer—and Israel accept—diplomatic guarantees, plus $2 billion worth of fighter jets, for the sake of a 90-day settlement freeze? Er, no. Israel can afford the planes, or at least it can afford them better than the perception that it’s getting a free ride from U.S. taxpayers. The U.S. should not put a price on things it ought not to do anyway, like recognizing a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. And bribery is generally a bad idea, particularly between friends.

Then again, bad ideas are what you get when you’re operating from bad premises. Premises such as: There is a deal to be had between Israelis and Palestinians, or that the settlements are the core of the problem.

So what is the core of the problem? Consider the predicament faced by a Palestinian named Walid Husayin from the West Bank city of Qalqilya. Mr. Husayin, 26, is suspected of being the blogger known as Waleed al-Husseini and author of an essay, posted on the Proud Atheist Web site (, titled “Why I Left Islam.”

The pseudonymous Husseini makes no bones about his opposition to religions generally, which he says “compete with each other in terms of stupidity.” But nothing seems to exercise his indignation more than the religion he used to call his own. Islam, he writes, is “an authoritarian religion that does not respect the individual’s freedom of choice, which is easily noticeable from its barbaric verdicts such as stoning the adulterous, pushing homosexuals off a cliff and killing the apostates for daring to express a different viewpoint.”

And that’s just Husseini getting started. The essay proceeds by way of a series of questions, such as “Is Islam a religion of tolerance?” Answer: “The sacred texts of Islam also encourage blatant war and conquest of new territories.” What about equality? “Islam has legitimized slavery, reinforced the gap between social classes and allowed stealing from the infidels.” Women’s rights? “I have a mother, a sister and a lover and I cannot stand for them to be humiliated and stigmatized in this bone-chilling way.” The prophet? “A sex maniac” who “was no different than barbaric thugs who slaughtered, robbed and raped women.” And so on.

This being the Arab world, it should come as no surprise that Mr. Husayin has spent the past 24 days in detention, that he has been forbidden from receiving visitors or speaking to a lawyer, that he faces a potential life sentence, and that people in Qalqilya have called for him to be burned alive.

The systematic violation of Palestinian rights by Palestinian officials is an old story, as is the increasingly Islamist tilt of what was once supposed to be a relatively secular, progressive society. Whatever might be said in favor of freedom for Palestine, there has been to date precious little freedom in Palestine, whether in the Hamas-controlled statelet of Gaza or in the parts of the West Bank under Fatah’s dominion.

That’s a problem. It’s also a problem that when the Associated Press covered Mr. Husayin’s ordeal, reporter Diaa Hadid offered that “the Western-backed Palestinian Authority is among the more religiously liberal Arab governments in the region,” and that “Husayin’s high public profile and prickly style . . . left authorities no choice but to take action.”

How nice to see AP reporters sticking up for free expression. Indeed, the consistent willingness of Western news organizations to downplay stories about Palestinian illiberalism and thuggery goes far to explain why so much of the world misdiagnoses the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Settlements are a convenient alibi: They foster the illusion that the conflict can be resolved by Israeli territorial concessions alone. But if that were true, Gaza would have turned peaceful the moment settlements were withdrawn five years ago. The opposite happened.

Why did Gaza become more violent, internally as well as toward Israel and Egypt, the moment it was rid of Israelis? That’s the central question, and one too few observers seem willing to address for fear of where the answer might lead. Yet it ought to be self-evident. The culture of Palestinian illiberalism gave rise to the discontents that brought about civil war and then Hamas’s swift rise to power. Hamas is theologically committed to Israel’s destruction. That commitment is politically popular: It shapes, and limits, what even the most progressive Palestinian leaders might be willing to concede to Israel in any deal. The result is what we now have: Negotiations that are going nowhere, at an increasingly heavy price for all parties, including the United States.

Like George W. Bush before him, President Obama has observed that the U.S. can’t want peace more than Israelis or Palestinians themselves do. But America can, uniquely, stand for freedom like no other country. Mr. Husayin—assuming he’s the author of those blog posts—surely knew how much he risked by speaking his mind, and it’s tempting to conclude he had it coming.

But if Palestinians cannot abide a single free-thinker in their midst, they cannot be free in any meaningful sense of the word. And if the U.S. can’t speak up on his behalf, then neither, in the long run, can we.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Blogger Facing Prison for Islam ‘Insults’

The dilapidated internet cafe on a back street of the West Bank town of Qalqilya is what a real estate agent might call “bijou”.

It’s tiny. A shoebox into which somehow nine desks and computers have been shoehorned in.

It is full of the usual crowd to be found in such places: teenage boys, gaming, chatting and flirting online.

But it seems one client, Waleed Hasayin, was up to more than that. The young blogger in his 20s has now been locked up by the Palestinian Authority for almost a month after being accused of mocking Islam, the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad in online postings under the username God Almighty.

“Sometimes he was in here until after midnight for over eight hours a day, always sitting in the corner. He was very secretive. He never wanted you to see his screen,” said Ahmed Abu Asab, the cafe’s owner.

Mr Abu Asab said he became suspicious of Mr Hasayin. When the young blogger had left the shop, the owner would access the computer’s hard drive to access some of the things Mr Hasayin had been writing.

Mr Abu Asab still has the files stored on his computer, but he denies that it was him who alerted the police.

Execution calls

One of Mr Hasayin’s postings was called Why I left Islam. He goes on to strongly criticise the religion for not allowing free-thinking and also mocks and insults the Prophet.

Some of his essays posted on a website called The Light of the Mind are detailed and clearly written by someone with a strong academic background. He also identified himself as a Proud Atheist.

Mr Hasayin’s own Facebook pages have now been deleted, but his postings have ignited heated debate in the blogosphere. At least one Facebook group has been set up supporting Mr Hasayin while others have called for him to be severely punished, even executed.

Digitally-altered photos of Mr Hasayin have been posted, making him look like a pig.

“He should be killed,” says Ghassan, a 21-year-old customer in the internet cafe.

“Look at how the Muslim world reacted when the cartoons were published in Denmark. But this guy is supposed to be a Muslim. He should be severely punished,” he adds.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Diplomat Whose Name is Dirty Word in Arabic Rejected as Saudi Ambassador

A high-ranking Pakistani diplomat reportedly cannot be appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia because in Arabic his name translates into a phrase more appropriate for a porn star, referring to the size of male genitals, Foreign Policy reported.

The Arabic transaltion of Akbar Zeb to “biggest d**k” has overwhelmed Saudi officials who have refused to allow his post there.

Zeb has run into this problem before when Pakistan tried to appoint him as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, where he was rejected for the same reason, according to Foreign Policy.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iranian Parliament Wants to Impeach Ahmadinejad

The Anti-Ahmadinejad movement that started with last year’s Iraqi elections is still alive and well. Iran’s parliament is trying to impeach the Iranian presidential nut job, but they were stopped by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, exposing a deepening division within the regime.


