Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101207

Financial Crisis
»Barack Obama Facing Backlash Over Tax Cuts for the Rich
»EU Calls Fresh Stress Tests, Says Irish Meltdown Unique
»Ireland’s Budget Vote Goes to the Wire
»One Billion $100 Bills Hit by Printing Errors
»After the Mosque: Jihad on the Home Front
»Big Brother is Watching You Recycle
»Chicago Police See Spike in Cop Killings, Assaults
»Iowans in War of Words Over Black Farmers
»Judge Dismisses Targeted-Kill Program Lawsuit
»Muslim Brotherhood Front Group Trains TSA Airport Screeners
»NYC Taxi Drivers Urged to Use Racial Profiling in Passenger Pickups
»Panel Finds Justice Reluctant to Take Cases of White Victims
»The ‘Unholy Alliance’ Between Islamic Jihad and Utopian Socialism
»Wikileaks Cables: Barack Obama is a Bigger Danger
Europe and the EU
»Assange Remanded by London Court
»British Court Rejects Bail for Assange in Sex Inquiry
»Germany: Wikileaks Sponsor in Trouble With the Taxman
»Germans Feel Threatened by Islam
»Italian and Swiss Television Channels Disappear, The Inhabitants of Varese Complain
»Italy: Bolzano Tops Italian Provinces for Quality of Life
»Julian Assange Arrest: How the Extradition Process Works
»Lockerbie Bomber: The View From Scotland
»Nordic Countries Huddle Together as World Gets Bigger
»Spain: Zapatero, State of Emergency Has Given Desired Results
»Stakelbeck: U.S. Diplomat Visits Radical London Mosque
»Strache’s Israel Trip Causes a Stir
»Swedish Pupils Slide in New Global Ranking
»Swedish Man Sliced in Sex Play Snafu
»The Cable Guy: Julian Assange Becomes the US’s Public Enemy No. 1
»Top Scientist Warns Against ‘Hype’ As EU Sets Out Bee Rescue Plan
»UK Schools ‘Fall Behind Estonia and Slovenia’, Says OECD
»UK: Birmingham Moslem Community Outraged Over Halal Meat
»Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Has Been Arrested on a Swedish Warrant
»Serbia: Tito’s Grandson Submits Signatures to Form New Communist Party
North Africa
»Algeria: Bouteflika Pardons Anti-Islamic Patriot
»Cairo Festival: Cinecitta’ Looks at Arab World
»Egypt: In the Aftermath of Flawed Elections, A Crisis of Legitimacy
»House Converted Into Mosque Overnight in Egypt to Prevent Church Services
»Wikileaks: Algeria, ‘Army Obeys Civilian Leaders’
»Wikileaks Cables: Muammar Gaddafi — Mercurial, Phobic ‘King of Culture’
»Wikileaks Cables: Lockerbie Bomber Freed After Gaddafi’s ‘Thuggish’ Threats
»Wikileaks Cables: Muammar Gaddafi and the ‘Voluptuous Blonde’
»Wikileaks Cables: Tunisia Blocks Site Reporting ‘Hatred’ of First Lady
Israel and the Palestinians
»Anti-Muslim European MPs Tour West Bank Settlements
»European ‘New Right’ MPs in Samaria: ‘This is Jewish Land!’
»U.S. No Longer Seeks Israeli Settlement Freeze: Diplomat
Middle East
»Australians on Yemen Terror List
»In Iran, Divorce Soars, Stirring Fears of Society in Crisis
»In Iran, A Christian Pastor Faces Death Sentence
»Iraq: Elderly Married Christian Couple Killed When They Returned to Baghdad to Sell Home
»Iraq: Al-Qaeda Suicide Attacks Against Shias Feared During Muslim New Year
»Jordan: Average Age Spinsterhood Rising
»Official Ankara Causing Turkey to Go Back to Middle Ages, Turkish Expert Says
»US Involvement in Iraq: A Lot of Blood for Little Oil
»Wikileaks Cables: Syria Stunned by Hezbollah Assassination
»Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Princes Throw Parties Boasting Drink, Drugs and Sex
»Wikileaks Cables: Saudis Proposed Arab Force to Invade Lebanon
»One Scientist’s Hobby: Recreating the Ice Age
»Wikileaks: Berlusconi Denies Calling Medvedev ‘Apprentice’
South Asia
»Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi ‘Has Price on Her Head’
»Pakistan: Court Orders Government Not to Change Blasphemy Law
»The Afghanistan Scandal, Cont’d: Ana Recruits Require “Backing of Village Elders”
Far East
»China’s Lofty Goals: Space Station, Moon and Mars Exploration
Sub-Saharan Africa
»German Hesitancy May Have Worsened Saharan Hostage Drama
»Rapists Stalk Women in Somali Refugee Camps
»Wikileaks Cables: Sudan Warned to Block Iranian Arms Bound for Gaza
Latin America
»Argentina Recognises Palestine as Independent State
»Mobs Lynch ‘Witches’ In Haiti for Spreading Cholera Epidemic December 4, 2010
»Denmark: Crime Across Borders
»Indonesia: Minister to Ask Saudi Counterparts to Safeguard Immigrants From Abuse
»UK: Health Minister: Immigrants to Blame for Record Rise in TB
»USA: Unusual Methods Helped Ice Break Deportation Record, E-Mails and Interviews Show
Culture Wars
»Denmark: Pastor “Executes” Elf to Save Christmas
»Lawmakers School Obama on National Motto
»UK: Peter and Hazelmary Bull Sued by Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy
»UK: Teacher Who Said Child Was ‘White Trash’ Convicted of Race Crime
»Why Religion Makes People Happier (Hint: Not God)
»A Difficult US Fight to Choke Off Terror Finance
»Frightening Newspaper Front Pages Can Harm Children, Says Psychologist
»Muslims Ambivalent About Extremism

Financial Crisis

Barack Obama Facing Backlash Over Tax Cuts for the Rich

The US president was forced to abandon a central campaign promise but said he had chosen to “compromise” rather than “fight”. Joe Biden, the Vice-President, yesterday went to meet Democratic leaders in Congress, as aides to Mr Obama began a concerted effort to sell the deal. Mr Obama had vowed that when tax cuts passed by George W Bush expired on Dec 31, they would be extended for all but the richest two per cent of Americans, arguing that the country could not afford to benefit the wealthy.

But with Republicans holding enough votes to block such a move, the president was forced into a significant trade-off, agreeing to extend the Bush rates for all earners until the end of 2012. Aides said the move signalled a willingness to compromise that Mr Obama would make his hallmark as he tries to push through his legislative agenda…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

EU Calls Fresh Stress Tests, Says Irish Meltdown Unique

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The European Commission has announced that fresh stress tests will be carried out on European banks next February after similar examinations this summer failed to spot huge problems at the heart of Ireland’s financial institutions, ultimately forcing Dublin to accept an EU-IMF bail-out last month.

Speaking after a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (7 December) where EU finance ministers endorsed the €85 billion Irish aid package, EU economy commissioner Olli Rehn defended the earlier tests and insisted that Ireland’s banking meltdown was a one-off case that would not be repeated elsewhere in Europe.

He conceded however that some lessons should be learnt after Irish banks passed the July tests, insisting that the new examination would “even more rigourous and even more comprehensive.”

“The scope and the methodology of the exercise are currently under discussion but of course we shall draw lessons from the exercise of earlier this year, for instance a liquidity assessment needs to be included in the future stress tests,” said the Finnish politician.

Mr Rehn added that the “fullest possible transparency” was needed when conducting the new tests, and appeared to lay part of the blame on Dublin’s door after firms such as Allied Irish Banks sailed through the July examination, only to be found wanting several months later.

“There was a certain variety of application of this [July stress test] methodology because in this regard the EU is a confederation, it was a co-ordinated exercise conducted by national authorities,” he said.

“From January onwards we will have a new [European] regulatory and supervisory architecture of financial markets and the banking system which will provide more rigor from the European point of view,” he added.

Mr Rehn also said Ireland’s most-troubled institution, Anglo Irish Bank, escaped the summer shakedown as it had already been nationalised at that point…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Ireland’s Budget Vote Goes to the Wire

The government is believed to have the support of 82 MPs — giving it a sliver of a majority over the opposition’s 80. With abstentions, the €6bn programme of cuts and tax rises for 2011 is predicted to squeeze through parliament. The budget is likely to be the last major act of Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail party, the dominant member of the ruling Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition. He has been forced to call an election for early next year once the legislation underpinning the budget is passed, where Fianna Fail is expected to take a drubbing. A coalition the centre-right Fine Gael and the centre-left Labour party is predicted to take over.

