Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101202

Financial Crisis
»Germany’s Image Suffers in EU Amid Debt Crisis
»Italy: Failure to Sell Military Property Damps Prospects for Further Real-Estate Sales
»US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official
»A Day in the USA
»Arsenic-Eating Bacteria Opens New Possibilities for Alien Life
»Cry Treason! For That is What it is
»Effort to Weaken Punishment for Rep. Charles B. Rangel Fails in House
»FCC Triggers Firestorm With ‘Net Neutrality’ Proposal
»House Reaches Vote Threshold to Censure Representative Charles B. Rangel
»Liberal Myopia and the Reality of Islam
»Mercury Causes Homosexuality in Male Ibises
»NASA Finds New Life (Updated)
»Socialist Regime Moves for Control of the Internet
»The Islamic Movement is Affecting America’s Population
»U.S. Jews Must Wake Up to Homegrown Terror Threat
»US Facing Attacks by Home-Grown Terrorists, Senior Adviser Warns
»The Apple That Never Goes Brown: Biotech Firm in Bid to Sell Genetically Modified Fruit for Lunchboxes.
Europe and the EU
»A New Dark Age for Germany?
»Foreigners Alarmed by Swiss Expulsion Vote
»German Jews Elect First Post-Holocaust Generation Leader
»Germans Less Tolerant of Islam Than Neighbours, Study Finds
»Here it Comes, Durban 3
»Italy: Mexican Women Fined for Night-Time Dip in Rome Monument
»Italy: ‘Third Pole’ Takes Shape With Berlusconi Challenge
»Moldovan Elections: A Deadlock on Europe’s Periphery
»Muslim Imam Who Lectures on Non-Violence in Germany is Arrested for Beating Up His Wife
»Netherlands: Nearly All Break-Ins and Car Thefts Go Unpunished
»Patten: The EU Will Never be a Real Power
»Survey Shows Germans Negative About Muslims and Jews
»UK Publishes Changes in War Crimes Arrest Law
»UK Tells Israel That Laws Will be Changed to Ensure Safe Passage for Officials
»UK: ‘We Let in Some Crazies’… David Cameron Claimed Labour Went Soft on Radical Muslims
»UK: Amnesty International Say Police Bill Will Let War Criminals Go Free
»UK: British Government Proposes Bill to Tighten Universal Jurisdiction Laws
»UK: Government Announce Universal Jurisdiction Law Change
»UK: Islamic Extremism: Is This the Year’s Most Embarrassing Academic Report?
»UK: Ken Livingstone Clutches Another Lead Lifebelt
»UK: London Placates Israel With War Crimes Arrest Law Change
»UK: Plug Pulled on Islam-Domination Fest
»UK: Stay-at-Home Britain: 40% of Workers Take the Day Off as Snow Storms Paralyse the Country… With More to Come Tonight
»UK: Scandal That Shames Britain: Join Our Campaign to End Appalling Treatment of the Elderly on NHS Wards as Complaints Reach Record High
»UK: Whitewashing a Neo Nazi: More Weirdness From Lambert and Githens-Mazer
»UK: Why We’re a Laughing Stock With the Rest of the World
»UK: Why Haven’t British Police Arrested Wikileaks Boss on Interpol Wanted List Even Though They Know Where He is?
»US Embassy: ‘Sweden No Longer Neutral’
»Region Relatively Unscathed by Diplomatic Cables on Wikileaks
North Africa
»Algeria: AIDS: Courses for Imams on Culture of Prevention
Middle East
»A Commodity Still in Short Supply
»Turkey is Like Iran
»Wikileaks: Credibility in Doubt, Erdogan
»EU Neighbours Are ‘Mafia States, ‘ US Cables Indicate
»‘Virtual Mafia States’
South Asia
»Afghanistan: ENI ‘Seriously Considering’ Investing in Northern Afghanistan Says Minister
»Biden: Berlin ‘Dropped the Ball’ In Afghanistan
»Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming
»The Other Conflict in Afghanistan
»US Army Charged Germany Fees for Afghanistan Donations
Far East
»Wikileaks: Completely Wrong on North Korea
Australia — Pacific
»Airbus: Investigators Find Potential Manufacturing Flaw
»Mystery of Green Fireball ‘UFOs’ Solved
Latin America
»Mexican Drug Gang Murders the Unarmed Woman Who Was Brave Enough to Take Police Chief Job Men Didn’t Want.
»Scientists Attempt to Crack Secret Code of the Axolotl
»Denmark: EU Rule Exempts Turks From Immigration Test
»Major Drop in Asylum-Seekers in Turkey, Report
»The Enormous Folly and Cost of the Dream Act
Culture Wars
»Gay Rights Uneven Throughout Europe, Agency Says
»UK: There’s No Shame in Not Wearing a Cross
»UK: Why SHOULD Mums on Benefits Have Countless Children When I Can Only Afford Two?
»Was This the Video That Cost US? The Very UN-English Presentation Screened to FIFA Delegates
»When Making Friends, Gran Knows Best — Not the Facebook Generation
»EU Funding Offer Sparks Anger at Cancun
»Global Warming: Sea Level Could Rise in South, Fall in North
»Muslims Worldwide Say Respect is Key to Better Relations With U.S., West
»The Hypocrisy of Hatred

Financial Crisis

Germany’s Image Suffers in EU Amid Debt Crisis

Alarm bells are ringing in Berlin as Germany’s image suffers across the European Union, where it has increasingly been seen as a bully imposing its views on its partners during the eurozone debt crisis. AFP’s Patrick Rahir reports.

“The rest of Europe increasingly resents German policy and fears the emergence of a nationalist Germany,” warned Ulrike Guérot of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), a think tank.

Tensions have worsened as the debt crisis threatens more eurozone countries, Portugal after Ireland with Spain appearing next in line.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been blamed for spooking the bonds markets by insisting that private lenders contribute to future rescue packages.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the normally German-friendly premier of Luxembourg, has fretted publicly that Berlin is “slowly losing sight of the common European good.”

In Spain, “the prevailing feeling is one of frustration with Germany,” wrote the ECFR head of office in Madrid, Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, in the Financial Times.

Spain fears that “Ms Merkel’s proposal to have investors, and not only citizens, suffer the consequences of their investment decisions” is driving up its borrowing costs and endangering its recovery plan.

The editor-in-chief of the German daily Handelsblatt, Gabor Steingart, has accused Merkel of “being strong against the weak. Her policies lead to insecurity and strife,” he charged in a front-page editorial.

And Der Spiegel claimed in its edition this week that “Germany’s reputation in the EU has deteriorated dramatically.”

Berlin’s minister for European affairs Werner Hoyer told the weekly magazine that he is frequently asked by his colleagues in Brussels: “Do you still stand by Europe?”

“Strategically, what we’re doing is right, but we have a communication problem,” Hoyer said.

Germany has not turned anti-European, Almut Möller of the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) told news agency AFP, but “the government’s communication strategy hasn’t always been sensible and it has often reacted too late.”

She wondered if Merkel and her advisers “are aware of the frustrations they create.” And she deplored that when confronted with their partners’ views, “the Germans react to every criticism without any tact, out of the moral conviction that they are in the right.”

“Germans are not ready to question themselves,” agreed Ulrike Guérot.

The Foreign Ministry has prepared a policy paper urging the government to remedy its image deficit and explain its policies.

“They have realised that the crisis has brought back old cliches,” commented a diplomat who insisted on anonymity. “The spectre of an ever-more-demanding Germany is being raised in a number of countries.”

“And that explains why Berlin is trying to coordinate its positions with France,” which can provide some kind of cover, he said.

But for Guérot the problem goes deeper. She sees a Germany that has “fallen out of love with Europe,” which has become more complicated, too tiresome and too expensive.

“Germany is now simply older and poorer, with social tensions that its neighbours do not see because it likes to celebrate itself as an export champion.”

“For most of Europe, Germany is the big winner of the euro … whereas many Germans today believe that they have always had to pay for the others and have always been cheated,” she added.

Germany is no longer ready to pay for each and every compromise and “this is legitimate,” she insisted.

But the rest of Europe has yet to get used it and Berlin’s attitude isn’t helping.

“The current German tone tends to be too sharp and is therefore inappropriate,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Failure to Sell Military Property Damps Prospects for Further Real-Estate Sales

Rome, 30 Nov. — (AKI/Bloomberg) — Italy failed to attract bidders for a military barracks in the north of the country, damping prospects for the sale of thousands of state-controlled properties set to begin next year.

The government set a minimum price of 40 million euros for the barracks in Albenga in the northern region of Liguria, the state property agency said in an e-mailed statement after Monday’s bid deadline. Albenga was the first of 11 military properties to be sold by 20 December that the agency said were worth a combined total of at least 100 million euros.

“For an investor, 40 million euros represents a significant commitment to an operation that includes an element of risk,” said Mario Breglia, head of real-estate research firm Scenari Immobiliari. “This site may be worth that much, but the market is clearly weak. Four years ago, investors may have lined up to put in an offer, but not now.”

European governments are looking to real estate sales to raise cash after the global financial crisis and economic recession led to higher public deficits and debt. The Italian government has been forced to cut funding to municipalities and proposed allowing local governments to keep as much as 3.6 billion euros in proceeds projected from the sale of 12,000 properties starting across the country next year.

Debt Crisis

The closing of the Albenga sale coincided with growing concern about investing in Italy, Europe’s second most-indebted nation, after the 85 billion-euro rescue of Ireland failed to convince investors that the region’s debt crisis was contained.

The broader program of real estate sales is part of Italy’s efforts to control its deficit and debt. The government this year cut funding to regional and local governments as it sought to rein in a budget shortfall that reached 5.3 percent of gross domestic product last year. To help compensate, the government proposed initially transferring thousands of properties to local authorities and allowing for their sale. The initial portfolio doesn’t include properties in Rome, and five regions, including Sicily and Sardinia, that will also be eligible for sale.

The government last year put properties valued at 229 million euros on the market, registering record sales of 165 million euros. Property transactions have raised 80 million euros this year on assets valued at 110 million euros.

Lower Proceeds

Still, Italy is facing more competition from other debt- burdened governments across Europe. Falling property values and tougher borrowing conditions cut proceeds from state-owned property sales in the European Union to 3 billion euros in 2008 and 2009, from 13 billion euros in the two years though 2007, according to a July report by London-based CB Richard Ellis Global Research.

“The trend on the part of governments in various parts of Europe to continue to look to raise capital by selling property assets will continue,” Richard Holberton, analyst at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc., said in a Nov. 26 interview.

Apart from barracks, the local authorities will sell former military firing ranges, roads, schools, warehouses, farms, industrial sites, parish buildings, canals and undeveloped land.

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

US Ready to Back Bigger EU Stability Fund: Official

The United States would be ready to support the extension of the European Financial Stability Facility via an extra commitment of money from the International Monetary Fund, a U.S. official told Reuters on Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


A Day in the USA

You see the unrest in Europe? Then watch it closely, because if we don’t change our direction, it’s coming here.

Last night I was reading through a few different news sources of the daily happenings in our country. First, I was shocked, though in reality I shouldn’t have been, by the amount of news I’d consider to be depressing to a large number of the citizens of our country, but then I was taken by the fact that so many of these stories are actually a part of the same, or bigger story. The parallels of which continually point to the progressive attitude and agenda taking place in our country today and quite frankly, is becoming sickening in its content and purpose.

Depressing may be too strong of a definition for this, so let’s use a word description that is quite a bit milder for the sake of our liberal friends, how about …APPALLING!

Through the progressive attacks on religion, capitalism, conservatism, and the environment, among others, we here in the United States are experiencing a “watered down” version of the freedoms and liberties we have taken for granted in our country for so long. This trend will continue as long as “we the people” allow them to twist and bend our laws to their benefit, under the guise of political correctness.

In reality people, there are only two main types of society world-wide, capitalism, or communism. So you tell me where we’re headed. “Oh no, we’re not socialists,” the progressives cry! Uh, huh… well let’s take a quick peek at what the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have to say about this progressive denial of being socialists. Read it for yourself, then make an honest judgment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Arsenic-Eating Bacteria Opens New Possibilities for Alien Life

One of the basic assumptions about life on Earth may be due for a revision. Scientists have discovered a type of bacteria that thrives on poisonous arsenic, potentially opening up a new pathway for life on Earth and other planets.

If you thumb through an introductory biology textbook, you’ll notice that six elements dominate the chemistry of life. Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are the most common. After that comes phosphorus, then sulfur. Most biologists will tell you that these six elements are essential; life as we know it cannot exist without them.

The recent discovery by Felisa Wolfe-Simon of an organism that can utilize arsenic in place of phosphorus, however, has demonstrated that life is still capable of surprising us in fundamental ways. The results of her research will appear in Dec. 2 issue of the journal Science. [Photo of the arsenic-friendly bacteria]

The organism in question is a bacterium, GFAJ-1, cultured by Wolfe-Simon from sediments she and her colleagues collected along the shore of Mono Lake, Calif. Mono Lake is hypersaline and highly alkaline. It also has one of the highest natural concentrations of arsenic in the world.

Life-form’s toxic food

On the tree of life, according to the results of 16S rRNA sequencing, the rod-shaped GFAJ-1 nestles in among other salt-loving bacteria in the genus Halomonas. Many of these bacteria are known to be able to tolerate high levels of arsenic.

But Wolfe-Simon found that GFAJ-1 can go a step further. When starved of phosphorus, it can instead incorporate arsenic into its DNA, and continue growing as though nothing remarkable had happened.

“So far we’ve showed that it can do it in DNA, but it looks like it can do it in a whole lot of other biomolecules” as well, says Wolfe-Simon, a NASA research fellow in residence at the USGS in Menlo Park, California.

“It is the first time in the history of biology that there’s been anything found that can use one of the different elements in the basic structure,” says Paul Davies, the director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Wolfe-Simon’s finding “can only reinforce people’s belief that life can exist under a much wider range of environments than hitherto believed,” Davies said. He sees the discovery of GFAF-1 as “the beginning of what promises to be a whole new field of microbiology.”

Michael New, NASA’s astrobiology discipline scientist, agrees.

“The discovery of an organism that can use arsenic to build its cellular components may indicate that life can form in the absence of large amounts of available phosphorous, thus increasing the probability of finding life elsewhere,” he said. “This finding expands our understanding of the conditions under which life can thrive, and possibly originate, thereby increasing our understanding of the distribution of life on Earth and the potential habitats for life elsewhere in the solar system.”

In case you’re not impressed yet, here’s a quick refresher:

The DNA molecule is shaped like a spiral ladder. The “rungs” of the ladder are comprised of pairs of nucleotides, which spell out the genetic instructions of life. The sides of the DNA ladder, referred to as its backbone, are long chains of alternating sugar and phosphate molecules. A phosphate molecule contains five atoms: one of phosphorus, four of oxygen. No phosphorus, no phosphate. No phosphate, no backbone. No backbone, no DNA. No DNA, no life.

GFAJ-1 apparently didn’t read the manual.

When Wolfe-Simon starved GFAJ-1 cells of phosphorus, while flooding them with arsenic, far more than enough arsenic to kill most other organisms, it grew and divided as though it had been offered its favorite snack.

Arsenic-loving bacteria

Wolfe-Simon, with assistance from colleagues in Ron Oremland’s group at the USGS in Menlo Park, California, has grown generation after generation of these bacteria. [The Weirdest Life on Earth]

The bacteria continue to swim around in their test tubes, unconcerned, despite the fact that, since Wolfe-Simon first collected them more than a year ago, the only phosphorus they have had access to was whatever was present in the original colony of cells, plus tiny traces, far too little to sustain ongoing growth and cell division, present as impurities in the cells’ growth medium.

And you thought arsenic was poison, right? To most living organisms, it is. Arsenic is chemically similar to phosphorus, so it can sneak its way into living cells, as if wearing a disguise. But it is more reactive than phosphorus, in ways that tend to rip apart life’s essential molecules. DNA, for example.

Somehow, GFAJ-1 appears to have found a way to overcome this problem.

As a control, a second culture of GFAJ-1 cells was fed phosphorus instead of arsenic. They, too, grew and divided. GFAJ-1 seems able to switch back and forth, depending on how much phosphorus is available.

“I have no idea how they’re doing what they’re doing,” Wolfe-Simon says.

Once she realized that GFAJ-1 was capable of growing when starved of phosphorus, Wolfe-Simon set about finding out in more detail what was going on inside its cells. Could it be, perhaps, that she had found a microbe that, rather than incorporating arsenic into its biological structures, was instead exceptionally good at recycling extremely limited amounts of phosphorus?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cry Treason! For That is What it is

From Alaska to Florida, offshore of California or any of the East Coast States, Obama is destroying America’s energy future in the same fashion his administration has done everything in its power to shut down the nation’s coal mining industry.

Here are the statistics that demonstrate how dependent we are on fossil fuels: In total they provide 84.9% of the energy Americans use. Of that, coal provides 22.4% and oil represents 39.2%, while natural gas accounts for 23.2%. Other energy sources include nuclear power at 8.3%, hydroelectric at 2.4% and the least efficient and dependable, wind at 0.3% and solar at 0.08%. (Data source: the Institute for Energy Research) President Obama has made his intentions to bankrupt the coal industry clear

In March, Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a Democrat, said, “President Obama has made his intentions to bankrupt the coal industry clear. EPA’s actions this week demonstrate that he will wage a war against the energy source that generates half of America’s electricity and is our nation’s most abundant, reliable, and affordable energy sources.”

Gov. Manchin said that estimates were that the administration’s actions would affect 65,000 members of the Appalachian workforce who would lose some of the highest-paying jobs available in the region. At least $12 billion in lost economic development was forecast.

Nor is the Obama attack on the nation’s energy supply restricted to coal and oil.

In October, the Obama administration demanded $880 million in exchange for a $7.5 billion loan guarantee necessary to the construction of a Maryland nuclear facility. The plant would have generated thousands of jobs as well as needed megawatts of electricity for that State’s residents. The project was cancelled.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Effort to Weaken Punishment for Rep. Charles B. Rangel Fails in House

The House of Representatives Thursday voted down an amendment that would have softened the punishment of Representative Charles B. Rangel from censure to reprimand.

The House still has to vote on the censure measure that was recommended by the Ethics Committee.

[Return to headlines]

FCC Triggers Firestorm With ‘Net Neutrality’ Proposal

By David Hatch and Eliza Krigman

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission unveiled a new initiative today he said would preserve the openness of the Internet but that critics attacked on two fronts, with watchdog groups saying it watered down the Web’s egalitarian roots and conservatives saying it opened the door to excessive regulation.

In essence, the plan requires Internet Service Providers not to block or degrade online competitors. But the proposal, scheduled for a December 21 FCC vote, also could allow for different levels of service at different pricing.


Marvin Ammori, a telecom professor at the University of Nebraska and the former general counsel for Free Press, called the proposal “garbage.”

The proposal split the agency along party lines, with the five-member commission’s two GOP members quickly condemning it and setting the stage for a partisan vote that could draw a backlash next year from the GOP-controlled House.

“I strongly oppose this ill-advised maneuver. Such rules would upend three decades of bipartisan and international consensus that the Internet is best able to thrive in the absence of regulation,” wrote Robert McDowell, the FCC’s senior Republican.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

House Reaches Vote Threshold to Censure Representative Charles B. Rangel

A majority of House members voted Thursday to censure Representative Charles B. Rangel for ethics violations, despite a last-minute plea for mercy from some of his colleagues.

[Return to headlines]

Liberal Myopia and the Reality of Islam

Portland, Oregon, dodged the bullet last week when a Somali born American was arrested for planning to commit a horrendous atrocity during a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland’s Pioneer Square.

Thousands of people attending the ceremony would have been slaughtered and maimed if the FBI had not replaced the enormous quantity of explosives inside a parked van with fake ordnance.

But it was the grotesquely liberal Portland city council itself that five years ago made Portland the sole city in America refusing to be part of the FBI Terrorism Task Force, which works with local police. In so doing, the chickens came home to roost in the person of Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali who had come to America at the age of five with his family as a refugee from the hell that is Somalia.

Mohamud grew up as an American Muslim, was educated in the greater Portland area and given a wonderful new life in the United States. In return, he showed his gratitude by embracing violent jihad and by attempting to kill as many Americans as possible — specifically at a Christian celebration.

