Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101201

Financial Crisis
»Stocks Gain in Broad Rally After Bond Sale; Dow Rises 2.27%
»Frank Gaffney: New START, Old Stratagem
»George Soros and His Evil Empire
»Is [Modern] Liberalism Truly a Mental Disorder?
»Latino Leaders Swirl Around Idea of Tequila Party
»NYC ‘Harvesting Organs’ During Some 9-1-1 Calls
»The Conservative Blind Spot
»Washington Watch: What the Leaks Really Reveal
»Stolen Menorah Lights Up Student Fundraising Drive
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Government Subsidy for Intifada Group
»France: Sarkozy’s Staff ‘Diverted Plane So He Didn’t See Eiffel Tower Lit Up in Turkish Colours’
»Fresh Scandal for Swedish Royal Family After Nazi Past of Queen’s Father is Revealed by TV Documentary by Allan Hall in Berlin
»Germany: Scientist Hits on Recycling Plan for Vital ‘Rare Earth’ Metals
»Italy: The City of Milan Has Set Aside 1 Milion Euros for Surveillance Cameras
»Italy: Clinton and Berlusconi Patch Up Any Wikileaks Problems
»Italy: Aspiring Priest Kills Himself
»Italy: Running Battles in Rome as Students Sow More Chaos
»Italy: Muslim Says He Will Run for Mayor of Milan
»Pipes: You Can’t Fight Islamism With Ideas Coming Out of Europe
»Spain Arrests at Least 7 With Suspected Links to Mumbai Attacks
»Survey: Germans More Negative About Muslims Than Their Neighbours
»Sweden: Dad Gets Jail for Son’s Visit Home
»The Civil War Among Muslims in Britain
»UK Shamed as the Violent Crimes Capital of Europe
»UK: Bungling Police Arrive at Crime Scene… And Eat the Evidence
»UK: David Cameron on Radicalised Muslims: We Let in Some Crazies … And Didn’t Wake Up Soon Enough
»UK: Empowering Islamists
»UK: Eviction Time at the Gipsy Camp … But It’s Protesting Villagers, Not Travellers, Under Threat
»UK: Hot Off the Press: Unlocked Copy of Lambert’s Islamophobia Report
»UK: It’s a Black Christmas Now
»UK: Lambert and Githens-Mazer: Lutfur Rahman and Hizb ut Tahrir
»UK: MCB Response to Media Inquiries Regarding Grand Mufti’s Appointment
»UK: Pilot of UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Crash Plane is Charged With Threatening to Kill Him and Air Investigator
»UK: The Islamist’s Last Throw of the Dice: Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s New Report
»UK: Why Suicide Bombers Are Muslim (Lack of Sex) And Liberals Are More Intelligent: A Controversial Psychologist’s Very Politically Incorrect ‘Truths’ About Human Nature
»UK: What the UK Islamists Are Planning Next [20 May 2008]
»Vatican — OSCE: Card Bertone Calls for an End to Anti-Christian Persecution
»Why Sweden Abandoned Its Workers’ Party
North Africa
»Turkish PM Erdogan Receives Al-Gaddafi Human Rights Award
Israel and the Palestinians
»Has the Obama Administration Failed Again?: No Freeze, No Talks, No Competence
Middle East
»Arab Media Play Down Wikileaks Reports of Support for Iran War
»Iran Executes Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife
»Iraq: Christian Mosul Shopkeeper Killed by Gunmen
»Man Held After Touching Girl’s Hand in Saudi
»No Need for Women to Cover Up: Saudi Police
»The Ultimate Prank or a Trick of the Light? Outrage in Iran After Satellite Image Shows Star of David on Airport Roof
»Wiki Secret: U.S. Distrusts Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan
»Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Wants Military Rule in Pakistan
»Wikileaks Cables: Reading Between the Lines
»Yemen: Detained ‘Al-Qaeda Militant’ Released in Exchange for Kidnapped Doctor
»‘Top Dog’ And a Vengeful Harpy
»Wikileaks: Italy’s 2008 Position on Ossetia ‘Irritated’ U.S.
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Two Afghan Converts to Christianity Risk the Death Penalty
»Bangladesh: Imam Rapes Ten-Year-Old Girl
»Indonesia: Islamic Students ‘Embrace Liberalism’ While Science Students Are ‘Drawn to Fundamentalism’
»Pakistan: Asia Bibi Fears for Her Life, While Awaiting a Government Decision
»Pakistan Mother Denied Presidential Pardon for ‘Insulting Islam’
»Six Killed in Attack in Pakistan
»Italy: Immigrants Make Up 8% of Payrolls and Their Numbers Are ‘Increasing’
Culture Wars
»Italian Women Battle for the Middle Ground
»Penis Boxing Video Game to Promote Safe Sex
»Pentagon Report on ‘Gays’ Rigged?
»Sweden: Wrong to Ban Student With Niqab: Ombudsman
»UK: Former Archbishop Lord Carey: We Mustn’t be Ashamed of Christmas in These Politically Correct Times
»How to Create Temperatures Below Absolute Zero
»Quantum Uncertainty Controls ‘Action at a Distance’
»Super-Earth’s Atmosphere Analysed for First Time
»Top Science Panel Caught in Another Global Warming Data Fraud

Financial Crisis

Stocks Gain in Broad Rally After Bond Sale; Dow Rises 2.27%

Stocks on Wall Street rallied broadly on Wednesday after positive developments in Europe and encouraging economic reports in the United States and Asia gave investors new confidence.

The Dow Jones industrial average gained 249.76 points, or about 2.27 percent, to close at 11,255.78 in preliminary figures, while broader indexes like the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite posted gains of more than 2 percent. The bullish trading on Wall Street followed strong gains across Europe and Asia.

Positive signs cited by analysts included a strong manufacturing report from China, new comments from the European central bank and improving payroll and productivity statistics from the United States. But the biggest catalyst appeared to be a successful sale of government debt by Portugal, regarded as one of the most vulnerable of the nations using the euro currency.

[Return to headlines]


Frank Gaffney: New START, Old Stratagem

Here we go again. President Obama is trying once again to ram a legislative initiative through Congress knowing full well that, by so doing, he is maximizing the chances that his project’s defects will not become widely understood until it is too late to do much about them. Call it the pig-in-a-poke stratagem.

This time around, however, Mr. Obama is not simply trying to socialize the economy, destroy the world’s finest health care system or assault the Constitution. No, at the moment he has the national security in his crosshairs — and the negative implications could make those associated with his other, domestic policy campaigns pale by comparison.

Specifically, the President is determined to with “rid the world of nuclear weapons” — and he is intent on securing the U.S. Senate’s imprimatur for this truly hare-brained idea. That is the real impetus behind his insistence that senators rubber-stamp during the lame-duck session the so-called “New START” arms control treaty that Mr. Obama signed with his Russian counterpart last April…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

George Soros and His Evil Empire

Exposing the real power behind the radical transformation of America

To conservatives, he’s the evil emperor in “Star Wars” — the Empire’s shadowy and malevolent puppet-master, the real power behind the widespread subversion and destruction of freedom, prosperity and hope.

But to hundreds of organizations on the political and moral left, he is literally their lifeblood, a revered leader, a godfather — almost a god, who provides good things for his children.


In short, says Kupelian, “if it’s immoral, subversive or harmful to America, Soros favors it, organizes it and funds it. If it’s noble and freedom-producing, like free markets and small government, he despises it and creates organizations to undermine and ultimately destroy it. This issue of Whistleblower shines intense daylight on all of this.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Is [Modern] Liberalism Truly a Mental Disorder?

Michael Savage gets clinical support for his best-selling diagnosis

WASHINGTON — In 2006, radio talk-show icon Michael Savage released a book that quickly climbed to the top of the best-seller charts.

It was called “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.” His critics characteristically derided him for rhetorical overkill.

But later that same year another book was released with much less fanfare by a celebrated psychiatrist offering clinical evidence that supported Savage’s diagnosis.

It was called “The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness,” written by Dr. Lyle Rossiter.

Two very different perspectives — same conclusion.

Whether or not you agree that liberalism is a mental disorder, you owe it to yourself to examine the evidence.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Latino Leaders Swirl Around Idea of Tequila Party

Acknowledging the source of their inspiration, Latino leaders have dubbed the proposed movement the “Tequila Party.” These Hispanic leaders have noticed that while the Tea Party has had spotty electoral success, it has called attention to its concerns and values and put the establishment on notice. “I don’t know if it’s going to happen, but there’s talk,” said Fernando Romero, president of the nonpartisan Hispanics in Politics, Nevada’s oldest Hispanic political group. “There’s discussion about empowerment of the Latino vote.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NYC ‘Harvesting Organs’ During Some 9-1-1 Calls

Pilot program designed to increase kidney donations from heart-attack patients

“Hey buddy! Spare a kidney?”

New York City today is launching a new program to put a roving Organ Preservation Unit in the field to harvest kidneys from people who die after going into cardiac arrest.

The move has prompted immediate alarm from critics, who say they are concerned New York City might be taking the first steps into the organ harvesting business.

One critical blog already has termed the program “Mayor Bloomberg’s Organ Snatchers,” asking what difference there is “in practical terms between the government letting you die and pressuring your relatives to give you the organs” and having a private third-party brokering a sale of organs.

In the United States, organ brokering is strictly illegal.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Conservative Blind Spot

There is a blind spot in the main stream Conservative movement that threatens everything the movement says it stands for. The blind spot is refusal to acknowledge the threat of Sustainable Development, the policy of the UN’s Agenda 21 that now permeates into every American city. Somehow, the Conservative leaders who have always been there to fight off such utopian, socialist nightmares now seem to slumber blissfully in their ignorance at the very moment when vigilance is most urgently needed.

Sustainable Development is the greatest threat ever perpetrated against the American ideal of liberty. Sustainable Development is based entirely on the concept of wealth redistribution. Under Sustainable Development there can be no free enterprise, no individual liberty and no private property. If you doubt that, then here is a direct quote from the UN’s Habitat I 1976 conference where Sustainable Development was first being developed: “Land…cannot be treaded as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also a principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, therefore, contributes to social injustice.” That quote alone should bring the libertarians to battle-ready.


Sustainable Development is not a partisan issue. Both parties are guilty of its enforcement. The Bush Administration did more to help entrench Sustainable Development policies than the Clinton Administration could have hoped for. Of course, Obama continues the assault.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Washington Watch: What the Leaks Really Reveal

We didn’t need WikiLeaks’ dump of a quarter million State Department cables to tell us that its Arab neighbors are terrified of Iran and want “the head of the snake cut off,” in the words of the Saudi king, but they expect the US or Israel to do the job because they lack the courage to do it themselves.

Bahrain’s King Hamid urged the US to “terminate” Iran’s nuclear program “by whatever means necessary,” according to the cables, and similar views were reported by top officials in Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

Arab leaders may publicly embrace — literally — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the cables leave little doubt they loathe and fear him. Adding to the sense of urgency are reports that China and North Korea are doing even more than previously believed to help Iran develop long-range ballistic missiles, chemical weapons and nuclear technology, and threats from Gulf Arabs that if we don’t take care of Iran they’ll feel compelled to develop their own nuclear weapons.

The document dump gives new credence to Israeli warnings and exposes the Arabs as duplicitous on the most critical issue facing their region. They leave little doubt they’d prefer Israel eliminate the Iranian threat, but just as sure as Allah made little green apples you know they would fiercely denounce the hated Zionists for their brutal attack on a dear Muslim brother.

THERE’S PRECEDENT. The first time Israel thwarted the nuclear ambitions of a brutal dictator, it was universally condemned — and the chorus was led by the US. In response to Arab demands, president Ronald Reagan directed his UN ambassador to work with the Iraqis on a Security Council resolution condemning the 1981 raid that destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor.

Publicly the Arab world united in its condemnation of the Jewish state but a few days later when a CIA briefer was asked by members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Arab reaction to the Israeli attack, he replied, “Booyea.”

Puzzled lawmakers asked him to translate that into English. “Publicly they’re booing Israel and privately they’re cheering,” he explained.

It is obvious today that the raid did at least as much to protect Saudi Arabia and Iran from an Iraqi nuclear threat as it did Israel. Saddam waited nearly a decade for revenge, launching Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War in 1991.

The second Israeli nuclear non-proliferation act was Operation Orchard, the September 2007 attack on a Syrian reactor, believed built with the help of Iran and North Korea. Unlike 1981, Israel didn’t announce its attack to the world, but a few weeks later the Bush administration, which had refused to do the job itself, did.

Russia and China say they don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons, but their actions are having an opposite effect. They are Iran’s chief enablers, protecting it from more intense international pressure.

China is the greater problem; along with its own rogue ally, North Korea, it is helping Iran acquire long-range ballistic missiles and chemical weapons capabilities, the leaked documents reveal. Iran’s missile capability is greater than previously known publicly.

Israel has been accused of being behind moves to impede Iran’s nuclear program, according to media reports, including the sale of faulty equipment for uranium enrichment, the Stuxnet computer worm that damaged centrifuges and attacks on Iranian nuclear scientists, including two earlier this week.

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU welcomed to exposure of what Arab leaders are saying in private as proof they agree with him about the Iranian threat, and he expressed hope they’d now say it publicly. Don’t hold your breath, Bibi. The Saudi media didn’t mention a word of what Arab leaders are saying, but it was available on the Arabic-language service out of Iran and elsewhere.’s Jeffrey Goldberg makes an interesting point: The WikiLeaks dump disproves those who say “it is only Israel advocating for war against Iran” when in fact “the most strident lobbyists for war against Iran have been Arab leaders.”

Another victim of the leaks is Israel-bashers like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national security adviser, who repeatedly warn that an Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities would create anti-Israel “resentment” in the region and damage US-Israel relations. It appears that just the opposite may be the case.

The Obama administration has said Arab leaders have told it that progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace would make regional cooperation against the Iranian threat easier, yet when the president personally pleaded with the Saudi king to act on that he was rebuffed.

King Abdullah, who claims authorship of the Arab Peace Initiative, has repeatedly refused to offer some confidence building measures to encourage greater Israeli flexibility in the faltering peace process. Instead he sticks to his insistence that the Israeli government must meet Arab demands before the Saudis will even speak to it about peace.

It also shows that for all their talk about wanting the Israelis to make peace, their real concern is Iran. And the talk about peace may be just that — talk.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Stolen Menorah Lights Up Student Fundraising Drive

Jewish students at the University of Ottawa have rallied to build a new menorah after one was stolen from the university grounds on the weekend.

A three-metre menorah set up last week outside the UniCentre went missing on Saturday just days before the Jewish holiday of Hannukah, which is today. The menorah was later found in front of the Father & Sons restaurant on Osgoode Street, near the university campus.

The metal and wire religious structure was too badly damaged and could not be returned.

“It’s all smashed up, it was part of a student prank,” said Rabbi Chaim Boyarsky, the university’s rabbi.

Two unidentified individuals were captured on security cameras carting away the religious symbol.

Boyarsky said a fundraising campaign launched after the theft has so far raised about $800 donated by students.

It’s the third year the menorah has been erected on campus.

“We never had any problems before,” said Boyarsky. “We respect everyone’s culture and we really want our culture to be respected as well.”

He said the eight-branched candelabra is normally shipped from Brooklyn, New York and Jewish students at the university volunteer to assemble it. But there was no time to get a new one from the U.S. prior to the Jewish holiday, he said.

“The students are building a new one, it will be two feet bigger than the other menorah,” said Boyarsky, adding the students purchased the building materials.

“The irony of this is that students came out in big numbers to help and some of them were not even involved before.”