The charges filed against Ahmadinejad include:

  • Withdrawing $590 million from the Central Bank’s foreign reserve fund without approval.
  • Trading 76.5 million barrels of crude oil in exchange for gasoline imports in 2008 without approval.
  • Illegally importing gasoline, oil and natural gas at a value of about $9 billion since 2007.
  • Failing to provide transparency in budget spending and curbing parliamentary oversight.
  • Failing to provide transparency about the source of money for the president’s domestic travels and about the allocation of money in Iran’s provinces.
  • Failing to implement or notify ministries about 31 legislative items passed by the parliament in 2010.

This move comes as some of the economic sanctions seem to be causing a hardship for the Iranian people. As sanctions bite, the regime is now forced to raise prices on basic staples. As the regime is well aware, the most potent challenge to Iran’s ruling system may be as simple as a shopping list.


[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Mosul Christians ‘Terrorized’ And ‘Ready to Leave’

(AKI) — Terrorist attacks against Christians have caused those living in Mosul to consider leaving the city in Iraq’s north, according to Emil Shamoun Noona, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul.

“Our community is terrorized and is seriously thinking about leaving Mosul,” Noona told Adnkronos International in an interview. “Many Christian families have asked for ecclesiastic documents needed to move abroad and this indicates their intention to emigrate.”

Fifty-eight people died during people the 31 October attack on a church in Baghdad that was claimed by an Al-Qaeda linked group. Further threats have been made against Christians in the Middle East and northern Africa.

There are approximately 500,000 Christians remaining in Iraq but last month’s attack on Our Lady of Salvation and a string of subsequent bombings have left the country’s Christians in fear for their lives.

Noona says he has little faith in Iraq’s ability to protect its Christians.

“The solution is in the hands of the state that is responsible for the protection of its people but in my opinion it is totally incapable to do this,” he said in the interview.

Iraq’s leaders have spoken out against the violence and pledged to protect the religious minority, but “we continue to be threatened and killed. We’ve been forced to leave.”

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

Iraq: Two Christian Brothers Killed in Mosul

Iraq’s Christian community comes under attack, again. Gunmen shoot and kill two shop owners in cold blood. Iraqi Christians issue an appeal: “Pray for us persecuted Christians”.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Anti-Christian violence and persecution continue in Iraq. Two days after a Christian home was attacked in Mosul (northern Iraq), two Iraqi Christians were killed in the city’s Sina’a neighbourhood.

Sources told AsiaNews that unknown thugs entered a store owned by two Christian brothers, Saad and Waad (Raad) Hanna, 43 and 40 respectively, and shot them in cold blood. Waad died instantly, Saad, two hours later.

This is the latest incident in a surge in violence that has hit the Christian community hard in the past few weeks. The bloodiest episode occurred on 31 October when an al-Qaeda affiliated commando stormed the Syriac-Catholic cathedral of Baghdad during Mass. Almost 60 people were killed, including 44 worshippers and 2 religious. For al-Qaeda, Christians are “legitimate targets”.

In view of the latest act of barbarism against them, local Christians have issued a new appeal: “Pray for us persecuted Christians”. (LYR)

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

Jordan: Thousands of Iraqi Christians Seek Refuge

Baghdad, 23 Nov. (AKI) — Jordan is the preferred destination for the hundreds-of-thousands of Iraqi Christians who have been fleeing terrorist persecution in their war-torn country.

Since the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, 700 thousand Iraqi refugees have crossed over into Jordan of whom 120 thousand are Christians, according to George Hazu. president of a Jordan-based non-governmental organisation, who spoke with Arab-language newspaper al-Hayat.

Many of the Christian refugees have gone on to emigrate to Europe and the US and 50,000 are still in Jordan, Hazu said.

Fifty-eight people died during the 31 October attack on a church in Baghdad that was claimed by an Al-Qaeda linked group. Further threats have been made against Christians in the Middle East and northern Africa.

There are approximately 500,000 Christians remaining in Iraq but last month’s attack on Our Lady of Salvation and a string of subsequent bombings have left the country’s Christians in fear for their lives.

“I meet many Christian Iraqis at the church in Amman every day. Almost all have recently arrived from Iraq and many are still coming following the massacre that happened at the Baghdad church,” he said.

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

Shocking Photos of Indonesian Maid After Saudi Employer Hacked Off Her Lips

A young woman lies in a Saudi hospital with her head bandaged, her lips cut off, burns all over body and broken bones.

The shocking photos of her injuries have caused an uproar in her home country of Indonesia but many fear Sumiati is not alone in her suffering.

She arrived in Saudi Arabia in July a high-spirited 23-year-old, eager to start work as a maid to help support her family back home.

Four months later, she is Indonesia’s poster child for migrant abuse, alone and staring vacantly from a hospital bed, her face sliced and battered.

But while public anger has forced President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government to acknowledge the problem for the first time, few expect any firm action to be taken.

Gruesome images of Sumiati, now recovering in the Saudi city of Medina, have been splashed on the front pages of local newspapers in Indonesia and led TV news for more than a week.

Her employer — who has been taken in for questioning by police — is accused of cutting off part of her lips with scissors, scalding her back with an iron, fracturing her middle finger, and beating her legs until she could hardly walk.

She was admitted to the hospital three weeks ago unconscious, with signs of malnutrition and blood loss, and could barely speak, in addition to the horrifying visible injuries.

She claims the mother and daughter both beat her regularly.

‘It’s hardly the first such case,’ said Wahyu Susilo of the Indonesian advocacy group, Migrant Care.

‘Again and again we hear about slavery-like conditions, torture, sexual abuse and even death, but our government has chosen to ignore it. Why? Because migrant workers generate $7.5billion of dollars (£4.7billion) in foreign exchange every year.’

Workers from Asian countries dominate service industries in the Middle East and there have been many reports of abuse — including recent allegations that an employer in Kuwait hammered 14 metal pins into the body of a Sri Lankan maid.

‘The wanton brutality alleged in these cases is shocking,’ said Nisha Varia, senior women’s rights researcher at the New York-based Human Rights Watch. It has called on authorities to investigate claims promptly and bring those responsible to justice.

She and others called cases like that of Sumiati the ‘tip of the iceberg’.

But countries that export labour have a responsibility as well, Nisha said.

Though Indonesia sends more than 6.5million workers abroad every year, it has drawn much criticism for failing — despite repeated promises — to ratify a 1990 UN convention on the protection of migrant workers.

It also has not signed a bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia that would give workers a legal basis to challenge employers.

But Oon Kurniaputra, an adviser to Indonesia’s Minister of Manpower and Transmigration, argued Tuesday that the problem is not the fault of governments.

It is with profit-hungry recruitment agencies that lure young men and women overseas without ensuring their safety when they get there, he said.

Sumiati’s case prompted President Yudhoyono to call a Cabinet meeting late last week to discuss ways in which the government could — and would — do more.

It turned out to be a public relations disaster.