As a result of the refusal by Portland to be part of the FBI Terrorism Task Force, the present mayor, Sam Adams, admitted that he did not know anything about the FBI investigation. Now the failed attack has city officials wondering whether or not to now rejoin the task force.

Portland is served by one of the most liberal newspapers in America: The Oregonian. In its front page story in the Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 edition, Nancy Haught wrote an article titled: “Muslims respond to criticism of Islam stirred up by Portland bomb plot,” in which local Muslim leaders responded to charges that Islam is not a peaceful religion.

Ms. Haught herself wrote that: “After all, the word “Islam” shares a root with the Hebrew word “shalom” and means — no matter what you hear or read — “peace attained by submission to God.”

This is patently untrue. Islam means submission, not peace. And it refers to submission to the will of Allah. The word shares a root with the Arabic for peace, which is ‘salaam.’ However dictionaries show no similar meaning. She then quotes from a professor of Islam at Portland’s extremely liberal Reed College, Prof. Kambiz Ghanea Bassiri, who states that, “There’s no part of the Quran that says killing people is okay.”

He went on to say that, “The Quran gives permission to fight to those who have been wronged or persecuted, to those who have been driven unjustly from their homes.” It allows killing — if it is justified —and imposes limits. In fact, the Quran instructs Muslims to live peacefully as long as their enemies are “inclined” to peace. And the prophetic tradition of Islam forbids killing innocents — women, children or any living thing.”

Nancy Haught may be persuaded, but empirical facts from the Koran and Hadith tell a very different story. Here are just a few Koranic injunctions to the Muslim faithful:

“Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them.” Koran 2:191 “Make war on the infidels living in your neighborhood.” Koran 9:123 “When opportunity arises, kill the infidels wherever you catch them.” Koran 9:5 “Any religion other than Islam is not acceptable.” Koran 3:85 “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”… Koran 9:30 “Maim and crucify the infidels if they criticize Islam” Koran 5:33 “Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.” Koran 22:19 “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.” Koran 8:65 “Muslims must not take the infidels as friends.” Koran 3:28 “Terrorize and behead those who believe in scriptures other than the Qur’an.” Koran 8:12 “Muslims must muster all weapons to terrorize the infidels.” Koran 8:60

Ms. Haught then interviewed Wajdi Said, President and Co-Founder of the Muslim Educational Trust. According to Nancy Haught, Mr. Said told her, “There is no verse in the Quran that condones fighting any peaceful non-Muslim on the sole ground that he or she is a non-Muslim. If that were true,” he added, “what would explain the fact that religious minorities through 1,400 years of Muslim history not only survived, but also thrived and found freedom to practice their faiths under Muslim rule?”

Sadly, but predictably, Islamic apologists like Wajdi Said are disingenuous to put it mildly. In a recent article titled: Muslim Genocide of Christians throughout Middle East, Khaled Abu-Toameh, an eminent Israeli Arab writer and journalist, presents facts not myths. Part of Mr. Toameh’s article dated November 26th, 2010 reads as follows:

“Christians in Arab countries are no longer being persecuted; they are now being slaughtered and driven out of their homes and lands.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mercury Causes Homosexuality in Male Ibises

Environmental pollutant radically changes birds’ mating behaviour.

Exposure to mercury pollution could be hitting some wild birds’ reproductive prospects hard by causing males to pair with other males.

American white ibises (Eudocimus albus) from south Florida that consumed methylmercury (MeHg), the most toxic and easily absorbed form of mercury found in the environment, were more likely to engage in same-sex pairings — a phenomenon unknown in wild populations of this species with no exposure to the pollutant.

The main sources of mercury globally are coal-fired power plants and gold mining though in Florida, mercury was likely to have been released by the burning of medical and municipal waste. The metal is converted into methylmercury by some species of bacteria, usually found in wetlands that also tend to be home to many different bird species.

Peter Frederick, an ecologist at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and his colleagues collected 160 white ibis nestlings from breeding colonies in south Florida in 2005, and split them into four groups, each composed of 20 males and 20 females. Once the birds were 90 days old, the researchers began adding methylmercury to their feed. Three of the groups were given low, medium or high doses of mercury based on levels ranging from 0.05—0.3 parts per million recorded in the wild, while the fourth group were given no mercury.

Over the next three years, the researchers measured mercury levels in the feathers and blood of the ibises, and observed their mating behaviour.

Mismatched mates

The team found that the levels of mercury built up in the birds over time, and that exposure resulted in roughly 13—15% more nests failing to produce any offspring. A high proportion of these failed nests were found to be male-male pairings.

Birds exposed to any mercury displayed courtship behaviour less often than controls and were also less likely to be approached by females when they did. As the level of mercury exposure increased, so did the degree and persistence of homosexual pairing. Males that engaged in homosexual parings were also less likely to switch partners from year to year, which Frederick says ibises tend to do if they have been unsuccessful in mating during their first breeding season…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

NASA Finds New Life (Updated)

NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. This changes everything. Updated.

NASA is saying that this is “life as we do not know it”. The reason is that all life on Earth is made of six components: Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Every being, from the smallest amoeba to the largest whale, share the same life stream. Our DNA blocks are all the same.

That was true until today. In a surprising revelation, NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon and her team have found a bacteria whose DNA is completely alien to what we know today, working differently than the rest of the organisms in the planet. Instead of using phosphorus, the newly discovered microorganism—called GFAJ-1 and found in Mono Lake, California—uses the poisonous arsenic for its building blocks. Arsenic is an element poisonous to every other living creature in the planet except for a few specialized microscopic creatures.

According to Wolfe Simon, they knew that “some microbes can breathe arsenic, but what we’ve found is a microbe doing something new—building parts of itself out of arsenic.” The implications of this discovery are enormous to our understanding of life itself and the possibility of finding organisms in other planets that don’t have to be like planet Earth. Like NASA’s Ed Weiler says: “The definition of life has just expanded.”

Talking at the NASA conference, Wolfe Simon said that the important thing here is that this breaks our ideas on how life can be created and grow, pointing out that scientists will now be looking for new types of organisms and metabolism that not only uses arsenic, but other elements as well. She says that she’s working on a few possibilities herself.

NASA’s geobiologist Pamela Conrad thinks that the discovery is huge and “phenomenal,” comparing it to the Star Trek episode in which the Enterprise crew finds Horta, a silicon-based alien life form that can’t be detected with tricorders because it wasn’t carbon-based. It’s like saying that we may be looking for new life in the wrong places with the wrong methods. Indeed, NASA tweeted that this discovery “will change how we search for life elsewhere in the Universe.”

I don’t know about you but I’ve not been so excited about a bacteria since my STD tests came back clean. And that’s without counting yesterday’s announcement on the discovery of a massive number of red dwarf stars, which may harbor a trillion Earths, dramatically increasing our chances of finding extraterrestrial life.

           — Hat tip: Wally Ballou[Return to headlines]

Socialist Regime Moves for Control of the Internet

FCC will take first steps to control the Internet

It’s called “Net Neutrality.” Sounds fair, right? I mean — that’s what the liberal-socialist democrats are all about, right? Fairness is their utmost priority, right? Why, they’d never do anything to limit the freedom of Americans … riiiiight? If you believe all that, then prepare yourself for a rude awakening.


I am convinced this is the “foot in the door” for which the Obama Regime has been searching. But it is all about “fairness” … right? Allow me to ask this: How are conservative bloggers going to feel when they are ORDERED by the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to place links to opposing viewpoints, espoused by some left-wing socialist, on their blogs? Oh, its coming if the new Congress doesn’t bring the FCC to heel … and fast!


It is time to speak up for freedom of speech, once again. It is time to defend the Internet from those who intend to take it over and, ultimately use it to champion socialist, left wing causes and spread their liberal-socialist venom into practically every home in America.


           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

The Islamic Movement is Affecting America’s Population

The urban planners of our day are busy planning the communities of tomorrow but few of them realize just how fruitless their visions may turn out to be. They believe that demographics predict a society of so-called TINK families (two incomes, no kids) of young professionals that demand more walkable communities and downtown housing. In one respect, they may be right. Though I disagree that children are somehow going to become obsolete, there are statistics that support the belief that if America’s population isn’t shrinking, its rate of growth is at least slowing down. What urban planners have not even considered, however, is the kind of population growth that is occurring, and what the demographics may actually be in twenty to thirty years. It is astounding that they have yet to realize how the existing cultural evolution to Islam will dramatically change their demographic models. Mark Steyn wrote about these changing demographics in his book America Alone, and now there is a video available on YouTube ( that supports his beliefs about the growth of Islam. I urge you to read the book and watch the video, but here are some of the statistics and facts that you will see in the video. It explains that for a culture to maintain itself for over 25 years, it needs a fertility rate of 2.11 children per family, that no culture has ever survived a fertility rate of 1.9 and that a fertility rate of 1.3 is an irreversible condition. The average fertility rate for all the countries in Europe combined is 1.38, with France at 1.8, England 1.6, Greece 1.3, Germany 1.3, Italy 1.2 and Spain 1.1. However, the fertility rate for the Muslim population living in Europe is 8.1, which means that the actual fertility rate of indigenous Europeans is very, very low. Since urban planners like to base their concepts on the young adult population, consider this. In Southern France, 30 percent of the population of people 20 years old or less is already Muslim, and in major cities like Nice, Marseilles, and Paris, it is 45 percent. Projections are that by the year 2027, one out of every five of the French will be Muslim and in 39 years France will be a Muslim nation. In England, over the past thirty years, the Muslim population has grown from 82,000 to 2.5 million. In the Netherlands, half of all newborns are Muslim, and they believe that within 15 years half of the population will be Muslim. Russia already has 23 million Muslims, which is 20 percent of its population, and within a few years they believe 40 percent of the Russian army will be Muslim. In Belgium, a fourth of the population is already Muslim, and half of their newborns are Muslim. In Germany, they have already conceded defeat. The Germany Federal Statistics Office is reported to have said, “The fall of the German population can no longer be stopped. Its downward spiral is irreversible…It will be a Muslim state by 2050.” On average, by 2025, a third of all children born in Europe will be Muslim, and the combined total of 52 million Muslims in Europe will double over the next 20 years. Canada’s fertility rate is 1.6 and its population grew by 1.6 million between 2001 and 2006. 1.2 million out of the 1.6 were immigrants. In the United States, our fertility rate is 1.6, but when you include the Latino population, it is 2.11. In 1970, there were 100,000 Muslims in American. Now there are 9 million. The Catholic Church has stated that the number of Muslims has now exceeded the number of Catholics in the world, and that within 5 to 7 years, Islam will be the dominant world religion. So how will this affect the urban environment in America if we allow Islam to grow to the same degree as it has in Europe? That will depend on what kind of Islam is dominant, but regardless of whether it is the moderate or radical type, life will be much different, including the ways our cities are designed. The first infrastructure changes we will see will be just like in Europe; churches will be converted to mosques. Before there is Muslim majority in America, there will likely be a flood of Europeans leaving their countries to escape to America as their countries are slowly taken over by Muslims. They will need to leave because it will be far too dangerous for them to stay. The reality is that today’s ideals of urban planning will not matter much in the face of an Islamic majority. The culture is simply too different, and the priorities of today’s urbanites will be shunned by Muslims. And if you don’t believe our lifestyles won’t be changed, look at how much our lives have already changed due to Islam. Barring some miracle, Europe may be beyond redemption already, but America still has a chance to preserve its freedom, if only its citizens will recognize the danger and stand against Islam in all its forms.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

U.S. Jews Must Wake Up to Homegrown Terror Threat

While the nation’s attention is again focused on a foiled act of homegrown terrorism, this time in Oregon, the Jewish community has good reason to stay on high guard. A new FBI report on hate crimes shows that Jews are targeted more often than any other religious group in the United States.

While this is nothing new — since 2000, Jews have consistently comprised the majority of victims of such hate crimes — the new report reveals that this year, 71 percent of hate crimes based on religious bias targeted Jews, the highest percentage of such crimes directed at Jews in a decade.

According to the FBI, Jews are targeted 8.7 times more than Muslims, 18 times more than Catholics and 24.5 times more than Protestants.

If that wasn’t disturbing enough, al-Qaida now presents a new and more direct threat to the American Jewish community: One of the packages in last month’s foiled al-Qaida cargo bomb terror plot was addressed, accurately, to a Chicago synagogue. The plot is a reminder that al-Qaida, nine years after 9/11, continues to target the United States in every possible way. Significantly, this was the first time that al-Qaida directly targeted Jewish institutions in our country.

Why Jewish institutions? The most recent issue of Inspire magazine, published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, explained: “Today we are facing a coalition of Crusaders and Zionists, and we in Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula will never forget Palestine.” It went on to say that Chicago synagogues were targets because they are in “Obama’s city.”

This demonizing of Jews is nothing new for al-Qaida. In February 1998, Osama bin Laden and his associates made al-Qaida’s first public pronouncement, issuing a fatwa in the form of a news release that announced the establishment of a terrorist coalition called the International Front for Jihad against Jews and Crusaders. It called on “every Muslim who believes in God and hopes for reward to obey God’s command to kill the Americans and plunder their possessions wherever he finds them and whenever he can.”

In recent years, the Jewish community has been threatened by homegrown terrorists inspired by al-Qaida and like-minded jihadist organizations. The foiled 2009 car bomb plot by four extremist Muslim converts to attack two synagogues in the Riverdale section of New York City’s Bronx borough is perhaps the best-known example. The four were convicted in October.

Less well known is the series of attacks against Jewish targets planned by Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, a self-described jihadist who carried out the June 2009 shooting at an Arkansas military recruitment center, killing a U.S. soldier and wounding another before he was arrested. Muhammad had an ambitious plan to assassinate rabbis in Arkansas and Tennessee, and subsequently carry out a series of attacks on Jewish institutions in the Northeast.

In 2005, a Los Angeles homegrown terror cell of extremist Muslim converts calling itself Jamiat Al-Islam Al-Sahih plotted to attack synagogues, the Israeli Consulate and the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport.

“This cell was closer to going operational at the time than anyone since 9/11,” Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Downing said.

Although Jews are top targets in the crosshairs of Islamist terrorists, many in the Jewish community have been slow to open their eyes to this reality. We are grateful for the responsiveness of the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to our security concerns, but American Jews also must take responsibility by instituting training for security awareness at Jewish institutions and working together with the Secure Community Network to introduce Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign within our community.

Failing to address the reality that Jews are being targeted places our community in further peril. As the great sage Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who am I? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Facing Attacks by Home-Grown Terrorists, Senior Adviser Warns

In unusually candid remarks, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, said that the nation’s defences would be probably be breached by a home-grown radical, after a year-long period containing several failed or thwarted attacks that had seen the most intense terror activity since September 11, 2001. “Although we aim for perfection, perfection will not be achieved. Just like any other endeavour, we will not stop all the attacks,” he said. “If there is an attack, it may well be tragic. Innocent lives will be lost. But we still have to be honest, and we have to be honest that some things will get through.”

He said: “To say that we will not successfully defend against all attacks is certainly not to say that we are not trying to stop all attacks. We are.”

The FBI last week arrested Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a 19-year-old Somali-born American, for plotting to detonate a bomb as thousands of people attended the lighting of the Christmas tree in the centre of Portland, Oregon.

Speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Mr Leiter, who advises the US government on the terrorist threat, said: “In this era of a more complicated threat, a more diverse threat and lower-scale attacks to include individuals who have been radicalised here in the homeland, stopping all the attacks has become that much harder.”

The threat has risen in part because of the increased involvement of the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born radical cleric.

Known as AQAP, it has pursued smaller attacks perpetrated by lone operators which have complicated the challenges facing the US security services still battling the threat of another attack on the scale of September 11.

AQAP and Al-Awlaki, now living in Yemen, have been linked to Maj Nidal Hasan, an army psychiatrist, is accused of killing 13 people during a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas in November, 2009, and to Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the Nigerian student suspected of the failed attempt to blow up a flight headed for Detroit last Christmas.

Other “lone wolf” plotters based in the US have operated with a small amount of contact with any handlers in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Osama bin Laden and the core leadership is now based.

In October Faisal Shahzad, an American citizen born in Pakistan, was sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to planning to blow up a car packed with explosives in New York’s Times Square. The FBI recently arrested a man who had allegedly surveyed train stations in the Washington area as potential targets of terror.

Conceding that the anti-terror services had made errors under President Barack Obama, particularly in the Christmas plot, Mr Leiter however asserted that hard work played a part in bringing about what critics have called lucky outcomes.

Having been nominated for his current role by George W Bush, he said neither Republicans nor Democrats should claim they had all the answers in protecting the country.

Offering some positive news, he said that the threat of a catastrophic attack on the US planned by the traditional al-Qaeda leadership had diminished, along with the likelihood of a chemical, biological or radiological attack.

In reacting to the next attack America should, he advised, avoid talk of a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam that merely feeds al-Qaeda’s propaganda, and should avoiding portraying terrorists as all-powerful.

“We should not assume that the terrorists are ten feet tall. The fact that they get through at times in a relatively free and open society does not mean that they are all-powerful. We have to be taller than them. We have to be more resilient than them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


The Apple That Never Goes Brown: Biotech Firm in Bid to Sell Genetically Modified Fruit for Lunchboxes.

A Canadian biotechnology company has asked the U.S. authorities to approve a genetically modified apple that will not brown soon after it is sliced.

The apple variety, which is being marketed as ‘Arctic’, has had the genes responsible for producing the enzyme that induces browning switched off.

Okanagan Specialty Fruits say the new type could boost sales of apples for snacks and salads and lower costs.


Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety said: ‘Scientists have been saying they’re only turning one thing off, but that switch is connected to another switch and another switch.

‘You can’t just do one thing to nature. It’s nice to think so, but it just doesn’t work that way.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A New Dark Age for Germany?

Germany’s offshore wind power projects are paving the way to frequent blackouts.

Thousands of bureaucrats are preparing for another cushy climate confab in Cancun — while Senators Bingaman, Brownback and Reid are contemplating how to ram renewable energy standards through a lame-duck session. If they’re wise, American voters and congressmen will pay extra careful attention to the awful dilemma of German climate and energy policy, as exemplified by recent events, and make sure their country doesn’t make the same “green” mistakes that Germany did.

Barely two months after the inauguration ceremony for Germany’s first pilot offshore wind farm, “Alpha Ventus” in the North Sea, all six of the newly installed wind turbines were completely idle, due to gearbox damage. Two turbines must be replaced entirely; the other four repaired.

Friends of the project, especially Germany’s environment minister, Norbert Roettgen, talked of “teething problems.” The problem is far more serious than that, for wind turbines in the high seas are extremely expensive for power consumers, even when they run smoothly. When they don’t, the problem intensifies. Germany could face blackouts — a new dark age.


Monster turbines rated at 5 megawatt maximum power generation impose high costs even when — perhaps especially when — they are running full blast. Because each turbine costs $5,200 (€4,000) per kilowatt-hour in upfront investment, Euro legislators have decreed that turbine operators must be rewarded with 20 cents in incentives for every kWh generated on the high seas.

Therefore, Europe’s energy consumers must pay 20 cents per kWh generated, plus an additional 5 cents per kWh for transmission costs. They must pay this regardless of whether they need the electricity at the moment, and despite the fact that a kWh of wind electricity is worth less than 3 cents on the Leipzig Power Exchange, due to the intermittent and highly variable nature of wind.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Foreigners Alarmed by Swiss Expulsion Vote

Swiss voters’ decision to adopt tough new regulations on the deportation of non-Swiss convicted of serious crimes has provoked widespread concern among foreigners.

On Sunday some 53 per cent of voters backed a rightwing initiative for the automatic expulsion of non-Swiss offenders convicted of crimes ranging from murder to breaking and entry and social security fraud.

By accepting the initiative the Swiss people have sent a clear signal that foreigners are basically undesirable and suspicious, the Second@s Plus organization, which represents second- and third-generation foreigners, said in a statement.

“This is another sign that foreigners are tolerated but not respected,” Second@s Vice-president Ivica Petrusic told

The People’s Party says immigrants to Switzerland are disproportionately responsible for crime but the figures are contested.

Second and third-generation immigrants are exposed, as the children of immigrants do not automatically get Swiss citizenship, so the rule would mean sending some people who were born and brought up in Switzerland to countries they know nothing of. Convicts would serve their sentence in Switzerland first and then be deported without appeal.