He said the menorah will be up in the same spot in time for today’s holiday.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch Government Subsidy for Intifada Group

THE HAGUE, 02/12/10 — Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal will conduct a “fiery meeting” with the Dutch aid organisation ICCO on reports that it gives money to anti-Israeli activists. A leftwing Green (GroenLinks) MP has played a remarkable role in the question.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper recently reported that ICCO, which is subsidised by the Dutch government, is said to give money to Electronic Intifada, an international Internet organisation that fights for the Palestinian cause. The positions on the site are “diametrically” opposed to those of the Dutch government, Rosenthal said in the corridors of the Lower House. He wants to know whether ICCO indeed uses subsidy funds for Electronic Intifada.

According to ICCO, the 50,000 euros for Electronic Intifada has come from private means from this year. From 2006 through 2009, the total sum involved was 150,000. This money was indeed subsidy money from the foreign ministry, according to an ICCO spokesman.

ICCO says there is no evidence whatever that Electronic Intifada is anti-Semitic. The group was set up in February 2001, among others by Arjan El Fassed, who has since become a GroenLinks MP.

El Fassed himself worded for ICCO from 1999 to April 2001. Until the beginning of 2010, the GroenLInks MP was involved with Electronic Intifada “voluntarily and unpaid,” he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy’s Staff ‘Diverted Plane So He Didn’t See Eiffel Tower Lit Up in Turkish Colours’

Nicolas Sarkozy’s staff were so scared of angering him that they diverted his plane so he did not see the Eiffel Tower when it was lit in the Turkish colours during a state visit.

In U.S. memos released to WikiLeaks, the French President is described as a self-absorbed and undiplomatic man who strikes fear into his staff.

He is seen as an ‘erratic’ ruler who frightens the Elysee to the extent that they are too scared ‘to point out when the emperor is less than fully dressed’.

In cables that paint a colourful picture of him, President Sarkozy is depicted as a hyperactive man who has an ‘authoritarian’ style which does not always go down well with foreign dignitaries.

A memo sent to Hillary Clinton in December 2009 by ambassador Charles Rivkin said almost anything is done to keep him happy.

It read: ‘Elysee contacts have reported to us the great lengths they will go to avoid disagreeing with him or provoking his displeasure — even recently reportedly re-routing the president’s plane to avoid his seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up in Turkey’s colours on the visit of PM (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan.’

It had been turned red and white in honour of the foreign visitor — but the move risked angering Sarkozy who is against the Turks joining the European Union.

The report added that the President would demote those within his cabinet who disagreed with him.

It said he ‘has few restraints — political, personal or ideological — to act as a brake on his global ambitions.’

A European diplomat wrote that German Chancellor Angela Merkel said following a meeting with the French leader: ‘Just being in a room with Sarkozy is enough to make anyone’s stress levels increase.’

The personal criticism contained in the classified documents was last night threatening to harm relations between France and the U.S.

Sarkozy has worked hard to patch up their differences following President Chiraq’s clash with George Bush over the Iraq war in 2003.

But laying bare his complex personality, a leaked memo sent to Barack Obama in March last year described the French President as ‘a pragmatist and an activist, he can be brilliant, impatient, undiplomatic, hard to predict, charming, innovative and summit prone.’

Sarkozy, elected in 2007, saw his popularity slump after a quick marriage to Carla Bruni after he had split from his second wife, the cables said.

The focus on his ‘billionaire lifestyle affair’ did not go down well with the French public — and in the secret documents it was described as ‘a major miscalculation in image management’.

Just six months after he was elected, a memo sent to George Bush questioned whether his divorce from his wife Cecilia was having a negative impact on his presidency.

‘On permanent overdrive and intense in the best of times, Sarkozy’s recent divorce raises questions about his ability to maintain equilibrium and focus,’ the Guardian revealed.

‘Sarkozy has himself spoken of his dependence on Cecilia — ‘my source of strength and my achilles heel, as he put it.

‘During their separation in 2005, a highly irritable, darker Sarkozy came into view — the same one that reapeared at the Lisbon summit the day after the announcement of the divorce.’

The report concluded he would get over his personal difficulties.

Sarkozy’s plan to bring his partner was not well received in the culturally conservative country when he went to improve his relationship with King Abdullah in January 2008.

The US embassy in Rabat reported in a secret cable that the visit had not gone perfectly.

‘While Sarkozy was generally well received, there was much gossip in Moroccan salons about a “too relaxed” President slouching confortably in his chair as he and the King presidened over a 22 October signing ceremony at the Royal palace in Marrakech.

‘In one image, Sarkozy was seen crossing his legs and pointing the sole of his shoe at the king — a taboo gesture in the Islamic world.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Fresh Scandal for Swedish Royal Family After Nazi Past of Queen’s Father is Revealed by TV Documentary by Allan Hall in Berlin

Sweden’s royal family — recovering from revelations of the secret affair the king enjoyed with a pop singer — has been thrown into fresh turmoil over the Nazi past of the queen’s father.

Swedish TV4’s investigative programme Kalla fakta has broadcast the first of a two-part documentary detailing how Queen Silvia’s late father grew rich producing armaments in a factory stolen from the Jews.

When she married in 1976 the Queen’s German father Walter Sommerlath denied he had ever been a member of the Nazi party. That fiction was exposed some years later by a Swedish newspaper which proved he joined the movement in 1934.

Earlier this year Queen Silvia spoke for the first time about it in a TV documentary in which she said he was not ‘politically active’ and that the factory he ran produced toy trains and hair dryers, as well as parts for gas masks for civilians.

She said he did not take the factory over from Jewish owners.

Now the revelations about Sommerlath, who was living in Brazil at the time he joined the Nazis and only returned to Germany on the eve of war, have plunged the royals into a new crisis.

Swedish investigative journalist Bosse Schön says, ‘The truth about Queen Silvia’s father, which she doesn’t want to tell herself or her family, is that he joined Hitler’s Nazi party beginning on December 1st, 1934.

‘Also, Queen Silvia’s father worked during his time in Brazil for the German company Acos-Burderus-do Brasil-Ltda, which used wartime prisoners as slave labour in Nazi Germany.’

Sommelath resettled in Berlin and on 24 May 1939 he took over the company Wechsler & Hennig.

Documents found by Kalla fakta show that Sommerlath took over the firm from Efim Wechsler, a Jew, and that this was part of the so-called ‘Ayranisation’ of such enterprises according to the Nuremberg Laws which stripped Jews of their rights and property.

He bought it at a knock-down price, as was common at the time. Jews needed the money to try to escape from Germany.

The documents also show that his factory produced items which were used by the Luftwaffe — ack-ack guns — and also parts for tanks.

Her brother Ralf told the newspaper Expressen that the Queen is ‘terribly upset’ and he calls the documentary ‘lies and slanders’.

He fumed that if all Swedes are like Mats Deland, one of the three documentary makers, he will never again visit Sweden and will tell his sister to ‘come home.’

The queen’s attempts earlier this year to play down the Nazi past of her father have led to fierce criticism of her in the media now, both in Germany and Sweden.

She has refused all comment but a statement was issued by the palace ahead of part two of the documentary which runs on Sunday night this coming weekend.

‘Concerning the discussions about Walther Sommerlath in the media, which deal with events which took place before the Queen was born, the Queen has no reason to comment on the content of the programme.

‘Of course The Queen is sorry about her father becoming a member of the National Socialist Party in 1934.

‘The Queen first got knowledge of his membership in adulthood, and she never had the opportunity to discuss this with her father.’

Her husband King Carl XVI Gustaf was recently exposed in a book over a secret affair he had with a pop singer.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Germany: Scientist Hits on Recycling Plan for Vital ‘Rare Earth’ Metals

Surrounded by smoking vats in his tumble-down factory in former communist East Germany, Wolfram Palitzsch sees a golden future in recycling “rare earths,” the metals crucial to gadgets such as mobile phones and TVs.

The 44-year-old scientist is exploring ways to extract the exotic metals that have spiked 300 percent in price over the past year, driven in part by trade tensions with China which enjoys a near-monopoly on their export.

“It’s incredible that almost no one has thought of this before,” Palitzsch said, pacing eagerly around bubbling test-tubes.

For the moment, his work is focused on recycling indium from solar panels.

Not catagorised as one of the precious rare earths, this metal is nonetheless needed to make flat-screen televisions. Like rare earths, its price has soared.

Using a technique he has patented, Palitzsch plunges the solar panels into a vat containing a special chemical solution, then collects the residue from which he extracts the valuable indium.

But he is already turning his attention to the extraction of europium — a rare earth used to produce the colour red in television screens — from the glowing white powder found in energy-saving light bulbs.

For years, he tried in vain to hawk the idea around German firms and eventually turned to Asia.

“I was invited to talk about my discoveries in Tokyo and I got the impression that the topic was considered much more interesting in Japan than here at home. We Germans are sometimes too slow on the uptake,” he said.

Tech giant Japan suffered most when China reportedly halted rare earth shipments to its Asian rival in September following a territorial row.

Beijing eventually restarted the flow and denied any embargo but the hiatus induced Tokyo to begin to look elsewhere for its supply, notably resource-rich Australia, which hopes to break Chinese production dominance.

Experts have warned that global demand will outstrip supply next year, with China’s own needs alone overtaking total global production by 2016.

As for Palitzsch, he got the idea of recycling the precious commodities while working for a firm that produced water treatment products that was being hammered by a spike in aluminium prices in 2007 and 2008.

He recalled how his father would scrupulously save the metallic caps on yoghurt pots and milk bottles and resell them.

With the help of some old university friends, who worked in the solar panel business that flourished in the former East Germany, he hit on the idea of recycling the aluminium in solar cells.

Palitzsch hopes soon to begin large-scale recycling of solar panels.

“We have to start thinking about this now, not in 25 years when we need to rebuild or dismantle all the solar parks,” he said.

Despite the initial dearth of interest in Germany, the economy ministry has awarded a grant of €85,000 to help Palitzsch and his boss, Ulrich Loser, to develop their ideas on an industrial scale.

But while Palitzsch is bullish, experts are more cautious.

Recycling rare earths “is very complex, I don’t believe recycling them can be done on a large scale in the short term,” said Volker Steinbach, a geologist at the German institute of raw materials.

“If there is any potential, it will be in the medium- to long-term.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: The City of Milan Has Set Aside 1 Milion Euros for Surveillance Cameras

Rome 26 Nov. (AKI) — Milan has set aside 1 million euros for surveillance cameras and new software in 14 districts of one of Italy’s largest cities and de facto Italian business capitol as it aims to beef up security against crime.

The city’s vice mayor Riccardo De Corato said the move sends an “important message” on behalf of city administration, underscoring its intention to increase with security measures, in particular via video surveillance.

The city hopes to pick up on petty and serious crime such as graffiti and street fights across 14 districts including high profile monuments or gathering places such as Piazza Duomo and Piazza della Scala, which will get five new cameras.

Cameras in 12 other areas, including the Milan’s central train station, will have their software updated.

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

Italy: Clinton and Berlusconi Patch Up Any Wikileaks Problems

Secretary of state says US ‘has no better friend’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 1 — United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday ironed out any differences which may have arisen from US diplomatic observations made public this week by Wikileaks with Clinton saying the US “has no better friend” than the premier. The two met on the sidelines of a summit in Astana, Kazakhstan, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Among the thousands of confidential and secret diplomatic dispatches leaked by the whistle-blowing website were several from Italy, one in which Berlusconi was described as a “feckless, vain and ineffective European leader”.

He was also said to be “physically and politically weak” in part due to his “frequent late nights and hard partying which keep him from getting sufficient rest”.

In another document, a US diplomat claimed that Berlusconi was “increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin in Europe” and the pair exchanged “lavish gifts”.

Concern was also expressed in the cables over an agreement between Italian fuels giant ENI and Russia’s Gazprom to build South Stream, a gigantic pipeline to link Russia and the EU by bypassing Ukraine.

Clinton was reported to have asked for information from the American embassies in Rome and Moscow on any possible personal investments in this and other projects by Berlusconi or Putin that could have a bearing on their respective countries’ foreign or economic policies.

In their meeting on Wednesday, Clinton told Berlusconi “we have no better friend. No one has supported America the way Berlusconi has through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Aspiring Priest Kills Himself

‘Not mature enough’, Vatican said

(ANSA) — Orvieto, December 1 — An aspiring priest has killed himself after the Vatican cancelled his ordination, his bishop said Wednesday.

Luca Seidita, 29, threw himself from a rocky outcrop in this central Italian hilltown Tuesday, shortly after learning that the Holy See had decided not to elevate him from his position as deacon.

Local media reported there had been “murmurings” he might be gay but Orvieto Bishop Giovanni Scanavino ruled this out.

“There were only some issues about friends of his,” Msgr Scanavino said.

“For me, he was ready to be a priest, but the Vatican said he wasn’t mature enough,” the prelate said.

Police said Seidita left a note saying he was taking his own life because of the Vatican decision.

“I wanted to become a priest and all my life was devoted to that,” he wrote.

“I am fragile and I ask for forgiveness,” Seidita added.

Bishop Scanavino said Seidita’s receiving a fax on Monday cancelling the ordination had been “an absolute drama” for the young man from Lecce in Puglia.

The bishop quoted Deacon Seidita as saying, “over and over again”: “What have I done, tell me what I’ve done”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Running Battles in Rome as Students Sow More Chaos

Berlusconi tells ANSA real students are at home with books

(ANSA) — Rome, November 30 — Running battles in central Rome were part of nationwide chaos sown by students in another day of protest on Tuesday when the government’s contested package of education reforms and cuts will be voted on in the Lower House.

Protesters threw stones, bottles, eggs and vegetables at police blockades, let off smoke bombs and tried to overturn two armour-plated vehicles in the area of the capital near the Lower House.

The police responded with baton charges and tear gas, as scared tourists and passers-by sought refuge in shops. The blockades were set up to stop people reaching the area of the Italian parliament after a group managed to breach the main entrance of the Senate last week.

Last Thursday demonstrators also stormed the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and on Friday St Mark’s Basilica in Venice as part of a long series of days of action. Tuesday’s demonstrations caused major inconvenience for the Roman public, as they coincided with a public transport strike and led to huge traffic jams.

There were also clashes with police at demonstrations in Genoa and Bologna, where students were stopped before reaching the rail station after having blocked a major highway. Train services were disrupted by students staging sit-ins on tracks in several cities, including Rome, Parma, Pisa, Perugia, Venice, Padua and Trieste, and three Milan metro stations were closed for over an hour. Demonstrations also caused big traffic problems in many cities, especially Palermo, another protest hot spot.

The action went beyond Italy’s borders too, with Italian Erasmus students in Paris hanging a banner against the reform bill from the city’s famous Arc de Triomphe monument.

Students say the reforms which, among other things, will seek to increase links between schools, universities and businesses, amount to privatisation of state education.

They say the cuts it features threaten to strangle the system, especially research departments.

Education Minister Mariastella Gelmini counters that her reform package will increase transparency in recruitment, boost efficiency, reward merit and slim down a bloated system in which too many teachers are cruising in jobs for life.

She said that rather than helping the students’ cause, the protesters are effectively fighting on behalf of the almost feudal ‘baronies’ that reportedly have a stranglehold in many universities and which she is seeking to dismantle.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi backed the package Tuesday and blasted the demonstrators as slackers.

“The reform in parliament is a good one that helps students, teachers and the whole academic world in general,” Berlusconi told ANSA.

“It has to be approved if we want to finally modernise our higher education sector.