It emerged during the talks that another Indonesian maid, 36-year-old Kikim Komalasari, had allegedly been tortured to death by her Saudi employer, her body found in a rubbish bin on Nov. 11 in the town of Abha.

‘It’s shocking to hear this … it’s beyond inhumane,’ said Yudhoyono, as the government sent out a team of diplomats to investigate. ‘I want the law to be upheld and to see an all-out diplomatic effort.’

Some lawmakers suggested a moratorium on sending domestic workers to Saudi Arabia, something that is considered unlikely given the close economic and political ties between the predominantly Muslim countries.

It also comes at a sensitive time, with hundreds of thousands of Indonesians in Saudi Arabia performing in the annual hajj pilgrimage.

Yudhoyono, meanwhile, had a proposal of his own: Give all migrant workers cell phones so they can call family members or authorities if they need help.

‘It just shows how little he understands the problems domestic workers abroad are facing,’ said Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, an opposition lawmaker who is dealing with labour and domestic workers affairs.

‘Their employers are locking them up and taking away their passports … they aren’t going to let them keep a phone.’

Most people believe little will change until women are better educated and prepared for better jobs in Indonesia, a sprawling nation of 237million people, where the average wage is less than $300 a month.

Sumiati, a recent high school graduate from a fishing village on Sumbawa island, was full of enthusiasm when she left for Saudi Arabia on July 18 with the help of a local recruitment agency, according to family and friends.

She saw it as a chance to be able to help her three younger siblings through school.

When the family — together with the rest of the country — first saw the cell phone picture of their little girl on television, they ‘went crazy’.

‘Her mother … started crying hysterically and lost consciousness,’ Sumiati’s uncle, Zulkarnain, was quoted as saying in the English-language The Jakarta Globe.

When they got Sumiati on telephone in the hospital, she said in a voice almost unrecognisable: ‘Please come in the form of angels and take me back home to my village.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Turkish Writers Boycott Istanbul Literary Event Over Naipaul Invitation

Well-known Indian-British writer Sir Vidiadhar Suraiprasad Naipaul’s invitation to speak at an Istanbul literary event has prompted controversy due to the author’s critical statements about Islam.

A number of Turkish writers invited to the European Writers Parliament have announced they will boycott the event in protest of Naipaul’s participation.

“The invitation [to Naipaul] should be canceled and the reason should be explained to him,” said writer Rasim Özdenören. Leftist writer Cezmi Ersöz said Naipaul’s invitation to the event was an insult to Muslims.

Daily Zaman writer Hilmi Yavuz was the first to withdraw his name, followed by Cihan Aktaþ of daily Milli Gazete and Beþir Ayvazoðlu of Yeni Þafak.

“Islam has had a calamitous effect on converted peoples,” Naipaul, a Nobel laureate, said in 2001. “To be converted you have to destroy your past, destroy your history. You have to stamp on it, you have to say, ‘My ancestral culture does not exist, it does not matter.’“


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Turkey Will Emerge as the Leader of the Muslim World

Turkey is not thought of as the Muslim country par excellence, but Turkey is, perhaps, the most Muslim nation in the world. Due to its unique birth during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, as a state forged exclusively by and for Muslims through blood and war, Turkey is a Muslim nation by origin, a feature shared perhaps only with partition-created Pakistan.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secularization in the 1920s gave the country’s core identity a Kemalist, nationalist veneer. However, a recent perfect storm has undone Atatürk’s legacy: whereas the events of Sept. 11 have, unfortunately, oriented Muslim-Western relations toward perpetual conflict, the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in Ankara has helped re-expose the country’s core identity. When the AKP came to power in 2002, many expected that the party’s promise to de-Kemalize Turkey by blending Islam and politics would not only create a stronger Turkey in the West, but would prove Islam’s compatibility with the West. The result, however, has been the reverse. The AKP has eschewed Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as part of the West, replacing Western solidarity with a Manichean “us (Muslims) versus them” worldview. Hence, in the post-Sept. 11 world, stripped of its Kemalist identity, Turkey’s self-appointed role is that as leader of the “Muslim world.” The country is, in fact, suited for this position: It has the largest economy and most powerful military of any Muslim nation. After years of successful de-Kemalization, the only obstacle that remains is convincing its Muslim brethren to anoint it as their sultan of the “Muslim world.”

At its inception, Turkey was created as an exclusive Muslim homeland through war, blood, and tears. Unbeknownst to many outsiders, modern Turkey emerged not as a state of ethnic Turks, but of Ottoman Muslims who faced expulsion and extermination in Russia and the Balkan states. Almost half of Turkey’s 73 million citizens descend from survivors of religious persecution. During the Ottoman Empire’s long territorial decline, millions of Turkish and non-Turkish Muslims living in Europe, Russia and the Caucasus fled persecution and sought refuge in modern-day Turkey. With the Empire’s collapse at the end of World War I, Ottoman Muslims joined ethnic Turks to defend their home against Allied, Armenian, and Greek occupations. They succeeded, making Turkey a purely Muslim nation born out of conflict with Christians. Religion’s saliency as ethnicity lasted into the post-Ottoman period: when modern Greece and Turkey exchanged their minority populations in 1924, Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians from Anatolia were exchanged with Greek-speaking Muslims from Crete. All Muslims became Turks.

Although Atatürk emphasized the unifying power of Turkish nationalism over religious identity, Turkishness never replaced Islam; rather, both identities overlapped. Atatürk managed to overlay the country’s deep Muslim identity with secular nationalism, but Turkey retained its Muslim core.

Turning to the present, post-Sept. 11 world, states created on exclusively national-religious grounds are vulnerable to a Huntingtonian, bifurcated worldview of “us (Muslims) versus them.” Until the AKP, Turkey was successfully driven by large pro-Western and secular elites and there was not much to worry in this regard. However, the AKP has replaced these elites with those sympathetic to the “us (Muslims) versus them” eschatology. AKP leader and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with his government, believe in Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations — only they choose to oppose the West. The AKP’s vision as such is shaped by Turkey’s philosopher-king, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who summarizes this position in his opus “Strategic Depth,” in which he writes that “Turkey’s traditionally good ties with the West… are a form of alienation” and that the AKP will correct the course of history, which has disenfranchised Muslims since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

Undoubtedly, the AKP’s “us versus them” vision would not have had the same powerful resonance had they come to power before Sept. 11. Because those attacks defined a politically-charged “Muslim world,” the AKP’s worldview has found fertile ground and has changed not only Turkey itself, but also the nation’s role in foreign policy.

To this end, the AKP took advantage of Turkish anger with the U.S. war in Iraq, casting it as an attack on Muslims, Turks included, which has reinforced their bipolar vision of Americans versus Muslims. Recently, while visiting Pakistan (of all places), Erdogan claimed that “the United States backs common enemies of Turkey and Pakistan and that the time has come to unmask them and act together” — Erdogan later denied that he made these comments as reported in Pakistan’s prominent English-language dailies.