“We’re creating more laws for different classes and subgroups of people. We’re contravening our own Constitution which says that we are all equal — this is the end of integration,” said Petrusic.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party, which launched the proposal, was behind last year’s initiative that imposed a ban on the building of Islamic minarets.

Petrusic said he was extremely worried what the People’s Party may have up its sleeve: “This kind of strategy of fear works well. I’m concerned that they might try to introduce a way of taking people’s Swiss nationality away from them. If it continues in this direction, it’ll end badly.”

Foreigners in Switzerland made their voices heard on the internet. “The sad result shows that popular fear-mongering is stronger than healthy common sense,” “very distressing,” “expected but not hoped for,” and “such initiatives only increase hatred and don’t get us anywhere” declared people on the “Nein, Nein” (no, no) campaign Facebook page.

Emotional reaction

José Raimundo Insúa Méndez, secretary of a Bern-based service for Spanish immigrants, said there was “lots of concern” among younger Spanish immigrants who may have been born in Switzerland and lived here all their lives without applying for Swiss nationality.

“It’s a very dangerous step,” he said. “Direct democracy is fantastic, but in recent years people are voting in a very instinctive way without reason. This is not normal.”

Paolo Da Costa, president of Comites Zurigo, an Italian government-backed organisation for Italians living abroad, agreed the vote had been an “emotional reaction”.

“We are upset by the vote,” he said. “We understand what the Swiss want, but this isn’t the solution. “

Tidiane Diouwara, president of the Forum des Etrangers in Lausanne, said members of the 52 foreigner associations he represented had expressed their “indignation” and “disbelief” about the deportation vote, which was “a threat to peace”.

“Foreigners make up 20 per cent of the population and they are largely integrated; where will this machine stop,” he commented, adding that in the future political parties and foreigner groups had to do a better job of explaining such votes to people.


Bashkim Iseni, a 39-year-old political scientist from Lausanne University, said the vote was “regrettable” and underlined other political parties’ failures to cope with the People’s Party’s winning “anti-foreigner” strategy.

“There are problems of integration,” said Iseni, who was born in Macedonia to Kosovar parents, but grew up in Switzerland. “But denouncing foreign criminals is the wrong approach.”

But not everyone was unhappy with Sunday’s result.

“I think it’s good,” said Ferhat Aydin, who heads the Turkish association of the small town of Monthey in canton Valais.

“I would have voted the same. People need to adapt in the best possible way to a country. That’s the best thing for the country they are in and for the country they’ve come from. People who don’t integrate, particularly in the sense where one becomes aggressive and criminal, should be punished.”

One major unanswered question is how the vote will be implemented in practice.

“We hope that when it is translated in detail into law, they will make sure it doesn’t become automatic, particularly with regard to the secondos, for whom Switzerland is their home — their only home — that they make sure that they keep some kind of proportionality,” Petrusic told Swiss national radio.

Kahraman Tunaboylu, president of the Swiss-Turkish association, was not too concerned, however.

“I don’t see it as tricky. The other half of the population does not agree with this result… there’s an emotional mood which was exploited by those who initiated it. I think [new Justice Minister] Simonetta Sommaruga will deal with this correctly.”

Simon Bradley,

(With input from Jessica Dacey and Julia Slater)

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

German Jews Elect First Post-Holocaust Generation Leader

Germany’s Jewish community, which is thriving thanks to immigration from the former Soviet Union, has elected its first post-war leader who is not a survivor of the Holocaust.

Dieter Graumann, vice president of the Central Council of Jews, Germany’s main Jewish organisation with nearly 110,000 members, was the sole candidate to replace 78-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, who did not stand for re-election over the weekend.

Born in Israel in 1950 and raised in Frankfurt, Graumann said he wanted to let in a little “fresh air” to the council with an approach that served both old members and the new arrivals.

“We are building a whole new Jewish community,” he told reporters after his election. “Plurality is the new Jewish reality.”

Graumann said the council must evolve to grapple with the breathtaking transformation of the community since Germany threw open its borders to Jews from the ex-Soviet Union after the fall of the Berlin Wall 21 years ago.

“We stand before major challenges,” he said. “We want to make the Central Council fit for the future.”

Before 1933, Germany had one of Europe’s strongest Jewish communities with about 600,000 members.

Since 1989, when there were about 30,000 Jews living in Germany, some 220,000 Jews have arrived from the former Soviet Union. In the early 1990s, more Jews were immigrating to Germany than to Israel.

Graumann arrived in Germany at the age of 18 months. His experience of the Nazis’ genocidal campaign was limited to his parents’ accounts of the concentration camps where they were imprisoned.

“My generation always had the feeling it could not burden its parents too much,” he told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in its weekend edition.

Knobloch faced criticism that she did not do enough to assist the newcomers, many of whom spoke no German when they arrived and are less observant of Jewish theology, and make the council attractive to its diverse constituency.

But Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle praised her efforts in a letter congratulating Graumann on his election.

“(The council) is an outstanding institution whose absence would be inconceivable in public life,” he said. “It has made an invaluable contribution in the areas of integration, education and the peaceful co-existence of religions.”

The outgoing leader was born just months before Adolf Hitler rose to power in January 1933 and survived the Holocaust in hiding with a Roman Catholic family.

Knobloch, who had led the council since 2006, said she was confident Graumann would help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

“He did not experience the horrors of National Socialism himself but he grew up with the stories of his parents,” she told Saturday’s Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. “That is why I do not see this (his election) as a break with the past.”

She said she hoped Graumann could motivate the younger generation to become active members of the Jewish community and the German political scene.

“Young people must urgently help shape the political future of their country because they have every reason to treasure this country, to honour this country and even to love this country,” Knobloch said.


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

Germans Less Tolerant of Islam Than Neighbours, Study Finds

Germans are more critical of Islam and less tolerant of building mosques than their neighbours in France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal, a new survey has found.

Despite the other European countries’ often fractious relationships with their Muslim communities, people there were relatively positive about Islam and its followers compared to Germany, according to the survey commissioned by a research group based at the University of Münster.

According to weekly Die Zeit, which reported on an advance version of the study on Thursday, four out of 10 Germans in the former west of the country and 50 percent in the former east feel threatened by foreign cultures.

“Compared with the French, Dutch and Danish, a rigid and intolerant grasp of foreign religions predominates in Germany,” said the head of the project, sociologist Detlef Pollack. “The statement that Islam is part of Germany is completely disregarded in the opinions of Germans.”

The polling firm TNS Emnid, on behalf of the Münster researchers, surveyed 1,000 people each in the former west and former east Germany, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and Portugal. The study will be officially released later on Thursday in Berlin.

Fewer than 5 percent of Germans, compared with more than 20 percent of Danes, French and Dutch consider Islam to be a tolerant religion, according to the study.

Each of the other countries has had high-profile conflict with their Muslim communities — such as the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in Denmark, head scarf controversies in France and the murder of anti-Islam filmmaker Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, as well as the rise of far-right politician Geert Wilders.

Nevertheless, a clear majority of people in those countries have a positive view of Muslims. By contrast, just 34 percent of western Germans and 26 percent of eastern Germans are positive about Muslims.

Most Germans saw barely any positive side to Islam, Pollack said. Less than 30 percent in the former west supported the building of mosques, while in the former east the figure was less than 20 percent. The acceptance of minarets or the adoption of Muslim holidays received even less support.

In Denmark, by comparison, more than half of respondents supported the building of mosques, while in France and the Netherlands the figure was about two-thirds and in Portugal it was nearly three quarters.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Here it Comes, Durban 3

Il Giornale, November 23, 2010

The UN never ceases to amaze. Just when we thought we had become immune to all the poisonous concoctions that get dished out, once again, ten years down the road, we are being offered a remake of the notorious “Durban 1”, the UN conference against racism which—to everyone’s horror—was transformed into a racist conference against Israel and the Americans. At that time, incredulous after the speeches by Mugabe, Fidel Castro and Arafat, who condemned in chorus the colonialist West and racist Jews, the Canadians, Americans and Israelis walked out. Later on, in 2009, when the UN organized “Durban 2” in Geneva, the Italian government, which had learned its lesson, refused to send a delegation. And, in fact, our entire parliament, from left to right, voted a resolution rejecting any anti-Semitic and anti-West sideshow. The protagonist this time was Ahmadinejad who took the opportunity to repeat his denial of the Shoah and promise to exterminate all Jews. Backing him was a plethora of NGOs who, undaunted, assisted the UN in its “anti-imperialist” campaign, as they had done with the violence in Durban in 2001.

So here we are again. According to the UN schedule, as Anne Bayefsky in “Eye on the UN” warns us, today the Third Committee of the General Assembly must vote on a resolution proposed by Yemen specifying all the details (including the date set probably for September 21, 2011, namely the day before the General Assembly annual opening in order to have the greatest number of heads of state) of a decision already passed by the General Assembly in 2009. It provides for the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Durban 1 and reconfirms its extremely violent platform. In 2009, Italy voted against it, as did Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Israel, the Marshall Islands, the Netherlands, Palau, Poland, Romania and the United States. But a majority of 128 countries, backed by the entire Muslim world, non-aligned countries and a good number of African countries, kicked again the ball toward the net, through the “Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration” which, having met in Geneva October 11-22, decided that this General Assembly will bring back the epic of Durban.

It is a saga that, as journalist, I remember well, as I covered the conference in South Africa in 2001. Those were just the days before the attack on the Twin Towers and never was a hate scenario better laid. Durban was the premise to Ground Zero. While from the podium speakers heaped on the US and Israel all the sins of the world and demanded that they pay the penalty, Jews wearing kippahs had to protect themselves against the demonstrators touting portraits of Bin Laden (which at the time I saw and reported on) and hounding the Jews. The Jewish centers in the city were stormed and closed and the press conference of the Israeli delegation was violently assaulted and interrupted. Israel was compared to Nazism and accused of apartheid in order to claim, particularly in South Africa, its lack of legitimacy. At the same time, Americans were demanded to handsomely recompense Africa for damages from slavery. The fact that, for centuries, the Arabs were cruel slave traders who deported Blacks from Africa, had become a memory denied and forgotten.

The Durban declaration that they now want to resurrect and celebrate again, singles out Israel as a racist state, without naming any other country in the world. The myriad types of ethnic and religious discrimination that infests the world, for the declaration does not exist and it doesn’t even say a word about the thousands of massacres that have bloodied the globe for reasons of the color of one’s skin or beliefs: not the 165,000 Christian victims per year, for 80% in the Muslim world, are mentioned; not the tragedy of the Tutsi in Rwanda nor that in Darfur and not that of the Uiguri or Kurds, let alone the persecution and discrimination of Jews in numerous Eastern countries and the growing anti-Semitism now being seen again in the West. Re-approving the Durban document means rekindling, with the elephantine power of the UN General Assembly, a whole series of institutional initiatives giving rise to cultural and economic boycotts, discrimination against athletes, artists and scholars and proliferating the accusations of war crimes to any Israeli official in sight. It means reviving manifestations of hate in which the swastika and the Star of David overlap and the hunting season on Jews is declared open, the result being an exponential growth in anti-Semitic incidents. This makes many people happy, very happy.

Above all, it means dragging the UN into cultural and political disgrace, making any real possibility for anti-racist initiatives even more remote. Who could imagine this organization fighting against ethnic and religious discrimination if the opportunity to do so is used to persecute Israel and satisfy the enemies of the West? We can only hope that Yemen’s resolution will be voted down, but we’re not counting on it. In the meantime, in any case, Patrick Ventrell, spokesman for the US delegation to the UN, said that the United States is against the proposed date, September not being “an appropriate time”.

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

Italy: Mexican Women Fined for Night-Time Dip in Rome Monument

Rome, 29 Nov. (AKI) — Municipal police in Rome fined two Mexican women tourists 160 euros each after they took a prohibited overnight dip in Rome’s famous 17th-century Trevi fountain at the weekend. It was the latest apparent bid to recreate the iconic scene from Federico Fellini’s 1960 film La Dolce Vita when Anita Ekberg and Marcello Matroianni frollicked in the fountain at night.

One of the young women took of her shoes, and other, her boots, and both waded in to the cold water of fountain, one wearing a skimpy black dress, and the other, a short skirt. A crowd of their friends reportedly cheered them on and took pictures.

The stunt came to an end when police ordered the women out of the fountain. They appeared not to speak Italian and only managed to say: “Felllini!”.

Police said the women both paid their fines on the spot — apparently a rare occurrence. The Fellini-style dip reportedly caused no damage to the fountain.

Earlier in November, a homeless Romanian, dubbed ‘Attila the Hun’ was also fined 160 euros by police after he staged a spectacular diving display in the historic fountain.

The Trevi fountain is Rome’s most popular for dips, followed by Piazza Navona’s Four Rivers fountain designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the museum housing the ancient Ara Pacis monument, according to data cited by Rome’s Il Messaggero newspaper.

The Trevi fountain was designed by architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini in 1762. Pope Urban VIII originally commissioned Bernini to create the celebrated work.

Salvi used many of Bernini’s touches in the fountain’s design.

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

Italy: ‘Third Pole’ Takes Shape With Berlusconi Challenge

Fini loyalists, Catholic UDC to present no-confidence motion

(ANSA) — Rome, December 2 — A new ‘third pole’ at the centre of Italy’s political spectrum moved closer to becoming reality Thursday when House Speaker Gianfranco Fini and the Catholic UDC party decided to present a motion of no-confidence in the government.

The move also confirmed expectations that Fini’s Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party will not back Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a December 14 confidence vote crucial to the government’s survival.

Fini created FLI with his loyalists after splitting earlier this year from the PdL he co-founded with Berlusconi, leaving the government at risk of collapse as it is no longer sure of a majority in the Lower House.

Berlusconi has repeatedly said elections should be called if his coalition loses the vote.

But Fini and UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini want Berlusconi to quit to make way for the formation of a so-called government of ‘national responsibility’.

This would seek to keep a firm grip on Italy’s public finances and pass key reforms, including a revamp of a widely criticized electoral law, before the current parliamentary term elapses in 2013.

They did not say who they would want to lead this administration.

They are cool about the prospect of Berlusconi heading it, although experts do not rule this out.

Casini and Fini decided to present the no-confidence motion along with former Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli, the head of the small API party, and a handful of tiny groups.

“In the light of the current executive’s proven inadequacy, we call on the premier to quit to facilitate the opening of a new phase and avoid more political and institutional attrition and pointless maneuvering,” read a statement by the parties. “To this end a no-confidence motion signed by the MPs of the area of responsibility will be deposited in the next few days”.

Berlusconi blasted the move as reckless. “It’s irresponsible not to maintain Italy’s stability,” the premier told reporters at an OSCE summit in Astana Kazakhstan.

“I’m continuing to work for the country’s interests”.

FLI House Whip Italo Bocchino said opposition groups now have one vote more than they need to defeat the government in the confidence vote when the centrists’ numbers are combined with the MPs of the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and Italy of Values (IdV), who have signed a separate no-confidence motion.

The agreement between Fini, Casini and Rutelli may form part of a strategy aiming to break the existing bipolar system, dominated by Berlusconi’s PdL and their Northern League allies on the centre-right and the PD and IdV on the centre-left.

However, Fini previously said he was not interested in being part of a ‘third pole’ and the positions he has taken on some issues, such as coming out against Italy’s restrictions on assisted fertility, could conflict with the Catholic sensibilities of other centrists.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano will decide whether to call early elections or ask someone to try to form a new majority in parliament if the government loses this month’s confidence vote. photo: House Speaker Gianfranco Fini (centre), UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini (right) and Francesco Rutelli (left).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Moldovan Elections: A Deadlock on Europe’s Periphery

by Srdja Trifkovic

Occupying some two thirds of the old czarist province of Bessarabia, with the rivers Dniester to the east and Prut to the west, the Republic of Moldova is a small, poor, landlocked state. Its parliamentary election, held on November 28, should have been irrelevant to anyone except the faraway country’s three and a half million people, of whom we know but little.

There is more than meets the eye, however. A strategically significant strip of Moldova’s territory along the east bank of the Dniester has been under effective control of the breakaway government of Transnistria since 1990. The conflict has been safely frozen for 18 years, but Romania—since 2007 a member of the European Union—now wants to involve “Europe” in resolving it to its satisfaction. Bucharest has an irredentist agenda in the territories which had belonged to the Greater Romania (Romania mare) between 1919 and 1940, with an assertive posture in Moldova topping that agenda. The potential for regional instability is considerable.

In a joint statement, issued on 30 November, Baroness Ashton, the E.U. foreign-affairs chief, and Stefan Füle, the commissioner for enlargement, said that the elections give Moldova “an opportunity to consolidate political stability.” In fact they do nothing of the kind: with most of the votes counted, the “pro-Western” Alliance for European Integration (AEI) has won a half of the vote but remains three parliamentary seats short of the 61 needed to elect the new president. The Communists, who are morphing into Social Democrats and advocate accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, won 42 seats. Their leader and former president Vladimir Voronin remains Moldova’s most popular single politician. The “Europeans” are troubled by the animosity between Vlad Filat, the prime minister, and Mihai Ghimpu, the country’s acting president.

Another prolonged stalemate is now likely, reflecting Moldova’s old divisions and dilemmas. Up to a half of its people see themselves as Romanians, and perhaps a third favor unification. The rest say that they belong to a distinct nation, however, and would be loath to sever the ties of long standing, cultural as well as economic, with the Russian-dominated space further east. As for the view from Bucharest, it is that Moldovans east of the Prut speak are Romanians, period. Last January Romania’s president Traian Basescu declared in Moldova’s capital Kishinev, of all places, “I will never confirm that Romania’s border passes on the Prut.”

President Basescu regularly talks of reunification, and he is eyeing not only Moldova but also Ukrainian territories in the Danube Delta and in North Bukovina, annexed by the USSR in 1940. (He calls his vision “undoing the fruits of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact”). In May he warned that if Kiev has pretensions to Transdniestria, then Ukraine may face demands for the return of Southern Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina.

Romania’s national objectives and state interests, as articulated by its postcommunist political elite, are inseparable from the Moldovan problem.. Its key element is the claim that Romanians are civilizationally an outpost of “the West” amidst the “Eurasian” Slav-Magyar sea. Even in the 21st century they remain—in the words of historian Lucian Boia—Europe’s “last bastion before the immense, vague and unsettling space” left behind on the ruins of the USSR.

The parochial and quaintly ridiculous 19th-century myth of the Romanians as linguistic and cultural heirs to Rome has morphed, under the EU guise, into potentially destabilizing attempt to draw “the West” into disputes unworthy the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Muslim Imam Who Lectures on Non-Violence in Germany is Arrested for Beating Up His Wife

A Muslim imam who lectures on non-violence and advises the German government on interfaith issues has been arrested in Germany for beating up his wife.

Sheikh Abu Adam, 40, is now on remand in Munich while his wife, 31, is being guarded by police.

She was allegedly assaulted so badly that she suffered a broken nose and shoulder and numerous cuts and bruises.

Media reports claimed the woman, who has borne one of his ten children, wanted to live a more ‘western’ lifestyle and was allegedly attacked after telling her husband.

The police said they received a call from a lawyer hired by the victim.

Adam is alleged to have shouted a verse from the Koran at his wife as he beat her.

The line said: ‘Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them.

‘As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.’

The imam is said to have refused to let police officers into his home, but they forced their way past him because they feared the woman’s life was in danger.

Sheikh Adam is the Egyptian imam of the Darul Quran Mosque in Munich.

He is facing charges of causing grievous bodily harm and could face a jail term if convicted.

A week ago, he held a lecture at the city’s Catholic University entitled ‘An Islam which distances itself from violence’.

He also spoke at a recent conference called ‘meeting Islam in Europe’ and met German justice Sabine Leutheusser Schnarrenberger there.

Adam was assigned bodyguards on the outside because of his calls for Muslims to reject radical Islam. He is also being guarded while on remand from racist prisoners.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Nearly All Break-Ins and Car Thefts Go Unpunished

THE HAGUE, 02/12/10 — Less than 5 percent of break-ins and car thefts lead to any form of punishment, according to a calculation by civil servants’ journal Binnenlands Bestuur.

The police do not have more recent detection figures than those of the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS), which reported last week that the perpetrator of armed robberies was only punished in 16 percent of cases. Binnenlands Bestuur now reports, based on CBS figures for 2007, that 95.8 percent of cases of break-ins and car theft did not lead to any form of punishment.