“The real students are at home studying. Those out protesting are from (left-wing) social centres and they are lagging in their studies”.

The centre-left opposition, which opposes the reform, condemned the premier for allegedly provoking the students with his comments.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party, the biggest opposition group, added that the imposing police blockades in Rome had raised tensions.

“I’ve never seen Rome resembling a military zone like this,” Bersani said. “If we’ve reached this level of tension it’s because of the irresponsibility of the government, which has lost its head and its grip on the country’s problems.

“I’m convinced the government won’t be able to carry this reform through to application”. The House is expected to give its approval to Gelmini’s bill later on Tuesday before passing it over to the Senate, which should give the final green light next week.

The government suffered a minor setback earlier Tuesday when it failed to block an amendment to the bill in the House.

The amendment was tabled by the Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party led by House Speaker Gianfranco Fini, who has split from the People of Freedom (PdL) party he founded with Premier Silvio Berlusconi, leaving the government in danger of collapse.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Muslim Says He Will Run for Mayor of Milan

The director of the an Islamic cultural centre in Milan on Wednesday declared he will run for mayor of the industrial city in Italy’s north making him the first Muslim mayoral candidate of a major Italian city.

Abdel Hamid Shaari, who runs the Islamic centre that is also known as the Mosque of Viala Jenner, told Adnkronos International (AKI) that he will be the candidate for mayor on a list that includes Italians and immigrants in the March local elections.

He will hold a press conference in Milan on Thursday to make an official announcement about his list named “New Milan.”

Shaari stressed that that he should not be considered a religious candidate.

“Our list has lay and non-religious candidates,” he said.

Milan had 208,021 immigrants making up 16 percent of its population, according to a September report by the Milan city council. Many of the immigrants are Muslims from North Africa.

Milan and much of Italy’s north is the stronghold of the Northern League anti-immigrant political party.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pipes: You Can’t Fight Islamism With Ideas Coming Out of Europe

Citizen Times: Mr. Pipes, you head various organizations concerning the Middle East and Islam, and are one of the best known American writers on these subjects. How did this all begin for you?

Daniel Pipes: I am a historian of Islam with a special interest in the role of Islam in public life. I received my Ph.D. in 1978, just as Ayatollah Khomeini appeared. For the first time in modern history, Islam had a large and obvious role in Western public life. What had been in the 1970s an abstract interest turned very practical. Islamic matters subsequently became very topical. That prompted me to transit from medieval history to current events. While I cover many other topics besides Islam, Islam remains central to my interests. I have a perspective I hope is useful to understand the role of Islam in politics.

Citizen Times: And what is that perspective?

Daniel Pipes: That Islam is deeply important to the public lives of Muslims. That Islam is a religion of laws, and those laws are quite permanent and universal. That they are not the same everywhere at all times, but the basics are consistent. That there are times of greater emphasis and times of lesser emphasis but Muslims always come back to these laws. Now, of course, is a time of greater emphasis. Islamic laws have far greater power than they had when I entered this field over forty years ago. How does one understand this change; how do Muslims view it, and how does the West respond to it? — these are some of the questions that I focus on.

Citizen Times: You emphasize the difference between Islam and Islamism. Why?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Spain Arrests at Least 7 With Suspected Links to Mumbai Attacks

Spain’s Interior Ministry says police have arrested at least seven people suspected of ties to the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, that left 166 people dead.

Spanish media report the arrests took place late Tuesday and early Wednesday in and around the northeastern city of Barcelona. They say the arrested are mostly Pakistanis nationals and are suspected of falsifying passports and other identification documents.

The suspects are accused of sending money and the fake documents to the Pakistani-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organization accused of carrying out the November 2008 attacks on luxury hotels, a rail station, a Jewish center, and a restaurant.

Nine of the 10 attackers were killed during the 60-hour siege. The surviving terrorist has been sentenced to death.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Survey: Germans More Negative About Muslims Than Their Neighbours

Berlin — Germans view Muslims and their religion more negatively than some of their European neighbours do, according to a survey released Wednesday.

‘Compared to France, the Netherlands and Denmark, there is a more rigid and intolerant understanding of extrinsic religions in Germany,’ sociologist Detlef Pollack, who led the study by the University of Muenster told the weekly Zeit newspaper.

Pollack said most Germans entirely disagreed with a recent statement by President Christian Wulff that Islam ‘belongs to Germany.’

Fewer than 5 per cent of Germans thought Islam was a tolerant religion, compared to 20 per cent of Danes, French and Dutch, the survey found.

While 50 per cent of Danes and two-thirds of French and Dutch respondents approved of the building of mosques, fewer than 30 per cent of Germans said they did.

In Denmark, France and the Netherlands, a clear majority of respondents viewed Muslims positively.

In Germany however, 34 per cent of those surveyed in the west of the country had a positive view of Muslims. In former communist east the figure was 26 per cent.

The findings follow intense debate in recent months over the level of integration of Muslims in Germany. Senior politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have said that immigrants must do more to learn the German language, laws and customs.

The survey polled 1,000 people in each of the four countries.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Dad Gets Jail for Son’s Visit Home

‘Only menace here is government drunk with its own power’

A father has been jailed and is facing a trial where he could be sent to prison for up to 10 years after bringing his son, who was “state-napped” by police on the instructions from social services workers in 2009, back to his home for a day-and-a-half visit with relatives.

The situation involving Christer Johansson has been detailed on the Friends of Dominic Johansson website assembled in support of the child, now 9, and his family.

But the response of the government in Sweden to Johansson’s decision to spend some time with his son has outraged two international organizations, both based in the U.S., whose officials have been working on the case.

“Despite the ill-advised decision on the part of Mr. Johansson, the only menace here is a government drunk with its own power,” said Roger Kiska, legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is working on a legal challenge to Sweden’s actions in the European Court of Human Rights.

“No one in Swedish government seems to be paying attention as this system tramples this poor family into the dirt,” added Michael Donnelly, with the Home School Legal Defense Association. “It’s incredible that after taking Dominic off a plane because he was being homeschooled in June 2009 he is still not home. This is an outrage that all free people should condemn.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Civil War Among Muslims in Britain

The previous government’s controversial programme for preventing violent extremism is currently being reviewed by the Home Office. How did it happen that programmes which were introduced with the aim of promoting “community cohesion” and preventing the influence of violent extremists ended up achieving the opposite of what they set out to achieve? Since the introduction of such programmes British Muslim communities have been engaged in what is effectively a ‘civil war’ which has left young Muslims (the intended beneficiaries of the programmes) further marginalised and more vulnerable to extremist ideas.

On November 8 2006, in the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings, I shared a platform with the then Secretary of State for the Home Office, John Reid, and Ruth Kelly at a conference held at the British Academy. I warned that if the fragmented nature of the Muslim communities in Britain was overlooked the government’s strategy would end up funding a ‘civil war’ between Muslims, and that a secular government should not be drawn into the debate on how Islam is interpreted or which Islamic theological school should be promoted. Unfortunately, this appears to have been the unintended outcome of the previous strategy for preventing violent extremism.

There has since been an assumption that Muslims can easily be divided into two crude categories: the good “moderate Muslim” and the bad “extremist” Muslim, and that the problem of extremism can be solved by pouring money on the “good Muslim” in order to neutralize the “bad Muslim”. The announcement in October 2007 that £70 million would be spent by the government on preventing violent extremism over three years unleashed a gold rush among the different and opposing Muslim sects in Britain. Since then each sect has been presenting itself as the “moderate” voice of Islam while demonising its rivals as the “extremists”.

What is at stake is the definition of “extremism”. For example, Barelvi Muslims have been defining “extremism” as what their historical enemies, Deobandi Muslims, believe. Likewise Sufi Muslim groups have grabbed on the funding opportunity presented by the government’s Prevent programme to settle old theological scores with their arch rivals, Salafi Muslims.

Nowhere has this been more reflected than in the way that radicalisation and extremism have been covered in some of the TV documentaries produced in Britain in the past 4 years where Barelvi and other Sufi sources have been used to investigate extremism among Deobandis or Salafis. However, the reality is more complex than what is often reported. Soon after the 7/7 bombings a Salafi organisation in Birmingham was the first Muslim organisation to print and distribute a collection of fatwas titled “The Corruption of Terrorism and Suicide Bombings: Exposing the Perpetrators of Evil” which attacked and condemned the 7/7 bombers as evil. In June 2008 Deobandi theologians based at the spiritual home of the Taliban, the influential ultra-conservative Islamic seminary at Deoband, India, issued a detailed Fatwa condemning terrorism and suicide attacks as the “most inhuman crime” which should be eradicated from society. Specialists on Islamic theology agree that the Salafi and Deobandi fatwas are more likely to succeed in challenging the extremist ideology than the widely publicised fatwa published early this year by the Pakistani-born Barelvi theologian Sheikh Tahir ul-Qadri .

The Taliban, Al-Qaida and their affiliate organisations justify their violence by drawing upon Deobandi and Salafi interpretations of Islamic texts. Thus, Deobandi and Salafi fatwas against violent extremism are more effective in delegitimizing extremist groups than fatwas and theological arguments from Sufi scholars such as Tahir al-Qadri and others however well-meaning they may be.

It is tempting to view Sufi Islam as the cuddly and apolitical expression of Islam that should be promoted among all Muslims in Britain as a strategy of dealing with the problem of violent extremism. Such an approach is dangerous. It can be argued that the religious quietism adopted by Sufis (both within the Barelvi and Deobandi communities) is what is driving young Muslims into the hands of extremists. Anyone who has studied religious quietism in different faiths knows that it always produces more radical expressions of the faith.

Not wanting to be accused of promoting extremist ideas, soon after the 7/7 bombings most Sunni Mosque committees across the UK imposed a total ban on political discussions in the Mosques. This means that young Muslims are now without an open and safe platform where they can express their political views and have such views examined or challenged by others. They have instead retreated into their bedrooms to search for answers on extremist internet forums. On the other hand Shi’a Mosques and Imams in the UK continue to engage in healthy debates on matters relating to domestic and foreign policy. Could this explain why young British Shi’as have not been vulnerable to violent extremist ideas in the way that Sunnis have?

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK Shamed as the Violent Crimes Capital of Europe

More than three times as many rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and physical assaults were recorded in the UK compared with our closest rival France, according to European Commission data.

Britain also had the highest number of burglaries and one of the lowest numbers of police officers per head of population.

The disturbing statistics were published yesterday by the Commission’s statistical arm Eurostat.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Bungling Police Arrive at Crime Scene… And Eat the Evidence

Police officers wolfed down pizzas at a crime scene without realising they had been ordered by the very suspects they had been hunting, a court heard.

They bought the two deep pan pizzas at a reduced price from a delivery boy after the gang who ordered them refused to answer the door.

The Old Bailey heard the food had been ordered by the gang from the Hertfordshire house they were holding a drug dealer hostage, in April.

The victim was beaten and bound to a chair and battered across the face with frying pans.

During his ordeal the gang ordered a Domino’s pizza but before the food arrived the victim escaped through a window and raised the alarm at a nearby building site.

Police arrived to find the delivery boy and then ‘ate the evidence’ outside the house.

The following day another officer found the boxes in the boot of the police car.

‘The address was written on the pizza box, together with the time, 5.13pm, and a mobile telephone number,’ said prosecutor Sally Meaking-McLeod.

The empty boxes were seized and produced in court as an exhibit for the jury to examine.

Opening the case, Ms Meaking-McLeod said: ‘Because the pizza delivery man could not deliver the pizzas, the police who were at the scene did not realise the significant potential of this evidence so they offered to buy the pizzas at a reduced rate for themselves and ate them, putting the boxes in the back of a police car.

‘It was only subsequently that the pizza boxes were found in the back of a police car and a phone number was found on one of them and it came to light that the officers had eaten the evidence.’

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron on Radicalised Muslims: We Let in Some Crazies … And Didn’t Wake Up Soon Enough


On 9 April 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, met Cameron and George Osborne in London “to urge HMG [under possible future Conservative leadership] to engage more on Pakistan”.

Holbrooke pressed Cameron to help combat terrorism by capitalising on the “striking connections” between the large Pakistani community in the UK and “its home country”.

“Cameron noted that most of the approximately 1 million UK citizens of Pakistani origin (mostly Punjabis and Kashmiris) living in the UK were not pro-Taliban but had been radicalised by the Iraq war and were militant over Kashmir. The Conservative party leader agreed that HMG ‘must get UK-Pakistan relations right’ and stressed the Conservatives’ commitment to this goal should they assume power.”

Cameron went on to criticise Labour’s dealing with groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the Muslim Council of Britain. “On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had ‘gotten it wrong domestically’ … He argued that PM [Gordon] Brown’s policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups … ‘We let in some crazies,’ Cameron said, ‘and didn’t wake up soon enough.’“

[JP note: But really … will the politicians in the UK ever wake up? Or will they continue to be hamstrung by left-liberal pieties?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Empowering Islamists

The East London Mosque is among Britain’s most extreme Islamic institutions. Built with financial aid from Saudi Arabia, the sprawling facility is home to the London Muslim Center where incendiary preachers are regularly welcomed. On Monday, the East London Mosque hosted a very different kind of visitor—the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Louis Susman. Urged by President Barack Obama to engage with British Muslims, Mr. Susman spoke of his “great admiration” for the mosque and his enthusiasm for meeting its staff.

By any measure the East London mosque is a troubling institution. Last year, for example, it hosted an event titled “The End of Time: A New Beginning,” where pamphlets were distributed showing Manhattan crumbling under a Hadean apocalypse of meteors, which shattered the Statute of Liberty asunder and set the city ablaze. One of the invited speakers, Khalid Yasin, described the beliefs of Christians and Jews as “filth.” Most worryingly, the event also featured a live video question-and-answer session with Anwar Al Awlaki, the U.S.-born preacher aligned with al Qaeda.

Awlaki’s terrorist credentials rival those of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Two of the 9/11 terrorists as well as Major Nidal Hasan, who murdered 13 U.S. soldiers in Fort Hood last year, attended his sermons in Washington. From his new base in Yemen, Awlaki called Major Hasan a “hero” and boasted of having directed the “underpants bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in his bid to blow up a Delta airlines flight last Christmas.

Last year was not the first time Awlaki’s vitriol resonated through the East London Mosque. In 2003 the mosque hosted him for an event on policing where he told the audience that “A Muslim is a brother of a Muslim, he does not oppress him, he does not betray him and he does not hand him over… You don’t hand over a Muslim to the enemies.” The enemies in this context were the police.

A trustee of the East London Mosque, Azad Ali, has been quite explicit about his feelings in this regard. “I really do love [Awlaki] for the sake of Allah, he has an uncanny way of explaining things to people which is endearing” Azad Ali said, before going on to support the killing of British and U.S. troops in Iraq.

Mr. Susman’s visit illustrates the blunders Western politicians often make by reaching out to the wrong Muslim “dialogue partners.” The U.S. ambassador could have easily found out about the mosque’s sympathies for reactionary Islamism by consulting the British government. A report published last year by the Department for Communities and Local Government on the Pakistani Muslim community in England states that “the East London Mosque [is] the key institution for the Bangladeshi wing of JI [Jamaat-e Islami] in the U.K.”

Jamaat-e Islami is the radical South Asian party created by Syed Abulala Maududi, which aims to create an Islamist theocracy. The Bangladeshi government is currently investigating scores of Jamaat members for alleged war crimes during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.

None of this should come as a surprise to Mr. Susman. Congressional reports from as far back as 1993 have warned of Jamaat’s links to terrorism, particularly in Kashmir.