Clearing the 2011 budget has become a matter of national urgency as the country teeters on the edge of crisis. The European Union and International Monetary Fund rescue package has been contingent on Ireland “front-loading” the deficit reduction to give the creditors more hope of getting their money back. Irish Finance minister Brian Lenihan this afternoon announced €4bn of spending cuts and €2bn of tax rises. The full austerity measures amount to €15bn over the next few years, and come on top of the €14.6bn already carried out. Political opposition to the cuts has been growing on fears that the country’s growth prospects will be left in tatters by the measures, tipping the country back into recession. The opposition has said it will renegotiate the terms of the bail-out, but in practice has will have little room for manoeuvre — having agreed to the broad targets of the rescue plan. Ministers from the 27 EU nations this morning officially “adopted a decision providing financial assistance to Ireland and a recommendation setting out the conditions” that Dublin must meet in exchange for financial aid, the EU said. Although the budget has been presented as a condition of the aid, an EU source was reported as saying it was “not conditional” but that was “obviously quite crucial”. Approval is also vital if Ireland is to win the confidence of the markets. It has been shut out of the debt markets for days, with the European Central Bank providing emergency liquidity for its banks. Although Ireland does not need to raise sovereign debt until next year, it needs to be able to convince institutions that it is a sound investment. The EU and IMF are providing €67.5bn in loans and guarantees towards the bail-out, with Ireland putting €17.5bn of the surplus on its public pension fund into the pot. Some €10bn will be “used immediately to recapitalise Irish banks” with a €25bn contingency reserve, while €50bn will “cover the financing needs of the Irish government’s budget”. Michael Lowry, an independent MP who decided on Monday to support the government’s plan, said it was all about the “distribution of pain”. His approval, and the expected support of another independent MP, mean Mr Cowen will get the controversial measures through parliament despite having a majority of just two. Mr Cowen is the most unpopular leader in recent Irish history and Mr Lenihan has just been voted the worst finance minister in Europe. The two lead Ireland into the years of debt-fuelled growth and controversially rescued the banks by underwriting all their debts. The €30bn capital injections already committed to the worst lenders have driven the budget deficit to 32pc of GDP. Austerity measures are designed to get that down to the eurozone’s 3pc permitted level by 2015 after Europe gave Ireland an extra year, reflecting the slower growth that the cuts are likely to cause. The parliament will vote on the measures at 7pm.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

One Billion $100 Bills Hit by Printing Errors

The problem occurred during the first print run of a newly designed note, which features extra security devices including a holographic ribbon and a metallic inkwell beside the image of Benjamin Franklin. A “sporadic creasing of the paper during printing” left blank spots on some notes, which were due to be in circulation by February 10, according to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Despite “over a decade of research and development” going into the new design, the problem “was not apparent during extensive pre-production testing”, the Bureau said.

Its officials are now working with staff from Crane and Co, the company that has supplied the US government with the paper used for currency since 1879, to solve the problem. Together they must somehow decipher which notes, out of more than a billion, have been blighted by the error and must be destroyed, and which are good for distribution. At $110 billion, the notes are thought to be worth more than ten per cent of the US bank notes currently in circulation, which are said to total $930 billion. Mark Tomasko, a currency historian who has lectured on bank notes at Princeton University, said: “The Bureau has a real job here — a real challenge.” Due to its international importance, the production of the $100 bill was “a remarkable printing job to begin with, and possibly the most significant in the world,” Mr Tomasko said. “The $100 bill also needs to be the most technically advanced note to ensure its security,” he added. The bills — which cost $120 million to make and are the first $100s to bear the signature of Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary — are on hold in vaults in Washington and Texas. In the mean time, old-style $100 bills are being produced to ensure sufficient supply. Darlene Anderson, a Bureau spokesman, said it was not yet known how many notes were affected. She said claims on US television that 30 per cent may have to be shredded were “inaccurate”. “We are confident that a very high proportion of the notes will be fit for circulation,” she said. “A new issue date for the redesigned $100 note will be issued as soon as possible.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


After the Mosque: Jihad on the Home Front

I’m Frank Gaffney. I run the Center for Security Policy. And this is — thank you. This is actually the high point of my year, getting to be here at Restoration Weekend, as I’m sure it is for most of you. Partly because of the caliber of the people up here and partly because of the caliber of the people out there, and the opportunity to interact and actually, literally, to restore each other, it is just so important. And I appreciate beyond words those of you who are making that possible. I’m going to say a few words about the topic and then introduce our presenters. And then we’re going to move quickly, I hope, through their remarks, so that we have at least a little bit of time for Q&A. My other protest is there isn’t nearly enough time for Q&A to do justice, especially when we’ve got four panelists. But there’s a lot to cover. So let’s get on with it. I want to introduce a book that has just been published. It’ll be on sale tonight. I commend it to you strongly. It is entitled “Sharia — The Threat to America.” It is the product of a group that we sponsored at the Center for Security Policy. We’ve called it the Team B2, a reference to an earlier exercise in competitive analysis, as it was called, brought to us by the first Team B. It was a second opinion that was solicited from a group of people who were very skeptical about the idea of dealing with a totalitarian ideology expressly determined to destroy us for what was then known as detente. Other terms that have been used to describe the process is “appeasement,” “engagement.” But détente was the topic of the day. And this second opinion proved to be vastly more accurate and importantly was taken up by Ronald Reagan and used as an authoritative basis for challenging then President Jerry Ford in 1976; subsequently Jimmy Carter in 1980, and then, of course, taking on and defeating the Soviet Union in the days that followed. This study, I hope, by Team B2 will be at least as useful, as influential, as decisive, as was the first…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Big Brother is Watching You Recycle

In 2009, after four years of controversial and piecemeal policies intended to enforce recycling, England imposed a complex and compulsory system of garbage-sorting on homeowners.

Citing the British model, Cleveland, Ohio, is taking a giant step toward a similar scheme of compulsory recycling. In 2011 some 25,000 households will be required to use recycling bins fitted with radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs)—tiny computer chips that can remotely provide information such as the weight of the bin’s contents and that allow passing garbage trucks to verify their presence. If a household does not put its recycle bin out on the curb, an inspector could check its garbage for improperly discarded recyclables and fine the scofflaws $100. Moreover, if a bin is put out in a tardy manner or left out too long, the household could be fined. Cleveland plans to implement the system citywide within six years.

Extreme recycling programs are nothing new, even in American cities. In San Francisco recycling and composting are mandatory; trash is sorted into three different bins with compliance enforced through fines. New York City has a similar program.

Neither are RFID bins new. They were introduced on London streets in 2005 ostensibly to track the amount of trash households produced and to discourage “overproduction,” but they have also had trials in American cities. Earlier this year, Alexandria, Virginia, approved such bins, which were to be placed with households this autumn.

Cleveland is particularly important, however, because of its size. Cash-starved local governments will be watching to see if an American city as big as Cleveland can use RFID bins to increase revenues. The revenues would flow from three basic sources: a trash-collection fee that could be increased, as in Alexandria; the imposition of fines; and the profit, if any, from selling recyclables. The last source should not be dismissed. Recycling programs are not generally cost-efficient, but much of the reason is that collections need to be cleaned and re-sorted at their destination.


[At URL, see “The British Model”]

[Return to headlines]

Chicago Police See Spike in Cop Killings, Assaults

In 2009, there were just under 3,300 reports of battery on a police officer, more than twice as many as were reported in 2002 and nearly triple the number reported in 1999. Police say the most dramatic jump came after the process of reporting the batteries was fully automated in 2004, when it became more accurate. But between 2007 and 2009 the number of reports climbed from 2,677 to 3,298 — a 23 percent increase — and this year the number is on pace to climb well past 3,000 again.

“There is a lack of respect for the police, a lack of fear of the police that’s getting worse,” said Officer Nick Spencer, a 17-year-department veteran. “They see a cop, and they just don’t care anymore.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iowans in War of Words Over Black Farmers

Objections that Rep. Steve King and other Republicans have raised to a settlement with black farmers “have kind of a funny smell about them,” Sen. Tom Harkin said today, escalating a war of words among prominent Iowans over the issue.

King, R-Ia., this week called for a congressional investigation into possible fraud in discrimination claims paid to black farmers. The House approved a bill appropriating more than $1 billion for a new round of payments.

“Their first line of defense is to call me names, so that tells me they’ve already lost the argument,” King said of Harkin’s comment.

King argues that the eligibility standards in the case are too lax, because claimants don’t have to prove they were discriminated against. Republicans will take control in the House next year, putting them in a position to hold hearing on the claims, but King said discussions were still underway about how to handle the issue. He acknowledged that the issue makes southern Republicans uncomfortable. “They cringe because they don’t want to have to deal with the subject,” he said.

Harkin said there is no evidence that past discrimination claims by black farmers have been riddled with fraud and that the latest settlement has adequate safeguards. The legislation includes provisions requiring various reviews and audits of the settlement’s implementation.

“Where are they getting their information? It sounds like they are getting it by conjuring it up in their minds,” said Harkin, D-Ia.

The issue has pitted King against not only Harkin but also two other fellow Iowans, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, both of whom played a role in shaping the settlement and are outspoken advocates of it.

Vilsack told reporters Wednesday that he was disappointed with King’s allegations. “We’re obviously going to be sensitive and aware of the need to make sure that those who have been discriminated against receive their appropriate measure of justice and that we do our very level best to make sure that people who are not entitled to relief don’t get relief,” Vilsack said.

In 2007, blacks operated 31 farms in Iowa out of nearly 93,000 statewide, according to the Agriculture Department.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Judge Dismisses Targeted-Kill Program Lawsuit

A judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to halt the Obama administration’s program to capture or kill Americans who joined militant groups abroad.

The lawsuit was filed by civil liberties groups on behalf of the father of Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who joined al Qaeda in Yemen and has been tied to plots against the United States.

U.S. District Judge John Bates dismissed on jurisdictional grounds the lawsuit, which aimed to halt the program and reveal the criteria the Obama administration set for targeting someone.

Bates said the plaintiff lacked legal standing to bring the case and that his claims presented an issue that cannot be decided by the courts, requiring dismissal of the case.

Administration officials have refused to officially confirm that the program exists, although U.S. officials have said the CIA has been given the green light to capture or kill al-Awlaki.

“The serious issues regarding the merits of the alleged authorization of the targeted killing of a U.S. citizen overseas must await another day or another (non-judicial) forum,” Bates concluded in his 83-page ruling.

The cleric, who was born in New Mexico and lived in Virginia until leaving the country shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks, has been sought by Yemeni authorities, who also want to capture or kill him.

U.S. officials have described al-Awlaki as having a leadership role in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In addition to communicating with the U.S. Army major who gunned down 13 at a military base in Texas last year, he has issued Internet videos and writings to urge attacks against the United States.