A much-repeated complaint by victims of break-ins is that the police do not turn up to follow up on tracks and that the perpetrators are therefore not tracked down. This feeling chimes with the figures; of the 340,020 crimes of theft in 2007, 320,618 were unsolved. This is 94.3 percent. Among crimes of theft come break-ins and car thefts, the most frequently occurring crimes which face the Dutch.

The concepts used by the police of ‘clarified’ (one suspect in the picture) and ‘solved’ (one suspect questioned) say little about what happens in court. A very large portion of the suspects of ‘solved’ cases are not punished because the case is dropped.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Patten: The EU Will Never be a Real Power

The British commissioner oversaw EU external relations in 2000-2004 and is currently the chancellor of Oxford University (Photo: European Commission)

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Former external relations commissioner Chris Patten in a 2004 conversation with US diplomats explained why the EU will never be a “real power,” mused on the shady past of some EU leaders and said that Russian leader Vladimir Putin has “the eyes of a killer,” a cable published by WikiLeaks reveals.

Under the headline “Dining with Chris: Random thoughts from Relex commissioner Patten” US ambassador to the EU Rockwell Schnabel on 28 April 2004 penned down the comments made by the commission official “over rubbery fish.”

A British Conservative, Mr Patten expressed his scepticism that the EU will ever become “a real power,” because “there is always someone in the room who is overly cautious, and will insist on looking at matters ‘sensibly’,” the cable reads.

“To be a real power, Patten said, a country must be ready and able to adopt and implement a policy, even if the rest of the world considers it unwise. Europeans may agree or disagree with US policy, but they admire that the US is ready to carry out the policies it thinks best, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.”

On Russia, from where Mr Patten had returned a week before, he said Vladimir Putin, who was president at the time, had done a good job mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man’s character…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Survey Shows Germans Negative About Muslims and Jews

A survey recently conducted by the University of Muenster has found that Germans are considerably more negative in their views about Muslims and Jews than their European neighbors. Germans view Muslims and their religion, as well as Jews, more negatively than their European neighbors, according to sociologist Detlef Pollack, who led a study on religious tolerance by the University of Muenster in north-western Germany.

“Compared to France, the Netherlands and Denmark, there is a more rigid and intolerant understanding of extrinsic religions in Germany,” Pollack said.

Most Germans entirely disagree with a recent statement by President Christian Wulff that Islam “belongs to Germany,” he added.

The study also revealed a more prevalent anti-Jewish undercurrent in Germany than in other western European countries.

A little more than 28 percent of West Germans and 29 percent of East Germans had negative attitudes about Jews, the survey found. This compared to about 10 percent in the Netherlands, 12 percent in Denmark, and nearly 21 percent in France.

The figures and comparisons were also similar for other religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Germans view Islam as ‘intolerant’

The representative survey, which polled 1,000 people in each of the four countries mentioned, found that fewer than five percent of Germans thought Islam was a tolerant religion, compared to roughly 20 percent for the Danes, Dutch and French.

Germans are critical of women’s rights in Islam

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

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

In Germany, however, only 34 percent of those surveyed in the west of the country and 26 percent in eastern Germany had a positive view of Muslims.

When asked what they associated with Islam, more than 80 percent said discrimination of women, 60 percent said fanaticism, and only eight percent of West Germans and five percent of East Germans said that Islam was peaceful.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK Publishes Changes in War Crimes Arrest Law

LONDON: The British government on Wednesday published legislation designed to amend a law that puts visiting officials at risk of arrest for alleged war crimes, after the issue strained ties with Israel. The amendment would ensure that any private arrest warrants issued for an offence under certain international laws, including the Geneva ConventiZon, would first have to be approved by the chief prosecutor. Israel has postponed all strategic dialogue with Britain in protest at its law on ‘universal jurisdiction’, which has prompted a number of foreign politicians to postpone trips to Britain for fear of arrest. During a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a visit to Israel last month, Foreign Secretary William Hague pledged to act fast to amend the law, which he had previously denounced as ‘indefensible’. The existing law empowers courts to issue warrants against people accused of offences such as certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking, even if they were committed outside the country by someone who is not a British national. It will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks. afp

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK Tells Israel That Laws Will be Changed to Ensure Safe Passage for Officials

The UK has moved to restrict arrests for war crimes after a demand from Israel. The British Prime Minister said on Wednesday that politicians and officials from Israel would soon no longer be targeted by warrants. David Cameron said under a proposed new law the Director of Public Prosecutions would have to agree to an arrest warrant being issued against foreign officials. Under existing British law, private individuals can start criminal prosecutions, including for international war crimes. All they have to do is apply to a magistrate for a court summons or an arrest warrant. Britain has been trying to appease Israel by making the change to the law after Israeli politicians and officials were targeted by warrants brought by pro-Palestinian campaign groups. Ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni was one official who reportedly cancelled a trip to the UK in December due to a British court issuing a warrant for her arrest over Israel’s 2008-2009 war on Gaza. The arrest warrant had been applied for by Palestinian activists. Visits by other Israeli officials have since been delayed.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘We Let in Some Crazies’… David Cameron Claimed Labour Went Soft on Radical Muslims

David Cameron told the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan that the Labour government ‘let in some crazies’, leaked diplomatic documents have revealed.

In secret meetings before becoming Prime Minister, he promised the Americans he would toughen policy towards Pakistan.

Mr Cameron and George Osborne met Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to diplomatic cables made public by WikiLeaks.

The American put them under pressure to do more to combat terrorism by making use of the ‘striking connections’ between the Pakistani community in the UK and militants in their ‘home country’.

Mr Holbrooke reported to Washington: ‘On the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, Cameron said the UK had “gotten it wrong domestically”… he argued that PM 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”.’

The Conservatives also promised the U.S. before the election that they would be tougher on Pakistan — because unlike Labour they did not depend on votes from people with Pakistani connections.

Liam Fox, who is now defence secretary, criticised Labour for their pro-Pakistan approach in cables given to WikiLeaks.

David Cameron has apparently has apparently shifted the UK’s stance towards Pakistan since he was elected.

He visited India on a trade mission in June before telling Pakistan ‘not to face both ways’ when it came to tackling terrorism.

U.S. ambassador to the UK Louis Susman was told that ‘the Conservatives are “less dependant” than the Labour party on votes from the British-Pakistani community.’

Mr Susman added in the cable: ‘Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s (Her Majesty’s Government) foreign relations on the subcontinent are “skewed to Pakistan”.’

Britain has ‘deep concerns’ about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme, WikiLeaks documents showed.

Fears: Britain was concerned elements of Pakistan’s nuclear programme would find its way into terrorist hands

Documents from the latest cache of leaked US cables demonstrate that the UK and the US have similar anxieties about Islamabad’s nuclear arsenal.

US officials are quoted citing the danger of Pakistani fissile material finding its way into the hands of extremists.

The UK’s concerns were communicated to the US by Mariot Leslie, then the Foreign Office’s director general of defence and intelligence, at a meeting in September last year.

Now Britain’s permanent representative to Nato, she is quoted as saying that ‘the UK has deep concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons’.

She goes on to say that China could play a ‘big role’ in ‘stabilising Pakistan’.

The Ministry of Defence’s director general for security policy, Jon Day, warned US officials separately that relations between Pakistan and India were especially strained.

He expressed support for the encouragement of a ‘cold-war’-like relationship’ between the two countries that would ‘introduce a degree of certainty’.

He apparently went on to say that Pakistan was ‘not going in a good direction’.

The disclosures could test relations between Britain and Pakistan, a vitally important regional ally and neighbour of Afghanistan.

The Foreign Office said it would not comment on the detail of the documents obtained by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and published tonight by the Guardian.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Amnesty International Say Police Bill Will Let War Criminals Go Free

Law will make it harder to arrest Israeli officials in UK after critics said pro-Palestinian groups had been exploiting the system

Britain was accused by Amnesty International of handing a “free ticket” to suspected war criminals after the government published parliamentary legislation designed to make it more difficult to arrest Israeli officials and ministers on British soil. Kate Allen, the UK director of Amnesty International, warned that Britain had gone “soft on crime” after the government decided that the director of public prosecutions will have to approve arrest warrants of suspected war criminals. “This is a dangerous and unnecessary change,” Allen said of the measures, which were included in the police reform and social responsibility bill. “Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the UK will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law.”

The goverment indicated over the summer that it would change the way in which arrests of suspected war criminals can be made in Britain under universal jurisdiction. Israel postponed a “strategic dialogue” meeting with William Hague during his first visit to the country last month in protest at the current rules, which allow magistrates to order the arrest of suspected war criminals.

Critics say that pro-Palestinian groups have used the system to target senior Israeli figures visiting Britain. Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister who now leads the opposition as leader of the Kadima party, was forced to cancel a visit to Britain a year ago amid fears that she would be arrested for alleged war crimes committed during the war in Gaza.

The Israeli government has been pushing Britain to amend the law since 2005, when a warrant for the arrest of Doron Almog, a former military commander, was issued for alleged war crimes in Gaza. Almog refused to leave his plane when it landed at Heathrow after he was tipped off about the arrest.

The government explained the change in the explanatory notes to the police bill. It says the legislative amendment will “require the consent of the director of public prosecutions (DPP) before an arrest warrant can be issued on the application of a private prosecutor in respect of offences over which the United Kingdom has asserted universal jurisdiction”.

Amnesty International said the current system allowed victims of crimes to act quickly against suspected perpetrators. It said there was no need to change the law because there is no evidence that magistrates, who have to screen each request for a warrant with care, have acted on the basis of flimsy evidence. Allen said: “This sends exactly the wrong signal. It shows that the UK is soft on crime if those crimes are war crimes and torture. It risks introducing dangerous delays that could mean people suspected of the worst imaginable crimes are able to flee from justice.”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: British Government Proposes Bill to Tighten Universal Jurisdiction Laws

LONDON-Britain’s government has proposed a bill to tighten a law that allows private groups and activists to obtain an arrest warrant for visiting foreign officials associated with war crimes, officials said Wednesday. The bill aims to prevent activists from abusing the law, which is based on the principle of “universal jurisdiction” and allows British courts to prosecute foreigners for crimes against humanity committed anywhere in the world.

Foreign Secretary William Hague has promised for months to change the law after pro-Palestinian activists in Britain repeatedly used the law to seek the arrest of Israeli officials planning to visit Britain, causing tension between the U.K. and Israel. The Ministry of Justice said that the new bill would require the approval of government’s chief prosecutor to obtain an arrest warrant. Currently anyone can apply to a judge for a warrant. “The current arrangements for obtaining arrest warrants in respect of universal jurisdiction offences are an anomaly that allow the U.K.’s systems to be abused for political reasons,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “The proposed change is designed to correct these and ensure that people are not detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution,” he said in a statement.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor welcomed the move. “We see this as a positive initiative, and we welcome this move that is in line with promises made by the British government in the past. We hope that this will be completed as early as possible,” he said. The threat of arrest under the existing universal jurisdiction law has strained Israel-Britain relations. The two countries relocated their periodic strategic dialogue away from London last month because of the threats.

Deputy Israeli Prime Minister Dan Meridor cancelled a trip to London last month, fearing arrest, and former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni cancelled a trip to Britain earlier this year. Last year, Palestinian activists tried unsuccessfully to have Defence Minister Ehud Barak arrested during a visit to Britain. “The process should be completed quickly so that the two countries can put this affair behind them,” Livni said in a statement.

The bill is expected to be passed next year, officials said.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Government Announce Universal Jurisdiction Law Change

The government has at long last announced a change to Britain’s universal jurisdiction legislation. A year after Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni cancelled a London speech for fear of arrest the Home Office published details of alterations to the law on magistrates issuing arrest warrants for foreign politicians. The new Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill includes “a requirement for the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions to be given before an arrest warrant can be issued in a private prosecution for offences of universal jurisdiction.”

Although the reform will not stop war crimes being prosecuted in this country even if committed abroad by someone who is not a British national, it means that such prosecutions will no longer be at the whim of individual magistrates. After Ms Livni was forced to pull out of her British trip, and several other Israeli politicians either cancelled appearances or expressed concern about visiting, the then Labour government pledged to change the law but did not do so before their election defeat. Since gaining power in May the coalition government has also repeatedly promised to amend the law.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamic Extremism: Is This the Year’s Most Embarrassing Academic Report?

I’ve been in the Far East for a few days, so I missed the big launch of Robert Lambert’s Islamophobia report at the East London Mosque on Saturday. But now I’ve got back, what a very special treat it is!

Bob Lambert, as readers of this blog will know, is a former policeman who has turned himself into one of Britain’s most important fellow-travellers of Islamism. As head of the Met’s Muslim Contact Unit, he brokered the deal which turned over the North London Central Mosque, in Finsbury Park, to supporters of the terrorist group Hamas. He has also fiercely defended the hardline Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and its East London Mosque.

He is now an academic, generously funded by various Islamist groups and specialising in pseudo-scholarly defences of his clients — at least for the moment. I say that because the report he produced last week, under the name of Exeter University, must surely cause the Exeter authorities to ask whether they can any longer afford to be associated with him.

Reading it, I felt almost embarrassed for Lambert and his co-author, Jonathan Githens-Mazer, at having produced something so hopelessly weak. Far from being an academic or even pseudo-academic work, it is a political rant, and not a sophisticated one.

What else are we to make of passages such as the following, from page 14 of the report, about the people, sorry the “extremists,” who argued that Tory politicians should not attend October’s Islamist “Global Peace and Unity” event, where material glorifying terrorism was openly on sale:

“We conceive these extremists as neo-conservative ‘Know Nothings’, who, like their earlier American mid-19th century namesakes, represent a narrow view on British politics. Membership is limited — by class, by network, by education, by ideological orientation, and mostly by cliquishness. …They alone seek to define membership in the British club — on their terms or no terms at all, and is [sic] more than vaguely reminiscent of Lord Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’.”

Or this, about the anti-Islamist think-tank, the Quilliam Foundation (page 136):

“[F]rom the guide books to colonial counter-insurgency and Cold War counter-subversion…government and police chiefs have created and promoted the work of the Quilliam Foundation. We therefore refer to the government’s support for the Quilliam Foundation as discrimination because it treats Muslims unfairly and in a way that would not be countenanced in respect of other minority communities in the UK.”

Or the extraordinary passage about the IFE’s former president, and current head of the East London Mosque, Mohammed Abdul Bari, that opens this “academic research report:”

“Dr Bari is not the first advocate of social justice to be attacked by extremists from opposing ideological standpoints. It is no co-incidence that old Labour socialists Tony Benn, Ken Livingstone and Jeremy Corbyn were attacked as ‘sell outs’ by Frank Furedi, Claire Fox, Brendan O’Neil and Mick Hume when they were leaders of the vanguard Revolutionary Communist Party in the 1980s and then, in contrast, as ‘diehard socialists’ when the revolutionary communists re-invented themselves as extremist liberals in the 2000s. Unwittingly, [Quilliam Foundation researchers] [Ed] Husain, [Maajid] Nawaz and [Shiraz] Maher are following the same path as Furedi, Fox, O’Neil and Hume in wearing new ideologies like new coats. Significantly, in both instances, the switch from a revolutionary ideology in youth to a reactionary ideology in early middle age is advantageous in terms of political influence, personal pecuniary advantage and economic security.

“Just like Benn, Livingstone and Corbyn, Dr Bari has not moved an inch in his commitment to social justice while his arch detractors have undergone role reversals. Indeed, just as extremists like Husain and Fox often mature into reactionary scourges of their younger selves mainstream politicians like Benn, Livingstone, Corbyn and Dr Bari invariably stay true to their political principles throughout their mature years.”

This is semi-deranged, the stuff of Private Eye’s Dave Spart.

The “research report’s” core “findings” are equally preposterous. They are, inter alia, that there is at the moment an outbreak of what the authors quite seriously call “terrorism” against Muslims in Britain. They say:

“Terrorism and political violence against Muslims is our deliberate and considered choice of description for a range of serious threats faced by Muslim communities in the UK… Threats of political violence from a diverse extremist nationalist milieu are every bit as credible as those that fall under an al-Qaeda umbrella… the government should treat both terrorist threats with equal importance and in the same way… Violent extremist nationalists in the UK have a present capacity to inflict death and destruction on a scale that is broadly comparable to their UK counterparts who are inspired instead by al-Qaeda.”

I think “broadly comparable” in this context must mean “not comparable at all.” The number of Muslims killed by “violent extremist nationalists” in Britain is nil, or very close to it. The number of people killed by al-Qaeda is 52.

Over the last ten years, half a dozen or so white right-wingers have indeed been convicted of possessing explosives and other weapons. But all were loners who were not acting in concert with any group, nor in most cases did they have any specific plans or targets. By contrast, there have over the same period been 127 convictions for Islamist-related terrorism in the UK, plus a number of other British subjects or residents convicted in other countries, and a number of further cases currently going through the British courts. Many of these convictions relate to serious and carefully-organised plots against specific targets involving substantial numbers of people.

The authors get round this little problem by redefining terrorism. In their words: “Terrorism cannot be understood only in terms of violence. It has to be understood primarily in terms of propaganda. Violence and propaganda, however, have much in common. Violence aims at behaviour modification by coercion. Propaganda aims at the same by persuasion. Terrorism can be seen as a combination of the two.”

Lambert and Githens-Mazer are undeniably well-qualified to talk about propaganda — but to equate, say, the anti-Muslim frothings of the English Defence League with the murder of people on the London Underground is an abuse of language that would not be tolerated in a tabloid newspaper, let alone an academic report.

Even on the actual violence side of their argument, there’s a problem. Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim in their report that there has been “an alarming rise in what can best be described as anti-Muslim hate crime.” They say that “violent attack[s]” against Muslim women wearing the niqab, burka or hijab “have become commonplace in parts of the UK.” They say that “intimidation and violence against Muslims has become warranted and routine” and that many Muslim communities are under a “state of siege.”

Though these are described as “research findings,” the report gives no research or evidence whatever to back any of them up, and no figures. Indeed, there are none to give. According to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), police have only been breaking down hate crime data into five strands, one of which is faith, since 2008.

We can, however, attempt to see whether Lambert and Githens-Mazer have a point by looking at overall hate crime figures in heavily-Muslim areas. Here, for instance, are the figures for race and/or faith hate offences in London’s main Muslim borough, Tower Hamlets. The majority of these, of course, would not have been crimes of violence.

2003/4 694

2004/5 600

2006/7 632

2007/8 440

2008/9 373

2009/10 353

I chose Tower Hamlets because the vast majority of its non-white population is Muslim, and therefore most of the victims here would have been Muslim. And the truth, in this borough at least, is the polar opposite of what Lambert and Githens-Mazer claim. In this Muslim area, there has been a 50% reduction in hate crime.

The figures for the first four years are from April to April and are from the annual reports of the Metropolitan Police Authority’s Race Hate Crime Forum. The figures for the last two years are October to October from the Met Police website.

In England and Wales as a whole, according to the latest Home Office statistics, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences has fallen by 11.4 per cent over the last four years for which figures are available (page 20 of this PDF.)

As I say, statistics for purely faith hate crime alone going back over a long period are harder to find. But the latest online minutes of the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, for the meeting held on 5 October 2010, show that in the months of August and September there were — wait for it — a grand total of seven faith hate crimes reported to the police in the borough, not all of which from the description in fact appear to be faith hate crimes. The previous minutes, for the 15 June meeting, showed a total of eight faith hate crimes between April 1 and June 14, of which only two were against Muslims.

It is true that earlier this week new figures from ACPO showed a year-on-year rise in reported faith hate crimes in England and Wales as a whole. These numbers, however, were not available to Lambert and Githens-Mazer when they wrote their report, and are described by Acpo as having been published this week for “the first time.”

Nor is it clear what faiths the victims were — if Tower Hamlets is any guide, the majority will not have been Muslim — or whether the increase is a longer-term trend (the only two years for which figures are available are 2008 and 2009, and it is unwise to compare figures for two years in isolation.)

Finally, according to ACPO, the total number of reported faith hate crimes, for all faiths, across the whole country, over the whole of last year was 2,083 — or six a day — less than half the number of, for instance, homophobic hate crimes. And again, the vast majority of those 2,083 crimes would not have been violent.