Ironically, two years ago Jamaat was virtually eliminated as a political force in Bangladesh, winning just two out of 300 seats. By contrast, their allies in Britain still claim to speak for British Muslims while their “mother party” has been decisively rejected at the ballot box.

In contrast to the determination of the Bangladeshi people to reject extremist politics, Mr. Susman has emboldened their British counterparts. This visit comes as a bitter blow to those secular and genuinely progressive Muslims in East London who have been pushing back against the mosque’s extremism. Mr. Susman’s visit to the East London Mosque emboldened robed reactionaries at the expense of their more moderate counterparts.

The repercussions of the ambassador’s decision to attend and praise the East London Mosque are already reverberating through Westminster. Prime Minister David Cameron has asked Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws, to oversee an exhaustive review of its “Preventing Violent Extremism” program, including the manner in which communal partners are selected. There is no suggestion, however, that the British government recommended the East London Mosque to the Americans.

Hopefully, the review will reject the dangerous thesis that political Islamists who claim to be non-violent should be bolstered in an attempt to divert angry young Muslim men away from terrorism. This is the premise on which much of Britain’s “Prevent” strategy has operated to date. It has previously sought out reactionary groups believing that only they possess the necessary credibility to “deliver” people from violence. At times, this has included turning a Nelsonian eye to hate preachers such as the notorious former imam of Finsbury Park Mosque, Abu Hamza, best known for his distinctive eye patch and hook.

As Britain is slowly realizing that empowering Islamists—even if they claim to reject violence—is counterproductive, the U.S. ought to learn from those mistakes rather than repeat them.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Eviction Time at the Gipsy Camp … But It’s Protesting Villagers, Not Travellers, Under Threat

For seven months the determined band of neighbours have manned a human barricade to stop gipsies ruining their picturesque village by building on their illegal site.

Now the council is finally set to take decisive action — but incredibly it is the villagers rather than the travellers who could be evicted.

‘Enforcement action’ has been recommended against a small caravan with a makeshift awning where the residents have been sheltering from plummeting temperatures.

Since May the villagers have had a rota — 24 hours a day, seven days a week — to monitor the site for any infringement of an injunction banning further development of the camp.

Their greatest fear was that the gipsies would lay thousands of tons of hardcore rubble on green belt land to extend the site before the machinery of officialdom could swing into action to help them.

But a report by planning officials recommending the removal of the villagers, from Meriden, Warwickshire, will be considered by Solihull Council tomorrow.

Today members of the Residents Against Inappropriate Development group said it was ‘tantamount to closing the camp down’.

The group’s leader, Dave McGrath, said: ‘What do the council expect us all to do? Sit out by the roadside in the snow all winter?

‘All we are doing is keeping a vigil on a site to prevent further illegal development, yet the council seem more interested in persecuting us than tackling the illegal gipsy camp across the road.’

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Hot Off the Press: Unlocked Copy of Lambert’s Islamophobia Report

Earlier this morning the gorgeous Lucy Lips reported on a new publication called ‘Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime’ produced by the Muslim Brotherhood’s think-tank at Exeter University. Unfortunately, those of you wanting to read Bob Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s latest exercise in intellectual onanism would find it rather difficult. You see, someone deliberately set the security settings so high on the document that it couldn’t be printed. The text couldn’t be cut and paste. In fact, just about every security setting possible was applied. Which is kind of strange — you’d think the authors would want us all to read their sterling work. Inspired by the post-wikileaks world of absolute transparency we have unlocked the report for you. Feel free to download it here (pdf).

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: It’s a Black Christmas Now


After I left the Mosque, I went to Oxford Street, seeking the solace of a jollier festival. But the Christmas lights had no Christmas theme — merely a parasol and a parcel — and, in my favourite shop, John Lewis, no festive music, no jingle bells. And everywhere women in gruesome black — black hijabs, black niqabs, black burqas — reminding me of the brave new world.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Lambert and Githens-Mazer: Lutfur Rahman and Hizb ut Tahrir

Earlier today, I blogged about a new publication: Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime. The report is produced by the European Muslim Research Centre at Exeter University: an institution run by Messrs Lambert and Githens-Mazer, and has ties to individuals and organisations with a history of support for extreme politics including terrorism.

I observed:

It should be clear by now that the function of the EMRC is not, in fact, to combat hatred against Muslims. Rather, it is to provide political cover — dressed up as academic research — for extremist Islamist political organisations.

Here is a case in point. Part V of the report is given over to a discussion of the career of the Islamic Forum Europe aligned Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman. The section is entitled “Barbarians at the gates of the City — a case study in the subversion of liberal democracy in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets” and claims to have been written by somebody who has “worked extensively in Tower Hamlets politics”. We’re not told who. [Although in the comments below, a possible candidate is identified: “Abdullah Faliq, an ELM, IFE and Cordoba Foundation groupie who fancies himself as a ‘thinker’ is thanked in the report’s introduction. I wonder if he wrote this chapter?”]

I recommend that you read Ted Jeory’s absolute demolition of the thesis of the chapter: that Lutfur Rahman was a “Left wing populist”, hated by the Labour establishment for that reason, and therefore smeared wholly without evidence as a man with close ties to the Islamic Forum Europe, which is in fact a benign grass roots anti racist community organisation. In reality, the Islamic Forum Europe is an organisation with close ties to the South Asian Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami. It operates from the East London Mosque, which a Department of Communities and Local Government publication identifies as the “key institution” of Jamaat-e-Islami.

It goes without saying that the account of Lutfur Rahman’s travails is significantly fantasy.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: MCB Response to Media Inquiries Regarding Grand Mufti’s Appointment

As far as we are aware, there has been no discussion, let alone agreement amongst the British Muslim communities about the idea of a ‘Grand Mufti for the UK ‘. Moreover, we do not think that such an office of one individual, and even that sanctioned by an official religious authority overseas, can attend to the religious needs and aspirations of perhaps one of the most diverse, vibrant and established Muslim community in the West.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Pilot of UKIP Leader Nigel Farage Crash Plane is Charged With Threatening to Kill Him and Air Investigator

The pilot of the plane which crashed and injured Nigel Farage has been charged with threatening to kill the politician.

Justin Adams, who was at the controls of the light aircraft which slammed into a field on General Election day in May, seriously injuring the UK Independence Party’s now leader, has been remanded in custody.

The 45-year-old airman has also been charged with threatening to kill the official who investigated the dramatic accident.

Adams was at the controls of the Polish-made Wilga 35A, with Mr Farage sitting alongside him, when it suddenly nose-dived to earth during a party-political stunt on the morning of May 6.

Amazingly Mr Farage managed to walk from the scene, as pictured in graphic images from the time, while Adams was trapped in the mangled wreckage.

The seriously injured pilot remained conscious and was later airlifted from the scene, in Hinton-on-the-Hedges, near Brackley, Northamptonshire, to hospital in Coventry.

A probe by the Air Accident Investigation Branch of the Department of Transport found the crash was caused by the campaign banner the plane had been trailing.

The ropes used to tow the giant slogan, reading: ‘Vote for your country: Vote UKIP’, had become caught on the tail of the lightweight aircraft, forcing it into a dive.

Earlier the plane had had to make a number of low-level passes before it was able to collect the banner from a special harness.

Adams was brought before magistrates in Oxford and spoke only to confirm his name, age and address.

He was arrested on Sunday after calls were made to the police, alleging that on November 26 he threatened to kill Mr Farage and that on Sunday he similarly threatened Civil Aviation Authority investigator Martin James.

The business owner, wearing a blue fleece and jeans, did not enter a plea to either charge.

He was remanded in custody and ordered to appear at Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday next week.

Adams, who had been living in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, but has since moved to the village of Buckland, Oxon, ran a firm called Sky Banners.

At the time of the crash Mr Farage, who has a fear of flying, was making a last-ditch attempt to win over voters as he fought to boot House of Commons Speaker John Bercow MP out of his Buckingham seat.

The controversial politician, who previously led UKIP from 2006 to 2009, stepped down from the role to concentrate on his campaign.

However, his supporters delivered the news to him in hospital that he had come third with only 8,401 votes.

He then resumed the leadership of the party on November 5 this year.

Following the publication of the crash report, the 46-year-old said: ‘I think the conclusion is the best for everyone. It was an accident, there we are, these things happen in life.

‘I give thanks to the fact I got through it.

‘I have never liked flying — always hated it, although I have done a fair bit of it as an MEP.

‘Part of the flight on May 6 was an attempt to challenge my demons. Look how that ended up.’

He added: ‘I wish the pilot the best of luck in his recovery. I know he’s had several operations and was not in a good way at all.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: The Islamist’s Last Throw of the Dice: Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s New Report

In May 2008, we reported that a group of individuals with a long history of involvement in Islamist politics was planning to create an “Islamophobia Media Monitoring and Response Agency”. Those who were initially involved in the project were:

  • Carl Arrindell, until recently a disqualified director
  • Mohammed Ali Harrath, the CEO of the Islam Channel, whose channel has recently been censured by OFCOM “for advocating marital rape, violence against women and describing women who wore perfume outside of the home as “prostitutes”.”
  • Bob Lambert is a retired police officer
  • Asghar Bukhari, who famously offered to fundraise for the neo Nazi Holocaust denier, David Irving
  • Inayat Bunglawala

Later that year, the Agency was established. It is called iEngage or Engage, and has just been appointed the Secretariat of the new All Party Parliamentary Group of Islamophobia. One of its directors is, indeed, Mohammed Ali Harrath. The choice of Engage has already proved highly controversial, and is likely to prove disasterous for the APPG: which is a pity, as there is a good argument for a think tank that looks at anti-Muslim incitement and hate crimes, quite possibly in association with political extremism and sectarianism more generally.

This article d

oes not consider the role of Engage and the APPG further. I would recommend you read Paul Goodman’s piece at Conservative Home, however.

The other part of the proposal was the suggestion by Carl Arrindell that tame academics will be recruited to give the project credibility:

“Whilst a long term goal should be to establish a Muslim friendly think tank, in the short term it would be advisable to source a team of credible and authoritative commentators/academics who will be prepared to provide written response/analysis to key events on a regular basis — this may have to be budgeted for. It will be the provision of this regular credible information that will be the justification for journalists to engage with us. “

Roll forward to December 2008, and internal documents from iEngage indicate that Bob Lambert is now working for them. By 2010, Lambert had moved to his very own “European Muslim Research Centre” (“EMRC”) at Exeter University, funded by Islam Expo and the Cordoba Foundation. The directors of IslamExpo include fugitive Hamas commander and Istanbul declaration signatory Mohammed Sawalha. The Cordoba Foundation is run by the Muslim Brotherhood activist, Anas Altikriti, who has called the murder of coalition troops in Iraq “legitimate”. The EMRC Board includes Bashir Nafi, who a decade ago was a senior operative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group, indicted in the United States. They have now added Al Jazeera to their list of funders: a television station which stages birthday parties for child murderers.

It should be clear by now that the function of the EMRC is not, in fact, to combat hatred against Muslims. Rather, it is to provide political cover — dressed up as academic research — for extremist Islamist political organisations.

Yesterday, the EMRC published a lengthy work: Islamophobia and Anti Muslim Hate Crime on the website of the Cordoba Foundation.. Although it does contain some descriptions of very nasty attacks on Muslims and their property, its emphasis is not on the specifics of those crimes. Rather, the report seeks to place Islamophobia in an ideological context. In those circumstances, the villains par excellence are the “neocons”, who deliberately whip up anti Muslim hatred in order to justify imperialism.

Accordingly, the main villains of the piece are the Quilliam Foundation, various other Muslim campaigners against specific named Islamist political parties, and newspapers which report on those political parties. They are accused, time and time again, of encouraging attacks on Muslims by highlighting the activities of Islamist groups, and of providing the British National Party and the English Defence League with their arguments.

By contrast, the Islamist political organisations are utterly blameless and credible community organisations, fully committed to common civic values, which just happen to keep getting caught up in scandals involving hate preaching and terrorism. So we are told, it is actually the fault of the “Neocons” that people react badly to these revelations, which shouldn’t really be reported at all.

This is a desperate argument. Vilifying Muslim liberals, while promoting organisations with very clear links to extremist and sometimes terrorist politics? Funded by the very institutions with links to the Islamist political parties that are being defended? I really don’t think many will buy that. This is the Islamists’ last throw of the dice. Over the next few days, we will be publishing some of the more jaw-dropping passages from Lambert and Githens Mazer’s report. You will be astounded by what you read.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Suicide Bombers Are Muslim (Lack of Sex) And Liberals Are More Intelligent: A Controversial Psychologist’s Very Politically Incorrect ‘Truths’ About Human Nature

His claim that ugly couples are more likely to have sons made headlines around the world yesterday.

But this is not the first time that evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa has stirred up controversy with his outspoken declarations.

Usually perfectly timed to coincide with his latest book, The London School of Economics researcher has come out with a raft of startling claims about what makes us human.

Already this year he has claimed that men who cheat on their girlfriends or wives are less intelligent.

And he claimed that most suicide bombers are Muslim because they do not have enough sex.

He even gave psychological reasons why liberals are more intelligent than those with more conservative viewpoints.

Yesterday it emerged that he had unearthed new evidence that proved the principle that if a parent has any traits that will benefit one particular sex of child, they will have more of that child.

According to Kanazawa, in women this means physical attractiveness is a trait that is passed down, leading to more baby girls for better-looking women.

His latest book is almost perfectly designed to provoke debate and cause a storm of controversy with almost every entry.

Named ‘Ten Politically Incorrect Truths about Human Nature’ it uses Kanazawa’s evolutionary psychology theories to tackle some difficult subjects.

Kanazawa examined the 10-volume compendium The Encyclopedia of World Cultures, which describes all human cultures known to anthropology — more than 1,500 in total.

He found that liberalism was entirely absent in their detailed examinations of each traditional civilisation.

Sharing of resources, especially food, was often mandatory among hunter-gatherer tribes and trade with neighbouring tribes often took place.

Kanazawa discovered that there is no evidence that people in contemporary hunter-gatherer bands freely share resources with members of other tribes.

‘It may be reasonable to infer that sharing of resources with total strangers that one has never met or is not likely ever to meet — that is, liberalism — was not part of our ancestral life’, he writes.

Kanazawa’s hypothesis, in the same way as with the cheating men (below) is that more intelligent people are able to adapt more readily to novel behaviour.

Liberalism may therefore be evolutionarily novel, and so more intelligent individuals are more likely than less intelligent individuals to espouse liberalism as a value.

He wrote: ‘They [Liberals] control the institutions because liberals are on average more intelligent than conservatives and thus they are more likely to attain the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life.

According to Kanazawa’s theory beautiful women have more children than their plainer counterparts, and a higher proportion of those children are girls.

These daughters, once adult, also tend to be attractive and so the pattern continues.

Examples of beautiful celebrity mothers with equally beautiful daughters who are models include Jerry Hall, and her two daughters Elizabeth and Georgia Jagger, and Yasmin Le Bon and daughter Amber — who has recently modelled swimwear.

This pattern has led to women becoming steadily more beautiful over the generations, according to the theory.

However, psychologists believe women are becoming more attractive as they are making more of an effort with their looks, and have more resources to do so than ever before.

Men meanwhile apparently remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.

Here the theory is based on the assertion that through evolutionary history, men have always been ‘mildly polygamous’.

That has changed today, however, and Dr Kanazawa explained that entering a sexually exclusive relationship is an ‘evolutionarily novel’ development for them.

According to his theory, intelligent people are more likely to adopt what in evolutionary terms are new practices — to become ‘more evolved’.