The al Qaeda affiliate has said it was behind the plot by a Nigerian man who tried to blow up a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underwear. The group also said it was involved in a more recent plot to send package bombs via U.S. cargo carriers.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslim Brotherhood Front Group Trains TSA Airport Screeners

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has completed training for 2,200 Transportation Safety Officers (TSOs) at the Los Angeles International Airport according to a PRESS RELEASE found on the MPAC website.

The MPAC release notes that the two-month training course informed officers of “the diversity of Muslims around the world from cultural dress to language to tenets. The four trainers taught the TSOs how to properly handle a Quran and discussed the different ways Muslim women and men choose to cover or dress. For example, the TSOs learned if a woman wears hijab and needs a secondary screening she should be screened in a private area by a female TSO officer.”

The Drudge Report recently shocked the nation when they showed a photo of a nun being patted down by a Muslim woman in head garb. Apparently Christian women are afforded only public groping sessions.

In 1986, MPAC was formed as a political action arm of one of the largest Wahhabi mosques in America, the Islamic Center for Southern California.

As the Center for Security Policy’s Team B II report entitled “Sharia: The Threat to America” notes, “The founders of the Islamic Center for Southern California are Hassan Hathout and his brother Maher Hathout. The late Hassan Hathout was a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. The two brothers Maher spent time in an Egyptian prison during the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities there, led by the Brotherhood’s founder Hassan Al Banna. MPAC’s own publication, The Minaret, has proudly called Hassan a ‘companion of’ and Maher ‘a close disciple of’ Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna.”

Maher Hathout also founded and is currently a senior advisor for MPAC. He and others at MPAC also currently work for and maintain a close relationship with the Islamic Center of Southern California.

Hathout was also on the board of directors and a member of the American Muslim Council (AMC) from 1993 to 1997. AMC was founded by the al Qaeda financier and Hamas operative Abdurahman Alamoudi who is currently serving 23 years in prison for funding terrorist groups including al Qaeda.

Maher Hathout served on the AMC Board of Directors at the same time Alamoudi was serving as its Executive Director.

“Maher Hathout has publicly voiced his approval of Designated Terrorist Organizations such as Hezbollah; decried many U.S. counterterrorism efforts; called for the destruction of Israel; and, openly supported known terrorists such as Hasan al Turabi, the leader of the National Islamic Front of Sudan. Yet, the organization he founded, MPAC, enjoys a reputation in official U.S. circles as a ‘moderate’ Muslim organization,” the Team B II report states…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

NYC Taxi Drivers Urged to Use Racial Profiling in Passenger Pickups

“I don’t care about racial profiling. You know, sometimes it is good we are racially profiled, because the God’s honest truth is that 99 percent of the people that are robbing, stealing, killing these drivers are blacks and Hispanics,” said Mateo, who is Hispanic and has a black father. “So if you see suspicious activity, you know what? Don’t pick that person up.”

Mateo’s comments, of course, drew immediate condemnation.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Panel Finds Justice Reluctant to Take Cases of White Victims

The Justice Department stonewalled efforts by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to investigate the dismissal of a civil complaint against the New Black Panther Party, leaving open the question of whether the department is willing to pursue civil rights cases “in which whites were the perceived victims and minorities the alleged wrongdoers.” In a 144-page report completed in November and released over the weekend, the commission said its lengthy investigation had uncovered “numerous specific examples of open hostility and opposition” within the department’s Civil Rights Division to pursuing cases in which whites were the victims.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The ‘Unholy Alliance’ Between Islamic Jihad and Utopian Socialism

We recall that old parlor game: if you could take ten books with you to a desert island, what would they be? Obviously, the list is something of a “moveable feast” and may be modified as our tastes and intellectual needs change over the years, but this is a time in which certain books have become essential to our understanding of the tumultuous era we live in. Jamie’s Glazov’s Showdown With Evil, a selection of FrontPage interviews that he has conducted for the site over the last eight years, is one of those “desert island” books, meant to illumine and accompany us in discretionary solitude.

Of course, in today’s wired (or wireless) world, which is also a world in which a “terrorist event” can detonate anywhere and at any time, there are really no more desert islands where one can disregard the burdens and confusions of the real world and pretend that one is not implicated in history. There is no doubt an Internet café on Bouvet Island and a terrorist lurking about on Tristan da Cunha. The world we now experience has banished solitude and turned it into a nostalgic reminiscence, leaving us awash in information and susceptible to the unpredictable irruption of violence. This is one of the principal tenets of Glazov’s politically incorrect chrestomathy, a book which is a “body of learning.” But although there may be no more islands where we can retire from the turmoil of the world, there are introspective oases we can find here and there in books like this one.

On the one hand, Showdown With Evil applies to specific contexts now very much in the news. For example, it is especially timely in the light of the Oklahoma amendment prohibiting the introduction of Shari’a law and CAIR’s legal suit to block its implementation. It is also relevant for anyone intent on clarifying the issues involved in the ongoing controversy over the Ground Zero mosque or the debate over the selective voyeurism of airport screening techniques. But in a larger sense, it supplies a panoptic overview of the preeminent struggle of the modern age between a resurgent and supremacist Islam and a deeply conflicted West whose survival instinct is being ruthlessly probed and tested.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Barack Obama is a Bigger Danger

WikiLeaks has yet again flooded the internet with thousands of classified American documents, this time state department cables. More troubling than WikiLeaks’ latest revelation of US secrets, however, is the Obama administration’s weak, wrong-headed and erratic response. Unfortunately, the administration has acted consistently with its demonstrated unwillingness to assert and defend US interests across a wide range of threats, such as Iran and North Korea, which, ironically, the leaked cables amply document.

On 29 November, secretary of state Hillary Clinton lamented that this third document dump was “not just an attack on United States foreign policy and interests, [but] an attack on the international community”. By contrast, on 1 December, the presidential press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said the White House was “not scared of one guy with one keyboard and a laptop”. Hours later, a Pentagon spokesman disdained the notion that the military should have prevented the WikiLeaks release: “The determination of those who are charged with such things, the decision was made not to proceed with any sort of aggressive action of that sort in this case.”

Clinton is demonstrably incorrect in being preoccupied with defending the “international community”, whatever that is. Her inability to understand WikiLeaks’ obsession with causing harm to the US is a major reason why the Obama administration has done little or nothing in response — except talk, its usual foreign-policy default position.

At least Clinton saw it as an attack on someone. The White House/defence department view was that the leaks were no big deal. Obama’s ideological predecessors welcomed publication of the Pentagon Papers, and suspected subsequent presidencies of nefarious clandestine dealings internationally, capped by Bush administration “intelligence cherry-picking” on Iraq. The prior WikiLeaks releases were largely military information, which made the Pentagon’s earlier rhetoric more high-pitched, but the outcome for all three was the same: no response. What does it matter if half a million classified US documents become instantly unclassified and downloadable by friend and foe alike?

This sustained, collective inaction exemplifies the Obama administration’s all-too-common attitude towards threats to America’s international interests. The president, unlike the long line of his predecessors since Franklin Roosevelt, simply does not put national security at the centre of his political priorities. Thus, Europeans who welcomed Obama to the Oval Office should reflect on his Warren Harding-like interest in foreign policy. Europeans who believe they will never again face real security threats to their comfortable lifestyle should realise that if by chance one occurs during this administration, the president will be otherwise occupied. He will be continuing his efforts to restructure the US economy, and does not wish to be distracted by foreign affairs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Assange Remanded by London Court

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was remanded in custody until December 14 by a London court on Tuesday after saying he would fight his extradition to Sweden on suspicion of rape and molestation.

The 39-year-old Australian, whose whistleblowing website has enraged Washington by releasing thousands of secret US diplomatic cables, appeared in court just hours after handing himself in to British police.

Filmmaker Ken Loach, socialite Jemima Khan, and campaigning journalist John Pilger each offered 20,000 pounds (23,600 euros, 31,400 dollars) for Assange’s bail, but it was refused on the grounds that he might try to flee Britain.

“These are extremely serious allegations,” district judge Howard Riddle said at City of Westminster magistrates court, adding that Assange faced alleged sexual offences against two women.

“I am satisfied that there are substantial grounds to believe that if granted bail he would fail to surrender,” the judge added.

The judge said Assange had “comparatively weak community ties in this country” and had the “means and ability to abscond if he wants to.”

Assange appeared calm in court, an AFP reporter said. Wearing a navy blue suit and a white shirt without a tie, he spoke to confirm his name and address, giving an Australian PO box address.

When pressed by the judge he gave another address in Victoria, Australia.

The former hacker denies the Swedish claims. He says they stem from a dispute over consensual, unprotected sex with two women and that the accusations may be politically motivated.

WikiLeaks vowed that the detention of its founder would not stop it releasing more of the confidential US cables.

“Today’s actions against our editor-in-chief Julian Assange won’t affect our operations: we will release more cables tonight as normal,” it said in a statement on Twitter.

James Ball, a WikiLeaks journalist in London, told AFP that staff were working “on schedule, all that stuff will keep rolling out as ever”.

In a sign of Washington’s satisfaction at the arrest, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who was visiting Afghanistan on Tuesday, said it “sounds like good news.”

Britain’s Metropolitan Police said earlier in a statement that officers from its extradition unit had arrested Assange on a European arrest warrant “by appointment at a London police station” at 0930 GMT.

“He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010,” the police statement said.

The arrest of Assange comes as a fresh blow to WikiLeaks, which has been chased around the globe since it started to release a cache of 250,000 US diplomatic memos on November 28.

The website has hopped from server to server as various countries tried to close it down, even as its supporters have responded by setting up hundreds of “mirror” sites to keep it online.

WikiLeaks is also coming under increased financial pressure, with Visa following in the footsteps of MasterCard and PayPal Tuesday by announcing that it was suspending all payments to WikiLeaks.