The AKP’s foreign policy vision is not simply dualistic, but rather premised on à la carte morals and selective outrage, wherein the real danger lies. One case in point is to compare the AKP’s differing stances toward Emir Kusturica and Omar al-Bashir. The former, a Bosnian film director who stood with the Yugoslav National Army as it slaughtered Bosnians in the 1990s, was recently driven out of Turkey by AKP-led protests, resulting in threats against his life — a plus for the victims of genocide in Bosnia. The latter, the Sudanese leader indicted for genocide in The Hague Court, however, was gracefully hosted by the AKP in Turkey. Erdogan has said, “I know al-Bashir; he cannot commit genocide, because Muslims do not commit genocide.” This is the gist of the AKP’s à la carte foreign policy vision: that Muslims are superior to others, their crimes can be ignored, and that anyone who stands against Muslim causes deserves to be punished.

The reason this vision will transform Turkey is because the country changes in tandem with its elites. Ever since the modernizing days of the Ottoman sultans, political makeover in the country has been induced from above, and today, the AKP is poised to continue this trend as it represents the culmination of Turkey’s new elite, replete with pro-AKP and Islamist billionaires, media, think tanks, universities, TV networks, pundits, and scholars — a full-fledged Islamist elite. Furthermore, individuals financially and ideologically associated with the AKP now hold prominent posts in the high courts since the Sept. 12 referendum, which empowered the party to appoint a majority of the top judges without a confirmation process. In other words, the AKP now not only governs, but also controls Turkey.

Like their close neighbors, the Russians, Turks have moved lockstep with the powerful political, social and foreign policy choices that their dominant elites have ushered in over the ages. Beginning with the sultans’ efforts to Westernize the Ottoman Empire in the 1770s, and continuing with Atatürk’s reforms and the multi-party democracy experience that started in 1946, Turkish elites have cast their lots with the West. Unsurprisingly, the Turks adopted a pro-Western foreign policy, embraced secular democracy at home, and marched steadily toward European Union membership.

Now, with the AKP introducing new currents throughout Turkish society, this is changing. In foreign policy, the dominant wind is solidarity with Islamist and anti-Western countries and movements. After eight years of AKP rule ? an unusually long period in Turkish terms: if the AKP wins the June 2011 elections, it will have become the longest-ruling party in Turkey’s multi-party democratic history ? the Turks are acquiescing to the power of the AKP and their “us versus them” mindset.

According to a recent poll by TESEV, an Istanbul-based NGO, the number of people identifying themselves as Muslim increased by 10 percent between 2002 and 2007, and almost half them described themselves as Islamist. In effect, the AKP’s steady mobilization of Turkish Muslim identity along with its close financial and ideological affinity with the nation’s new Islamist elites is setting the stage for a total recalibration of Turkey’s international compass.

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

South Asia

Fake Taliban Leader ‘Dupes NATO Negotiators’

The Afghan government and its Nato allies were duped into holding peace talks with a man posing as one of the most senior members of the Taliban leadership, it was revealed today.

According to Afghan and US sources quoted by the New York Times, authorities held face-to-face talks with the man who claimed to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the second highest official in the Taliban movement.

Western sources quoted by the New York Times also confirmed a Guardian report that the man was paid a large sum of money in the hope that he would remain engaged in negotiations.

But foreign and Afghan sources believe the man was lying about his identity after an Afghan official involved in one of the clandestine talks — who had previously met the Taliban chief — said he did not recognise the man posing as Mansour.

The revelation is a potential humiliation for Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president who has increasingly put his hopes in a peace deal with insurgents.

A western official in Kabul confirmed the thrust of the New York Times story and said the Americans had been aware of the blunder for some time, but refused to go into details. The US embassy referred all enquiries to the Afghan government.

No officials from Karzai’s office were immediately available, but one Afghan with knowledge of the negotiations also confirmed the story.

In a press conference in Kabul called to mark Karzai’s return from the Nato conference in Portugal, the Afghan president denied some of the key claims of report, including that he had ever met the man in his palace.

He also denied the senior Taliban leader travelled from Pakistan to Kabul. Officials say that on occasions Nato airplanes were used to transport the Taliban representatives. General David Petraeus, the US commander of Nato forces, confirmed that foreign forces have given safe passage to Taliban envoys involved in peace talks.

Karzai dismissed the recent press reports as “propaganda”.

“Do not accept foreign media reports about meetings with Taliban leaders. Most of these reports are propaganda and lies,” he said.

There has long been scepticism among foreign diplomats in Kabul about the seriousness of the talks, with most assuming the two sides were a long way from any sort of breakthrough. Concerns had also been raised about the payment of money to Taliban representatives, which suggested Karzai was more interested in buying off the insurgents rather than trying to engage with them.

But no one predicted the main interlocutor would be an impostor and possibly even, as the Washington Post reported, a humble shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta.

Close colleagues of Karzai said the Afghan president increasingly sees peace talks as the only way to end the conflict, while the president’s critics accuse him of being too keen to compromise with the Pakistani intelligence agency which is believed to play a critical role in supporting insurgents.

The Taliban maintain their firm public line that they are not taking part in talks and will not consider negotiations until foreign troops leave Afghanistan. In a recent statement, the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar said reports of peace talks were “misleading rumours”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Sumatra: Local Authorities Close Catholic School Without Explanation

The institute is run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and has over 400 students, who will loose academic year if school closes. The measure has no legal basis, and the sisters have written a petition in protest sent to all authorities, including the Indonesian President.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — In the city of Kamp (province of Riau — Sumatra), more than 400 children are likely to remain without an education. City authorities want to close a Catholic school of the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. The decision was communicated to the sisters on Oct. 29, but so far no one has stated the real motives for the gesture and at any moment the building could be cleared.

The sisters have sent a petition to the governor of the province, the chief of police, the military commander. They have also written to the President and Parliament. Over 300 letters of protest were sent by parents to local authorities, who had previously supported the opening of the school.

Local sources tell AsiaNews that the measure has no legal basis and authorities can not prevent or suspend the educational activities in schools. The Indonesian constitution in fact allows civil foundations to build schools or educational institutions that help the State to promote education for the entire population.

The request for the establishment of the school was started in 2007, to meet the needs of the district population who for some time had been asking for an institute for their children’s education. In April 2009 the school was opened with the permission of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference, the diocese and the local authorities and placed under the supervision of the Sacred Heart Children’s Foundation (Yayasab Puteri Hati Kudus — Yphk) and led by Sister Clarent.

The source for AsiaNews says that since the early days, “the response from the population was vibrant” and in May 2009, the institute opened registrations and in 2010 presented its regular report to the local official for education. To date the institute has 465 students including 60 children in kindergarten, 176 primary and 229 in between middle and high schools.

“The most important issue — sources say — is that now we have to prepare the final exam for the 120 high school children to be held in 2011.”