Therefore, in the case of fidelity, men who cannot adapt and end up succumbing to temptation and cheating are likely to be more stupid.

‘The theory predicts that more intelligent men are more likely to value sexual exclusivity than less intelligent men,’ he explained.

According to his theory, the link between fidelity and intelligence does not apply to women because they have always been expected to be faithful to one mate — even in polygamous societies.

The traits sought after by men and women are culturally universal; men everywhere in the world want women to have traits such as youth and beauty, women want men to be powerful and wealthy.

Kanazawa comforts people who do not fit into either of these stereotypes with the words: ‘You may be comforted to know that you are not alone in your plight; there are losers like you everywhere in the world, and for the same reasons.’

These reasons, Kanazawa goes on to say, are that if you are alone on a Saturday night it is ‘because you probably don’t possess the qualities that members of the opposite sex seek in potential mates.’

Women want to look like Barbie with a small waist, large breasts, long blond hair, and blue eyes is because it is a direct response to the reasons men want to mate with her.

Men prefer young women because they tend to be healthier than older women, which makes reproductive sense.

Healthy women have shiny, healthy-looking hair and blonde hair displays grey hairs less obviously than dark hair. Blonde hair also changes dramatically with age so that older women are more likely to have browner hair. Men are drawn to younger women as they are typically healthier and more fertile.

Men also want women with large breasts as it’s an indication of how fertile they are, according to some studies. For the same reason a large waist-to-hip ratio is preferred.

Blue eyes are preferred because they display when the pupil dilates more readily than darker eyes. Pupils dilate when a person sees something they like and so someone with blue eyes displays their dilation, and therefore approval, more readily.

The linking of suicide bombers with sex made this one of his most controversial theories.

But while suicide missions are not always religiously motivated, when religion is involved, it is always Muslim, says Kanazawa.

Kanazawa states that in societies where polygyny is allowed — taking more than one wife, such as in Islam — there is a necessary number of men who are unable to mate because of the simple mathematics involved.

He says this is what makes men more violent or aggressive — they are competing for a mate.

According to his theory, this increased competitive pressure on men ‘increases the likelihood that young men resort to violent means to gain access to mates because they have little to lose and much to gain by doing so, compared to men who already have wives.’

This is why, across all societies, polygyny increases violent crimes, such as murder and rape, even after controlling for such obvious factors like economic development, economic inequality, population density, the level of democracy and world regions.’

He goes on to say that the idea that 72 virgins await a martyr can inspire young men in this situation to go on to become suicide bombers.

He writes: ‘For young, low-status Muslim men who are excluded from any mating opportunities because of polygyny among older, higher-status men, even such a vague promise in the afterlife begins to be appealing in light of their bleak reproductive prospect on earth.’

As we have seen, a man’s value as a mate is largely determined by his wealth, status and power.

A father is important to his son in ensuring he inherits wealth, status and power but he can do little to keep his daughter youthful or beautiful.

His continued presence in the family is important to the son but not as crucial to his daughter. He writes: ‘Strictly in reproductive terms, there is very little that fathers (or anyone else) can do for daughters beyond keeping them alive and healthy.

‘The presence of sons therefore deters divorce and departure of the father from the family more than the presence of daughters, and this effect should be stronger among wealthy families.’

A theory known as the ‘age-crime curve’ says that risk-taking behaviour increases in early adolescence, peaks in early adulthood, decreases through someone’s 20s and 30s, before levelling off in middle age.

The curve also relates to behaviour that is different, also known as the age-genius curve. The expression of a person’s genius is most likely to find its fullest expression in their late adolescence and early adulthood, just like the young Beatle and technology pioneer.

This applies mostly to men, who like to make any behaviour that differentiates themselves from the competition as public as possible. The age-crime or age-genius curve in women is far less pronounced as they are not competing for mates in the same way.

Kanazawa uses the example of Paul McCartney having not written a ‘hit song in decades’ while Gates is a businessman, no longer a computer whiz kid.

Their early moments of creative breakthrough were down to a competitive instinct which compelled them to make the most of their abilities. Once men have children the cost in effort of maintaining this level drops.

Kanazawa says that men go to huge efforts to convince women to sleep with them and that many of man’s achievements are down to this fact.

He writes: ‘Men have had to conquer foreign lands, win battles and wars, compose symphonies, author books, write sonnets, paint cathedral ceilings, make scientific discoveries, play in rock bands, and write new computer software in order to impress women so that they will agree to have sex with them.’

Men go through their mid-life crisis only because their wives are going through one, Kanazawa declared.

When a woman reaches the menopause she can no longer reproduce and so men find themselves compelled to try and attract younger women who can.

Kanazawa claims that men who marry younger women are unlikely to have a mid-life crisis themselves because this event will not take place.

He says: ‘It’s not his midlife that matters; it’s hers. When he buys a shiny-red sports car, he’s not trying to regain his youth; he’s trying to attract young women to replace his menopausal wife by trumpeting his flash and cash.’

Powerful men throughout Western history have married monogamously — only one legal wife at a time — but they have always mated polygynously by having lovers, concubines, and female slaves.

So why would Bill Clinton, as President of the United States, risk everything to have sex with a younger intern? The reason, Kanazawa states, is that men only push for more political power in order to have access to more women with which to mate.

The only thing that distinguishes Clinton is that he was caught.

Another controversial theory, this time that men who intimidate women in the workplace are doing so because they are not sexist, not because they are.

The psychologist says that men use abuse, intimidation, and degradation as part of their tactics employed in competitive situations. This is how they would act with men, too. If they treat women the same, it cannot be sexism.

In other words, men are not treating women differently from men but the opposite: Men harass women precisely because they are not discriminating between men and women.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: What the UK Islamists Are Planning Next [20 May 2008]

The last few years have not been kind to our domestic Islamist groups.

The Muslim Association of Britain is now pretty universally acknowledged as the British franchise of the clerical fascist Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Council of Britain never really recovered from the disclosure that Bunglawala distributed the writings of Osama bin Laden a few weeks before 9/11, and has been utterly discredited as little more than a front organisation for the small clerical fascist South Asian party, Jamaat-e-Islami. The Muslim Public Affairs Committee was torpedoed by its repeated reprinting of material from neo-Nazi websites, and the revelation that its founder, Asghar Bukhari, offered to fundraise for David Irving: the man branded a falsifier of history and racist by the High Court.

How will they fight back?

The answer, so it seems, is to create a new organisation: the “Islamophobia Media Monitoring and Response Agency” (“IMMRA”) or, alternatively, the Blackstone Institute or Foundation. “Blackstone” to me has legal connotations. But apparently it is a reference to the Kaaba: a stone venerated by Muslims.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Vatican — OSCE: Card Bertone Calls for an End to Anti-Christian Persecution

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe discusses its future and goals today and tomorrow. The Vatican secretary of state complains about the persecution and difficulties 200 million Christians face in the world. Hillary Clinton calls for the protection of press freedom.

Astana (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The Vatican Secretary of State Card Tarcisio Bertone called for an end to discrimination against Christians in his speech to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). “Society must fight anti-Christian discrimination with the same determination that it fights anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” said Benedict XVI’s right-hand man. “The progress attested in the various OSCE documents indicates that religious freedom can exist under various social systems. Religious intolerance and discrimination, against Christians for example, are closely correlated with the lack of religious freedom,” the secretary said. “Christians are the most persecuted group; more than 200 million Christians are living in difficult situations.”

Card Bertone began his address citing Kazakh poet Abay Qunanbayuli, for whom love and friendship are the beginning of humanity. He then called for greater efforts to stop conflicts that, although they might localised, threaten the whole OSCE area.

The cardinal also touched upon the current economic crisis, which has shown the importance of ethical principles in the economy. Given the situation, “The Holy See calls for policies in favour of the family.”

Water is another issue that deserves attention. “Every human being should be guaranteed adequate access to quality water,” the secretary of state said.

At the same time, “the rights of migrants and their families” must be defended. “Pope John Paul II said that the Helsinki Declaration was an act of hope for millions of Europeans and non Europeans. I hope and call on God almighty that the Astana meeting may be an act of hope for our generation and for generations to come,” Card Bertone said as he brought his speech to a close.

The Helsinki Declaration acknowledged the principle of religious freedom in the countries of Eastern Europe at a time when they were under Communist rule. The Catholic Church used it to defend the rights of its members behind the Iron Curtain.

The future and goals of the organisation are also under discussion at the summit. In her address, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that respect for human rights and press freedom are priorities in the world at a time when democracy is under pressure. “It is not enough for a constitution to guarantee freedom of the press if, in reality, journalists are put under intense pressure and even assaulted,” she said.

On Afghanistan, Clinton said the OSCE can play an important role to improve border security, counter illicit trafficking, boost legitimate trade, promote economic development and help develop national institutions.

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

Why Sweden Abandoned Its Workers’ Party

As Social Democrats brace themselves for the presentation on Friday of the findings of its own election crisis commission, contributor Naomi Powell takes a closer look at how the traditionally dominant party lost its place at the apex of Swedish politics.

For Matthias Hjertzell, a shy, polite 19 year old, the 2010 general election was memorable not just for the headlines it made in national papers. The showdown between the Social Democrats and the Moderates, leaders of the ruling centre-right bloc, marked the first time Hjertzell has ever cast a ballot.

A member of the Swedish electricians’ union, Hjertzell might once have been considered a safe vote for the Social Democrats, who have always counted organised labourers among their most reliable supporters. Not this time.

“I voted for the Moderate party,” says Hjertzell.

“If you have a job, they are a good party for you.”

The Social Democratic Party, long considered one of the most powerful political machines in Europe, posted the worst performance in its history in the last election, taking just 31 per cent of the vote. Behind the party’s defeat is not just a failure to woo the burgeoning middle class, analysts say, but also a steady slide in support from those who once formed the unshakeable backbone of the party: traditional workers.

As the Social Democrats scramble to fill the leadership vacuum in the wake of Mona Sahlin’s resignation, observers say the party faces a tough battle to shore up its eroding support base.

Support from members of the LO, the largest organization representing Swedish trade union workers, has steadily declined, with just over 50 per cent of members voting for the Social Democrats in 2006, down from 58 per cent in 2002, according to the Swedish National Election Studies Program at the University of Gothenburg. And exit polls, while preliminary, suggest little if any ground was won back at the ballot boxes this year.

It is a troubling reversal of fortune for the Social Democrats, the architects of the cradle to grave welfare state, whose political ideals and history are rooted in a historically powerful connection to unions and ordinary wage earners.

“Traditionally, the Social Democrats always stood for the right of work, but also the duty of work,” says Maria Oskarson, lecturer in the political science department at the University of Gothenburg.

“They stood for the morality, the value of putting your straw to the stack so to speak. They lost this in the last election.”

Meanwhile, Fredrik Reinfeldt’s centre-right Moderate party has picked up the mantle of the “workers party” by offering tax cuts and other incentives to ordinary wage earners, Oskarson said. In the process, the Moderates have recast the Social Democrats, the architects of the Swedish welfare state, as the “party of the unemployed,” she said.

It all adds up to a fundamental shift for a country where the possibility of tax cuts was once viewed as a threat to the welfare state.

“Rather than a cleavage between the middle class and the working class, we had a cleavage between people who have jobs and a house and those outside the ordinary labour market and establishment,” says Oskarson.

“The Moderates were very successful at casting (the Social Democrats) as the party for the unemployed and sick.

“By doing this they created a division between the workers and the ‘freeloaders’ so to speak, which really didn’t exist in Sweden before.”

The LO in particular maintain a close relationship to the Social Democrats, contributing funds to their campaigns and exercising a powerful voice within the party, explains Christer Thörnqvist, a professor of labour science at Gothenburg University.

But unions have their own battles to fight. As in most industrial democracies, employment in Sweden has gradually shifted from traditional manufacturing industries to the services sector, where union membership is lower. Currently about 70 per cent of the Swedish workforce is employed in the service sector and only about 30 per cent in manufacturing. In the 1960s, when manufacturing drove the economy, those figures could have been reversed, says Thörnqvist.

The LO alone has seen its membership slide from two million members in 2000 to about 1.6 million members today. Though that decline can partly be blamed on rationalisation in industry, the most devastating membership losses came after the centre-right Alliance increased premiums for the unemployment insurance funds administered by trade unions said Thörnqvist. An individual member’s fee increased from between 90 and 100 kronor ($12.50 to $14) a month to as much as 370 kronor ($52) a month.

Many members began to see unemployment insurance and union membership as “as two sides of the same coin, now a coin they could no longer afford,” says Thörnqvist.

Indeed, in 2007, overall union membership fell from 77 to 72 per cent, the biggest loss in a single year since the General Strike in 1909.

But the Social Democrats’ problems also stem from a failure to respond to broader shifts in Swedish society, said Jenny Madestam, a lecturer in political science at Stockholm University.

“The Social Democrats can’t attract traditional workers anymore and part of that is that being a worker isn’t the same as it was 30 years ago,” she says.

“You can have a house and a relatively high income. Your concerns are different.”

Madestam points to the RUT, the tax deduction for services in the home, as a policy that appealed to traditional workers as well as the middle classes.

“It was a very popular policy especially among families where both partners work and may need help with babysitting and housekeeping, but the Social Democrats opposed it,” she explains.

Johan Hall, a press secretary for the LO, noted that the tax cuts imposed by the Alliance made many workers “felt like they earned more” under the Moderates, even if their costs increased in other areas (such as unemployment insurance).

At the same time, the Moderates were careful to appear as guardians of the cherished welfare state at the same time as they imposed income tax cuts that might once have been viewed as a potentially damaging to the traditional social model. The approach won the Moderates the kind of broad appeal among middle and working classes that the Social Democrats once enjoyed.

“In the 1950s, the Social Democrats had a strategy to incorporate not just blue collar workers but white collar workers as well,” she says.

“This is why they worked out the idea of the welfare state, the idea that if everyone pays tax, everyone benefits. They managed to become the party that appeals to everyone. The funny thing is that today the Moderates are the party that has managed to attract the most people across classes.

This is a problem, a big problem for the Social Democrats.”

Yet as traditional allegiances weaken, the Social Democrats have failed to reach new supporters, including immigrant groups. Immigrants now account for 14 per cent of the Swedish population and employment rates for this group tend to be significantly lower, as is participation in elections.

“The working class in terms of those born in Sweden is diminishing, partly because they became educated and vaguely middle class,” explains Olof Ruin, professor emeritus of political science at Stockholm University.

“At the same time you have more and more people coming from outside Sweden and they have more trouble finding jobs. These people are less active in politics, they may not choose to vote or may not qualify to vote. “

The question of how the Social Democrats will shore up support has been temporarily sidelined by debate over who will take the reins from Mona Sahlin. Once that issue is put to rest, observers agree the party must find a new niche for itself in a rapidly changing Swedish society.

“We used to speak of the social democratic hegemony,” says Madestam.

“We are all social democratic at the base whether we vote for the Left Party or the Centre and our ideas about social justice and equality are the same thing. But Sweden has become more and more individualistic. People are thinking more about what they want for themselves. Ideas about equality and solidarity are not so strong.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Turkish PM Erdogan Receives Al-Gaddafi Human Rights Award

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, NOVEMBER 30 — Turkey’s prime minister Tayyip Erdogan received Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights in Tripoli, Libya, yesterday as Anatolia news agency reports. “You can be sure that this award will encourage our struggle for human rights in regional and global sense,” Erdogan said during the award ceremony. The Turkish premier said countries of the region could not turn their back to each other, and they could not remain indifferent to each other’s problems.