Buried deep in Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s report is the coy admission that, for all the authors’ inflammatory claims about waves of Islamophobic terrorism and communities under siege, there is, ahem, “insufficient data to establish [the] scale of anti-Muslim hate crimes.”

Even Britain’s Muslims themselves have, it seems, been distressingly reluctant to furnish the authors with the longed-for apocalyptic picture. Quite the funniest part of the report is where Lambert and Githens-Mazer complain that with many Muslims they interviewed “anti-Muslim hate crime was implausibly denied or demonstrably neglected by Muslim interviewees who had direct knowledge of it,” accusing them of “wilfully burying their heads in the sand.” False consciousness, eh, lads?

Further evidence of the dynamic duo’s iron-hard scholarly rigour comes on page 32, where they claim that “since 9/11 arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques, Islamic institutions and Muslim organisations has increased dramatically.” By page 104, however, they are stating: “How many out of approximately 1600 mosques, Islamic centres and Muslim organisations in the UK have been attacked since 9/11? Our research project aims to answer these questions…Much painstaking research lies ahead before we can provide an accurate picture” (my italics).

Deciding on the answer before you have done the research, or peddling false conclusions in defiance of the available evidence, are, of course, the most serious crimes in academia.

But the primary purpose of the Lambert- Githens-Mazer dodgy dossier is not academic; it is political. The authors’ real aim is not to defend Britain’s Muslims, but to defend their own paymasters, the Islamist leaders of the IFE and its allies. As they put it: “It is impossible to deal effectively with the multi-faceted problem of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred without grasping the nettle of neo-Conservative campaigning against effective, credible, politically-active Muslims like Dr Bari.”

The reason Islamists need to claim a rising tide of “anti-Muslim hatred,” however slender the evidence, is three-fold. First, it furthers their agenda of promoting distance between Muslims and non-Muslims. Second, it is aimed at frightening Muslims into their camp. Third, it enables them to stifle criticism; any attacks on Islamists can be dismissed as “Islamophobic” attacks against all Muslims.

Much of the report amounts to a cry of pain against the likes of me, Martin Bright, Qulliam and Policy Exchange who, the report flatteringly concedes, have helped weaken Islamism’s influence in the British state; and a call for Islamist and IFE-dominated bodies to be given back their “partnership relationships” with the authorities. (There’s also a whole chapter on my Dispatches documentary about the IFE; more on that tomorrow, but for now see Ted Jeory’s deeply-informed demolition of ithere.)

Lambert and Githens-Mazer’s client relationship is clear and direct. Their Exeter University unit, the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) — and this latest report — is funded by the Cordoba Foundation, which has been described by David Cameron as a “front for the [Islamist] Muslim Brotherhood.”

The Spanish city of Cordoba was, of course, the capital of the last European Islamic caliphate. The Cordoba Foundation’s director of research, Abdullah Folik, is a trustee of the IFE, which believes, in its own words, in creating a new caliphate in Europe and in transforming the “very infrastructure of society, its institutions, its culture, its political order and its creed … from ignorance to Islam.”

The report and the EMRC are also funded by Islam Expo, one of whose directors is Mohammed Sawalha, described by the BBC’s Panorama as a former senior commander in Hamas and put in by Lambert as a trustee of his favourite North London Central Mosque (not coincidentally, there is also a frothing defence of the mosque in the report.)

Sitting on the EMRC’s advisory board, among others, are Bari and Bashir Nafi, accused by the US of being a senior terrorist in Palestinian Islamic Jihad (he denies this.)

The report is so transparently shrill and dishonest that I really don’t think the Islamists have got their money’s worth. Even the usual suspects online and in the press seem to have ignored it and the report is no longer available to download from the Cordoba website. Perhaps they’ve realised what an own goal it is.

The more important financial question is for Exeter University. I know universities need to get income from wherever they can these days, but the price of this particular funding in terms of political pain, media attention and academic credibility could turn out to be rather high.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone Clutches Another Lead Lifebelt

One of the greatest peculiarities of Ken Livingstone’s campaign to be re-elected mayor is his determination to strap himself to some fairly non-vote-winning causes. He is backing the Tube strikers (indeed his campaign is based out of their offices), and fighting hard for various Islamic fundamentalists and their puppets. Today, to add to the collection, he also backs the students who have occupied various buildings of the University of London. Here’s a picture of him this morning addressing the occupation of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and here’s his statement a couple of days ago backing the occupation at University College London. Another great signal to the centre ground!

The intention, no doubt, is to build support among interest groups (union members, Muslims, students) who can be relied on to vote for Ken. It’s a classic Livingstone play but has proved a failure wherever it has been tried, by him and by others. The support generated may be deep, but it is also narrow; it can never substitute for broad support among non-activists; and it often alienates that broader support that you need to win.

For us students (of Kenology) the statement is interesting, since it focuses all its fire on the Tories — who were in fact relatively honest about the issue of tuition fees at the election — and none at all on the greatest targets of students’ wrath, the Lib Dems, who of course campaigned on a pledge to scrap fees, then did the exact opposite.

I dare say there is, as always with Ken, some kind of complicated tactical consideration here — perhaps he’s hoping for some Lib Dem second preferences — but it underlines the inadvisability of students looking to him as their champion. He’s interested in his future, not yours.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: London Placates Israel With War Crimes Arrest Law Change

LONDON — London sought Wednesday to soothe strained ties with Israel by publishing an amendment to a law that puts visiting officials at risk of arrest for alleged war crimes, sparking outrage from rights groups. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the change would ensure that private arrest warrants for offences under certain international laws, including the Geneva Convention, would first have to be approved by the chief prosecutor.

The move was welcomed by Israel, whose politicians and officials have been targeted by warrants brought by pro-Palestinian campaign groups, but Amnesty International said it gave war criminals a “free ticket to escape the law”. Ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni reportedly cancelled a trip here in December last year after a British court issued a warrant for her arrest over Israel’s 2008-2009 war on Gaza, following an application by Palestinian activists. The Jewish state also delayed a visit by senior military officers to Britain in January amid fears they could be arrested. Last month Israel postponed all strategic dialogue with Britain in protest at the so-called law of universal jurisdiction, prompting Hague to promise swift action on the issue. “

The UK is committed to upholding international justice and all of our international obligations. Our core principle remains that those guilty of war crimes must be brought to justice,” Hague said in a statement Wednesday. “This government has been clear that the current arrangements for obtaining arrest warrants in respect of universal jurisdiction offences are an anomaly that allow the UK?s systems to be abused for political reasons. The proposed change is designed to correct these and ensure that people are not detained when there is no realistic chance of prosecution.”

The existing law empowers courts to issue warrants against people accused of offences including certain war crimes, torture and hostage-taking, even if they were committed outside the country by someone who is not a British national. The amendment has been tacked on to the police reform and social responsibility bill, which outlines widespread reform of police forces in England and Wales. It will be debated in parliament in the coming weeks.

During a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel last month, Hague promised to act fast to amend the law, which he had previously denounced as “indefensible”.

Yigal Palmor, the spokesman of the Israeli foreign ministry, welcomed London’s move to fulfil that pledge. “We are pleased to see the English government lay down this legislation as promised and look forward to the swift adoption of this amendment,” he said.

In July Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke told parliament that Britain’s commitment to international justice was “unwavering”. But he warned that allowing universal justice cases to proceed without solid evidence risked “damaging our ability to help in conflict resolution or to pursue a coherent foreign policy”. Officials insisted Wednesday that the new amendment would not hinder private prosecutions that were well founded, but would block any spurious accusations.

However Amnesty International’s UK director, Kate Allen, said the move would help people trying to flee from justice. “The current process allows victims of crimes under international law to act quickly against suspected perpetrators who could otherwise enter and leave the UK before police and prosecutors can act,” she said. “This is a dangerous and unnecessary change. Unless a way of guaranteeing a means of preventing suspects fleeing can be built into the proposals, then the UK will have undermined the fight for international justice and handed war criminals a free ticket to escape the law.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Plug Pulled on Islam-Domination Fest

Officials have pulled the plug on a controversial International Islamic Revival Conference at which organizers had hoped to promote the idea that Islam will dominate the world.

WND had reported on plans for the event in London when Shariah Belgium leader Abu Imran said, “We would like to revive the spirit of that Islamic state. And we work every day to build that state again. That Europe is rightly an Islamic nation is a fact. Even if it wasn’t, we believe that Islam will dominate the world and we are working for that concept.”

Now conference organizer Sheikh Anjem Choudary is blaming Prime Minister David Cameron for the shutdown of the planned Islam-power fest, planned last weekend.

Find out what Islam has planned for your, get “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

“The British government and the police regularly target the Muslim community in Britain,” Choudary said.

“They try to cancel any events which relate to calling for the Shariah, or talking about the foreign policy, or for saying that Muslims have the responsibility for getting rid of the intellectual obstacles that get in the way of bringing about the revival,” Choudary added.

Listen to an interview with Choudary: Choudary said his group has come to expect this response from local and national British authorities.

“So this is what we expect, especially from a government such as the British that have a foreign policy of occupying Muslim land,” Choudary added.

Choudary also takes aim at British domestic policy.

“Even in their domestic policy they have the most draconian legislation, so we do expect that local police and local governments and the British government put pressure on proprietors of venues to cancel our events,” Choudary added.

Choudary added that police and local government officials have put pressure on his associates in the past.

“The local councils made up of the MPs have been putting pressure and in fact they’ve visited some of the brothers who are involved in organizing this event. They basically came with officers and with people in the local governments and they said they were going to ensure this event will not take place,” Choudary continued.

“So with this we see that the pressure is directly linked with whole philosophy of the Cameron regime,” Choudary added.

Another British-based conference planner, Abu Usama agrees saying that police and politics pulled the plug.

“I believe the police were involved and we were not able to go ahead. And there probably, most likely, was political pressure from British officials to prevent the conference from going ahead,” Usama said.

British authorities however, are not so willing to admit their connection to the conference in one way or the other.

In response to the same question about political pressure on the Waterlilly Center to cancel the event, British Home Secretary spokesman Ben McKnight simply asked,

“On what basis would we be able to do that? The reports of cancellation all seem so speculative and heresay,” McKnight remarked.

Another spokesman for the Home Office delegated shutdown authority to the Metropolitan Police.

In a statement for the press, London Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Kate Southern said the department knew about the event.

“Police are aware of a planned Islamic conference to be held in Tower Hamlets on Saturday 27 November 2010,” the statement said.

A Waterlilly Conference Center/Tower Hamlets program coordinator who would only identify himself as Mr. Ullah, says the cancellation was because the management discovered the nature of the event.

“It was controversial and once we found out about it, it was cancelled immediately,” Ullah stated.

Listen to the interview with Ullah: Ullah adds that there was some intervention from the local authorities.

“Yes sir. Basically, we do a lot of community events here and from the Metro Office, we have agents who liaise here on a regular basis. So basically when we have events here, we have to notify them,” Ullah explained.

“It’s just a safeguard for the businesses themselves and for the general public. We have been doing this for the last four or five months now,” Ullah said.

He added that the event had captured the attention of the local governments.

“We did communicate with them straightaway and I do have some contacts and they update us with information and we give them the same as well. It’s a transparent thing,” Ullah continued.

“I got a call from one of the guys in that department and he was stressing about the whole issue. What they did is they spoke to us and if the information is true the event is cancelled immediately,” Ullah added.

Ullah also says the Waterlilly Centre staff received a tip from a group called the English Defence League, a group that had planned a counter demonstration for the same day.

Representatives with the English Defence League have not responded to WND’s requests for comment.

Ullah adds that the Waterlilly staff also cancelled the event because they believe they were misled.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad says that his message got through, even though the event was scrubbed, via YouTube.

There, he said, “We will never, ever compromise our stand.”

“I did deliver my talk and that was it. I was able to promote revival and I delivered my speech and I did it by internet,” Muhammad stated.

Listen to an interview with Muhammad: Muhammad said his advocacy of Shariah law and jihad has resulted in his arrest by Lebanese authorities.

“I have been arrested in my country for my beliefs,” Muhammad claimed.

Muhammad is free on bail in Lebanon after being charged with advocating terrorism in Lebanon.

Intelligence analyst and security Christopher Logan specializes in Islamic issues and operates the Logan’s Warning site. He says the sponsorship of the event goes beyond a few Muslims advocating Shariah law.

“They were at a minimum supported by Revolution Muslim. So ever since Revolution Muslim posted the threat to British MPs, I would say the authorities are watching and looking to crack down on any group with ties to them,” Logan observed.

This includes the Izharudeen group sponsored by Choudary.

The Revolution Muslim website was hacked and taken down in response to the site posting the threats against British Members of Parliament. The Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that Revolution Muslim British leader Bilal Zaheer Ahmad was arrested on Nov. 19 because of the threats made to British MPs.

WND previously reported how Choudary announced on CNN that his goal is Islamic domination of the world.

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

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Stay-at-Home Britain: 40% of Workers Take the Day Off as Snow Storms Paralyse the Country… With More to Come Tonight

Four out of ten workers stayed at home today as heavy overnight snowfall wreaked havoc on the nation’s transport network.

The big freeze tightened its grip on Britain with scores of cancelled railway services, the closure of four airports and chaos on the roads and with heavy snow warnings issued for Thursday night, travel problems could increase.

The impact of the changing weather is expected to cost the economy millions as 38 per cent of staff were unable to get to work and a further 43 per cent were late arriving.

Six inches of snow in Kent overnight saw rail operators throw in the towel and cancel many services, leaving commuters with no way of getting into the capital.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Scandal That Shames Britain: Join Our Campaign to End Appalling Treatment of the Elderly on NHS Wards as Complaints Reach Record High

Tens of thousands of elderly people are suffering appalling care at the hands of the NHS every year — pushing complaints to a record high.

For the first time last year, more than 100,000 patients and relatives were forced to issue complaints after being let down by the Health Service.

Hundreds of thousands more won’t have bothered to complain because they have so little faith that the NHS will listen.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Whitewashing a Neo Nazi: More Weirdness From Lambert and Githens-Mazer

Yesterday, we considered the strange and rather Islamophobic argument in the European Muslim Research Centre’s new publication, Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: that Lutfur Rahman could not oppose Hizb ut Tahrir, because to do so would “risk alienating his largely Muslim core support”.

Today, we turn to a really surreal section entitled: “Neil Lewington case: a community perspective”. The story starts with Neil Lewington, a neo Nazi terrorist who had constructed a bomb making factory in his bedroom. Lewington was arrested, drunk, on a train, and was found to be carrying bomb components. Material recovered during the subsequent investigation showed him to be deeply involved in a Nazi subculture. For example, he kept some of his plans in his “Waffen SS UK Members Handbook”.

Lewington was convicted of having explosives with intent to endanger life and preparing for acts of terrorism. His conviction was widely reported, and he was described in the press variously as a White Supremacist, a Terrorist, a Racist and a Neo Nazi.

The Report focuses on the reaction of a Mosque official, who they interviewed, in a town which might possibly have been one of the intended targets of Lewington case. Here is the relevant section, in which they recount the official’s understanding of Lewington’s motivation:

“What happen[ed] actually, the link, as we found in the media and we have spoken to police and, he [Lewington] had a intimate girlfriend. She lives in Lowestoft, and she used to have a husband, a Muslim husband, and they split us and she had lots of stories, you know, against the Muslim husband probably, and that guy [Lewington] pretty sympathise with her, and he probably has taken that on his own strike to get the Muslims sorted I think…”


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Why We’re a Laughing Stock With the Rest of the World

It would never happen in Siberia: Britain’s inability to deal with snow makes us the laughing stock of the world.

Whiling away the long hours in my steamed-up Toyota on Tuesday night, I thought of the many countries I have visited on foreign reporting assignments with far harsher climates than ours, and wondered why they never have these problems.

When it snows in New York, the roads are carpeted by feet of the stuff, not a slushy veneer, yet the Cadillacs glide freely along Madison Avenue all winter long.

Snowploughs are out all night every night clearing everything in their path. The same goes for Stockholm and Toronto.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Why Haven’t British Police Arrested Wikileaks Boss on Interpol Wanted List Even Though They Know Where He is?

Further revelations from the WikiLeaks website has prompted a flurry of questions over why founder Julian Assange isn’t under arrest tonight — even though police in London revealed they have known his whereabouts for more than a month.

Australian-born Assange, 39, has been hiding in plain sight in Britain despite being on Interpol’s wanted list.

The world’s biggest international police organisation took out a formal arrest warrant against the WikiLeaks boss following a request from Sweden, where he is sought on charges of rape and sexual molestation.

Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency has received the so-called ‘Red Notice’ international arrest warrant, which is also posted on the Interpol website, but has so far refused to authorise his arrest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Embassy: ‘Sweden No Longer Neutral’

USA’s Sweden ambassador has reported that Sweden is a “strong and pragmatic partner”, whose official non-alignment does not reflect reality, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks this week.

Among the wealth of documents that the whistleblower website Wikileaks has exposed include several hundred from the US embassy in Stockholm, showing a close security arrangement with the US, according to the Svenska Daglbadet daily.

In a classified telegram from May 4th 2007, prior to prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt’s visit to the USA, the then US ambassador to Sweden, Michael Wood wrote that Sweden was a “pragmatic and strong” partner.

Wood added that even though the official line is non-alignment, Swedish participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace and role as leader of the EU’s Nordic Battle Group show that the position is an untruth.

Then US president George W Bush is advised to discuss with Reinfeldt in private, if he wants to praise Sweden’s role in the cooperation against terrorism, a formulation which is taken to meant that the ambassador did not believe that the extent of the cooperation is known across the government offices.

Wood furthermore wrote that information from Sweden’s military and civil security services is an important source of information for the USA for Russian military conditions and for knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme.

According to further US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks this week, Sweden wanted Russian kicked out of the Council of Europe following the Georgian war in 2008.

“Sweden, as Chair of the Council of Europe, will seek to solicit support from other Council of Europe members against Russia and in the next few months will attempt to vote Russia out,” an August 2008 cable from the US embassy in Stockholm read.

“This is still in the early planning stages, but is a current goal of (Foreign Minister) Bildt,” the cable read.

“Current thinking is to use Sweden’s chairmanship of the Council of Europe (until Nov. 2008) to mobilise support to kick Russia out of the Council of Europe,” the note continued.

A spokesperson for Carl Bildt, who remains Sweden’s foreign minister, refused

to comment on the cable when contacted by AFP.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt also refused to comment on the cable, telling the TT news agency that “I cannot judge this. I don’t know what it (the cable) says or what Carl had in mind.”

According to the document, Sweden, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, the Baltic states, Slovenia, Slovakia and Bulgaria wanted “a strong statement against Russian action.”

Those countries disagreed with France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands,

Malta and Cyprus, for whom the priority was to “stop the suffering and ensure

the ceasefire is respected.”

Russian troops invaded a part of Georgia in August 2008 to push back Georgian forces who were seeking to retake control of breakaway region South Ossetia, and they still occupy 20 percent of Georgia’s territory.

At the time, Bildt evoked Adolf Hitler in condemning Russia’s attacks on Georgia over the breakaway region, saying the protection of Russians there did not justify the assault.

The conflict had chilled relations between Russia and NATO, and between Sweden and Russia.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Region Relatively Unscathed by Diplomatic Cables on Wikileaks

(AKI) — No earth-shattering revelations relating to Balkan countries have so far emerged in the quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables published on Sunday by the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks . But the region’s politicians and media are speculating on what might lie behind the release of classified cables exchanged between American diplomats around the world and the US State Department in Washington.

Prominent Belgrade analyst, Miroslav Lazanski, told Belgrade television on Tuesday the whole thing may have been engineered by the Americans themselves, “to send a message” to certain state leaders, but he did not elaborate on the possible motives.

Belgrade daily Politika said in a commentary the WikiLeaks affair looked like “the beginning of a global coup against secrets”.

But Lazanski pointed out that the material released so far seemed to have been “carefully selected”, suggesting that the whole operation was premeditated to achieve a certain goal, which he couldn’t define.

The ‘spiciest’ comment on Serbia was a comment by French diplomat Jean David Levitte, who allegedly said that Serbian foreign minister Vuk Jeremic made promises he didn’t keep and was no longer “a modern face of Belgrade”.