Swiss authorities shut down one of Assange’s bank accounts on Monday, while a major WikiLeaks donor is in trouble in Germany for not filing its accounts on time.

WikiLeaks has already been expelled from the United States where the US Attorney General Eric Holder has said authorities were pursuing an “active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature,” into the leaks.

US politicians have called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist.

In one of the latest leaks, US cables released Tuesday showed that NATO had extended an existing defence plan covering Poland to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania after they lobbied for extra protection.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

British Court Rejects Bail for Assange in Sex Inquiry

Julian Assange, the founder of the beleaguered WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, was denied bail by a court in London on Tuesday and said that he would resist extradition to Sweden where he faces questioning in connection with alleged sex offenses.

Mr. Assange was ordered to remain in custody until a further court session on Dec. 14, the latest twist in the drama swirling around WikiLeaks following its publication of leaked documents.

[Return to headlines]

Germany: Wikileaks Sponsor in Trouble With the Taxman

A major WikiLeaks donor is in trouble in Germany for not filing its accounts on time, but tax authorities insisted Tuesday this was unrelated to its ties to the controversial web organisation.

The Wau Holland Foundation, which has reportedly transferred €750,000 ($1 million) in donations from the public to WikiLeaks, has been sent a second reminder to file its 2009 accounts.

“But this has nothing to do with WikiLeaks,” Michael Conrad, a spokesman for tax authorities in the western state of Hesse, told new agency AFP, saying the reminder was nothing out of the ordinary.

“We haven’t got anyone in our crosshairs, we don’t have any crosshairs.”

WikiLeaks has found itself under growing international pressure following its release of secret US documents to several news organisations, with its donation pipelines slowly being cut off.

MasterCard Worldwide on Monday stopped funnelling payments to the organisation, and on Friday US-based online payment service PayPal blocked financial transfers.

The Swiss Post Office’s banking arm shut down one of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s bank accounts on Monday, saying he had provided false information in his application.

PayPal has also shut down the Wau Holland Foundation’s account, the foundation said, saying PayPal had told it it was “in violation of PayPal’s Acceptable Use Policy regarding… financial support to WikiLeaks.”

Australian national Assange, 39, was arrested in London on Tuesday. He is wanted in Sweden for questioning on suspicion of crimes including rape.

The Wau Holland Foundation, named after a “data philosopher” and co-founder of German hackers’ collective the Chaos Computer Club who died in 2001, called on its website for people to continue supporting WikiLeaks.

It said that passing on donations, which are tax deductible to those giving money, to Wikileaks was lawful in Germany, and that bank transfers were still possible.

If the foundation fails to file its accounts, the authorities will compile them on their behalf— a service which the foundation will have to pay for, Conrad added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Germans Feel Threatened by Islam

Are Germans less tolerant of Islam than the citizens of other European nations? That is the interpretation which some members of the press and adherents of Islam are trying to place on a recent study.

For example, Kirsten Grieshaber of the Associated Press declared:

Germans are less tolerant of Muslims than their western European neighbors and feel threatened by Islam — largely due to lack of contact with them, according to a survey released Thursday.

Only 34% of Germans in the west of the country and 26% in eastern Germany think positively of Muslims, according to a poll by the University of Muenster. In comparison, 62% of Dutch, 56% of French, 55% of Danes and 47% of Portuguese hold positive attitudes on Muslims.

The survey polled 1,000 people in each country and each part of Germany. The margin of error was plus or minus three percent.

According to the poll results, less than 30% of Germans in the west of the country favor allowing new mosques to be built. In the east, less than 20% are in favor. By contrast, more than half of the population in Denmark and two-thirds in France, the Netherlands and Portugal approve of building new mosques.

Granting that the poll is actually an accurate measure of public opinion, it is not unreasonable to ask whether the interpretation that is being offered is accurate. The assertion that Germans have less contact with Muslims than do the Danes or the Dutch seems highly unlikely: there are 3.2 million Muslims in Germany, second only to France in terms of resident adherents of Islam. Actually, for several decades the German government actively solicited Turkish workers to come and work in Germany, albeit on a temporary (two-year) basis. An article at (“Turks in Germany”) describes the result of such “temporary” immigration:

However, there were also Turkish people who went back to Turkey during times when the German economy went down… 1973 is a very important year, as Germany stopped the recruitment of foreign workers. During the recession of 1974/75 and 1981-1984, Turkish workers preferred to stay in Germany, due to fear of not to being allowed to come back to Germany. From 1974 on, Turkish workers made increasingly use of family unification as is their right according to the European Convention on Human Rights. Today only one quarter of the people of Turkish origin came to Germany as workers, while 53% immigrated as family members and 17% of the adult Turks were born in Germany. 2.4 million people with Turkish origin now live in Germany, 1.88 million of which have Turkish citizenship and 400,000 applied for German citizenship in order to get legal security and to participate politically. They present the largest foreign population in Germany and they live mainly in areas with high industrialization because this is where the first generation found their jobs.

The result of such “temporary” work-related immigration may feel somewhat familiar to Americans; what began as a stop-gap measure to deal with temporary need to fill a gap in the labor force transformed into a wave of immigration, with a largely unassimilated foreign population residing in Germany, with many of the foreigners demonstrating little interest in pursuing a path to citizenship. With Germany’s total population just under 82 million, 3.2 million Muslims are obviously a significant religious minority within the nation’s population, and the 2.4 million Turks make up the overwhelming majority of that Islamic community.

According to the article, Germans have proven themselves open to allowing these recent immigrants a certain degree of influence over the broader culture:

As the biggest foreign population, Turkish and people of Turkish origin are strongly shaping the image of most German cities. Döner has become traditional German food. Turkish politicians are campaigning for German and Turkish voters. The Turkish present TV shows, they are in the movies and they win prizes for Germany. During the enthusiastic celebrations of the Football World Cup, Turks supported the German team together with the other Germans. But the public opinion also sees the dark sides. Integration problems, criminality amongst the youth, honor killings and fear of “foreign infiltration”. The ever ongoing debates are either mainly over assimilation versus a Turkish parallel society or a German “leading culture” versus multiculturalism, which reflect these two sides of the medal.

One hardly needs to discuss Germans in terms evocative of the canard of Nazism redux to understand the tension which has come to pass in the wake of an unassimilated Turkish migration. And yet, Grieshaber elected to call upon the ghosts of World War II:…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italian and Swiss Television Channels Disappear, The Inhabitants of Varese Complain

In many areas of Varese, the state television signal disappeared. The words from above: be patient and retune your decoder every now and again. It will still take a few days. As for the Swiss TV …

Don’t panic, the situation is under control. Well, to tell the truth, it isn’t. Your comments the day after the switch-off went from angry to worried. In summing up, and looking on the bright side, we have to say that you are a very selective audience. Most of Varese’s inhabitants complained that they could not get the three Italian RAI television channels, or the Swiss channel. “Too many useless TV sales,” was the most common protest. Indeed, it isn’t easy make head or tail of the hundreds of channels, and anyone with Sky needs a degree in “using the remote control”.

In short, since yesterday, in many parts of Varese, the state television channels have no longer be visible. What has happened? Is everything normal? We asked the Consumer service of the Ministry of Economic Development.

The answer was fast and polite: “You will have to be patient for a few more days,” the call centre operator told us. “Tests are still in progress and it’s taking a little longer than expected. For the RAI channels, the technical tests are probably weakening the signal too much in areas like Varese. The only solution for a few more days is to retune the decoder occasionally. The frequencies change continually and RAI should soon return to land-based digital broadcasting.”

Now that we’ve dealt with RAI, there’s still the problem of Swiss television…

Translated by Jessica Venturini (Reviewed by Prof. Rolf Cook)

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

Italy: Bolzano Tops Italian Provinces for Quality of Life

Naples at the bottom for first time in Il Sole survey

(ANSA) — Rome, December 6 — Bolzano in northern Italy is the Italian province with the highest quality of life while Naples, in the south, has the lowest, according to the annual survey from the economic daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

The survey’s ranking was based on such factors as living conditions; business and employment; services, the environment and health; law and order; population density; and free time.

These were measured by comparing parameters like per capita GDP, unemployment, infrastructures, reported crimes, book purchases and the number of volunteer organisations.

Bolzano jumped to the top from 8th position last year and came in one point above Trento, which climbed three positions in a year, while Sondrio was third, the same as in 2009.

Last year’s number one, Trieste, fell three positions to 4th while the 2009 number two, Belluno, lost eight positions to come in 10th.

Naples was next to last in 2009 and slipped a point in this year’s survey, coming in last for the first time in 21 editions, while Agrigento in Sicily leapt nine points from dead last to 98th in 2010.

Among Italy’s biggest cities, Milan fell two positons to 21st and Rome tumbled 11 places to come in 35th, while Venice dropped three places to 46th and Turin jumped 14 positions to 54th. Bologna gained five positions to make it into the top ten at 8th, just above Oristano, in Sardinia, which made a startling jump of 18 positions.

Sassari, also in Sardinia, made the biggest overall jump, 38 places from 79th to 41st, while Campobosso, in Molise, lost the most ground, tumbling 47 places, from 33rd to 8th.

Italy’s northern, mountain provinces were almost all near the top thanks to the level of their incomes, security levels and quality of their services, environments and health structures.

Bolzano, for example, was first in Italy for employment for women, while Trento had the lowest inflation rate.

At the other end of the ranking, Naples had the highest inflation, most expensive construction costs, a poor employment picture, high crime rate and an ecosystem near collapse.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Julian Assange Arrest: How the Extradition Process Works

WikiLeaks founder could face detention upon his return to Sweden after activation of European Arrest Warrant

Julian Assange’s arrest by police this morning will kickstart the fast-tracked extradition process, using the European Arrest Warrant system, to attempt to return him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning regarding a rape charge.