Peace, justice, brotherhood and solidarity were in the best interests of every country, Erdogan also said. The Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights is an annual prize founded by and named after Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi. The prize is awarded every year to one of the international personalities, bodies or organizations that have distinctively contributed to rendering an outstanding human service and has achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the causes of freedom and supporting peace everywhere in the world. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Has the Obama Administration Failed Again?: No Freeze, No Talks, No Competence

By Barry Rubin

While the outcome still isn’t clear, it seems that a new example of failure and humiliation is unfolding for the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy.

It appears increasingly unlikely that the president’s high-profile effort to restart Israel-Palestinian talks will succeed during the remainder of 2010 or even well beyond that time.

This Administration has had a very clear idea of what it wanted to achieve:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Media Play Down Wikileaks Reports of Support for Iran War

Well, this is awkward.

Many of the same Arab governments that called for an investigation into U.S. war crimes based on the WikiLeaks Iraq war log continue to ignore revelations in the latest trove of leaked documents that show Arab leaders pushed the United States to use military force against Iran.

Headlines in the heavily state-controlled Saudi media were dominated by news of King Abdullah’s ongoing physiotherapy, while the top story in the Emirati newspaper, Al Bayan, centered on Prince Mohamad bin Rashid’s praise for the country’s progress toward “transparency.” Most mentions of the WikiLeaks documents in official Arabic news outlets were scrubbed of any reference to the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, focusing instead on U.S. attempts to control the damage to its diplomatic relations.

Even the Qatar-based Al Jazeera, considered one of the most credible pan-Arab news outlets, tread lightly in its coverage and generally refrained from repeating the most incendiary quotes from the heads of neighboring states. According to the newly leaked documents, leaders of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were among those privately urging the United States to strike Iranian nuclear facilities while publicly claiming to pursue a neutral foreign policy, exposing dangerous rifts between not only Arab states and Iran, but also between the Arab leadership and the people of those countries.

“I believe [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] is going to take us to war,” Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan reportedly told one diplomat.

According to one cable, Saudi King Abdullah urges the United States to “cut off the head of the snake” before it is too late. In another, he suggests Guantanamo detainees be fitted with electronic tracking chips similar to the ones used for falcons and horses.

The revelations are at the very least embarrassing and potentially destabilizing in a region where American military intervention is deeply resented and collaboration with Israeli security interests is considered tantamount to betrayal.

As of Monday, the only official Arab response appeared to be from the Emirati charge d’affairs in Tehran, who refused to confirm or deny whether his country had asked the United States to attack Iran, but did say that “at the moment, Iran and the UAE are having good relations.”

— Meris Lutz in Beirut

Screen grab: The Saudi English-language newspaper Arab News did not report comments allegedly made by Saudi officials and even King Abdullah regarding a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. Credit:

[Return to headlines]

Iran Executes Woman Accused of Murdering Lover’s Wife

An Iranian woman convicted of murdering the wife of her football player lover was hanged in Iran early today, state news agencies reported.

“A few minutes ago, Shahla Jahed was hanged in the courtyard of Tehran’s Evin prison after 3,063 days of being kept in prison,” the Fars news agency said.

Islamic Republic Student Agency (ISNA) said that Jahed was hanged at 5am, in the presence of the murdered wife’s family. According to Iranian law, her life could have been spared if the family of the murdered woman pardoned her. Iran executes those sentenced to death before the Islamic morning call for prayer.

Jahed was found guilty of the 2002 murder of Laleh Saharkhizan, the wife of Naser Mohammadkhani, a football legend who rose to fame in the mid-1980s and coached Tehran’s Persepolis club.

Jahed, who was held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for nine years, was sentenced to death on the basis of her confession, which she later repeatedly retracted at her public trial.

Her execution is a defeat for human rights activists around the world who campaigned in the past nine years to stop Iran from carrying out her sentence. Last night, Amnesty International and several human rights campaigners called on Iran to stop her execution.

In 2008, the then chief of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi, ordered a fresh investigation and did not sanction her execution to be carried out. But today Iran defied the international and domestic outcry by hanging her.

Activists in Iran widely suspect that Jahed was forced to confess to the stabbing. Karim Lahidji, the president of the Iranian League for Human Rights, described her as “a victim of a misogynous society” and said: “Shahla Jahed has never had a fair trial in Iran and has always insisted that she is innocent. Although Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case is about adultery, her case is similar to that of Shahla Jahed because both are victims of the flaws of the Iranian judicial system.”

He added: “We are approaching the Human Rights Day on 10 December and once again Iran is executing another woman. That’s a clear signal that Iran wants to challenge the world on human rights issues.”

Following the murder, Jahed was arrested as the prime suspect, but she refused to talk for nearly a year. Mohammadkhani was also imprisoned for several months on charges of complicity but was finally released after the authorities said Jahed had confessed to committing the crime alone.

Jahed told the judge at her public trial: “If you want to kill me, go ahead … if you send me back there [where her confessions were taken], I’ll confess again and not only will I confess to killing her but I’d also confess that I killed those who have been killed by others.” She then repeatedly reiterated that she was innocent and that she had not committed any crime.

Mohammadkhani was in Germany when the killing happened, but it emerged later that he was “temporarily married” to Jahed, a practice allowed under Shia Islam. Temporary marriage or “sigheh”, as it is known in Iran, allows men to take on wives for as little as a few hours to years on the condition that any offspring are legally and financially provided for. Critics of the tradition see it as legalised prostitution.

Shahla Jahed’s case drew huge attention when Iran took the unprecedented decision of holding her trial in public.

In 2005 a documentary about her case and her affairs with the footballer showed footage from her public trial. The documentary, Red Card, was subsequently banned by Iran.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Christian Mosul Shopkeeper Killed by Gunmen

Mosul, 1 Dec. (AKI) — A Christian shopkeeper has been killed in the northern Iraq city of Mosul amid a wave of violence against the religious minority, according to Christian Iraqi website Ankawa.

Fady Walid Jibrai was at work in a grocery shop on Tuesday when a group of armed men opened fire on him. It was the time in a week that a Christian had been the target of a fatal attack.

Two Christian brothers were killed last week in an industrial neighbourhood of city 400 kilometres northwest of Baghdad.

Many of Iraq’s approximately 500,000 remaining Christians are living in fear of their lives after the continuing attacks and death threats unless they leave the country.

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.

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

Man Held After Touching Girl’s Hand in Saudi

Saudi police arrested a young national after holding the hand of a local girl sat in her car in a public place in the Gulf Kingdom, Alsaudi daily said Wednesday.

The unnamed boy ran away after the girl’s sister screamed when she saw him stretching his hand towards her sister in the car that was parked near a shopping mall in the eastern port of Dammam, the paper said.

“The girls got that man’s car number and gave it to the police…after a while, they got the young man and detained him for investigation.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

No Need for Women to Cover Up: Saudi Police

A Saudi religious police commander criticised the kingdom’s ban on gender mixing on Tuesday and said women did not have to veil their faces to applause from his female audience.

Sheikh Ahmed Al Ghamdi, outspoken head of the Makkah branch of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, also said there was nothing in Islam to prevent women from driving, despite the Saudi ban on the practice.

“There is a difference in interpretation of the (Koranic) verse… which leads some scholars to rule that the whole body must be covered … However other scholars approve showing the face, hands and elbows. And some even okayed the hair,” he said.

He said the kingdom’s mixing ban should be applied only to men and women meeting in secret, not in public places — a rule normally enforced by the religious police.

Islam “orders a woman to cover her body to allow her to participate in social life, not to prevent her from doing so,” he said.

The women in the audience, all clad in the all-black shroud-like abaya they must wear, broke out in applause.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

The Ultimate Prank or a Trick of the Light? Outrage in Iran After Satellite Image Shows Star of David on Airport Roof

It could be one of the most outrageous pranks in history, or simply just a trick of the light.

But a satellite image of the Iran Air headquarters in Tehran has sparked fury in the Iranian government after the image of the Star of David appeared to have been painted on the roof.

Unamused government officials have called for the symbol to be removed as speculation increased that it may have been in place since before the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The star is clearly visible in the centre of the propeller-shaped building in the west of the city, but uncertainty surrounds whether it was genuine.

Iranian media has claimed that the Iran Air building was constructed by Israeli engineers during the time of Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, when relations between the two countries were much closer.

At the time, regular flights were scheduled between Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport and Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and Israel also sold weapons to the Shah in return for oil.

One Iranian website said: ‘It’s interesting that even 32 years after the victory of the revolution, this Zionist star symbol has yet to be removed from the building.’

In August, the presence of the Star of David caused further anger after it was spotted on top of one of the buildings in Tehran’s Revolution Square.

Media labelled it ‘the Zionist regime is conquering the Revolution Square’, and again called for it to be removed.

Iran severed all ties with Israel after the revolution and has been set upon removing the state of Israel ever since, including supporting terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Wiki Secret: U.S. Distrusts Turkey’s PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The US is concerned about its NATO ally Turkey. Embassy dispatches portray Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a power-hungry Islamist surrounded by corrupt and incompetent ministers. Washington no longer believes that the country will ever join the European Union.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the most important Muslim ally of the United States. On coming into office he promised a democratic Islam — a vision that could have become a model for other countries in the region.

But if the US dispatches are to be believed, Turkey is far from realizing that vision. Erdogan? A power-hungry Islamist. His ministers? Incompetent, uneducated and some of them corrupt. The government? Divided. The opposition? Ridiculous.

US diplomats have sent thousands of reports from Ankara to Washington in the past 31 years. Recent documents, though, are merciless. They convey an image of Turkey which is at odds with almost everything the US government has officially said about the country.

First and foremost, the US distrusts Erdogan. A dispatch dated May 2005 says that he has never had a realistic worldview. Erdogan, the document says, thinks he was chosen by God to lead Turkey and likes to present himself as the “Tribune of Anatolia.”

US diplomats claim that Erdogan gets almost all of his information from Islamist-leaning newspapers — analysis from his ministries, they say, is of no interest to him. The military, the second largest among NATO member states, and the secret service no longer send him some of their reports. He trusts nobody completely, the dispatches say, and surrounds himselves with “an iron ring of sycophantic (but contemptuous) advisors.” Despite his bravado, he is said to be terrified of losing his grip on power. One authority on Erdogan told the Americans: “Tayyip believes in God … but doesn’t trust him.”

Erdogan took office as prime minister in 2003, two years after having founded his party, the Islamic-conservative AKP. During the campaign Erdogan announced his intention to tackle corruption.

Since 2004, however, informants have been telling US diplomats in Turkey of corruption at all levels, even within the Erdogan family. None of the accusations have been proven — it could be that the informants merely want to denigrate the premier. But their reports help shape the Americans’ image of Turkey — and as such they are devastating.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Arabia Wants Military Rule in Pakistan

America is often portrayed as the big dog in Pakistan’s yard: a swaggering power that makes rules, barks orders and throws its weight around. But the WikiLeaks cables highlight the understated yet insistent influence of another country with ideas about Pakistan’s future: Saudi Arabia.

In recent years Saudi rulers have played favourites with Pakistani politicians, wielded their massive financial clout to political effect and even advocated a return to military rule.

“We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants,” the Saudi ambassador to the US, Adel al-Jubeir, boasted in 2007. A senior US official later bemoaned as “negative” the Saudi influence.

As home to Islam’s holiest sites, Saudi Arabia has longstanding ties with Pakistan. In the 1980s Saudi intelligence, along with the CIA, funded the anti-Soviet “jihad” in Afghanistan; since then the Saudis have given billions in financial aid and cut-price oil.

But the close relationship has grown “increasingly strained” in the past two years, with King Abdullah and the ruling princes displaying a clear preference for the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, over the president, Asif Ali Zardari, who is viewed with thinly veiled contempt.

In January 2009 Abdullah told James Jones, then the US national security adviser, that Zardari was incapable of countering terrorism, describing him as the “‘rotten head’ that was infecting the whole body”. Abdullah added that Pakistan’s army was “staying out of Pakistani politics in deference to US wishes, rather than doing what it ‘should’“.

Abdullah’s preference for military rule was recorded by the Saudis’ American guests: “They appear to be looking for ‘another Musharraf’: a strong, forceful leader they know they can trust.” His views were echoed by the interior minister, who said Saudi Arabia viewed the army as its “winning horse” in Pakistan.

The anti-Zardari bias appears to have a sectarian tinge. Pakistan’s ambassador to Riyadh, Umar Khan Alisherzai, says the Saudis, who are Sunni, distrust Zardari, a Shia. Last year the United Arab Emirates’ foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, told Hillary Clinton that Saudi suspicions of Zardari’s Shia background were “creating Saudi concern of a Shia triangle in the region between Iran, the Maliki government in Iraq, and Pakistan under Zardari”.

The Saudis betray a strong preference for Sharif, who fled into exile in Jeddah in 2000 to avoid prosecution under General Pervez Musharraf. The cables contain details of Sharif’s secret exile deal — he was to remain out of politics for 10 years — as well as hints of Saudi anger when he returned to Pakistan in 2007.

Since then, however, Saudi displeasure has abated, and the Saudis clearly view him as “their man” in the Pakistani power game. In early 2008 the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, described Sharif as a “force for stability” and “a man who can speak across party lines even to religious extremists”. American officials noted that Sharif had obtained preferential business deals during his time in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile the Saudis have pressured Zardari with oil and money. In late 2008 Pakistani officials complained that “not a drop” of Saudi oil promised at concessionary rates had been delivered, while the annual aid cheque of $300m was well below the regular rate. “Muslim brotherhood is not what it used to be,” fretted an economic counsellor at the Pakistani embassy.Pakistani officials echo the American fears about the radicalizing influence of Saudi money, some of it from the government. In April 2008 Pakistani interior advisor Rehman Malik said he was “particularly concerned about the role of the Saudi ambassador in funding religious schools and mosques” in Pakistan.

“Malik said that [President] Musharraf had come close to “throwing him (the Saudi ambassador) out of the country” but Malik said he knew the Saudi royal family well and would work with them.”

Zardari has asserted his independence from the Saudis. The king was unhappy that he made his first official visit to China and skipped the opening of a new university in favour of meetings in Europe and the US.

US officials noted that the go-slow was part of a broader Saudi policy of “withholding assistance” — slowing the flow of cash and oil — when it suited policy in Lebanon, Palestine and Pakistan. Such economic tactics may be familiar to US officials, who used them against Pakistan for much of the 1990s.

US diplomats see the Saudis as allies but also competitors for influence in Pakistan. In 2009 special envoy Richard Holbrooke warned Prince Mohammed bin Nayef of “unimaginable” consequences for Saudi Arabia if Pakistan fell apart, especially if its nuclear weapons fell into unfriendly hands.

“God forbid!” responded the prince.

But in Islamabad, American diplomats have sought to diminish Saudi influence by allying with another Muslim country, Turkey. After a meeting with the Turkish ambassador in May 2009, ambassador Anne Patterson noted that moderate, progressive Turkey presented a “positive role model” for Pakistan.

It was well positioned, she said, to “neutralise somewhat the more negative influence on Pakistan politics and society exercised by Saudi Arabia”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Reading Between the Lines

Among the most arresting lines in the trove of diplomatic cables made public this week was one from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. “Cut off the head of the snake,” he advised his American friends. Any herpetologist would agree that this is good advice in dealing with a threatening viper. But who is this snake? King Abdullah was referring to Iran, obliquely arguing for a military attack.

Yet, there was another tantalising detail in the trove of cables that suggests the larger threat comes from inside King Abdullah’s own country. “Saudi donors remain the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like al-Qaida,” the New York Times reported in its first article on the leaked documents.