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

US Asks the Netherlands for ‘Serious’ Afghan Training Mission Effort

US president Barack Obama has asked the Netherlands to make a ‘serious contribution’ to the police training mission which Nato hopes to send to Afghanistan, prime minister Mark Rutte said on Saturday.

Rutte said Obama had acknowledged the major role which the Netherlands had already played in the region. ‘So he was not asking for thousands of people,’ Rutte told reporters at the Nato summit in Lisbon.

At the summit, all 28 Nato countries apart from the Netherlands made a formal commitment to make a contribution to the mission, news agency ANP reports.

Fact finders

Earlier this month, the Netherlands greed to send fact finders to Afghanistan. The team will look at the ‘possibility and desirability’ of joining the training project and has been ordered by the foreign affairs ministry.

Rutte said the US president is not disappointed and understands the political situation in the Netherlands.

The minority VVD CDA cabinet supports a training mission but the anti-Islam PVV, which props up the government, is opposed. This means Rutte will have to look for support from other parties to get approval for a new mission.

The previous government collapsed over calls on the Netherlands to keep its troops in Afghanistan.


According to ANP, Rutte also had a short meeting with Afghan president Hamid Karzai in which he also stressed the Netherlands wants to take part in the international training mission. Dutch troops were pulled out of the southern region of Uruzgan in August.

At the summit, the leaders of Nato’s 28 states backed a strategy to transfer leadership for the fight against the Taliban to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

For the BBC report on this, click here.

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

Far East

North Korea Fires Artillery Barrage on South

SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells onto a South Korean island on Tuesday, killing one person, setting homes ablaze and triggering an exchange of fire as the South’s military went on top alert.

In what appeared to be one of the most serious border incidents since the 1950-53 war, South Korean troops fired back with cannon, the government convened in an underground war room and “multiple” air force jets scrambled.

The firing came after North Korea’s disclosure of an apparently operational uranium enrichment programme — a second potential way of building a nuclear bomb — which is causing serious alarm for the United States and its allies.

Some 50 shells landed on the South Korean border island of Yeonpyeong near the tense Yellow Sea border, damaging dozens of houses and sending plumes of thick smoke into the air, YTN television reported.

One South Korean marine — part of a contingent based permanently on the frontline island — was killed and 13 other marines were wounded, the military said. YTN said two civilians were also hurt.

“A Class-A military alert issued for battle situations was imposed immediately after shelling began,” a military spokesman said.

Sporadic firing by each side continued for over an hour before dying out, the military said.

The shelling began at 2:34 pm (0534 GMT) after the North sent several messages protesting about South Korean naval, air force and army training exercises being staged close to the border, a presidential spokesman said.

“Flashes along with a thunderous sound were seen here and there across our villages and up to 10 houses were engulfed in flames,” said Woo Soo-Woo, 62, a guesthouse owner on the island.

The shooting started bushfires at several places in the hills, he told AFP by phone after fleeing the island by ferry for the mainland port of Incheon.

“Frightened villagers rushed to nearby shelters while others were busy running away and crowded the port to escape,” Woo said, adding about 1,500-1,700 civilians live on the island.

“When I walked out, the whole village was on fire,” another villager was quoted by Yonhap news agency as saying. “I’m at the evacuation site with other villagers and I am scared to death.”

Yeonpyeong lies just south of the border declared by United Nations forces after the war, but north of the sea border declared by Pyongyang.

The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and last November.

Tensions have been acute since the sinking of a South Korean warship in March, which Seoul says was the result of a North Korean torpedo attack. Pyongyang has rejected the charge.

South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak convened an emergency meeting of ministers and top advisers in an underground war room, a presidential spokesman said. He urged the officials “to prevent further escalation”.

The firing comes after Kim Jong-Un, the little-known youngest son of ailing North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il, was officially recognised as his father’s eventual successor.

“This is an intentional provocation to heighten cross-border tensions,” Dongguk University professor Kim Yong-Hyun told AFP.

“The North made a series of gestures but there has been no response from South Korea and the United States. It is now using its brinkmanship aimed at forcing Seoul and Washington to take action and agree to dialogue.”

Kim said the North would try to use the clash to promote solidarity among its people during the leadership succession.

“It is also sending a strong message to the United States and the international community that the peninsula urgently needs a peace regime.”

A US special envoy headed to China Tuesday to seek its help in curbing North Korea’s new nuclear project, revealed to US experts who described a sophisticated programme to enrich uranium.

Stephen Bosworth has also visited South Korea and Japan this week to discuss the disclosure, which US officials say would allow the isolated North to build new atomic bombs.

Bosworth, speaking in Tokyo, ruled out a resumption of stalled six-nation talks — aimed at denuclearising the North in return for aid and other concessions — while work continues on the enrichment drive.

China chairs the talks and is also the North’s sole major ally and economic prop.

It appealed for the six-party talks to resume after the new revelations, and expressed concern over Tuesday’s cross-border firing. Russia also warned against an escalation of tensions on the peninsula.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

North Korean Dictator-in-Waiting Linked to Deadly Artillery Attack

[This article contains a video that will play automatically.]

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Ten in Court Over Record Drug Bust

Ten people will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday charged over the largest drug bust in Victoria’s history.

Almost 8000 cannabis plants worth $30 million were seized in raids on 68 properties across Melbourne and in western Victoria on Tuesday morning.

Almost 650 Victorian police officers and members of the Australian Federal Police, immigration department and other agencies pounced on 68 properties.

Police say they have smashed several international drug syndicates with Vietnamese origins that have raked in $400 million in drug money since Operation Entity began two years ago.

Eleven men have since been charged for their alleged parts in the syndicate.

They appeared before an out-of-sessions court hearing at Dandenong police station in Melbourne’s southeast on Tuesday night.

Ten of the men were remanded in custody to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday.

They are Hung Van Le, 46 of no fixed place of abode; Zhong Sheng Li, 28 of Springvale South; Trungh Manh Vo, 44 of Noble Park; Thuong Dat Nguyen, 28 of Springvale; Hung Viet Dang, 24; Hey Cenh Nguyen, 21 of Footscray; Dung Hoang Le, 28 of Springvale; Tung Son Pham, 26 of Springvale South; Thuc Van Cao, 25 of Footscray and Minh Cuong Dang, 31 of Springvale.

They have been charged with a range of cannabis-related offences including cultivating and trafficking a commercial quantity of the drug; cultivating, trafficking and possessing smaller amounts of the drug and theft of electricity:

An eleventh man, a 28-year-old from Sunshine, was charged with drug-related offences and was bailed to appear in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on January 27.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Gambia Deals Blow to Iran’s Africa Diplomacy

Painstaking efforts by President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad of Iran to build support in Africa were dealt a blow on Tuesday when the tiny west African state of the Gambia severed all ties with the Islamic regime and gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave.

The Gambia’s foreign ministry announced the decision without specifying the reason. But the move appears to be linked to the seizure in Nigeria last month of an Iranian consignment of weapons believed to have been en route to Banjul.