Responding to Levitte’s alleged remarks, Jeremic’s assistant Zdravko Ponos said it was not the job of the foreign minister to be liked by foreign diplomats but to represent the interests of his country and official policy. “Minister Jeremic has done exactly that,” Ponos said.

Interestingly, the Serbian government on Monday named another Jeremic’s aide, Borko Stefanovic, to head Serbia’s negotiating team in forthcoming talks with Kosovo Albanians who declared independence from Serbia in February, 2008.

Zagreb daily Jutarnji list quoted a report by American diplomat Daniel Fried as being told by former Croatian president Stipe Mesic and prime minister Ivo Sanader that former Serbian premier Vojislav Kostunica was a “nationalist” who staunchly opposed Kosovo’s’ independence.

On the other hand, Mesic and Sanader reportedly said that president Boris Tadic, though officially opposing Kosovo’s independence, held the same view as Croatia, which had recognised Kosovo.

Predrag Simic, a professor of political science at Belgrade University, said it was too early to asses the motives and the longer-term effects of the latest WikiLeaks disclosures.

“It will, above all have major consequences for the credibility of American diplomacy,” Simic concluded.

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

North Africa

Algeria: AIDS: Courses for Imams on Culture of Prevention

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, NOVEMBER 30 — Imams must also be prepared and capable of spreading the culture of prevention among young people, which is essential to fight AIDS. The National Foundation for health promotion and research development (FOREM), which organised a day to train imams on the fight against AIDS yesterday, is certain of their role in this important issue. “Imams have a social role. The people listen to them, as they are religious guides,” explained FOREM President Mustapha Khiati, “and they can play an essential role” in the fight against the disease. “Training these leaders,” he added, “is essential for our country”. A few days ago, the Health Ministry announced 600 new cases in Algeria last year

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Commodity Still in Short Supply

Despite a recent flurry of elections, true democracy is still a rarity in the Arab world. None of the explanations on offer is conclusive

AUTUMN has been a busy season for Arab democracy—or at least the semblance of it. Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan have all run noisy general elections, and the Iraqi politicians elected last March finally, last month, came close to ending the haggling over how to share their spoils. Yet none of these exercises seems to augur deep democratic change.

Even adding the elections held over the past few years in places as diverse as Algeria, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, the practice of democracy across the Arab world appears to produce much the same result: perpetuation of rule by well-entrenched strongmen, the demoralisation and sometimes radicalisation of the forces opposed to them, and the degradation of the word democracy, to the point where there is often little discernible difference between those Arab countries that make a show of practising it and those, like Saudi Arabia, that do not even pretend.

Two decades after the cold war’s end prompted a global wave of democratisation, and nearly a decade after George Bush tried to stir his own hopeful wave, Arabs seem to remain unusually immune to democracy’s spread. Of the 22 countries of the Arab League (of which admittedly several are not in fact Arab), only three can lay much of claim to being true democracies, and even those have flaws.

Iraq, despite continuing bloodshed, seems to have broken away from one-party rule but lacks a cross-sectarian consensus and decent institutions. Lebanon sustains an open and pluralist society, albeit fractured and polarised among and within sects and beholden to the feudal sway of powerful families. And the Palestinians freely elected a legislature in 2006, but the winning party was prevented from exercising power across the divided territories. Every Arab country now has a form of representative legislature, even if most have little power and some, like Saudi Arabia’s, are appointed by a king.

Some of these autocracies allow more pluralism than others. Morocco, for instance, has widened its space for debate. Others, such as Kuwait, allow a directly elected parliament, but the ruling royal family, still ultimately in charge, has often rued the legislative near-paralysis that followed. Several of the smaller Gulf monarchies seek gradually to give their people more of a say. But when democratic push comes to shove, the ruling monarchs are bound to slam on the brakes against democracy, for fear they may one day be toppled if people had a real choice.

Whether they are monarchies or republics, the Arab states tend to act much the same. In the words of Larry Diamond, a professor at Stanford University in California and an expert on democratisation, the Arab League has become, in effect, an autocrats’ club. Even where democratic reforms have been imposed, their trajectory appears more cyclical than linear. More dissent may be allowed and practices such as elections pursued, but usually for window-dressing and letting off steam, and only until such time as autocratic rulers feel threatened.

Egypt’s recent flawed election, which saw the ruling National Democratic Party push its parliamentary majority from 75% to 95% in a first round of voting, is a case in point. In the acerbic words of a columnist in al-Akhbar, a Lebanese daily, “the only progress witnessed by the electoral process was the rise in the value of the vote of the Egyptian voter from 20 [Egyptian] pounds [$3.50] to several hundred.”

The reasons for this democratic deficit have long been debated. Some point to Islam as a factor, others to the clannish and paternalistic nature of Arab societies. The fact that most Arab states rely on oil revenues rather than the taxation of consenting citizens is another oft-cited cause.

Some blame history’s influence. Many Arab countries are artificial polities created by European imperialists, and have necessarily focused their energies on state-building rather than encouraging citizens to participate. Others point to geopolitics, contending—among other things— that Arab rulers use their interminable struggle with Israel to justify repression at home. Others still hold that Western powers, chiefly America, have sustained Arab dictatorships to secure the flow of oil.

All these arguments have some merit but need weighing. As many opinion polls have shown, Arabs sound keen on the idea of democracy. But what is understood by democracy, in a region with so few examples of it, remains open to question. Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, once described the Egyptian army as an example of democracy, on the ground that a commander weighs opinions from his officers before making a decision. By this definition, his party may deserve its name.

Islam as an ideology may be less of a factor. Though some strands of the faith, such as Salafism, reject the “rule of man”, and therefore democracy, as incompatible with the “rule of God”, quite a few non-Arab Muslim states, such as Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia, are fairly democratic. Still, lingering uncertainty over the proper relationship between religion and the state creates discord over how much space should be allowed for debate.

Many Arabs with liberal leanings, for instance, quietly prefer authoritarian rule to the unknown quality of a supposedly democratic Islamic state, something which Mr Diamond, in a recent essay, reckons that some 40-45% of the people in four Arab countries seem to wish for. He notes that another region that came late to democracy, Latin America, was similarly hindered by fear among the elite of revolutionary left-wing ideologies. By contrast, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank, says the Muslim Brothers, just trounced at Egypt’s fake polls, have failed as an agent of change. So sure are they that God and history are on their side, he says, that they have grown complacent.

The pernicious influence of oil, along with other rents such as foreign aid, is easier to measure. Even non-Arab oil states, such as Angola, Russia or Venezuela, seem vulnerable to strongman rule. This is not just because the income frees states from having to bargain with their citizens. It is also because any transfer of power means that rulers instantly lose the entire prize, making them all the keener to keep hold of it. Politics becomes a zero-sum game.

But perhaps the biggest factor is that Arab autocrats’ skill at keeping their seats has by now been bolstered by custom. Most people are inured to authoritarian rule as a fact of life. As a peasant in the Egyptian province of Fayum lamented during the recent election, objecting to too many candidates vying for places on the pro-government ticket, “Things were so much easier a generation ago, when we all had to vote for the same man.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey is Like Iran

The WikiLeaks documents confirmed the great American and European anxiety over the dangerous regime in power in Turkey. At this time, there are two Middle Eastern entities already controlled by Muslim Brotherhood parties: Hamas in Gaza and Erdogan in Ankara. One should not be surprised to see the friendly ties between the Turkish regime and Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah: We are dealing with political Islam movements that use any means possible in order to take power and threaten others.

In the past, Turkey served as an important pro-Western anchor in the Middle East and played a stabilizing, responsible and constructive role. Today, it constitutes a threat and jeopardizes most Arab regimes, and also Israel, being a focal point of shocks and tensions. Erdogan is threatening regional stability with his thuggish, megalomaniac behavior and with his support for axis of evil elements.

The regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority and many others are greatly disturbed by the new, aggressive player that suddenly emerged against them. While everyone knows that Iran is an enemy, the current regime in Turkey still hides behind the glory of previous Turkish regimes which were friends of the West.

We better understand that we are dealing with a hostile regime that has no intention of giving up power in Turkey.

And now came Erdogan’s latest statement in Beirut, whereby “Turkey won’t remain silent” in case of a new war between Israel and Hamas or Hezbollah and made the threat substantive. From now own, according to its own declaration, Turkey is a potential military foe of Israel and may embark on war against us.

Kick Turkey out of NATO There is no choice: The time has come to change the global policy vis-a-vis the Turkish regime. The current state of affairs where Erdogan increasingly joins forces with the global axis of evil and provokes the Middle East, without paying a price for it, must draw to an end.

The US Congress must not approve any more advance arms deals with Turkey — for example, the F-35 stealth aircraft, which Ankara seeks. After all, these jets’ secrets may end up being transferred to Iran or used against Israel. Anyone who seeks to maintain Israel’s military advantage must not approve the sale of advanced weapons to Turkey. Meanwhile, the Turkish army at this time must be counted among Israel’s enemies, not its friends.

It’s also unthinkable that Turkey shall remain a member of NATO, as it engages in military cooperation with Iran and China, two states considered NATO enemies. According to WikiLeaks, Turkey transferred through its territory military and nuclear materials to Iran; Ankara itself reported that it engaged in joint Air Force exercises with China. How can such state, which may hand over NATO’s secrets to its enemies, be trusted? Turkey in NATO is like having Iran in NATO.

The Turkish foreign minister, who was characterized as a very dangerous man by the Americans, is of course playing dumb in Washington. However, it must be made clear to him and his masters that from now on Congress shall closely monitor Turkey. Should it reassume a responsible role in the Mideast, the US shall continue to assist it. Yet should it continue to issue threats and conduct itself thuggishly, America will consider imposing sanctions on it, as is the case with Syria.

After all, what is the difference between Turkey and Syria when both of them assist terrorists? Yet while Assad’s regime is secular and somewhat responsible (Assad asked Erdogan to calm down after the latte went wild following the flotilla affair,) the current Turkish government is a classic Muslim Brotherhood regime.

Erdogan himself misses no opportunity to engage in the wildest incitement against Israel. Europe has already changed its attitude to his regime, and today he has no chance of being accepted into the European Union. The time has come for the US Congress to also gravely address the growing Turkish threat.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Credibility in Doubt, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 29 — “The credibility of Wikileaks is questionable,” said Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan today in reference to comments expressed by US diplomats on Turkey and its leaders in documents released on internet sites. During a press conference held this morning in the Ankara airport before his departure for Libya, Erdogan said that, after the publication of the documents, “their seriousness will have be undergo assessment, and only afterwards will we be able to comment on them.” Concerning his visit to Libya, the Turkish premier said that he was going to Tripoli to take part in the third EU-Africa summit, in which he will be the guest of honour of the Libyan leader Gaddafi, from whom he will be receiving an award for human rights. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


EU Neighbours Are ‘Mafia States, ‘ US Cables Indicate

Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine are already or are swiftly becoming ‘mafia states’ according to a senior Spanish prosecutor cited in US diplomatic cables.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

‘Virtual Mafia States’

Russian Mafia an International Concern for US Diplomats

Leaked embassy cables show US diplomats are concerned about the growing power of Russian organized crime and believe it has contacts with the highest levels of government in Moscow.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: ENI ‘Seriously Considering’ Investing in Northern Afghanistan Says Minister

Dubai, 30 Nov. (AKI) — Eni, Italy’s biggest oil company, is considering making investments in northern Afghanistan, said Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, who was attending an investment conference in Dubai.

Frattini was in Dubai to attend an international conference on investing in Afghanistan.

“I spoke today with the Afghan ministers of energy and finance who confirmed their possible interest in working with Eni in northern Afghanistan,” he said.

Eni chief executive officer Paolo Scaroni “is seriously considering this possibility,” he said.

Frattini didn’t specify which kind of investments Eni may make in the war-torn country.

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

Biden: Berlin ‘Dropped the Ball’ In Afghanistan

Confidential US documents published by Wikileaks have revealed that Vice President Joe Biden believes Germany has completely failed to train Afghanistan’s new police force properly.

According to the secret cable from the US embassy in Santiago, Chile, Biden said: “Germany completely dropped the ball on police training but NATO countries should continue to provide assistance that is within their capacity to deliver.”

Spanish daily El Pais and German daily Die Welt first reported on the document dated April 3, 2009, in which it was reported that Biden made the disparaging remarks about Germany’s efforts to then Prime Minister Gordon Brown while the two were in Chile.

For the last eight years, Germany has been the main country in charge of police training in the unstable country.

The remarks were made during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Progressive Governance Leaders Summit on March 28 of that year.

Biden mentions Germany only that once in the report, but does refer to “European countries” who he worried had “underestimated the threat from the region and viewed the problem as an economic development issue rather than a security issue, despite the fact that Afghan opium is primarily exported to Europe and Europe has been the victim of several terrorist attacks originating from the region.”

Besides the UK and “a few others,” not many European countries had actively helped Washington combat the threats emanating from Afghanistan and Pakistan, he added.

The latest bit of information comes as media sources continue to comb through the thousands of diplomatic documents after Sunday’s release by internet website Wikileaks. German-US relations have already been strained after other cables revealed descriptions of Chancellor Angela Merkel as uncreative and risk averse and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle as inept and vain.

Berlin embassy documents also reported that Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told US ambassador to Germany, Philip Murphy, in February 2010 that Westerwelle was preventing a US request for a Bundeswehr troop increase in Afghanistan.

Guttenberg was also reportedly critical of his boss, saying that Merkel struggled to put her economic policies in place.

The leaks also showed that US authorities were updated on German coalition negotiations in October 2009 by an informant within the junior coalition party, Westerwelle’s pro-business Free Democrats.

While some experts have said the cables contain nothing that hasn’t already been said by the German press, others have questioned whether the trust lost between the two countries can ever be restored.

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

Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming

From hundreds of diplomatic cables, Afghanistan emerges as a looking-glass land where bribery, extortion and embezzlement are the norm and the honest man is a distinct outlier.

Describing the likely lineup of Afghanistan’s new cabinet last January, the American Embassy noted that the agriculture minister, Asif Rahimi, “appears to be the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist.”

One Afghan official helpfully explained to diplomats the “four stages” at which his colleagues skimmed money from American development projects: “When contractors bid on a project, at application for building permits, during construction, and at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.” In a seeming victory against corruption, Abdul Ahad Sahibi, the mayor of Kabul, received a four-year prison sentence last year for “massive embezzlement.” But a cable from the embassy told a very different story: Mr. Sahibi was a victim of “kangaroo court justice,” it said, in what appeared to be retribution for his attempt to halt a corrupt land-distribution scheme.

It is hardly news that predatory corruption, fueled by a booming illicit narcotics industry, is rampant at every level of Afghan society. Transparency International, an advocacy organization that tracks government corruption around the globe, ranks Afghanistan as the world’s third most corrupt country, behind Somalia and Myanmar.

But the collection of confidential diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to a number of publications, offers a fresh sense of its pervasive nature, its overwhelming scale, and the dispiriting challenge it poses to American officials who have made shoring up support for the Afghan government a cornerstone of America’s counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan.

The cables make it clear that American officials see the problem as beginning at the top. An August 2009 report from Kabul complains that President Hamid Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms (about 273 pounds) of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.

The American dilemma is perhaps best summed up in an October 2009 cable sent by Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry, written after he met with Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s half brother, the most powerful man in Kandahar and someone many American officials believe prospers from the drug trade.

“The meeting with AWK highlights one of our major challenges in Afghanistan: how to fight corruption and connect the people to their government, when the key government officials are themselves corrupt,” Ambassador Eikenberry wrote.

American officials seem to search in vain for an honest partner. A November 2009 cable described the acting governor of Khost Province, Tahir Khan Sabari, as “a refreshing change,” an effective and trustworthy leader. But Mr. Sabari told his American admirers that he did not have “the $200,000-300,000 for a bribe” necessary to secure the job permanently.

Ahmed Zia Massoud held the post of first vice president from 2004 to 2009; the brother of the famous Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, he was discussed as a future presidential prospect. Last year, a cable reported, Mr. Massoud was caught by customs officials carrying $52 million in unexplained cash into the United Arab Emirates.

A diplomatic cable is not a criminal indictment, of course, and in an interview, Mr. Massoud denied taking any money out of Afghanistan. “It’s not true,” he said. “Fifty-two million dollars is a pile of money as big as this room.” Yet while his official salary was a few hundred dollars a month, Mr. Massoud lives in a waterfront house on Palm Jumeirah, a luxury Dubai community that is also home to other Afghan officials. When a reporter visited the dwelling earlier this year, a dark blue Rolls-Royce was parked out front.

The cables describe a country where everything is for sale. The Transportation Ministry collects $200 million a year in trucking fees, but only $30 million is turned over to the government, according to a 2009 account to diplomats by Wahidullah Shahrani, then the commerce minister. As a result, “individuals pay up to $250,000 for the post heading the office in Herat, for example, and end up owning beautiful mansions as well as making lucrative political donations,” said Mr. Shahrani, who also identified 14 of Afghanistan’s governors as “bad performers and/or corrupt.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Other Conflict in Afghanistan

By Brian M Downing

The ongoing insurgency in the Pashtun regions of Afghanistan rightly commands attention, but it obscures a critical second conflict in the country. Long-standing antagonism between the non-Pashtun peoples of the north and the Pashtun people of the south are heading toward fissure. Paradoxically, settlement of the insurgency, through negotiation or force of arms, could exacerbate this divide.

Ethnic politics

Afghanistan comprises a dozen or more sizable ethnic groups, the precise numbers and proportions of which are unclear and contested. Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazara, Turkic, Baloch, and other groups differ on demographic matters; and the country’s geography and decades of conflict offer little prospect of a neutral, acceptable census.

The center of the demographic dispute is the size of the Pashtun peoples of the south and east, who, on only sparing evidence, purport to be about 52% to 55% of the population and have so claimed since the 19th century.

Other groups, however, disagree. They insist that the Pashtun are perhaps slightly more than 40% of the population, while disinterested assessments say Northerners constitute 45% to 50% of the population. The dispute is not merely a matter for demographers or even for the issue of moneys doled out from Kabul. It now centers on who will preside over Afghanistan — and indeed if there will be an Afghanistan as presently constituted.

For a century or more the question of Pashtun majority could sit on the back-burner as most Afghans had far more interest in local government than in events in faraway Kabul where figures reigned but dared not rule. But decades of war and inept or intolerable central governments have brought the matter to the fore.

Mohammed Daoud’s reforms of the late 1970s led to violent opposition in most parts of the country and plunged the country into decades of intermittent warfare and foreign interventions from which the country has yet to recover. His successors fared little better and the various mujahideen groupings could not govern, which led to the Taliban government of the mid-1990s through 2001.

There is wide agreement in the northern regions that Pashtun governments from Mohammed Daoud to Hamid Karzai have been incompetent, intrusive cabals that long misgoverned the country and are poised now to give it back to the Taliban in concert with foreigners from Pakistan and China. Northerners bitterly recall the Taliban as harsh southerners who slaughtered non-Pashtun people by the thousands.

Post-Taliban government

After fighting the Taliban to a standstill and ousting them in 2001, northerners felt their efforts guaranteed them predominance in the new government. They acceded to the accession of Karzai, the head of the (Pashtun) Popalzai tribe, to the presidency.

This was done in part owing to US pressure and despite considerable support in the country for the Tajik statesman, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who also enjoyed support from regional powers that had supported the north well after the US washed its hands of the area.

Over the past nine years, however, northerners have seen their politicians pushed out of key ministries, especially the Ministry of Defense, which was once administered by the Tajik leader Mohammed Fahim. That portfolio is now in the hands of Abdul Wardak, a Pashtun who has used his office to reassert his people’s predominance in key military commands and simultaneously vitiated the militias of northern warlords. Northerners have been reduced to the rank-and-file of the Afghan National Army and ceremonial positions such as the country’s two vice presidencies.

Outsiders have criticized the presidential and parliamentary elections as fraudulent. Karzai is widely believed to have interfered with local polling stations and given himself and his supporters wide victory margins. Northerners certainly agree but insist that outsiders miss an important aspect of Karzai’s fraudulence. He not only inflated the national support for himself and his supporters, he also suppressed evidence of non-Pashtun voters and their support for Tajik, Uzbek, and other peoples’ candidates. Pashtun politicians counter by insisting that it is the northerners who are tampering with the ballot box to overstate their numbers.