That is a huge, though not unsurprising, revelation. It reflects how complex and sometimes self-defeating America’s foreign alliances have become. Saudi Arabia is an intimate ally of the United States, yet Saudi money supports the world’s most violently anti-American terror network.

This deeply troubling contradiction has its roots in Saudi history and tradition. The regime’s survival is based on a deal with the Wahhabi clerics who dominate religious practice in Saudi Arabia — and whose austere brand of Islam is among the world’s most reactionary. Clerics agree to support the regime, ignoring both its alliance with infidel America and the notoriously unIslamic lifestyles of its thousands of princes. In exchange, the regime gives these clerics billions of dollars, much of which they use to run mosques and religious schools across the Islamic world. More than a few of these mosques and schools, often run by Saudi clerics or others they have trained, are incubators of terror, where generations of lost boys learn to chant the Qur’an and hate America.

The deal is, as former CIA director James Woolsey once described it, “for the Wahhabis to be given all of the money in the world they could ever remotely dream of needing or wanting to spread their sect’s beliefs, and for them to leave the House of Saud alone.”

Successive American presidents have turned a blind eye to piles of evidence that Saudi money is being used to foment holy war against America. They have reason to do so. The absolute monarchy that rules Saudi Arabia generously cooperates with American global policies — even agreeing, according to one leaked cable, to supply China with oil in the hope of wooing it away from reliance on Iran. Saudi Arabia supplies much oil to the US. And it is the world’s largest consumer of American weaponry.

The Obama administration recently announced a deal to sell Saudi Arabia a staggering $60bn worth of weapons. This is new only in scope. In 1990, the New York Times ran a story headlined “US to Sell Saudis $20bn in Arms; Weapons Deal is Largest in History.” Seventeen years later, the same newspaper ran an almost identical headline: “US Set to Offer $20bn Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia and Other Gulf States.”

How could President Obama, in the midst of a recession, refuse to sell the Saudis another $60bn worth, given the number of jobs this sale will create? He might argue that it is unwise to send so much highly sophisticated weaponry to a kingdom with an uncertain future. King Abdullah is 86 or 87, and is currently hospitalised in New York. He has no designated successor in the country where Osama bin Laden was born and remains highly popular. Weapons systems the US sold to the Shah of Iran wound up in the hands of Islamic militants who seized power there in 1979; a comparable scenario in Saudi Arabia is hardly impossible.

Obama might also argue that arming a country that arms our enemies endangers American lives. That, of course, would provoke questions about Pakistan, America’s other two-faced ally. It is no secret that while Pakistan takes billions of dollars in American aid, most of it military, it arms and supports the Taliban and other violently anti-American groups.

Raising questions about these relationships is difficult. Revising them would require sacrificing short-term convenience for long-term benefits, and the US government is not good at long-term thinking. Yet, as King Hamad of Bahrain told American diplomats in one newly-leaked cable: “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” He was talking about Iran, but his wisdom applies at least as well to America’s perverted relationships with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

King Abdullah, according to another leaked document, was also talking about Iran when he told American diplomats, “The bottom line is that they cannot be trusted.” This week’s leaks suggest that this truism applies at least as much to his own government, and that of Pakistan, as it does to Iran.

From deep in the vast archive of these leaked documents, a voice cries out to America: look more closely at your allies. Those who served your purpose at one time may now be dangerous enemies.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Detained ‘Al-Qaeda Militant’ Released in Exchange for Kidnapped Doctor

Sanaa, 30 Nov. (AKI) — Yemen freed a man arrested a year ago on suspician of being an Al-Qaeda militant in exchange for the liberation of a Saudi doctor kidnapped two days ago, according to Yemeni news service News Yemen.

Yemen agreed to free Abdullah al-Daba following negotiations with armed men who on Sunday abducted Thafir al-Shahran while he was crossing the border with Saudi Arabia to go to work in the city of Sada where he was director of a hospital.

Kidnapping foreigners is a common practice by Yemeni tribes which seek to put pressure on the government to meet their demands.

It was not immediately clear if the kidnappers’ demand for the release from prison of eight other men accused of belonging to a terrorist organisation was met.

The doctor was handed over to a Yemeni security official and is due to return soon to Saudi Arabia. He spent the past two days as a prisoner of the Boujibara tribe, considered an ally of Al-Qaeda militants.

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


‘Top Dog’ And a Vengeful Harpy

The US Is Betting on Putin

The US is well informed in Moscow — which is why Washington is skeptical that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has much of a future. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, diplomatic cables make clear, is ‘in the driver’s seat.’

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Wikileaks: Italy’s 2008 Position on Ossetia ‘Irritated’ U.S.

(ANSA) — Rome, December 1 — The position Italy adopted during the 2008 clash between Russian and Georgia over Ossetia ‘deeply irritated’ the United States, according to diplomatic dispatches made public by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks.

According to the text of diplomatic cables between the State Department and US embassies in Rome, published Wednesday by the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, the Bush administration was concerned that Italy could in some way undermine a common international front against the Russian invasion of Georgia.

The dispatches were classified as ‘confidential’ and ‘noforn’ (not for foreign eyes) with titles including: The Italians Will Not Help Us for a NATO Council Statement; and Debunk the Myth of Italy’s ‘Balanced’ Position on Georgia’.

Outtakes from the cables included: “(Italian Premier Silvio) Berlusconi and (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin have already spoken and we expect Russia to try and exploit the personal relationship between the two to push Italy to foil efforts to condemn Moscow’s actions in international forums”.

“As initially predicted in the first days of the Berlusconi government (May 2008), the close relationship between the Italian government and Russia could soon become a point of friction in relations between the US and Italy,” read another dispatch.

“In the best scenario, Italy will avoid making strong statements or put pressure on Russia. In the worse-case scenario Italy could work to destroy the determination of the other allies in international bodies, including NATO and the European Union,” a US diplomat wrote.

A cable dated August 15, 2008 spoke of Cabinet Secretary Gianni Letta and said “the (US) ambassador told Letta, Premier Berlusconi’s key advisor, that Washington is not happy with Italy’s position up until now and we are particularly puzzled by statements made by Foreign Minister (Franco) Frattini”.

On August 11, Frattini said that “Italy could not support the creation of a “European anti-Russian coalition” over the conflict.

“It would be negative for Europe to create a sort of coalition against Russia. It’s important that Europe is the 27 (member states) and that it does not divide into groups and little cliques”, he argued.

Frattini added that Berlusconi was exerting a “‘moral suasion” on Putin, “firmly based on the personal trust that connects them”, to end the conflict.

Berlusconi has repeatedly claimed that he played a “decisive” role in stopping Russian troops in the Georgia crisis.

“I’m happy I had a role that might be called decisive in stopping the advance of the Russian army in Georgia,” the Italian premier said.

Berlusconi’s contribution to helping to end the conflict in Georgia has been recognised by French President Nikolas Sarkozy, who brokered an end to hostilities there, as well as the United States.

“We would not have been able to get the result we got in the crisis between Georgia and Russia if we had not been able to take advantage of the contribution given by Berlusconi because of his cordial relations with Putin,” Sarkozy said during a visit to Rome in September 2009.

In a meeting with Berlusconi on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “Berlusconi has worked in Europe with Sarkozy for the stabilization of Georgia”.

She also told Berlusconi “we have no better friend. No one has supported America the way Berlusconi has through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations”.

The two met on the sidelines of a summit in Kazakhstan of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to iron out any differences which may have arisen from other Wikileaks documents.

These include one from a US diplomat in Rome who claimed that Berlusconi was “increasingly becoming a mouthpiece for Putin in Europe” and the pair exchanged “lavish gifts”.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August 2008 when Russian troops repelled a Georgian assault on the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s.

Russia then invaded and occupied parts of Georgia before an EU-brokered ceasefire brought an end to the conflict. Russia completed a withdrawal from Georgia the following October but has remained in South Ossetia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Two Afghan Converts to Christianity Risk the Death Penalty

The two men have been in jail since June waiting for trial. A local TV station showed Afghans reciting Christian prayers and being baptised. Afghan law bans conversion from Islam to any other religion. Fr Moretti, in charge of the country’s onlyCatholic church, is interviewed about the matter.

Kabul (AsiaNews) — Two Afghans accused of converting to Christianity could face the death penalty, a prosecuting lawyer said on Sunday. Musa Sayed, 45, and Ahmad Shah, 50, are being detained in the Afghan capital awaiting trial, the prosecutor in charge of western Kabul, Din Mohammad Quraishi, said.

“They are accused of conversion to another religion, which is considered a crime under Islamic law. If proved, they face the death penalty or life imprisonment,” Quraishi said. Sayed, a Red Cross (ICRC) employee, has already confessed. There is also “proof” against Shah, Quraishi explained.

Sayed and Shah were arrested in late May and early June, days after local television broadcast footage of men reciting Christian prayers in Farsi and being baptised, apparently in a house in Kabul. The TV station also showed some people engaged in proselytising, which is banned in the Muslim country.

The ICRC’s spokesman in Kabul, Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, confirmed that Sayed worked for the organisation since 1995. He also said that he was able to visit him in prison.

The government launched its own investigation into the matter and suspended two aid groups, Norwegian Church Aid (a Protestant organisation) and Church World Service of the US (which includes Protestants, Orthodox and Anglicans), after the TV station reported two of their members were proselytising.

The Afghan constitution, adopted after the fall of the Islamic Taliban in late 2001, forbids conversion to another religion from Islam and in theory can sentence those found guilty to death. However, no one has been executed in recent years for converting.

Fr Giuseppe Moretti, parish priest at the only Catholic church in Afghanistan, a chapel inside the Italian Embassy in Kabul, told AsiaNews that he knew nothing about the affair. He was certain that they did not convert to Catholicism.

“No one in the country was baptised by a Catholic priest because proselytising is banned by law,” he said.

“The Catholic Church has been present in the country since 1923 with a mandate to take care of members of the international Catholic community living here. It has always respected that [principle] to the letter.”

As for the anti-conversion law, Fr Moretti has nothing to add, except to reiterate that the Catholic community has always respected it.

“The Little Sisters of Jesus of Charles de Foucault, the Sisters of Mother Teresa and the Sisters of the Interreligious Community are present here, and they too respect the ban. We bear witness to our faith through our commitment and our lives,” he said.

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

Bangladesh: Imam Rapes Ten-Year-Old Girl

The 42-year-old man was arrested by police right away. After enduring the violent assault, the girl told her parents everything. Rape charges against the religious leader have been filed. “I want justice,” father says.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) — A ten-year-old girl was brutally raped on Saturday in Chittagong by Mohammad Moinuddin, the imam of the Chittagong Government Muslim High School. The 42-year-old man said that Satan led him to commit the deed at his shop at Yakubnagar in Firingibazar. The girl was taken to Chittagong’s Medical College Hospital for tests.

Kotwali Police Chief Abul Kalam Azad told AsiaNews that around 6 pm, the imam called the girl as she walked home from school. He then took her to a quiet place where he raped her.

The girl ran home bleeding and told everything to her parents. Her father ran to the place of the crime to apprehend the rapist, who was arrested right after police was informed of the incident.

“My daughter is just ten-years-old,” the father said. “Every time I pray, I cannot but think about what happened. I cannot believe that an imam, a man who learnt from the holy religion of Islam, a man who teaches others, is the same man who raped by daughter. I want justice.”

Deputy police inspector Naznin Sultana Juthee said that the girl’s mother has already filed rape charges against the imam.

Local human rights activists condemned the rape.

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

Indonesia: Islamic Students ‘Embrace Liberalism’ While Science Students Are ‘Drawn to Fundamentalism’

Jakarta, 30 Nov. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — While students in Indonesia’s Islamic universities are embracing liberalism, their counterparts in science schools feel more drawn to fundamentalism, a prominent Islamic cleric said on Tuesday.

Hasyim Muzadi, former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, cited the phenomenon as he addressed a workshop on de-radicalization organized by the National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT).

“Islamic universities these days usually produce liberalists, while science schools generate fundamentalists,” Hasyim said.

“I guess it’s because students of Islamic universities are tired of having to be pious —they’ve had to do it all the time; while science students are hardly in touch with religion so they search for it from available sources.”

He said the phenomenon could be seen among top science schools in Indonesia, including at the University of Indonesia.

Indonesian Ulema Council secretary Amirsyah Tambunan blamed weak monitoring for the intrusion of fundamentalist movements in campuses.

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

Pakistan: Asia Bibi Fears for Her Life, While Awaiting a Government Decision

Islamic radicals still on a war footing against the possibility of a pardon for the woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. The Taliban announces that they will oppose it in every way, and the leader of the Sunni council threatens “anarchy in the country.” Her husband: “Asia Bibi fears for her family.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The religious radicals in Pakistan have warned the president against the risk of provoking a wave of public outrage if he grants a pardon to the woman convicted of blasphemy. This conflict highlights the government’s difficult relations with the official religion, in a country where few wish to be considered soft on the enemies of Islam. Religious fundamentalists took to the streets in Lahore and Karachi Friday, November 26th to show their anger while the Pakistani government decides whether to grant clemency to a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy. Many Pakistani Muslims feel offended by the notion that the death sentence of Asia Bibi could be revoked.

According to reports, the demonstrations were organized by an association close to Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), a charitable organization that is banned by the UN because suspected of terrorist links. The chief coordinator of the JuD, Qari Yaqub, told protesters: “We will protest at the national level if the government forgives the Christian woman.” The head of the Sunni Ittehad Council, Sahibzada Fazal Kareem, told AsiaNews: “A pardon would lead to anarchy in the country. Our position is very clear, this punishment can not be cancelled. “ Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, deputy head of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, has warned of serious consequences if the government graces the woman, who was sentenced on 8 November 2010 for blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad. Faqir Muhammad, speaking from an undisclosed location to an international news channel, said that the Taliban will resist any attempt to pardon Asia Bibi.

Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Maisha, speaking in Punjabi to AsiaNews said: “Asia had been very strong in prison.She is different now. She is mentally stressed. She is very scared for her life and for the life of her family”. The family home is now a single bedroom, down a side street of a Christian colony. A cheery sign hangs on the wall as a reminder of the family’s faith — “God Bless Our Home” — but the patchy whitewash, dirty beds and incessant buzz of mosquitoes reek of quiet desperation.

AsiaNews continues its campaign to help Asia Bibi. Signatures are still coming in, and we are approaching 6thousand. Send an email to:

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

Pakistan Mother Denied Presidential Pardon for ‘Insulting Islam’

A Pakistani court has barred President Asif Ali Zardari from pardoning a Christian woman sentenced to death on charges of insulting Islam, in a case that has prompted criticism over the country’s blasphemy law.

Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of four, requested a pardon from the president after a lower court sentenced her to death on 8 November in a case stemming from a village dispute.

The Lahore high court today barred Zardari from pardoning Bibi in a petition filed by Shahid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. Iqbal’s lawyer Allah Bux Laghari told Reuters a pardon was illegal as the court was already hearing an appeal against her sentence.

“We believe it is the court’s duty to evaluate the evidence against her, not individuals, and if she is found innocent, she should be freed,” he said.

Human rights groups have demanded the repeal of the law, which they say discriminates against religious minorities who make up roughly 4% of Pakistan’s 170 million-strong population.

A government minister said last week that an initial inquiry into the case of the Christian mother said she had not committed blasphemy but was falsely accused after a quarrel.

Blasphemy convictions are common although the death sentence has never been carried out. Most convictions are thrown out on appeal, but angry mobs have killed many people accused of blasphemy.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Six Killed in Attack in Pakistan

A three-year-old boy and a police officer were among six people killed in a suicide attack Tuesday morning in northwest Pakistan, police told CNN.