Nigeria intercepted the rockets and explosives at the port in Lagos, disguised in a container flagged as building materials. A second container from Iran, filled with heroin packed into car parts, was seized last week.

The Nigerian authorities believe that the arms supplies were destined for the Gambia, and reported the incident to the UN Security Council. The shipment could be in breach of UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear and weapons programmes.

Iran said the shipment belonged to a private company, and sent Manouchehr Mottaki, foreign minister, to Abuja last month in a damage-limitation exercise.

Mr Ahmadi-Nejad has been at the forefront of Iranian efforts to build up diplomatic support in Africa and has cultivated strong ties with the Gambia’s authoritarian president, Yahya Jammeh, among other African leaders.

He visited the Gambia in 2006 and 2009 and hosted his counterpart in 2006, as part of a broader diplomatic push into the continent, which has seen senior Iranian officials offering oil, aid and commercial ties in return for backing for its nuclear programme and to ease its international isolation.

Iran has also been promoting Islam in Africa and has been accused in the past of supporting some radical Shia sects in Nigeria’s predominately Muslim north.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Somali Piracy is a Problem for the World

Ten Somalis are facing a Hamburg court as Germany holds its first piracy trial in centuries. They are almost certain to be convicted, but any legal victory for the German authorities will be purely symbolic. Off the coast of Somalia, piracy is becoming ever more sophisticated, with ransoms growing and ambushes getting more audacious. By SPIEGEL Staff

It was April 5, 2010, and the German cargo ship Taipan was 500 nautical miles off the Horn of Africa. The crew, 15 sailors in all, had barricaded themselves into a well-concealed safe room deep in the ship’s hold and were now crouched tightly together on the floor.

From there, they had shut off the engines and the electrical systems. Now they were trying to be as quiet as possible, for fear that the pirates on board could hear them. The attackers had brought along a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or RPG. The captain had seen it with his own eyes. And although this safe room had thick steel walls that were supposedly bulletproof, would they stand up against an RPG? Keeping quiet seemed to be the best approach.

Their silence only made the noise the pirates were making — the shouting, the gunshots and the sound of doors being kicked in — sound even louder. The pirates, knowing that there would be no ransom without hostages, were determined to find the crew. One of them was already calling for the captain in English and saying that all the pirates had been captured. It had to be a trick, the men thought, still keeping quiet.

But there it was again: “We’re here to help you!” Not a sound from the safe room. “Captain Eggers, this is the Royal Dutch Navy. There are no pirates left here.” Not a sound. But then the captain, Dierk Eggers, heard someone speaking Dutch and realized that it wasn’t a trap, that he and his crew could finally come out and that it was all over. A special-forces unit from the Dutch frigate Tromp had captured the 140-meter (460-foot) German freighter and taken the pirates prisoner. The pirates were now lying handcuffed in a row on the deck.

Symbolic Victory

More than half a year has passed since then. The liberation of the Taipan is seen as one of the biggest successes in the fight against Somali pirates. Prosecutors in Hamburg now intend to turn that success into a victory by the German justice system over outlaws operating off the Horn of Africa.

The trial of the 10 Somali pirates, who the Netherlands has extradited to Germany, began on Monday in courtroom 337 at the Hamburg Regional Court. It is the first piracy trial on German soil in centuries. The court has scheduled 14 hearings. The trial revolves around charges of abduction with the intent to extort money, under Section 239a, Subsection 1 of the German Criminal Code, and attacking maritime traffic, under Section 316c, Subsection 1, Number 1b. More generally, the trial is about the rule of law. It’s already clear that if the German authorities win the case, as they are expected to do, it will be no more than a symbolic victory. No one is sure if the larger battle can even be won anymore.

While preparations for the trial were underway in Hamburg in recent weeks, the situation off the coast of Africa deteriorated even further. Pirates have captured 37 ships from January to October of this year, up from 33 in the same period last year. In early November, German authorities counted 19 ships, carrying 440 hostages, at anchor off the coast of Somalia, including the Singapore-flagged MT York, which has a German captain. The ransoms are going up, with pirates now demanding an average of $12 million (€8.9 million), and with ship owners paying up to $10 million. According to Clayton Consultants, a US security firm, the negotiations are now lasting twice as long as in 2009.

The pirates’ range of operations is also expanding, rendering increasingly powerless the international protective fleet, the European Union’s Atalanta mission and the American, Russian and Indian navies. The few pirates they encounter today are getting more and more cunning, as well as increasingly violent and dangerous. On the other hand, there is a growing industry that profits from the crisis: There are companies that specialize in arming ships, negotiating with hostage-takers and insuring ships traveling along high-risk routes. Some 6,000 kilometers (3,750 miles) away from the Hamburg courtroom, in the fishing areas off East Africa, hardly anyone believes anymore that the Somali malaise is only a temporary phenomenon.

And so the global community has yet another problem it cannot solve, because solving this problem would require improving the world itself. Or at least a small part of the world that has already ceased to be a nation-state and remains nothing but a shattered country where young men without prospects stand to gain a lot and lose very little through piracy. There is, of course, the possibility that they could lose their lives, but lives mean relatively little in Somalia.

The Hunting Season

It is now November, and the new hunting season has only just begun. Not that there were months without any attacks, but in the monsoon period the waves are higher and the small skiffs the pirates use in their attacks are tossed about in the rough seas, making hijacking more difficult, more dangerous and sometimes impossible. This has prompted some pirates to move their territory to the Red Sea, where the waves are not as high. But now the monsoon has ended, the clouds are high in the sky, and the Indian Ocean below is as flat as a pancake — and nicely filled with goods from around the world…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Somali Militia Issues Death Threat to Swedish Artist

WASHINGTON — A Swedish fighter with the Shebab, a Somalian milita with ties to Al-Qaeda, has urged Muslims to kill an artist from Sweden who depicted the Prophet Mohammed as a dog, US monitoring group SITE said Tuesday.

“Wherever you are, if not today or tomorrow, know that we haven’t yet forgotten about you,” said the Shebab member Abu Zaid in a video warning to artist Lars Vilks.

“We will get hold of you and with Allah’s permission we will catch you wherever you are and in whatever hole you are hiding in,” Zaid said in a recruitment video with English and Swahili subtitles that calls for Muslims to join the radical movement.

Vilks has faced numerous death threats and a suspected assassination plot since his drawing of the Muslim prophet with the body of a dog was first published by Swedish regional daily Nerikes Allehanda in 2007, illustrating an editorial on the importance of freedom of expression.

“Know what awaits you, as it will be nothing but this: slaughter! For that is what you deserve,” Zaid said in the video that SITE said was posted on jihadist Internet forums on Monday.

“To my brothers and sisters, I call you to make (migration), and if you can kill this dog called Lars (Vilks), then you will receive a great reward from Allah,” Zaid said, according to SITE.

The drawing by Vilks prompted protests by Muslims in the town of Oerebro, west of Stockholm, where the newspaper is based.