Swedish criminal law experts said this morning that little was known about the allegations Assange is facing in the country, in line with legal requirements to protect anonymity and preserve confidentiality for sex crimes.

The activation of a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) by UK police suggests Assange has been formally charged by Swedish prosecutors and could face a period of detention upon his return.

Assange’s legal team is determined to fight his extradition on grounds including the failure of authorities to provide details of the warrant issued by Sweden. They will also claim human rights reasons, including the arguments that the WikiLeaks founder may be unfairly deprived of his liberty in Sweden and that he risks not facing a fair trial.

The media attention surrounding Assange’s case is likely to complicate any future criminal proceedings, although the lack of a jury system in Sweden is likely to fuel arguments that he will be protected from public and media interest in the case.

Assange’s first appearance at Westminster magistrates’ court today will be primarily concerned with formalities, including establishing his identity and determining whether he consents to the extradition.

The court will then adjourn for a full extradition hearing, which has to be within 21 days. A key issue will be whether Assange is released on bail during that period. His lawyers are reported to be putting together a generous bail package, including a security of at least £100,000 and a surety, where third parties guarantee to pay the court if he absconds.

Experts say a large sum is likely to secure bail, although the crime for which Assange is wanted by Sweden is rape, an offence for which bail is harder to secure.

If extradited to Sweden under the EAW — a process that could be concluded quickly under the fast-track procedure — Assange will be vulnerable to other extradition requests from countries including the US.

The US has an extradition treaty with Sweden since the 1960s, when the nations agreed to “make more effective the co-operation of the two countries in the repression of crime”.

Extradition under the treaty is likely to face a number of obstacles, not least the fact that the likely charges facing Assange in the US — under the Espionage Act or other legislation protecting national security — are not included in the exhaustive list of offences set out in the law.

There may also be issues of jurisdiction, since the offences Assange is alleged by the US to have conducted did not take place within the country. However, with other cases involving alleged cybercrimes, such as the case pending against computer hacker Gary McKinnon, the US has claimed that entering its computer systems remotely constitutes an offence it has jurisdiction to prosecute.

Even if Assange’s case falls outside the remit of Sweden’s treaty with the US, there is scope for the country to agree to his extradition to the US.

Swedish law permits extradition more generally to countries outside Europe, although the process is subject to safeguards, including a ban on extradition for “political offences” or where the suspect has reason to fear persecution on account of their membership of a social group or political beliefs.

Under similar arrangements, Assange could also be vulnerable to extradition requests from other countries, including his native Australia, where the authorities are investigating a potential case against him.

Any extradition from Sweden to other countries could take place only after the current rape proceedings have been concluded. With Assange’s lawyers confirming their intention to dispute those proceedings on all grounds, it seems the prospect of any extradition to the US remains some way away.

[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber: The View From Scotland

When Abdelbaset al-Megrahi boarded the Libyan jet as a free man in August 2009, Scottish ministers said his release was proof of their country’s humanity.

Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish justice secretary, said the former Libyan intelligence officer had barely three months to live, terminally ill from inoperable prostate cancer, according to the Scottish prison service’s medical experts. Condemnation from the US was vigorous. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state said it was “absolutely wrong”, while relatives of US victims of the Lockerbie bombing denounced it as “vile”.

MacAskill said: He repeatedly quoted messages of congratulations for showing mercy from Nelson Mandela, senior Scottish church leaders and some British relatives of the Lockerbie bombing.

“In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic.” Megrahi blew up Pan Am flight 103 above Lockerbie in December 1988, claiming 270 lives. His release has been the most controversial and bitterly disputed act by any minister since Scottish devolution 11 years ago.

Many still dispute the medical evidence MacAskill relied on. To the Scottish government’s embarrassment, Megrahi is still living at home with his wife and mother in Tripoli, his survival reportedly prolonged by chemotherapy which he was denied in Greenock prison, and by the psychological relief of being released.

Scottish Labour and Tory politicians have constantly pressed for clearer medical evidence to justify the official advice that the three months was “a reasonable prognosis”. Cancer experts have derided that conclusion, insisting that 18 months is more reasonable…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nordic Countries Huddle Together as World Gets Bigger

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — A Nato-style ‘musketeer’ clause and closer consular co-operation could form part of a new Nordic alliance, foreshadowing future developments inside the EU.

Few people know the High North security environment like Estonian MP Tarmo Kouts. As a junior officer in the Soviet merchant navy in the 1970s, Mr Kouts shipped timber through the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea to Europe. After Estonia gained independence he helped to build its armed forces, rising to the rank of vice admiral, before going into politics. In 2007 he watched reports as a Russian submarine planted a titanium flag on the seabed under the North Pole.


Comment article

“This operation was a sign from the Russians. It said: ‘We are here. We are the first and it belongs to us.’ If we are talking about the Arctic Ocean, they have quite a significant naval capability in Murmansk and in many other points in Arctic waters,” he said.

Not from one of the Nordic countries — Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden — Mr Kouts nevertheless backs an initiative by the five states to band together in response to the melting ice caps and the coming race to tap new mineral resources and trade routes.

The Nordic pact was mooted by foreign ministers at a meeting in Reykjavik in November and is to be discussed again in Helsinki in April.

Its blueprint is the Stoltenberg Report, a list of proposals set out in 2009 by Thorvald Stoltenberg, Norway’s former foreign minister and defence minister and the father of its current prime minister. The report suggests, among other measures: creating a military and civilian taskforce for unstable regions; a joint amphibious unit; a disaster-response unit; a coastguard-level maritime response force; joint cyber-defence systems; joint air, maritime and satellite surveillance; co-operation on Arctic governance; and a war crimes investigation unit.

It also proposes pooling consular services in places where all five countries do not have missions and adds, in an echo of Nato’s “one for all and all for one” Article V, that: “The countries could clarify in binding terms how they would respond if a Nordic country were subject to external attack or undue pressure.”

Mr Stoltenberg told EUobserver that his plan is a reaction to major geopolitical changes…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero, State of Emergency Has Given Desired Results

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 6 — The declaration of the state of emergency due to the air transport crisis caused by the strike of flight controllers “has given the desired results, that is returning the situation to normal in 24 hours”.

This remark was made by Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who defended the government’s decision to take the measure, for the first time in 35 years of democracy. The flight controllers were placed under military control, forcing them to suspend their wild strike under threat of being court-martialed for disobedience. Zapatero explained in statements he made on the sidelines of the 32nd anniversary of the Constitution that it will be decided whether or not to extend the extraordinary measure, which will be in force for 15 days, “depending on the development of the situation”. Zapatero said that he is convinced the chaos will not repeat itself, since the government “has more power to respond”. The Premier has scheduled a Congress hearing on Thursday, because the “seat of people’s sovereignty” must be “fully informed” on the crisis of flight controllers. Isquierda Unida MP Gaspar Llamazares has asked the government to revoke the state of emergency before the planned 15 days of the decree, which he considers “a constitutional abuse”, since the militarisation of flight controllers in a civilian sector like air traffic can only be done to impose a curfew or in a state of siege. The leader of the People’s Party, Mariano Rajoy, guaranteed that his party will approve the decree that was launched by the government, but that it will demand explanations from the government so that the “people in Spain will know why they have to go through this situation”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck: U.S. Diplomat Visits Radical London Mosque

America’s Ambassador to Great Britain, Louis Susman, is coming under fire for his recent visit to a notorious London mosque with terrorist ties.

According to the US Embassy in London, Susman’s visit to the East London Mosque was part of the Obama administration’s continued outreach to Muslims.

Susman’s visit came just one year after Al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki appeared at the mosque via videolink and in a live Q and A session with congregants.

You can watch my report by clicking on the the link above.

           — Hat tip: Erick Stakelbeck[Return to headlines]

Strache’s Israel Trip Causes a Stir

by Chaim Levinson

Officials in Austria are at odds over Freedom Party (FPÖ) leader Heinz-Christian Strache’s decision to travel to Israel.

The right-winger visited Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a territory Palestinians are also claiming. Speaking about the ongoing conflict about the area and the throwbacks the peace talks have suffered, Strache said in the West Bank area today (Tues): “One who comes to this place can understand the real problems. Our hearts are with you, Israel!”

The FPÖ boss said there must be a dialogue with all sides involved and affected, but added there would be “no compromise towards the terror”.

Strache controversially attended a summit focusing on “strategies against the Islamic terror”. Flemish politician Filip Dewinter and Andreas Mölzer, who represents the FPÖ’s far-right branch in the European Parliament (EP), also took part in the congress.

Fritz Edlinger, the general secretary of the Society for Austrian-Arabian Relations (GÖAB), said it was “incredible” Strache decided to travel to Israel. Edlinger explained he was “surprised” the head of a party which was “still the political home for old and new anti-Semites in Austria” would find dialogue partners in Israel.

Ariel Muzicant, head of the Jewish Community in Vienna (IKG), meanwhile announced: “I don’t have a problem with that (Strache going to Israel).”

Muzicant said he considered the decision as “interesting”, but added he had been assured no Israeli MPs will meet with Strache.

Strache was elected federal leader of the FPÖ after its former spearhead Jörg Haider walked out to form the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) five years ago. Polls have shown that most right-wing Austrians consider Strache as the political heir of Haider who died in a car crash in 2008.

The FPÖ can look back on a series of strong performances in various elections. It managed to increase its share in the provincial parliaments of Burgenland and Styria before shocking Austria’s established parties by garnering 25.77 per cent in the Vienna city parliament vote recently (2005: 14.83 per cent).

Israel withdrew its ambassador from Vienna in a reaction to the coalition agreement between the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) and the FPÖ in 2000 before sending a diplomat to become ambassador in the Austrian capital three years later.