Today, northerners contend the nation is on the brink of another act of legerdemain that will ensure Pashtun predominance — and misgovernment. The loya jirgas, which are romanticized in the West as a protodemocratic institution in colorful local dress, are simply another Pashtun ploy to ensure their dominance.

Karzai’s peace council has been hand-selected to approve whatever settlement he presents them. Northerners sense that Karzai is about to betray them by settling with the Taliban, granting them large swathes of territory which northerners feel the Pashtun mullahs will one day use again to assert control across the country. Further, Karzai is seen as collaborating with Pakistan to exploit Afghan resources in conjunction with China.

Warlords, army and the regional powers

Over the past few years, Generals Fahim and Rashid Dostum, leaders of Tajik and Uzbek forces, respectively, are said to have demobilized their forces and turned over their armor and artillery to the Afghan National Army (ANA) — as noted, a force largely purged of non-Pashtun commanders. Turning over heavy weapons is credible; full demobilization is not. There can be little doubt that these wily northerners, and other smaller ones, have retained patronage networks and forces in-being — lightly-armed, yet trained and loyal and angered by events in the south.

The position and reliability of the ANA are unclear. Though chiefly commanded by Pashtuns now, northerners constitute at least 55% of the ANA’s officers and rank-and-file, with Tajiks greatly over-represented and judged to be the best fighters. Resentment toward Pashtun superiors — military and political — are almost certainly parts of soldierly conversations. The ANA’s battle record thus far is sparse, unremarkable, and unlikely to have instilled a super-ethnic identity.

A break between northerners and Karzai would lead to serious conflicts within the ANA, including large-scale desertions and mutinies, particularly if called on to do so by Fahim and Dostum and the family of the late legendary mujahideen chieftain, Mohammed Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Regional powers are more aware of growing north-south tensions than the US. They have had ties with northern forces going back to the war in the 1980s and the standoff with the Taliban in the 1990s. India, Iran and Russia have aid programs and intelligence officers in the country, chiefly in the north. They, along with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and other Islamic former Soviet Socialist Republics, are concerned with the insurgency in the south and prepared to take extraordinary steps to prevent Islamist militancy and terrorism from spreading north. (Uzbekistan knows well that its militants fled south in the 1990s and today serve with al-Qaeda.)

Naturally, geopolitics and economics are at work as well. India seeks to counter growing Pakistani and Chinese influence in Afghanistan. Russia, too, is worried of growing Chinese influence in a region close to tsarist, Soviet and Russian interests.

Iran plays a double game. It gives small amounts of arms to insurgents and trains them at an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps base in southeastern Iran. But this is a warning to the US should it, or Israel, attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Support to insurgents can go up markedly, perhaps to include Stinger-like missiles, and Quds Force guerrillas could be deployed against US troops to make supply lines even more parlous than they are today.

Despite its limited support for the insurgency, Iran is deeply hostile to the Taliban, whom they recall as merciless Sunnis who slaughtered tens of thousands of Shi’ite Hazaras and who invaded an Iranian consulate and killed several diplomats. The three powerful regional powers also wish to share in the exploitation of Afghan resources and have a say in any pipeline that might be built there…

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

US Army Charged Germany Fees for Afghanistan Donations

Afghan National army soldiers and German Bundeswehr army soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force patrol during a mission in the mountains near Feyzabad.

One cable obtained from WikiLeaks highlights irritation between Berlin and Washington over a 15-percent “administrative fee” the US sought to charge Germany on a 50 million euro donations made to a trust fund whose purpose is to improve the Afghan army. A top German diplomat complained the fee would be a tough sell to taxpayers.

In the glossy brochure “The Bundeswehr in Afghanistan,” everything seems blissfully positive. One section, under the heading, “the current state of our engagement,” mentions a massive donation that Germany made to Afghanistan. In 2009, the German government transferred €50 million ($66.14 million) to the Afghan Army National Trust Fund. The money from Germany was intended to “improve the operational capabilities and development of the ANA (Afghan National Army),” according to the publicity materials from the Bundeswehr, Germany’s armed forces. The money, the message seems to be, is well spent. After all, once the NATO ISAF troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the Afghan army is expected to take responsibility for the country’s security.

But little has happened with the German donation in the months since it was made — at least nothing that Germany had hoped would as a result of its multimillion euro gift. There was also considerable anger over the fact that the Americans had been trying to claim some of the money for themselves.

That was apparent in a sharply worded demarche from Germany’s then-ambassador to NATO in Brussels, Ulrich Brandenburg, to his American counterpart, Ivo Daalder. The US NATO Ambassador forwarded the German “non-paper,” dated Feb. 3, on the very same day to the US State Department with a “request for guidance.” Brandenburg complained that the German donation had not yet been disbursed to the desired projects.

The German money was to be used “exclusively” for projects stipulated by Berlin, according to Brandenburg’s demarche, including one project in Kabul (€2 million), one in Feyzabad (€1 million) and an additional one in Mazar-i-Sharif (€4 million). “As of today,” he wrote, “no project financing has occurred.”

The delay, the demarche makes clear, had already resulted in “construction delays” of the ANA logistics school in Kabul, which was described as “the financially most pressing case.” Germany expected that a total of €7 million for the three flagship projects be “transferred without any further delay,” the incendiary letter also stated.

Inevitable, Heavy Criticism

It isn’t the only complaint from the Germans. Inconsistent to the agreement made, the money was being administered by the trust fund’s American donation managers. This had created a situation in which the US Army Corps of Engineers, which was responsible, wanted to charge an “administrative fee” of 15 percent for the disbursement of funds. Such a fee, the German demarche makes clear, would be difficult to explain to German taxpayers.

“The issue has been raised already in the German parliament leading to questions why the Federal Government had donated money without any tangible effect on the prioritized projects yet,” the German complaint reads. The paper also says that the 15 percent charge “will inevitably attract heavy criticism by German audit bodies and parliamentary commissions.” As such, the funds “need to be reallocated” to the German mission headquarters at ISAF in Kabul “to allow for a swift implementation of the prioritized projects.”

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

Far East

Wikileaks: Completely Wrong on North Korea

Source tells AsiaNews, “these revelations are meaningless. In fact, they confirm the [Sino-North Korean] alliance because they show how deceitful China is with other governments. If a Chinese diplomat tells something to an American diplomat, you can be certain that he did not tell the truth.”

Seoul (AsiaNews) — Wikileaks’ revelations could negatively affect long-standing China-North Korea relations. They show that Beijing might be willing to give up on its erstwhile ally and allow Korean reunification under Seoul. The disclosure comes at a time of renewed crisis following last week’s North Korean artillery barrage against a South Korean island.

However, “These revelations are meaningless,” a Korean source told AsiaNews. “In fact, they confirm the [Sino-North Korean] alliance because they show how deceitful China is with other governments. If a Chinese diplomat tells something to an American diplomat, you can be certain that he did not tell the truth. It is unthinkable for Beijing to have South Korea-based US soldiers on its borders.”

Undoubtedly though, relations between Beijing and Pyongyang are at a low point. Deemed North Korea’s only ally, China did not formally condemn last week’s attack; instead, it called for emergency six-nation talks in Beijing with the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan.

Behind the scenes however, the Chinese are not going to risk losing their influence in North Korea, whose rulers appear less and less willing to cooperate.

To calm the situation, China has summoned a top North Korean official to Beijing. Choe Thae-Bok, chairman of North Korea’s so-called Supreme People’s Assembly and a close confidant of leader Kim Jong-il, arrived today in the Chinese capital on five-day visit. After he landed, he did not make any public statements. According to China’s Xinhua news agency, Choe came on the invitation of Wu Bangguo, a Chinese Communist Party official, and would be staying until 4 December.

In the meantime, Washington and Seoul have been putting pressure on China to restrain the North.

“This shows that if Beijing was really serious about cutting North Korea loose, it would not waste its time summoning its officials,” the source told AsiaNews. “It would go directly to the top, to Kim Jong-il. Of course, they are concerned about an overreaction, but they are certainly not ready to see a reunified Korean Peninsula under Seoul’s control, as claimed by Wikileaks.”

For its part, North Korea has decided to up the ante. One of its official newspapers, the Rodong Sinmun, reported today that the government “had thousands of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment plant used for peaceful purposes. At this moment, we are building a new light water reactor [. . .] and are using a modern uranium enrichment system with thousands of centrifuges.”

On 12 November, US scientist Siegfried Hecker visited a nuclear site in Yongbyon, which was recently reactivated after the United Nations imposed sanctions last year. The US nuclear experts said he was “stunned” by how technologically advanced the plant was.

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

Australia — Pacific

Airbus: Investigators Find Potential Manufacturing Flaw

The aviation safety authority investigating the near fatal mid-air explosion in an Airbus A380 aircraft in November has reached a conclusion. The problem could be a manufacturing defect in the Rolls Royce engines powering a number of the largest passenger jets in the world.

It turns out that the passengers aboard the Qantas A380 plane that was forced to make an emergency landing following an engine emergency in early November, may not have been the only lucky ones. All 466 passengers aboard the plane landed safely after an engine exploded in mid-flight and damaged the plane’s wings, fuel tanks and other highly critical parts of the plane.

This week, though, further investigation into the type of Rolls Royce engines involved in the incident revealed a flaw that could affect all of the A380s using the Trent 900 engine. So far, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus has delivered 37 of the largest passenger jets to airlines around the world, and 20 of the aircraft use the Trent 900 engine. On Thursday, the Australian Transport and Safety Bureau (ATSB), which is leading the international investigation into the engines with help from Rolls Royce, say they had identified a “potential manufacturing defect.” The ATSB’s final report comes out on Friday but the bureau had wanted to publish the preliminary findings as quickly as possible for safety reasons.

The defect found involves a tube feeding oil into the engine that had not been properly manufactured, had fatigued and cracked and then leaked oil into the engine, causing the mid-air fire and explosion.

Engine Swaps

There are three different builds of the Trent 900 engine and the type of build that included the cracked tube, an A type, has been removed from the Qantas fleet. The A380s that Qantas is still flying at the moment contain type B and C engine builds. A Qantas spokesperson said that the airline did not know if the manufacturing defect in the oil tube was just an isolated problem or an ongoing manufacturing defect. But the Civil Aviation Authority in Australia has issued new directions which state that the condition of the oil filler tube must now be carefully checked every two flights.

A statement issued by Qantas said that there was no immediate risk to flight safety and that there would be no further disruption to flights. However, the airline also stated it was filing a claim against Rolls Royce to “recover losses, as a result of the grounding of the A380 fleet and the operational constraints currently imposed on A380 services.” Qantas had kept the company’s A380s grounded for three weeks and had swapped out several engines. The potential losses could be as high as AU$60 million (€44 million) and the filing of the claim would allow Qantas to pursue the matter in court if Rolls Royce did not agree to a suitable settlement.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Mystery of Green Fireball ‘UFOs’ Solved

Green fireballs that streaked across the sky and rolled down an Australian mountainside four years ago, spurring reports of UFOs in the area, might have been meteors and ball lightning, a researcher suggests.

At least three traffic-light green fireballs brighter than the moon but not as bright as the sun blazed over northeast Australia on May 16, 2006. A farmer saw one with a blue tapering tail pass over the mountains of the Great Divide about 75 miles (120 kilometers) west of Brisbane, then watched a phosphorescent green ball about 12 inches wide (30 centimeters) roll slowly down the side of a mountain, bouncing over a rock along the way. [Image of green fireball]

Green fireballs have been seen many times in the sky, and are typically explained as meteors whose shockwaves lead to electrically charged oxygen similar to that seen in auroras. In fact, a commercial airline pilot who landed in New Zealand that day reported seeing a meteor breaking up into fragments, which turned green as the bits descended in the direction of Australia. The timing of the fireballs suggests they might have been debris from Comet 73P/Schwassmann—Wachmann 3, said physicist Stephen Hughes at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.

The green ball the farmer saw roll down the slope was almost certainly not a meteorite, Hughes said. No perfectly round meteorite a foot wide has ever been found, and if it were one, it wouldn’t be rolling slowly down a hill.

Instead, Hughes suggests it might have been ball lightning, mysterious glowing orbs of light usually seen during thunderstorms. The green fireball might have provided an electrical connection between the ground and the ionized layer of atmosphere known as the ionosphere, providing the energy needed for ball lightning.

Meteors are often mistaken for UFOs, as are lightning, balloons and military experiments…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Mexican Drug Gang Murders the Unarmed Woman Who Was Brave Enough to Take Police Chief Job Men Didn’t Want.

Mexico is today mourning the death of a female police chief, the latest victim of a seemingly unending drug war between gangsters and the authorities.

Hermila Garcia, 38, became the top law enforcement officer in the town of Meoqui only two months ago.

One of a small number of women who have had the bravery to take on the drug cartels, she was gunned down at 7.20am on Monday.

She was attacked as she drove to work by herself.

Garcia, a lawyer by profession and single with no children, was one of a handful of women who have taken leadership roles in police departments in towns where men have stayed away because of fear.

The most high profile of these is 20-year-old Marisol Valles Garcia, a student who became police chief of Praxedis, in the Juarez valley, also in the state of Chihuahua.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Scientists Attempt to Crack Secret Code of the Axolotl

The axolotl is one of a kind in nature: It can regenerate severed limbs, organs and even grow back its spinal column after injuries. At a new research center in Hanover, Germany, researchers are trying to unlock the Mexican salamander’s secrets — and whether they can be applied to humans.

They appear to be quite content. Around 100 salamanders are bobbing around in the aquarium at the Hanover Medical School in Germany. Their brachial gills sprout like hair from their heads and their tiny mouths seem to smile as they press their tiny front feet against the sides of the aquarium.

They don’t all look the same, however: Some are missing an arm or a leg; others have a stump where a limb is in the process of growing back.

These are no ordinary amphibians. Many have had flaps of skin removed or parts of their limbs cut off — under sedation of course — by scientists investigating their regenerative capabilities. “Coagulation sets in instantly”, says scientist Björn Menger. “You can almost watch the healing process happening.” It only takes a few months until the body part has regenerated completely — “the younger ones are even faster,” says molecular biologist Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui.

It is this incredible ability to regenerate that makes the axolotl so important to science. Limbs grow back as do parts of organs and even sections of their brain and spinal column. They are unique in the world of higher vertebrates.

In September 2010, molecular biologists, surgeons and amphibian experts set up a center for axolotl research in Hanover. Their hope is that they can unlock the healing secrets of the axolotl to help burn victims and amputees in the future. They also believe the animal may hold the key to longer life and prolonged youth and health. The axolotl lives extremely long for a salamander — ages of 25 years have been documented. But it never really becomes an adult, remaining at the larva stage of development its entire life.

A Delicacy in Mexico

The axolotl is as good as extinct in the wild. Lake Xochimilco, not far from Mexico City, is the sole existing native habitat of the Ambystoma mexicanum. The lake, however, is badly polluted and foreign species such as perch, which have been released into the lake, have likewise pressured the axolotl. The salamander is likewise considered a delicacy in Mexico.

There is currently no conclusive research that explains exactly how the axolotl’s regeneration process takes place. After the limb has been amputated, a layer of skin cells forms from the cells at the spot of the incision. A kind of scar tissue forms underneath and important new types of tissue begin to grow, such as blood vessels, muscles, sinews, bones and even nerves. Scientists had long thought that the cells at the amputation point reconverted through a molecular signal into pluripotent stem cells — a type of stem cell which has the potential to become almost any cell in the body — which subsequently developed into different cell types.

This theory was refuted in 2009 when a research team from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden published their work in the Nature medical journal. The scientists were able to observe individual cell types with the help of fluorescent proteins. No stem cell developed from a former muscle cell; new muscle cells came from progenitor cells. Likewise cartilage rebuilt itself from cartilage cells. Skin cells were more flexible: cartilage, sinews and skin can all grow from skin cells.

Disappears with Age

According to the author of the study, Elly Tanaka, this proved that the cells of the “regenerating wonder,” the axolotl, do not behave so differently to those of mammals. Even man, during his embryonic development possessed the potential to regenerate. The fingertips of small children can grow back, an ability which disappears with age.

“We share a common evolutionary history with amphibians,” explains Kerstin Reimers-Fadhlaoui. “Regeneration is in our own fundamental genetic makeup.” Perhaps the axolotl will help us to discover how to switch the process on once again.

Reimers-Fadhlaoui and her colleagues have analyzed the transcriptome of the wound-healing cells, focusing on the active genes in the regeneration process. Some of this genetic information contains the building blocks of an enzyme that could be the trigger of cell renewal: amblox. Amblox is thought to support the formation of a transmitter, which causes the cells to change into progenitor cells.

The researcher explains that initial experiments have shown that human cells also respond to these transmitters. A layer of human skin cells programmed with the genetic sequence healed significantly faster after injury that the untreated control cells. The Hanover scientists now want to create amblox artificially. “Our long term goal is to produce a substance that supports the wound healing process,” says Menger. “One could, for example, use it as a cream on burn wounds.” This is all a long way off….

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Denmark: EU Rule Exempts Turks From Immigration Test

Unlike other immigrant groups, Turks seeking to immigrate to Denmark are not required to take the new immigration test for their foreign relation applications. Starting on 15 November, immigrants seeking to join a family member residing in Denmark must pass a test of basic knowledge about Danish culture and language. The test costs 3,000 kroner to take. The exemption from the test was announced on November 12 and is based on a guest worker rights accord signed in 1963 between Turkey and what was then the EC, now the EU.

The agreement means that family members of Turkish citizens working in Denmark cannot be subject to different requirements than family members of EU citizens. Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech told Jyllands-Posten newspaper that the ministry was unable to change the rule. The Danish People’s Party (DF), however, is calling for political action to eliminate the exemption. “I find it distressing when a bill that has been passed here is then changed by the EU,” said DF integration spokesperson Peter Skaarup, warning that if Hornbech did not take action, the issue would be taken further up the system.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Major Drop in Asylum-Seekers in Turkey, Report

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, NOVEMBER 29 — The number of asylum-seekers in southern Europe fell by 33% last year, driven by significant declines in applications in Italy, Turkey and Greece, daily Hurriyet reports quoting a new report released by the International Organization for Migration. The World Migration Report 2010 looks into the wave of migration across the globe and calls for the rigorous analysis of core capacities of countries to manage migration effectively and identify gaps and priorities for the future. In 2009, the total number of asylum-seekers in industrialized nations remained stable with about 377,000 applications, according to the report. The Nordic region recorded a 13% increase with 51,100 new applicants — the highest in six years — but by contrast, the number of applications in Southern Europe fell by 33 percent, with 50,100 claims. That was driven by significant declines in Italy (-42%), Turkey (-40%) and Greece (-20%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Enormous Folly and Cost of the Dream Act

With the same stealth chicanery of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 by the late Teddy Kennedy that added 100 million people to the United States within 40 years, U.S. Senator Harry Reid expects to shove the Dream Act through Congress next week.

It downgrades the rule of law! It upgrades illegal aliens to citizenship. It costs billions of dollars American taxpayers don’t have. It features millions of added people chain-migrating into the United States to become ‘instant’ citizens. It makes illegality legal!

U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama spelled it out succinctly:

1. The DREAM Act Is NOT Limited to Children, And It Will Be Funded On the Backs Of Hard Working, Law-Abiding Americans

Proponents of the DREAM Act frequently claim the bill offers relief only to illegal alien “kids.” Incredibly, previous versions of the DREAM Act had no age limit at all, so illegal aliens of any age who satisfied the Act’s requirements—not just children—could obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. In response to this criticism, S.3827 includes a requirement that aliens be under the age of 35 on the date of enactment to be eligible for LPR status. Even with this cap, many aliens would be at least 41 years old before obtaining full LPR status under the Act—hardly the “kids” the Act’s advocates keep talking about.