Egypt, Iran and Pakistan also made formal complaints about the drawing.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]


Australia: Punters Well Aware of Economic Case Against More Immigration

The Big Australia issue has gone quiet since the election but it hasn’t gone away. It can’t go away because it’s too central to our future and, despite Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott’s rare agreement to eschew rapid population growth, the issue remains unresolved.

This year Rebecca Huntley of Ipsos, a global market research firm, and Bernard Salt of KPMG, a financial services firm, conducted interviews with business people and discussions with 13 groups of consumers, showing them two markedly different scenarios of what Australia could look like in 2020.

In the “measured Australia” scenario, governments limited population growth, focused on making our activities more environmentally sustainable and limited our economic links with the rest of the world.

In the “global Australia” scenario, governments set aside concerns about the environment, promoted rapid economic and population growth, and made Australia ever more a part of Asia.

Not surprisingly, the business people hated measured Australia and loved global Australia. But even though global Australia was described in glowing terms — ignoring the environment apparently had no adverse effects — ordinary people rejected it. And although measured Australia was painted in negative terms — all downside and no upside — there were aspects of it people quite liked.

The message I draw is that if governments keep pursuing rapid growth to please business they’ll encounter increasing resentment and resistance from voters.

Considering the human animal’s deep-seated fear of foreigners, it’s not surprising resentment has focused on immigration. It’s clear from the way in the election campaign both sides purported to have set their face against high migration that they’re starting to get the message.

But at the moment they’re promising to restrict immigration with one hand while encouraging a decade-long, labour-consuming boom in the construction of mines and gas facilities with the other. And this will be happening at a time when the economy is already close to full employment and baby boomers retire as the population ages.

Their two approaches don’t fit together. And unless our leaders find a way to resolve the contradiction there’s trouble ahead.

Business people support rapid population growth, which really means high immigration; there’s little governments can do to influence the birth rate, because they know a bigger population means a bigger economy. And in a bigger economy they can increase their sales and profits.

That’s fine for them, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that a bigger economy is better for you and me. Only if the extra people add more to national income than their own share of that income will the average incomes of the rest of us be increased. And that’s not to say any gain in material standard of living isn’t offset by a decline in our quality of life, which goes unmeasured by gross domestic product.

The most recent study by the Productivity Commission, in 2006, found that even extra skilled migration did little or nothing to raise the average incomes of the existing population, with the migrants themselves the only beneficiaries.

This may explain why, this time, economists are approaching the question from the other end: we’re getting the future economic growth from the desire of the world’s mining companies to greatly expand Australia’s capacity to export coal, iron ore and natural gas, but we don’t have sufficient skilled labour to meet that need and unless we bring in a lot more labour this episode will end in soaring wages and inflation.

Peter McDonald, a leading demographer at the Australian National University, argues that governments don’t determine the level of net migration, the economy does. When our economy’s in recession, few immigrants come and more Aussies leave; when the economy’s booming, more immigrants come and fewer Aussies leave. Governments could try to resist this increase, but so far they’ve opted to get out of the way.

To most business people, economists and demographers, the answer to our present problem is obvious: since economic growth must go ahead, the two sides of politics should stop their populist pandering to the punters’ resentment of foreigners.

But it seems clear from the Ipsos discussion groups that people’s resistance to high immigration focuses on their concerns about the present inadequacy of public infrastructure: roads, transport, water and energy. We’re not coping now, what would it be like with more people?

And the punters have a point. In their instinctive reaction to the idea of more foreigners they’ve put their finger on the great weakness in the economic case for immigration.

As economists know — but don’t like to talk or even think about — the reason immigration adds little or nothing to the material living standards of the existing population is that each extra person coming to Australia — the workers and their families — has to be provided with extra capital equipment: a home to live in, machines to use at work and a host of public infrastructure such as roads, public transport, schools, hospitals, libraries, police stations and much else.

The cost of that extra capital has to be set against the benefit from the extra labour. If the extra capital isn’t forthcoming, living standards — and, no doubt, quality of life — decline.

If we don’t build the extra homes — as we haven’t been doing for some years — rents and house prices keep rising, making home ownership less affordable. To build the extra public facilities, governments have to raise taxes and borrow money. But they hate raising taxes and both sides of federal politics have sworn to eliminate government debt.

The interviews and discussion groups revealed both business people and consumers to be highly doubtful about the ability of governments — particularly state governments — to provide the infrastructure we need. As well they might be.

At present, our leaders on both sides are heading towards a future that doesn’t add up.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Burney Asks British Govt to Ban Rehman’s Entry Into Country

Leading rights activist Ansar Burney has asked the British government not to allow the entry of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman into that country due to his “nefarious and extremist political background and known links with the Pakistani Taliban”.

Burney, who also heads the Britain-based law firm Burney Legal Solicitors, has sent legal representations to Home Secretary Theresa May “demanding the curtailment of any permission granted” to Rehman to enter Britain.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Burney said he had acted in the “greater interest of social harmony” and requested the British authorities to ban Rehman from “ever entering the country”.

In his legal representation, Burney referred to the “notorious statement and actions” of Rehman in “stirring anti-West sentiments in Pakistan and promoting religious extremism in the remote parts” of Pakistan.

He also “expressed trepidation that (Rehman) will spread similar hatred and promote terrorism in the UK if granted entry”.

Burney said Rehman’s entry to Britain is “being challenged by Burney Legal Solicitors under UK law and policy whereby an individual, even if holding valid permission (visa) to enter the UK, may have their entry barred and returned to their country of origin if they are believed to be a threat to national security, public order or the safety of citizens; or if it is believed they glorify terrorism, promote violence and encourage other serious crime”.

The move came ahead of Rehman’s scheduled arrival in Britain today. He is scheduled to attend an event in the House of Commons on November 25.

Burney said if the British government failed to act, his legal firm will take the matter to the High Court.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt-Israel Wall Under Construction

The plan is meant to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the country. The structure should cost US$ 370 million and take a year to build.

Tel Aviv (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Work begins on the Egypt-Israel border to build a barrier designed, according to Israeli authorities, to stem the flow of illegal migrants into country. Bulldozers have begun their work already.

The Defence Ministry said the structure will cost the country approximately US$ 370 million and should take up to a year to complete. Electronic sensors will also bolster the barrier.

Earlier this month, Interior Ministry spokesperson Sabine Haddad announced that the number of African economic migrants and asylum seekers sneaking into Israel had leaped this year.

On average, some 1,100 people were slipping into Israel each month through its southern border with Egypt, Haddad said. Last year’s average monthly number was 350 people.

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

Iraq: After the Attacks on Christians in Baghdad, 40 Families Emigrate North

For fear of staying in the capital, many took refuge in Sulaimaniya. Here, Nov. 20, they were visited by the Archbishop of Kirkuk and the wife of Iraqi President Talabani.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — After the last attack on the Christian community in Iraq, a new exodus of families from Baghdad are heading toward the north. Following the terrorist massacre in the Syrian Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in the capital on October 31, the threat of Al Qaeda to eliminate Christians from the Middle East and the explosions in front of houses in targeted neighbourhoods inhabited by Christians, 40 families have transferred to Sulaimaniyah. In 30, they are living in the parish buildings of Saint Joseph church and 10 are staying with host families in the area.