Haider caused outcry in Israel and Western Europe by meeting with late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein several times in 2002. The right-winger claimed he focused on establishing business connections between Austrian firms and companies in the war-stricken country. Haider harshly criticised the United States and Great Britain for attacking and invading Iraq in 2003 and claimed it was wrong to execute Hussein the next year.

The FPÖ’s election campaigns have been branded as “xenophobic” since Haider became federal leader in a party summit revolt in 1986. Hundreds of thousands of Austrians took to the streets to protest against the FPÖ’s “Austrians must come first!” referendum in 1993. Strache has revealed plans to initiate a similar referendum next year, citing growing fears of “growing ‘Islamisation’“ in Western Europe.

He also voted to press on with a referendum against possible new mosques in Vienna where one in 10 residents are Muslims. Just four of the hundreds of mosques in Austria feature distinctive minarets. One of them is located in the federal capital.

The FPÖ leader blamed Muslims of creating so-called parallel societies in some Viennese districts.

Research agency Karmasin recently discovered that a majority of 52 per cent of Austrians opposed the idea of more mosques with minarets.

Strache’s visit to Israel came just months after Social Democratic (SPÖ) Chancellor Werner Faymann and ÖVP Vice Chancellor and Finance Minister Josef Pröll travelled to the country independently of each other. west-bank-settlements-1.329315

Anti-Muslim European MPs tour West Bank settlements

Austrian opposition leader Heinz-Christian Strache says after what was done to Diaspora Jewry the Europeans are responsible for the Jewish people. By Chaim Levinson Tags: Israel news West Bank Israel settlements Austria Muslim Belgium Germany

European members of parliament affiliated with right-wing and anti-Muslim parties took a tour of West Bank settlements on Monday, to get a look at the the lives and various activities of Israel’s right-wing activists.

The Austrian Opposition leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who has a viable chance of being elected the next Austrian chancellor, said that in order to understand the problems of the region one has to visit and see for themselves.

He added that the Europeans were responsible to ensure that the Jewish people had a secure future after what was done to them in the Diaspora.

Strache was joined by officials from Austria, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Britain, and Sweden, who were guided through the settlements by Shomron Regional Council chairman Gershon Mesika.

“The parliament members on the tour in the Shomron region all battle Islamic extremism and the spreading of terror organizations in Europe, while explicitly supporting the state of Israel,” Mesika said.

“We who then the importance of the Shomron for the state of Israel, both as a cradle of culture and the roots of the people of Israel, and as the belt [of land] defending Israel.

European countries must understand that without a state of Israel there is no one to stop the Muslim wave from eroding Europe, and without Judea and Samaria, Israel is unable to exist,” Mesika added.

The officials visited the industrial area in the settlements if Barkan and Elon Moreh, as well as the Har Bracha Yeshiva, where they dined with head Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.

Top Belgian MP Filip Dewinter said during a press conference following the tour, that contrary to their first impressions and prior beliefs about the region, the settlements are not a temporary phenomenon, and are a necessary part of Israel for both geo-political and security reasons.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Swedish Pupils Slide in New Global Ranking

The reading comprehension and mathematics skills of 15-year-old Swedish students have deteriorated in the 2000s, a new triennial OECD study released on Tuesday has found.

Sweden came in 19th overall out of 65 OECD countries and partners, far behind OECD partner Shanghai, China and OECD leaders Korea and Finland, the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2009 survey revealed. Nordic neighbours Norway (12th) and Iceland (16th) also came ahead of Sweden, as well as the US in 17th.

Compared with PISA 2000, Sweden has lost 19 points and now has 497, compared with 556 for Shanghai, 539 for Korea and 536 for Finland. The OECD average is 493.

The study found that decline in reading skills among Swedish students was greatest for those who were already poor readers, the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) announced on Tuesday. It also found that Swedish students currently perform below the international average in science.

In addition, the Swedish school system has lost its top spot in equality and an increasing number of students do not possess basic reading skills.

“This is very worrying,” Helén Ängmo, the agency’s acting general director, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nearly half a million 15-year-olds from 65 countries or regions took part in PISA 2009, of which 4,567 came from Sweden. PISA is an OECD study that evaluates skills in reading, mathematics and science.

The Swedish results were presented and analysed in an education agency report titled “Fit to face the future?”

Literacy is the main focus of the PISA study. Compared with the first PISA survey, the Swedish results have worsened, with the reading comprehension of 15-year-olds at an average level from an international perspective. In all of the previous PISA surveys, Swedish students performed above the OECD average.

At the same time, the Swedish students’ performance in mathematics has also declined. Since the 2003 survey, Swedish students have lost 15 points and currently perform at an average level.

Meanwhile, for the first time, Swedish students have fallen below the OECD average in science. Sweden is now six points below the OECD average and the survey projects a downward trend in this area. The proportion of pupils failing to achieve a basic level in science has increased to nearly 20 percent.

Nearly one-fifth of Swedish students do not meet basic levels in reading comprehension. According to the OECD, this is the one skill that is viewed as essential for continued learning. The proportion has increased from 13 percent to almost 18 percent since 2000.

“One in five students now does not have a basic level in reading, a level needed to benefit from other knowledge,” said Anita Wester, project manager at the agency for Sweden’s participation in PISA.

Among boys, nearly one quarter fall below the basic level. Both boys and girls have fallen behind, but boys have lost even more ground and the poorest performers are mostly boys. Boys performed worse than girls in all subjects, with the difference in reading comprehension between boys and girls increasing from 37 to 46 points in the past decade.

Sweden has also lost ground in equality, which it once led in previous surveys despite being one of the world’s most egalitarian countries, and currently ranks average.

“It is very worrying that the gaps are increasing. Equality is a hallmark of Swedish education and we have high ambitions for the school system’s compensatory mandate and capacity to equalise social differences,” said Ängmo.

PISA revealed a growing disparity between high- and low-performing students and a strengthened role in the students’ socioeconomic backgrounds. In addition, the differences between high-and low-performing schools has increased.

PISA also acknowledged the difference in performance between Swedish students and students with foreign backgrounds. In Sweden, the differences between these groups of students was one of the highest in the survey.

For students with foreign backgrounds born in Sweden, 30 percent failed to meet basic reading levels. In terms of students of foreign origin who were born abroad, the figure was 48 percent, compared with Swedish students, at 14 percent.

“There is concern that students with foreign backgrounds born in Sweden have lower results than those students, although a lot of the differences can be explained by socio-economic backgrounds,” said Wester.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Man Sliced in Sex Play Snafu

A Swedish couple’s recent attempt to spice up their sex lives went horribly wrong, putting the man in hospital and his girlfriend in handcuffs.

After having a few drinks together, the couple started to get intimate in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, the Expressen newspaper reports.

Not satisfied with traditional approaches to disrobing, the couple decided that it might be more fun to remove one another’s underwear using a knife.

After the 47-year-old man successfully sliced the stockings off his girlfriend, she gingerly gripped the handle of the knife and took a shot at cutting her boyfriend’s boxers right off his body.

Unfortunately for the man, the 36-year-old woman apparently lacked the same level of skill as her boyfriend when it came to handling sharp objects.

Rather than slashing through his underwear, the woman instead stabbed her boyfriend in the thigh.

“From what we understand, it was a sex act that went a bit wrong,” Maud Johansson of the Västerås police told the newspaper.

On Tuesday morning, the man’s girlfriend was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault while he recovered in hospital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Cable Guy: Julian Assange Becomes the US’s Public Enemy No. 1

He may be on the short list for Time magazine’s “person of the year,” but many Americans consider Julian Assange to be a criminal and a terrorist. The WikiLeaks founder has been fighting a battle on several fronts since the publication of the diplomatic cables. He has now been arrested in London.

Wherever Julian Assange turned up in recent weeks, there was always a noticeably well-dressed young woman at his side. Jennifer Robinson, an attorney at a London law firm, has served as Assange’s legal protection insurance for the last few weeks. She kept several sets of legal documents in her purse, for the event that Scotland Yard or some other law enforcement agency decided to arrest the Australian.

Assange now finds himself in need of such expert legal protection. He was arrested by British police in London on Tuesday on a European warrant issued by Swedish prosecutors.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Top Scientist Warns Against ‘Hype’ As EU Sets Out Bee Rescue Plan

The European Commission has published a new action plan intended to shed light on reports of declining honey-bee populations across Europe, key pollinators for many of the bloc’s important crop species. At the same time, one the Europe’s top scientists in the field has warned against mass hysteria, pointing out that most species have experienced epidemics at one stage or another over previous centuries, ultimately with little long-term effect. “The fact that honey-bee colonies die in large numbers is nothing strange,” the UK’s only professor in the field of apiculture, the University of Sussex’s Francis Ratnieks, told this website.

The issue of honey-bee decline came to the fore in 2006 amid reports in the US of ‘colony collapse disorder’ (CCD), a phenomenon in which worker bees abruptly disappear from a beehive. Since then, there have been reports in a number of EU member states of honey-bee populations dying off, although data appears to be patchy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK Schools ‘Fall Behind Estonia and Slovenia’, Says OECD

Teenagers slumped in worldwide rankings comparing standards of reading, mathematics and science in 65 developed nations. Figures published by the respected Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showed the UK fell from 17th to 25th for reading and from 24th to 28th for maths. In science, pupils dropped from 14th when results were last published in 2007 to 16th this year.

The results will cast a major shadow over Labour’s education record and spark claims that a £30 billion rise in spending under the last Government failed to produce decent results. Andreas Schleicher, from the OECD’s education directorate, said overall scores achieved by UK pupils were “stagnant at best, whereas many other countries have seen quite significant improvements”. According to OECD figures, around a fifth of 15-year-olds in Britain failed to gain even the minimum standard expected for their age group in literacy and maths. In a damning conclusion, the organisation warned that pupils’ “chances of success in later life” were “significantly reduced” after falling short of the target. The study — based on independent tests sat by more than 500,000 schoolchildren — also showed: …

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Birmingham Moslem Community Outraged Over Halal Meat

Members of the Birmingham Muslim community raised concerned to the Birmingham EHO with regards to halal poultry falsely labeled by major high street chain KFC.