2. The DREAM Act PROVIDES SAFE HARBOR FOR ANY ALIEN, Including Criminals, From Being Removed or Deported If They Simply Submit An Application


3. Certain Criminal Aliens Will Be Eligible For Amnesty Under The DREAM Act

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Gay Rights Uneven Throughout Europe, Agency Says

The rights situation for lesbian, gay, bi- and transsexual (LGBT) people is very uneven throughout the EU, with improvements in Portugal and Sweden and more restrictions in Bulgaria, Estonia and Romania, a report from EU’s fundamental rights agency (FRA) shows.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: There’s No Shame in Not Wearing a Cross

I am ashamed to say I had not realised it was Not Ashamed Day yesterday. Well, I’m not all that ashamed — that’s merely a fashion of speaking. There are, by contrast, plenty of things that I really am ashamed of, and these come unbidden to burn my cheeks as I walk in the street. Those shameful things are mostly social blunders, unkind words, sartorial errors. Who can now look at a picture of himself from the Eighties and not cringe? But the shudder of shame seldom strikes at the thought of anything truly important, and I doubt that it would even if I were a Stasi agent, a town-planner or some such despised profession. Not Ashamed Day is the bright idea of a Christian pressure group, and is supported by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in my mind’s eye, always seems to be wearing a cardigan. He makes the point that Christianity is being airbrushed out of the national picture.

The Not Ashamed campaigners called on Christians, at least for the day, to “wear the ‘Not Ashamed’ symbol of the cross, available on a range of items from a special online shop”. That is where we differ, for I am not ashamed to be a Christian, but I would be ashamed to wear a cross. The distinction matters. I would be ashamed to wear a cross as a special symbol because I am not one of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity but a scribbling journalist. I wear lots of other things, but not as special symbols. I wear leather shoes, but not because I hate vegetarians. I wear cufflinks, but not with the dear old college colours on them. As I write, I am wearing an overcoat only because the heating isn’t quite up to the weather. If I wore a wooden cross on a string or a T-shirt with a cross on, my colleagues would look at me oddly, and rightly. Christians — Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists and so on — live in the earthly city as well as the City of God.

As a Catholic, I am now allowed to live within 10 miles of London, to sit in Parliament if elected and even to buy a horse, which the penal laws three or four centuries ago prohibited. The remaining disabilities do not trouble me. I do not want to marry the Queen, and the establishment of the C of E is obviously preferable to the establishment of the BBC. Where I do think the cross is important is in places it is least noticed. Every policeman in the Metropolitan force, when wearing a helmet and not playing at being a member of a paramilitary Swat-squad, bears a little cross on his helmet badge. It is on the top of the crown on the badge. That might sound trivial, but it is quite as significant as the reality of police working for the Crown, not for a ruling political party. The literal crown, St Edward’s crown, with which the Queen was crowned and which appears on the royal coat of arms, is fronted and surmounted by a large cross. The Royal Mail, while it survives, has a cross on its badge too, and the biggest set of unnoticed crosses must be those on the Union flag.

It’s a similar story with names on the map. The London Underground has St James’s Park, Temple, King’s Cross, St Paul’s. No one feels the need to justify them, because they are part of the fabric of the nation. True, they are fossilised elements, but only in the way that Christmas pudding is a fossilised foodstuff, never eaten at other times. The law in such matters is: the more solemn an item, the more likely it is to be fossilised. That is why they count. Christianity is alive, but its trappings are old. Both are integrated into British life in a way that demands no special pleading. So Lord Carey is right to castigate councils that fear to put up Christmas trees lest some non-Christians be offended. They are most unlikely to be offended, but even if they were, that is no reason to demolish St Paul’s, with its cross above the dome, or to abolish policemen because they wear a cross on their badge.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Why SHOULD Mums on Benefits Have Countless Children When I Can Only Afford Two?

My daughter Sasha, five, was puzzled. ‘Mummy,’ she said. ‘You know you say you work so you can buy us nice things?’

‘Yeees,’ I replied, wondering what argument she about to skewer me with.

‘And you know you say I can’t have another brother or sister because we don’t have enough money?’

‘That’s right.’

‘Well, I don’t understand. Kayla’s mummy and daddy don’t work. But Kayla has far more things than me.

‘She’s got a Nintendo and a Wii and a trampoline and a dolly with her own potty. And Kayla’s got three brothers and her mummy’s having another baby. So how do you explain that?’

Sasha folded her arms and gave me her most piercing Rumpole Of The Bailey stare.

How could I explain? Kayla’s mum and dad can afford endless luxuries because they’re all paid for by the generosity of the state.

Last week, the newly appointed Tory peer Howard Flight was forced to apologise after declaring cuts in child benefit for higher taxpayers were unjust.

‘We’re going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it’s jolly expensive, but for those on benefit there’s every incentive. That’s not sensible,’ he said.

The Government disowned his comments and the bleeding hearts went wild. How dare the nasty man say the poor should not be allowed to ‘breed’? This was eugenics, the first sign of a totalitarian state.


Six million Britons are living in homes where no one has a job and where, according to a report by MPs, ‘benefits are a way of life’.

Meanwhile, middle-class couples are feeling pinched by mushrooming utility bills and taxes — taxes benefit claimants don’t pay, but which support their families. It’s incredibly unfair.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Was This the Video That Cost US? The Very UN-English Presentation Screened to FIFA Delegates

Gosh, didn’t we look global.

So multicultural, so diverse. And we didn’t want to host the World Cup just for ourselves, of course. Oh no. You had only to look at the video presentation for England’s bid to realise that.

Selfless, that’s us. Doing it for the greater good of the world. You could see it in the faces the film featured from locations all around the planet — and, if you were quick, in a couple of backdrops of Blighty.

But where were the famous sights that thousands would have expected to enjoy when they flooded through our ports and airports in 2018? The smiling British Bobby… our legendary cuisine… a bearskinned guardsman or two.

Then there was the soundtrack — hardly Pavarotti, and certainly not Elgar. Instead, it was provided by a Ramsbottom rock band called Elbow, chosen despite the obvious connotations that would always be risked when the panel gave the Elbow to our bid. Someone remarked that the lead singer sounded as if he was yawning.

Perhaps it was just as well the film skipped lightly over some of our less celebrated national hallmarks though. Especially in a week when it took about eight hours to drive to Gatwick, when our Bobbies donned riot gear to deal with student protests, and when rival Birmingham football fans went on a violent rampage.

The Three Falsettos — Beckham, Cameron and Prince William — dutifully made our case with eulogies about football forming the fabric of the nation, and the like. So surely the presentation video would have captured some of this? Well, not entirely.

It started with an excited juvenile opening the letter that contained his ticket to the England France game last month. The venue was Wembley. So far so good.

Cue shots of the stadium (and a couple of clips of Arsenal’s Emirates stadium for good measure). Then we’re off to somewhere else in the world (maybe the Third World) to watch some kids have a kickabout in the street.

This is more like it though. The young lad is waving an England flag as his dad takes him to the match. And isn’t dad draped in a Union Flag? Actually, no. It’s just a multicoloured scarf around his neck.

Much of the remaining video focuses on a range of ethnically diverse figures celebrating our national game from afar.

A young man waves Liverpool colours from a rickshaw. African and Asian spectators are transfixed with suspense as crucial matches are played out on screens around the world. A Caribbean family dances with delight as a vital goal is scored.

Close-ups of the players further underline the multinational diversity of our favourite premiership icons.

Quite what Adrian Chiles was doing in the middle of it all was anyone’s guess, but you couldn’t help feeling we were heading for trouble when he appeared, albeit for a nanosecond. (Wonder if they’ve ever heard of him in Russia?)

The final frames showed Rio Ferdinand, the England captain and multimillionaire celebrity, about to climb into an expensive, shiny car. At least that was true to life.

And then it was over. All our hopes had been encapsulated in a video lasting just short of three minutes. Pity it didn’t do the trick.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

When Making Friends, Gran Knows Best — Not the Facebook Generation

If you want to know how to make a real friend, forget Facebook and ask your grandparents.

That is the conclusion of researchers who found pensioners are the real experts when it comes to making friends and keeping them.

The over-60s generation believe you need to know someone for more than a year before they become a ‘true friend’.

In contrast their grandchildren only have to meet someone twice to call them a friend and have an average 200 online ‘friends’ constantly on the go at any one time.

And researchers found that while Facebook, Bebo and Twitter may be all the rage, most online friendships never last.

Three out of every four 16-25 year olds admit a Facebook friendship lasts less than two years and less than half expect a ‘real’ friendship to last more than five years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


EU Funding Offer Sparks Anger at Cancun

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — In one of the first major announcements at UN climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, the EU has released details of its contribution to ‘fast-start’ funding to help poorer nations deal with the adverse effects of climate change over the short-term.

But aid agencies and governments from developing countries quickly rounded on the news when it became clear that roughly half the money would be in the form of loans or equity in local companies, rather than grants.

Wrangling over the ‘fast-start’ funding has led to a major breakdown in trust between rich and poor nations over the past year.

A pledge of $30 billion in “new and additional” money between 2010 and 2012 for poorer nations was one of the few concrete initiatives to come out of Copenhagen last December, but since then richer nations have appeared reluctant to stump up the cash.

Outlining Europe’s contribution to the pot on Tuesday (30 November), expected to total €7.2 billion over the three years, EU chief negotiator Artur Runge-Metzger said loans, rather than grants, could provide a “win-win” situation for both sides.

“When it comes to mitigation actions you find that … consumers can repay loans, in other words, finance can be used like a revolving fund,” he said.

“In that way, funds can be repaid and used by others. You don’t need grants. It would be a waste of money because the individual pays for itself. You have to make best use of peoples’ money,” he added…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Global Warming: Sea Level Could Rise in South, Fall in North

Climate change is expected to cause sea levels to rise — at least in some parts of the world. Elsewhere, the level of the ocean will actually fall. Scientists are trying to get a better picture of the complex phenomenon, which also depends on a host of natural factors.

When presented as a globe, the Earth looks as round and smooth as a billiard ball. To anyone standing on a beach, the ocean looks as flat as a pancake.

But perception is deceptive. “In reality, the water in the oceans wobbles all over the place,” says oceanographer Detlef Stammer. He isn’t talking about waves, but large-scale bulges and bumps in the sea level.

Stammer, who is the director of the Center for Marine and Climate Research at the University of Hamburg, is familiar with the incorrect notions that lay people have, which is why he likes to present them with two numbers to shatter their illusions. “In the Indian Ocean, the sea level is about 100 meters (330 feet) below the average, while the waters around Iceland are 60 meters above the average.”

The incorrect belief that ocean water is evenly distributed lives on in the debate over climate change, says Stammer. The rising sea level is widely viewed as the most threatening consequence of global warming. Images of Bangladeshis wading through floodwaters are a favorite horror scenario used by some environmentalists. “But people act as if the water from melting glaciers were distributed as uniformly in the oceans as the water in our bathtubs at home,” says Stammer.

But the reality is counter-intuitive. According to the most recent estimates, the sea level is expected to rise by about 1 meter (3.28 feet) — on average — in the next 100 years. This is the number that will be mentioned again and again during negotiations at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico over the next two weeks. “But this average value doesn’t really help coastal planners,” says Stammer.

It is certainly correct that the total amount of liquid in the oceans is increasing. But the way water expands in ocean basins differs widely. There will be regions of the world where nothing much will change, while the sea level will rise by well over the 1-meter average in others. “The sea level could even fall along some coasts,” says Stammer.

Winners and Losers

Scientists still don’t know exactly the degree to which glaciers will melt as a result of rising temperatures. The most important factor in this equation will be the rate at which the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets shrink. At the moment, it appears that the net amount of melt water is still rising in Greenland. It is currently at 237 cubic kilometers (57 cubic miles) per year. But the volume of ice at the South Pole seems to be generally stable. “The ice is melting in western Antarctica, but in the larger eastern part, snow is actually building up,” says Stammer.

The sea level currently rises by about 3 millimeters (0.1 inches) a year on average. A number of factors contribute to this rise, including water from melting glaciers and the constant increase in the amount of ground water used in agriculture. It is also partly due to a simple thermal effect: Because water expands as it gets warmer, rising temperatures cause the sea level to rise. All of this will accelerate even further by the end of the century, leading to a total increase of 1 meter, according to the current consensus among oceanographers.

In reality, the simple message of rising waters is greatly oversimplified. The process behind it is highly complex, and one that will produce winners and losers. Scientists are only gradually beginning to understand the phenomenon and its processes, some of which work in opposing directions. “It’s just in the last few years that science has taken a more in-depth look at regional prognoses for rising sea levels,” Stammer says.

This is partly due to the complexity of the material itself. Average values can be computed relatively easily. Regional effects, on the other hand, are partly influenced by winds and currents, with gravity and the laws of thermodynamics also playing an important role. Making sense of how all of these factors are interrelated requires a relatively solid understanding of the individual processes — and massive computing power to perform the calculations.

Surprises for Scientists

For a long time, scientists didn’t even have precise data on specific water levels in individual locations around the planet. That changed in late December 1992, when a satellite was placed into service that uses a radar altimeter to measure the sea level, to within a few centimeters, anywhere in the oceans. “In the past, we had to travel around the ocean and painstakingly take measurements,” says Stammer. “Today I can go on the Internet and download the satellite data from space onto my computer.”

The flood of data from the orbiting satellite has produced all kinds of surprises for scientists in recent years. For instance, while seas have risen by about 15 centimeters in the tropical Western Pacific, the ocean near San Francisco has fallen by about the same amount. “On the German coast, on the other hand, the sea level today is a few centimeters higher than it was 15 years ago,” says Claus Böning of the Kiel-based excellence cluster “The Future Ocean.”

Such effects are the result of natural fluctuations that unfold over decades. The currents in the world’s oceans are constantly shifting. This applies to the Gulf Stream, which provides Europe with warm water, just as it does to the Pacific circulation system, which reacts to the moods of El Niño.

But what role do anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions play in terms of the planet’s rising sea levels? Newton’s law of gravity provides the scientists with an initial answer…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Muslims Worldwide Say Respect is Key to Better Relations With U.S., West

WASHINGTON — About half of Muslims surveyed worldwide believe the West does not respect them, according to a new Gallup report, and many say not desecrating the Quran and portraying more “accurate” Muslim movie characters could improve a strained relationship.

The findings are part of a report on “Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations,” released Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010, at Gallup’s Washington headquarters.

“We also found that this concept of respect … now includes perceptions of fairness in policies, not just culturally sensitive language,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies.

Fifty-four percent of Muslims said being treated fairly in policies that directly affect them would be a very meaningful demonstration of respect.

Mogahed said the “policies” were not defined in the new report, but past Gallup studies have found that respondents were particularly concerned about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

The Hypocrisy of Hatred

Muslim countries want to make it a criminal offence to disparage Islam, the Koran or the Prophet Muhammad. They are concerned about discrimination and thuggery against Muslims in non-Muslim countries.

That concern is entirely fair and proper. But why are they so little concerned about the vastly worse discrimination and thuggery that goes on in the Muslim world against non-Muslims and the wrong Muslims. I discussed this in a long feature this week.

I want Muslims in the West to feel as secure and at home and have the same opportunities as anyone else. Why don’t so many Muslims feel the same about the marginalised in their countries?

Are Muslim countries really worse? They are not the only persecutors — in the list of problem countries by Christian agency Open Doors 39 of the top 50 are Muslim states, which means 11 are not, such as North Korea, Burma and China. But in many Muslim countries the persecution and violence are more than opportunistic but a way of life — from the state or Islamist groups or neighbours.

First, an important caveat. This is not a blanket criticism of Muslims. Most of the Muslims I know — and I know many — are as concerned about justice and fairness as anyone else.

Second, this blog is really one long question, a question I have had for decades. On this, see the detour at the bottom — and WARNING the bottom is a long way down.

Third, a blog can only scratch the surface; this is inevitably superficial.

That said, it remains reasonable to ask, why is discrimination so entrenched and legitimised in the Muslim world?

Perhaps the biggest problem is the way systematic discrimination is enshrined in sharia law as it has come to be interpreted over the centuries. Those who want to justify discrimination can find grounds, some from the Koran and Hadiths, and more from the traditions. For example, many nations have blasphemy and apostasy laws that mandate the death penalty for those who convert away from Islam.

It’s important to acknowledge that no ideology — religious or secular — has an unstained record. Of course it is centuries since the Western world saw itself as “Christendom”, with a primarily religious identity, but since then we have had sectarian cruelties plus those inflicted by various nationalisms, fascism and communism. History proves that any people are capable of cruelty.

As I have often written on my blog, people are just people. The differences between Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists etc are not so big, and the vast majority of all those groups are decent people doing their best.

But if that is true, why is the plight of minorities so bad in nearly every one of the 56 Muslim nations?

I think there are several reasons, many of which overlap. One is the corruption and cynicism of so many regimes. If they don’t actively themselves persecute, they are happy to let Islamists do so to distract attention from the regime’s shortcomings.

Another is the rigid, self-righteous version of Islam practised by so many radicals, who shout loudly but persuade few (which is why fundamentalist groups do so badly in elections across the Muslim world). Ideologies demand commitment rather than reflection. But it is not necessary to be ideological to be religious.

Another spur is the colossal sense of victimhood and impotence felt by so many Muslims. For more than 1000 years of their history they were victorious and dominant, which makes the last century of colonialism hard to take.

Look at the remarks of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on Monday to the Iranian foreign minister. Spreading hatred of Islam is high on the agenda of the West, he said. The West is “hatching plots” to spread Islamophobia and insult Islamic values and the Muslim states must take collective measures to confront the Western plots. Such bizarre paranoia could be dismissed, but Ihsanoglu is general-secretary of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, made up of the world’s 56 Muslim nations.

Another reason is anger at the plight of many Muslims in non-Muslim countries. Muslims see themselves (at least theoretically) as a single, unified group (the ummah), and think Christians feel the same. So attacking local Christians is one way of teaching America a lesson.

Then there’s the war on terror. Infelicities and injustices in the way this has been described, and conducted, have led many Muslims to believe it really is a war on Islam. That, along with a colonial history and other historical factors, have created real resentments. (Mind you, they tend to ignore the fact that Muslims were every bit as imperialistic when they had the power.)

Another important element is education: more and more Muslims are receiving a narrow religious education (both in the sense that the religious view is narrow and that the education is largely confined to religion), often funded by the Saudis who have spent tens of billions of dollars promoting the highly restrictive Wahhabi version of Islam. Pakistan’s madrassas are the paradigm here.

Sometimes it is simply venting a grudge or taking advantage of a minority group’s vulnerabilities — something Pakistan’s vicious blasphemy law encourages. Also corruption vitiates the rule of law.

So that’s the summary from my Western, Christian perspective. Now the detour. Concerned that I was not representing the Muslim narrative, I asked a Muslim friend to comment. He observed that I was right to fear that I would get a simplistic response: “Muslims everywhere persecute Christians, then whinge ignorantly about Muslims being mistreated in the West. What the hell is their problem?” (That’s not what I think.)

Then my friend added some much-needed nuance. He observed that to understand this issue one must understand Islam’s complex identity politics. He said: “You mention, for instance, that Muslims view themselves as a single, global community. Do they? For how long has this been the case? What about the quite extensive Algerian-Egyptian violence in the past year, ostensibly over the result of a soccer match? What about the strong Arab Nationalist movements of the 20th century? What did their failure mean for the identity of these nations, particularly in a post-colonial environment?

“How, then can we understand Islamism, not as a religious movement (which it isn’t), but as an identity movement aimed at giving nations an identity which they had completely lost through the experience of colonisation? This is very fertile ground, particularly if you’re thinking about the persecution of Christians.

“What was the religious identity of the colonisers? What do you make of the oft-repeated claim from the Middle East to Malaysia that the colonial era set in motion discrimination against Muslims in favour of Christians that had to be undone once the colonisers left? Whatever the truth of these claims, one has to note their existence in understanding the identity politics of the countries in the OIC. And that, of course, is before we even get to George W Bush’s “crusade” from 2001.

“This, of course, is only a fraction of the story, and each nation will probably have local factors that are very important. For instance, it makes no sense trying to talk about the persecution of minorities under the Taliban without a discussion of ethnicity and tribal divisions, as distinct from religion. It makes no sense trying to talk about sectarianism in Iraq without exploring the impact of the US invasion in bringing these to the fore.”

So there’s my blog-style over-simplification at least partly skewered. Yet my initial concern remains: minorities in many Muslim countries need help — now. Soon there will be almost no Christians in the region that gave their religion birth. And Christians have much to learn from the way so many Muslims are concerned for their co-religionists everywhere, however inadequate and politicised this is.

Over to you: Do you agree with the way I have described the issues? What have I missed? Have you any solutions? Can and should the West do more, and if so what?

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]