The Parish Council offers food for all of the people. On 20 November, the Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, visited the families bringing material aid and encouraging them to hope “for a better future.” During the meeting, some people described their experience of the October 31 attack, which killed 44 faithful, two priests and seven security guards, and expressed their fear of returning to the capital and their disappointment in the politics of government.

The meeting was also attended by the wife of Iraqi president, Kurdish Jalal Talabani, who visited the families, bringing solidarity and support their suffering. The Archbishop and the parish council are committed to try to ensure education for the children of immigrant families and decent housing for those who want to stay in Sulaimaniyah.

The parish community and the Chaldean Sisters of the Immaculate will care for the Christian migrants: with prayer, songs and moments of social and religious programs, speaking about life in the town north of Iraq, they will try to help everyone forget the enormous trauma of their current suffering.

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

UK: Migrant Workers to be Cut by a Fifth

By Wesley Johnson, PA

The number of migrant workers coming to Britain from outside the EU will be cut by a fifth and capped at 21,700 from next year, Home Secretary Theresa May said today.

Mrs May said there will also be a new minimum salary of £40,000 for firms using intra-company transfers (ICTs) to bring their own people into the UK for more than a year to do specific jobs.

But firms will still be able to bring non-EU workers into the UK on ICTs for less than 12 months as long as they earn £24,000.

To fulfill the Government’s pledge to cut net migration from 196,000 to the tens of thousands by 2015, Mrs May said: “We will have to take action across all routes to entry — work visas, student visas, family visas — and break the link between temporary routes and permanent settlement.”

The number of skilled workers with job offers, who enter the UK on tier two visas under the points-based system, will be capped at 20,700 and will also be limited to graduate-level jobs, Mrs May said.

But the number of highly-skilled workers without a job offer — the old tier one route — will be limited to just 1,000 and to those with “exceptional talent”, which will include sports people and scientists.

The inclusion of scientists in this new route will help address the concerns of universities who fear that the cap could make it harder for the UK to attract the world’s best researchers.

Speaking in the Commons, Mrs May said: “The old tier one — supposedly for the best and the brightest — has not attracted highly-skilled workers.

“At least 30% of tier one migrants work in low-skilled occupations such as stacking shelves, driving taxis or working as security guards and some don’t have a job at all.

“So we will close the tier one general route.

“Instead, I want to use tier one to attract more investors, entrepreneurs and people of exceptional talent.”

Mrs May also said student visas would be targeted by the Government.

“Nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are actually coming to study a course below degree level and abuse is particularly common at these lower levels — a recent check of students studying at private institutions below degree level showed that a quarter could not be accounted for.

“Too many students, at these lower levels, have been coming here with a view to living and working, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse.”

Mrs May went on: “Today’s announcement has set out a clear, rational approach to which workers we will allow into the UK job market.

“We have set out an approach which will not only get immigration down to sustainable levels but at the same time, protects those businesses and institutions which are vital to our economy.”

Unite, the UK’s largest union, accused the Government of missing a golden opportunity to root out abuse and misuse by companies of the ICT route.

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, said: “The Government has spectacularly squandered the opportunity to deal with misuse and abuse of the intra-company transfer scheme in its migration cap announcement in the face of largely empty threats by big business to withdraw investment from the UK.

“The measures announced will do little to prevent employers from abusing the system, and manipulating tax and accommodation allowances to undercut UK resident workers.

“The Government has also failed to take any action to stimulate job opportunities to reduce the high unemployment rate for skilled computer science graduates and young people in general by providing employers with greater incentives to source labour from the domestic market as envisaged in its original consultation on the migration cap.”

John Mountford, international director of the Association of Colleges, warned that non-EU students coming to the UK on courses below degree level “subsidise UK universities and UK students” by going on to degrees later.

“Cutting them out will ultimately mean that UK citizens will have to pay even more for a university degree,” he said.

“The cap is a clumsy approach — to cut numbers most effectively the Government should simply administer current policy properly.

“This would reduce student numbers by removing bad practice, clamping down on ‘chip shop’ providers while supporting highly trusted providers like Further Education and Sixth Form Colleges, which specialise in high-quality education to genuine students.

“Introducing a cap will punish reputable providers to the benefit of the bad, as the unscrupulous will continue to look for loopholes.”

“Restricting student numbers in this way will harm UK economy and reputation.

“Students turned away from the UK will study in America or elsewhere in Europe and our reputation as an international educator of excellence will be severely damaged.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UN Cowardice is a Betrayal of Its Gay Citizens

It was very easy to believe last week that gay people around the world had been pushed even closer to a bloody end. The UN general assembly voted to remove the mention of killings based on sexual orientation from a resolution condemning arbitrary and extrajudicial executions.

“This is a shameful day in United Nations history,” gay rights activist Peter Tatchell said. “It gives a de facto green light to the on-going murder of LGBT people by homophobic regimes, death squads and vigilantes.”

But abhorrent as this amendment was — and I condemn it utterly — it is questionable whether it will actually make things worse on the ground. Although the “sexual orientation” wording had been in place for years until this U-turn, many governments did nothing as the screams of gay people being butchered echoed all around. Furthermore, gay people are still theoretically included under the resolution’s condemnation of killing for “discriminatory reasons on any basis”.

No, there are deeper problems here that undermine the integrity of the UN and quell optimism about the organisation’s ability to secure positive change.

First, there is a delicate diplomatic dance taking place between member states, and few want to disrupt it, whatever the cost. The motion to delete “sexual orientation” was introduced by Morocco and Mali “on behalf of African and Islamic nations” (according to Reuters).

As Amnesty International explains: “The repression that gay and lesbian people face is often passionately defended by governments or individuals in the name of religion, culture, morality or public health … Same-sex relations are dubbed ‘un-Christian’, ‘un-African’, ‘un-Islamic’, or a ‘bourgeois decadence’.”

Britain and the US condemned the motion, and voted against it, along with 68 other countries (the US abstained from the final vote for the resolution). But, it would seem, another 79 countries would rather anoint other members’ cultural sensitivities — by which I mean bigotry, prejudice and hate — than try to protect vulnerable citizens. South Africa, for example, voted for the amendment despite its proud history as the first country to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


The West and the Guest

18.11.10: Let’s start with a simple thought experiment. You invite a guest into your house, give him a room, and make all your facilities available to him. You find him a job it might be one that needs to be done, it might not but if he runs into difficulties or loses his job you provide him with the wherewithal he requires. Eventually he brings his family over for an extended visit which turns out to be permanent and before you know it an entire part of your house has been sealed off or, as in some instances, has become a domestic no-go zone.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]