After months of telephone and email communication with M/s Karen Boyal, District Environmental Health Officer, Birmingham City Council she advised the complainant to contact the company direct “I would advise you to contact the Home Authority (Woking Borough Council,) for KFC directly; as I am yet to hear from them and the meat and chicken that they use is likely to affect all their outlets not just those in Birmingham.”

Whilst the local officer was laid back with the response, senior officers were approached, Only last month Food standard Agency, under the instruction of M/s Sarah Appleby Head of Enforcement and Local Authority Delivery Division at FSA issued the Guidance for halal food at a cost of 1.2 million to the Tax payers.

M/s Jacqui Kennedy, Director of Regulatory Services Regulatory Services Birmingham, was asked to intervene to find out why the Halal guide lines from FSA were not been implemented by Birmingham local authoritie, which cost in the region of over 1.2 Million Pound to compile, staff at the local authority Birmingham EHO have said even though they do not have any other guidance for halal they have no intention of following the guidance that have been issued by the Director of Regulation Service at FSA.

Furthermore the local director of Regulation Service has decided to commission their own report for halal food. The BBC’s You And Yours program says that halal meat now “accounts for around a quarter of the UK s meat trade”. The halal trade here in the UK is totally unregulated and the possibility of the next food disaster similar to BSE, these guidances was to address this problem, with the credit crunch the community at large are asking Who is going to pay for this report, will the Birmingham Tax payer be burden with this cost, bearing in mind a similar report has already cost Food standard Agency in the region of 1.2 million.

The danger of having halal meat unregulated will create the next BSE type of food problem in the UK. One Muslim Birmingham Leader said “ this is not fair under the guide lines all food has to be labeled correctly so that we can all make an informed choice and I am sure that other citizen of Birmingham who practice other faiths can not be sure that what they are eating does not go against their believes, more importantly we must all be supplied correctly labeled food.”

Birmingham community is once again divided and misguided by the local authority over misleading labeling over halal food. Muslim are convinced that they are being treated as second class citizens and outraged to find out that in the UK: Up to 75% of halal poultry falsely labeled this news was carried by all national mainstream news papers Up to three-quarters of poultry sold as halal in the UK is falsely labeled,

A spokes person for Birmingham Jamie Masjid said what I cant understand is why? Only last month Food standard Agency, under the instruction of M/s Sarah Appleby Head of Enforcement and Local Authority Delivery Division at FSA issued the Guidance for halal food at a cost of 1.2 million pounds. Birminghams been approached to carry out this instruction to regulate halal food. It appears that emails are being deliberately filtered so that the officers have an excuse not to reply.

Conservative Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) tabled a question last week to find out whether halal meat had been sold in the Commons outlets. He added there was cross-party support for halal meat to be clearly labelled. Mr Knight said: “This underlines the need to have proper labelling in place so people actually know what they are eating. It seems to me that there has been this drive in the food industry to do everything halal so it doesnt offend people. But as a consumer I would like to know what I am eating and how it was killed. The issue needs to be addressed and I hope it is something the Coalition does shortly.”

Fellow Tory Philip Hollobone (Kettering) said he was “not shocked or surprised” by Sir Stuart admission. He added: “I am angry because I do not think it is that difficult a problem to solve. It just needs the political will to do it. We are waiting for Europe to do something rather than taking the initiative ourselves or maybe the Government is frightened about upsetting ethnic minorities.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Has Been Arrested on a Swedish Warrant

British police said on Tuesday they had arrested Julian Assange, the beleaguered founder of the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, on a warrant issued in Sweden in connection with alleged sex offenses.

Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard when he went to a central London police station by prior agreement with the authorities, the police said. A court hearing was expected later.

The widely anticipated arrested came after Mr. Assange, who denies the charges of sexual misconduct said to have been committed while he was in Sweden in August, threatened to release many more diplomatic cables if legal action is taken against him or his organization.

[Return to headlines]


Serbia: Tito’s Grandson Submits Signatures to Form New Communist Party

Belgrade, 6 Dec. (AKI) — The grandson of the late Yugoslav president Tito, Josip “Joska” Broz, on Monday officially submitted a request for the registration of his own Communist Party.

Broz, 63, submitted 12,000 signatures, 2,000 more than needed, to the Ministry for State Affairs, and said his party will run in the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2012.

Asked whether he believed he could pass the five per cent census, Broz told Adnkronos International (AKI) he expected to do much better.

“But even five per cent would be a great success, considering that we are a new party,” he said.

Broz, followed by a group of supporters, came to the ministry carrying a banner “When we were comrades, we lived like gentlemen, now we are gentlemen and look how we live”, the banner read, referring to Tito’s time.

Surveys showed that most people in Serbia believed they lived better under Tito’s communist rule, than under present democratic government. But few believed that Broz could play a major role on the changed political scene in Serbia.

Tito ruled Yugoslavia unchallenged for 45 years. He died in 1980.

Broz vowed to “restore the dignity to the people and the system values which have been destroyed”. He said all people, regardless of religion and nationality, were welcome to his party to “begin a struggle for better life”.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Bouteflika Pardons Anti-Islamic Patriot

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 6 — Mohamed Gharbi, 74, patriot at the head of the self-defence groups of Souk Ahras, 600 kilometres south of Algiers, has been pardoned by Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika, with his death sentence converted into 20 years in jail. It is a “partial victory” for the National Coordination for the Liberation of Gharbi (CLMG), which for years has been fighting for the release of the 74-year-old prisoner. His lawyers are optimistic, however, since in their view “the president’s pardon, even if only partial, was expressly given to allow for Gharbi’s probation, which is possible since he has already served 10 years in jail.” The former patriot, who like in the case of thousands of other Algerians had taken up arms to defend himself in the 1990s from violence inflicted by Islamic-inspired groups, was arrested in 2001 and later sentenced to death for the killing of Ali Merad, emir of AIS, the armed wing of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), who had been granted amnesty as part of the Civil Concord. According to the press, Bouteflika’s decision came after the mobilisation of the population, which over the past few weeks had given life to an intense campaign even in the streets of the capital. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cairo Festival: Cinecitta’ Looks at Arab World

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 6 — The Italian film industry is increasingly interested in the Arab world, North Africa in particular, in its search for new talent and films to distribute. It certainly is no uniform area, but rather a zone with substantial differences between the various countries: Morocco and Tunisia are leading in the field of services, Egypt is the main producer and other countries are still unexplored.

Luciano Sovena, managing director of Cinecitta’ Luce and on the jury of the international Film Festival of Cairo (in the country’s capital until December 9), explains what is happening in the Arab world’s film sector and where the Italian film industry could find new directors.

“Some countries in the Arab world”, Sovena told ANSAmed from the Festival, “are slowly opening their doors to cinema.

Others already have much experience in the sector. It would be interesting to start collaborating with these”. Egypt, for example, is “the most important producer in all Africa which also distributes in India”. Egypt has an important film tradition, Sovena continued, and this festival is showing that, also by the themes it has selected. “It is a cultured festival”, he said, “with much auteur film and an attentive audience”. The theatres where the selected films for the 34th Cairo Film Festival are screened these days are in fact crammed with people. “There is also much politics in this event. There are many woman directors and actresses; there is a discussion on social issues, on the relation between men and women, on sex and on ethnic rape”. Where Egypt still has a long way to go, Morocco — where Cinecitta’ Luce is present since around 8 years with the school of arts and crafts in Casablanca — the society is well-tested. Sovena announces that “once filming is over, we hope to bring “Sarabanda Pitull” to Berlin, a film made in Morocco that focuses on the violence of gangs in Casablanca”.

Our calling, he points out, is to discover talent, making films that discuss important issues. Making the documentary “Cast Lead” (2009) by Stefano Savona for example, “we decided to tell the story seen from the eyes of the defeated”.

Tunisia is one of the promising Mediterranean countries, according to Sovena, in which Cinecitta’ Luce may try to play a role in future. However, he said, “it is well occupied by Tarek Ben Ammar. Other promising countries include Algeria (where the political situation is the main source of concern); Libya (completely unexplored); Saudi Arabia (in a very early stage) and Abu Dhabi, which is opening its doors to foreign co-productions”. It is convenient to produce films locally, Sovena points out. Post-production, particularly development and print, costs less in Italy. Therefore, he concludes, “the collaboration with the Casablanca film school will be renewed to boost investments made by small and medium-sized audiovisual industries in Lazio. This school trains young people in several professions in the film sector. When leaving school, they are able to participate in productions, especially Italian productions, made in their country”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: In the Aftermath of Flawed Elections, A Crisis of Legitimacy

The first round of parliamentary elections in Egypt left many election observers frustrated.

The frustration comes from numerous media and domestic-monitoring reports that documented election violations, including an organized intervention for ruling National Democratic Party candidates, judges and election observers blocked from doing their jobs, widespread vote-buying, and violence at polling places.

[Editor’s note: Analysts of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace are included among contributors to Babylon & Beyond. Carnegie is renowned for its political, economic and social analysis of the Middle East. The views represented are the author’s own.]

As a result, regardless of what happens in the Dec. 5 runoff elections, the ruling establishment’s promise to hold free and pluralistic elections is no longer credible and its monopoly over the legislature is guaranteed.

Based on the results so far and runoff election predictions, the NDP will control the People’s Assembly for the next five years. The party won over 90% of seats, with the share held by opposition and independent candidates falling from 24% to less than 10%.