The suicide bomber walked up to a police station in the Bannu district and blew himself up next to a parked police van, said Iftikhar Khan, a local police chief.

Police say 19 people were also injured in the attack.

The Bannu district neighbors Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Italy: Immigrants Make Up 8% of Payrolls and Their Numbers Are ‘Increasing’

Rome, 1 Dec. (AKI) — Immigrants in 2009 made up more than 8 percent of Italy’s legal workforce and their numbers are rising, according to an annual report by the national welfare and pensions agency.

“Immigrants are a growing presence in the Italian workforce,” INPS said on Tuesday in its annual report presented in Rome.

Seventy-three percent of the 1.57 million immigrants on Italian payrolls are dependants of a business, while only 5 percent — mostly artesans — are self-employed, the report said. The INPS report didn’t provide comparative numbers.

Legal immigrants in Italy produce 11 percent Italy’s wealth or gross domestic product, according to a joint report on immigration by Catholic charity groups Caritas and Migrantes. Immigrants account for 11 billion euros, or 10 percent of pension and health insurance contributions by dependent workers.

Eastern Europeans were the leading immigrant group of workers, at 33 percent, the INPS report said. That was followed by Asia and eastern Asia each accounted for 21 percent, followed by South American workers, at 11 percent.

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

Culture Wars

Italian Women Battle for the Middle Ground

In the Italy of Prime Minister Berlusconi, the media is saturated with almost pornographic images of women who silently and happily suffer their own objectification. But now that a former television starlet has risen to become the minister of equal opportunity, there are at least some fresh hopes for change.

Italian Minister of Equal Opportunity Mara Carfagna, popularly known as “Bella Mara,” has had a fairy-tale, Cinderella-like career — and one that would only be possible in Italy. Indeed, it’s only been a few years since the native of southern Italy was posing — her oiled body draped in fishing nets — for the kinds of pinup posters that construction workers hang in their lockers and spending her evenings appearing on primetime TV shows, her skirt hiked almost up to the crotch.

Carfagna was what the Italians call a velina, the name given to the scantily clad women who regularly appear — beautiful but silent — on Italian TV shows. Indeed, she was a product of Italian television, where she appeared until 2006, and you can still find photos and videos of her from those days online.

But now, the 34-year-old politician — crowned “the world’s beautiful minister” by the tabloids — is a creation of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. In 2007, after seeing her on one of the TV stations belonging to his media empire, he jokingly — and on TV — stated he wouldn’t mind marrying her, precipitating a war of roses with Veronica Lario, his wife at the time.

A little more than a year later, Carfagna was appointed to serve as Berlusconi’s federal minister for equal opportunity. Many Italian women perceive her meteoric rise to political prominence as both an affront and evidence of the distorted image of women in Italy — as if having a perfect figure and being beautiful and obedient were all it takes.


But everything changed after Carfagna’s appointment in 2008. She seems transformed today, looking slightly nun-like with her short black hair and modest outfits. Horrified by the way women sell their bodies, her first act in office was to try to make street prostitution a crime with fines for both clients and the prostitutes themselves — and she was showered with ridicule for it. She was seen as the product of her maker, as the prime example of how women are viewed in Italy.

But then she grew into her position. She launched initiatives to protect female rape victims and homosexuals. Widely praised for her efforts, she ignored Berlusconi’s chauvinist comments, such as: “We don’t have enough soldiers to protect our women from violence. They are simply too beautiful.”

But now this so-called product of Berlusconi is liberating herself. On Nov. 20, at the height of the recent government crisis, Carfagna announced her intention to step down on Dec. 15. As reasons, she cited her view that Berlusconi was no longer in control of the government and that she had too little power. Moreover, unlike her fellow cabinet ministers, Carfagna is no longer holding back, openly discussing the dramatically growing mountains of garbage in her native Campania region, where she is rumored to be interested in becoming mayor of Naples.

Berlusconi reacted huffily. Carfagna was the fifth member of the government to threaten to leave the coalition. “I created her,” he complained soon after the announcement, “and this is how she repays me.”

Three days later, Berlusconi was happy to report that she had changed her mind. “I spoke to her for two hours yesterday,” he said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. “She understood and said she’s not quitting.”

A New Type of Enslavement

Though the Italian media has been depicting Carfagna’s rebellion as something sensational, it has been the status quo in Italy for a long time. Indeed, women have been rebelling there for years, battling the roles their country has reserved for them: You can be either a whore or a saint, but nothing in between. And, in this confrontation, they face powerful enemies: machismo, age-old stereotypes and the influence of the Catholic Church.

Of course, Italian women are proud to finally be able to show their bodies in public; it was part of their liberation. But they also know that this freedom has also been repurposed to allow their bodies to be displayed for cheap sexual reasons, especially on television.

Now they fear being pushed back into the Middle Ages, as if Italy’s many bright, accomplished women had changed nothing in this country, women such as educator Maria Montessori, author Oriana Fallaci, actress Anna Magnani and publisher Inge Feltrinelli. And their fears seem justified…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Penis Boxing Video Game to Promote Safe Sex

To mark World AIDS Day on Wednesday, a German organisation has created a risqué online game allowing men to use their penises to “cock out” the deadly disease in a boxing match using a high-tech condom and a webcam.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Pentagon Report on ‘Gays’ Rigged?

‘This is a profoundly radical experiment with the military’ WASHINGTON — Critics are charging that the Pentagon report on repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was rigged to come to conclusions preordained by the Obama administration, which promised to lift the policy in order to attract homosexual supporters during the 2008 presidential campaign.

“That was the mandate that was given to the Department of Defense, to make that outcome occur,” said retired Army Col. Dick Black.


“When this study was first announced, Lt. Gen. Mixon, the commander of our forces in the Pacific, publicly encouraged soldiers to speak out on the issue. He was told in no uncertain terms to shut up or get out of the service,” said Black, a former Marine combat officer and Army lawyer.

“What a disaster,” said LaBarbera. “The Pentagon’s plan calls for a gradual transition, and they plan to use that time to ‘educate’ the troops about proper attitudes toward homosexuality. When we start talking about educating the troops, we’re talking about indoctrination.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Wrong to Ban Student With Niqab: Ombudsman

Banning a student from class for wearing a headscarf is a violation of Sweden’s anti-discrimination laws, the country’s Equality Ombudsman (Diskrimineringsombudsmannen — DO) has ruled.

“According to the DO’s assessment, kicking a student out of class simply because she was wearing a niqab, without taking into account the specific circumstances of her participation, violates the law against discrimination,” Equality Ombudsman Katri Linna wrote in an opinion article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Linna’s decision stems from a January 2009 incident in which a Muslim woman was was told she would no longer be welcome at an adult education college in Spånga, west of Stockholm, if she continued to wear her niqab.

The niqab is part of a hijab headress and covers the entire face except for the eyes.

The student reported the matter to the ombudsman, claiming it amounted to religious discrimination, as the school’s decision prevented her from continuing her training to be a pediatric nurse if she continued to wear the niqab.

Sweden’s Parliamentary Ombudsman (Justitieombudsmännen — JO) recently criticised the Equality Ombudsman for taking nearly two years to rule on the case.

Linna said her office has no plans to take the woman’s case to court because the she had been able to complete her studies in spite of the ban, as the school eventually decided to let her continue attending classes until the Equality Ombudsman had decided on the case.

Because the woman finished her studies with solid marks, she has proven that her headscarf didn’t present an obstacle to attending lectures, according to the ombudsman. Nor were there any problems related to her interactions with teachers or other students.

During class, she sat in a way that prevented male students from seeing her face, meaning she didn’t have to keep it covered.

The woman had also said she was willing to show her face if and when the school’s personnel needed to identify her, wrote Linna, who concluded there was “no overriding reason to prohibit” the student from attending class.

Linna also expressed her concern about the “rancor and simplifications” which infected the ensuing debate about wearing a niqab, rejecting justifications based on the assumption that headscarves are an “expression of the oppression of women” and therefore must be fought.

“To remove women who wear niqabs from an education programme benefits neither theirs nor other women’s equality,” writes the ombudsman.

“I believe instead that education can be a platform for women to continue to develop and shape their own choices. Education is the basis for entering the job market and thus access to a social context outside the home and the possibility to support oneself.”

The Equality Ombudsman’s decision means that a school must make an individual assessment in every case involving a student wearing a niqab and that schools cannot decide on a general ban against women bearing headscarves, according to Linna.

“You have to look at each situation: what sort of educational programme it is,” she told the TT news agency, what’s included, what sort of problems occurred and whether they can be avoided by other means. It’s essential to do so before kicking a student out,” she told the TT news agency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Former Archbishop Lord Carey: We Mustn’t be Ashamed of Christmas in These Politically Correct Times

Britain has become ashamed of Christmas, former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey declared yesterday.

He said Christmas cards are censored, school nativity plays stripped of Christian content and Christmas decorations banned in the campaign to block the festival out of the calendar.

Lord Carey said the trend was part of a broader attack on the Christian faith which underpins tolerance and democracy in this country.

He made his remarks in support of the launch today of a move to persuade Christians to show their faith in public and challenge employers who stop staff expressing their Christianity.

The ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign, organised by the pressure group Christian Concern, will encourage millions to wear a cross to work or a badge with a slogan saying they are ‘not ashamed’ of their religion.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]


How to Create Temperatures Below Absolute Zero

ABSOLUTE zero sounds like an unbreachable limit beyond which it is impossible to explore. In fact there is a weird realm of negative temperatures that not only exists in theory, but has also proved accessible in practice. An improved way of getting there, outlined last week, could reveal new states of matter.

Temperature is defined by how the addition or removal of energy affects the amount of disorder, or entropy, in a system. For systems at familiar, positive temperatures, adding energy increases disorder: heating up an ice crystal makes it melt into a more disordered liquid, for example. Keep removing energy, and you will get closer and closer to zero on the absolute or kelvin scale (-273.15 °C), where the system’s energy and entropy are at a minimum.

Negative-temperature systems have the opposite behaviour. Adding energy reduces their disorder, and hence their temperature. But they are not cold in the conventional sense that heat will flow into them from systems at positive temperatures. In fact, systems with negative absolute temperatures contain more atoms in high-energy states than is possible even at the hottest positive temperatures, so heat should always flow from them to systems above zero kelvin.

Creating negative-temperature systems to see what other “bizarro world” properties they might have is tricky. It is certainly not done by cooling an object down to absolute zero. It is, however, possible to leap straight from positive to negative absolute temperatures.

This has already been done in experiments in which atomic nuclei were placed in a magnetic field, where they act like tiny bar magnets and line up with the field. The field was then suddenly reversed, leaving the nuclei briefly aligned opposite to the direction in which they would have the lowest energy. While they were in this state they fleetingly behaved in a way consistent with them having negative absolute temperatures, before they too flipped over to line up with the field.

Because the nuclei can only flip between two possible states — parallel to the field or opposite to it — this set-up offered only limited possibilities for investigation. In 2005 Allard Mosk, now at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, devised a scheme for an experiment that would offer more knobs to turn to explore the negative temperature regime…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Quantum Uncertainty Controls ‘Action at a Distance’

Two things Albert Einstein did not like about quantum theory were its inherent uncertainty and its assertion that particles can remain weirdly linked even when separated by great distances. The former he dismissed with the phrase “God does not play dice,” and the second he called “spooky action at a distance”.

Now a pair of physicists says that these two strange effects are intimately linked — and that uncertainty itself limits how “connected” separate particles can be.

When two distant particles that are quantum mechanically linked, or entangled, are measured, the results are more similar than predicted by classical physics. “Nature is non-local,” says Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol. “This is arguably the most important lesson of quantum theory.”

But these non-local links are not as influential as they might conceivably be. Popescu and colleague Daniel Rohrlich, now at Ben Gurion University in Israel, calculated 15 years ago that the laws of physics could allow even stronger coordination between distant systems, leading physicists to wonder why quantum theory doesn’t go as far as it could.

Jonathan Oppenheim of the University of Cambridge in the UK and Stephanie Wehner of the National University of Singapore suggest they’ve found a clue. The secret, they suggest, lies in another famous property of the quantum world — its inherent uncertainty.

‘Even spookier’

In quantum theory, states of a quantum system can never be defined with precision. The uncertainty principle, for example, implies that any effort to measure the position of an electron entails giving up precise knowledge of its velocity, or vice versa.

Using information theory, a core tool of computer science that quantifies how much information is contained in any structure, Oppenheim and Wehner studied how the amount of uncertainty in a theory should influence the possibilities it presents for nonlocal connections.

Hypothetical theories containing no uncertainty, they found, could feature coordination between distant systems as strong as the limit calculated by Popescu and Rohrlich. “Quantum mechanics could be even spookier,” says Oppenheim. “But Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle gets in the way.”

The results do not suggest what underlying physical mechanism would link uncertainty to non-locality. But because the results rest only the ideas of information theory, they should hold not only for quantum theory, but for any conceivable future theory as well, the authors say.

“This is a very original and important idea,” says Popescu. But he cautions that it is probably not the final word on why quantum theory is not more non-local than it is. “This work doesn’t finally solve the problem,” he says. “But it goes in a very new direction”, adding to other possible explanations that physicists have explored in recent years.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Super-Earth’s Atmosphere Analysed for First Time

A crude spectrum has been obtained for the atmosphere of a super-Earth orbiting a dim red dwarf star 40 light years away. The planet’s upper atmosphere is apparently dominated by steam or cloudy haze. The star, Gliese 1214 (GJ 1214) in Ophiuchus, is 300 times dimmer than the sun. Its planet was discovered in 2009 when the MEarth Project detected the planet’s silhouette periodically dimming the star. The planet has 6.5 Earth masses, as determined later by the star’s gravitational wobbles, and it circles the little star very closely in just 38 hours.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Science Panel Caught in Another Global Warming Data Fraud

Newly released science book revelation is set to heap further misery on UN global warming researchers. Will latest setback derail Cancun Climate conference?

Authors of a new book ‘Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory’ claim they have debunked the widely established greenhouse gas theory climate change. In the first of what they say will be a series of sensational statements to promote the launch of their book, they attack a cornerstone belief of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — what is known as the “carbon isotope argument.”

Mišo Alkalaj, is one of 24 expert authors of this two-volume publication, among them are qualified climatologists, prominent skeptic scientists and a world leading math professor. It is Alkalaj’s chapter in the second of the two books that exposes the fraud concerning the isotopes 13C/12C found in carbon dioxide (CO2).

If true, the disclosure may possibly derail last-ditch attempts at a binding international treaty to ‘halt man-made global warming.’ At minimum the story will be sure to trigger a fresh scandal for the beleaguered United Nations body.

Do Human Emissions of Carbon Dioxide Exhibit a Distinct Signature?

The low-key internal study focused on the behavior of 13C/12C isotopes within carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules and examined how the isotopes decay over time. Its conclusions became the sole basis of claims that ‘newer’ airborne CO2 exhibits a different and thus distinct ‘human signature.’ The paper was employed by the IPCC to give a green light to researchers to claim they could quantify the amount of human versus natural proportions just from counting the number of isotopes within that ‘greenhouse gas.’

Alkalaj, who is head of Center for Communication Infrastructure at the “J. Stefan” Institute, Slovenia says because of the nature of organic plant decay, that emits CO2, such a mass spectrometry analysis is bogus. Therefore, it is argues, IPCC researchers are either grossly incompetent or corrupt because it is impossible to detect whether carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is of human or organic origin.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]