Despite its relatively strong numbers in the last parliament, the opposition was unable to stop the NDP from passing its constitutional amendments and legislative agenda, and was ineffective in holding the executive branch accountable. Given its smaller numbers in the new parliament, it will likely have an even flimsier oversight role in the next five years.

As sectarian tensions between Muslim and Christian citizens increase, the new People’s Assembly will also under-represent Copts. Just a handful of Coptic candidates ran and, even if they all won in the runoff elections, Copts would represent less than 4% of lawmakers. This showing reflects neither their size — most unofficial estimates place Copts at 10% of the population — nor their influence in society.

There was some positive news in the elections, however. The number of women in the new parliament will jump to an unprecedented level after the government allocated 64 seats for a women’s quota.

While the NDP sought to keep its comfortable majority in parliament, consolidate its position as the dominant party, diminish the role of the Muslim Brotherhood and limit political competition, it also wanted to achieve a complementary set of political objectives. These include:…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

House Converted Into Mosque Overnight in Egypt to Prevent Church Services

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — In an effort to end any hope of the Coptic Christians using the Church of St. Mary and St. Michaels in Talbiya for prayer services, the Giza Governorate converted overnight a house facing the church into a mosque.

The new so-called “Ekhlass” mosque was converted secretly Thursday evening when a cloth sign was hastily hung outside a 4 story house. It was used on Friday morning, when over 3000 Muslims prayed there, despite the presence of a large mosque on the other side of the bridge, not far from the new mosque. It was reported that the owner of the house, which is still under construction, donated it.

“Of course the new mosque did not have to get a building license, local council or state security permission, as is the case with churches,” said Coptic activist Mark Ebeid.

Due to the minimum distance required by law between a church and a mosque, Copts view this conversion of the house into a new mosque “as a trick on the part of the government to make the completion and use of St. Mary’s Church an impossibility.”

“We are devastated,” said a local Copt. “This church cost the poor people 7 million Egyptian pounds, which we collected by having to go without a lot in our homes, and there comes the governor and state security, angry because we built a dome and destroy it, kill our children, leave others maimed and the rest in prison for a very long time.”

Church building in Egypt is still partly governed by the Haayoni Decree of 1856, when Egypt was under Ottoman rule. After gaining independence in 1922, Egypt abolished all laws except for the Hamayouni Decree, which required the permission of the king or the president to build a church. In addition, in 1934 the Interior Minister, Al-Ezaby Pacha, issued a decree that stipulated 10 conditions that must be met prior to issuance of a presidential decree permitting the construction of a church. The conditions include the requirement that the distance between a church and a mosque be not less than 100 meters and the approval of the neighboring Muslim community. Additional considerations or conditions are the number of Christians in the area and whether or not the proposed church is near the Nile, public utility or a railway.

The new Coptic Church of St. Mary and St. Michael’s, in Talbiya, Giza, was the scene on November 24 of security forces fire and using tear gas on women, children and youth who were present at the church, in order to halt construction of the church and demolish the building (video). The clashes between security and the Copts resulted in the death of three Coptic men from bullet wounds and a four year old child from a tear gas being thrown inside the chapel. More than 79 Copts were wounded, some severely, and 157 people including women and children, were all charged, with premeditated murder of a police officer, assaulting security officers, rioting, theft and destruction of public property (AINA 11-30-2010).

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Algeria, ‘Army Obeys Civilian Leaders’

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 6 — Power is no longer in the hands of the generals, who now “obey the civilian leaders”.

This remark was made, according to the most recent Wikileaks revelations on Algeria, by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to US General William Ward, commander of Africom, who visited Algiers in November 2009.

“Bouteflika discussed civilian control over the army with Ward”, a message sent from the US embassy in Algiers reads.

“He has described the revolutionary origins of the military influence in Algeria”, adding that the army has been forced to take “drastic measures” to rescue the country from the violence in the ‘90s. Things changed in 2004 however, according to Bouteflika, who reportedly underlined that “Algeria is not Turkey”. Since that year, “the army obeys the civilians. We all abide to the constitution”. Other leaks mention the difficult relation between Algiers and Rabat on the Western Sahara question, but also the relations with Egypt which “cannot be jeopardised by a football match”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Muammar Gaddafi — Mercurial, Phobic ‘King of Culture’

Muammar Gaddafi, the veteran Libyan leader, is a “mercurial and eccentric” figure who suffers from severe phobias, enjoys flamenco dancing and horse-racing, acts on his whims and irritates friends and enemies alike, according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Gaddafi has often been ridiculed in the west, but he is regarded with fear and mistrust in parts of Africa, with leaders and officials expressing anger about his plans for a United States of Africa, the documents show. President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda even worried about a possible Libyan attack on his aircraft.

Perhaps more than most world figures, Gaddafi appears to be the object of both political and personal fascination, not least because of the Lockerbie affair and his past support for terrorism. Now 68, and in power since 1969, he has an intense dislike or fear of staying on upper floors, and prefers not to fly over water, the US ambassador to Tripoli reported before Gaddafi made a controversial visit to the UN in New York in September 2009.

Protocol staff initially balked at supplying the regulation size photograph for his visa application for the trip, “noting that his photo was displayed throughout the city [Tripoli] and that any one of hundreds of billboards could be photographed and shrunken to fit the criteria”.

Libyan officials also tried to find accommodation with room to pitch Gaddafi’s Bedouin tent, his preferred location for receiving visitors and conducting meetings “as it offers him a non-verbal way of communicating that he is a man close to his cultural roots”. Seeking to iron out complications before the trip, a Libyan diplomat was described in a cable as being “painfully aware that Gaddafi’s personal whims could scuttle the ministry of foreign affairs’ efforts”.

Gene Cretz, the US envoy, found him “almost obsessively dependent on a small core of trusted personnel”, including a senior aide who speaks to him on a special red phone. He also cited “Gaddafi’s well-known predilection for changing his mind”.

Visitors should be prepared for surprises, Cretz warned Hillary Clinton before she flew to Tripoli in August 2008. “Muammar al-Gaddafi is notoriously mercurial. He often avoids making eye contact during the initial portion of meetings, and there may be long, uncomfortable periods of silence. Alternatively, he can be an engaging and charming interlocutor … a self-styled intellectual and philosopher, he has been eagerly anticipating for several years the opportunity to share with you his views on global affairs.

“Intellectually curious and a voracious consumer of news — trusted advisers are tasked with summarising in Arabic important books and articles printed in other languages.”

Writing about last year’s celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution, the envoy focused on Gaddafi’s preferences for dancing and cultural performances. He had “appeared particularly enthralled by Tuareg horse racing … clapping and smiling throughout. Flamenco dancers appeared to spark a similar interest.” Gaddafi planned to stop in Seville on his way to Libya from Venezuela to attend a flamenco performance.

A US embassy informant spoke of an unflashy lifestyle in “modest quarters, with prefabricated walls and floors that creak. The walls are white and do not feature any artwork.”

Another report described how his Bab al-Azizia compound in central Tripoli has facilities for banquets and other public events, “but is not lavish in any way compared with the ostentation of the Gulf oil state families or [the] Hariri clan [in Lebanon].”

House staff dress in street clothes rather than uniforms, while Gaddafi normally wears jogging suits to meet one regular guest, a consultant who described the leader as “paranoid about those around him, including his interpreters”. He apparently did not even have his own bank account….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Lockerbie Bomber Freed After Gaddafi’s ‘Thuggish’ Threats

The British government’s deep fears that Libya would take “harsh and immediate” action against UK interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died in a Scottish prison are revealed in secret US embassy cables which show London’s full support for the early release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, made explicit and “thuggish” threats to halt all trade deals with Britain and harass embassy staff if Megrahi remained in jail, the cables show. At the same time “a parade of treats” was offered by Libya to the Scottish devolved administration if it agreed to let him go, though the cable says they were turned down.

Britain at the time was “in an awkward position” and “between a rock and a hard place”. The London charge d’affaires, Richard LeBaron, wrote in a cable to Washington in October 2008. “The Libyans have told HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] flat out that there will be ‘enormous repercussions’ for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi’s early release is not handled properly.”

This intelligence, the cable said, was confided to the US embassy by two British officials: Ben Lyons, in charge of north Africa for Downing Street, and Rob Dixon, his counterpart at the Foreign Office.

Details of the Megrahi manoeuvrings come in the latest batch of leaked US dispatches which also detail:…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Muammar Gaddafi and the ‘Voluptuous Blonde’

Under the title “A glimpse into Libyan leader Gaddafi’s eccentricities”, a dispatch classified “secret — no foreign” of 29 September 2009 disclosed the dictator’s reliance on a “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse.

The cable was from Gene Cretz, the US ambassador to Libya, and read: “Recent first-hand experiences with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his staff, primarily in preparation for his UN [general assembly] trip, provided rare insights into Gaddafi’s inner circle and personal proclivities …

“Gaddafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a ‘voluptuous blonde’ … Libyan protocol staff emphasised to multiple Emboffs [embassy officials] that Gaddafi cannot travel without Kolotnytska, as she alone ‘knows his routine’ …

“Some embassy contacts have claimed that Gaddafi and the 38-year-old Kolotnytska have a romantic relationship. While he did not comment on such rumours, a Ukrainian political officer recently confirmed that the Ukrainian nurses ‘travel everywhere with the leader.’“

The ambassador concludes: “While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability, Gaddafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for 40 years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods. Continued engagement with Gaddafi and his inner circle is important … “

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Tunisia Blocks Site Reporting ‘Hatred’ of First Lady

Tunisia has blocked the website of a Lebanese newspaper that published US cables released by WikiLeaks describing high-level corruption, a sclerotic regime, and deep hatred of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s wife and her family.

Deeply unflattering reports from the US embassy in Tunis, released by WikiLeaks, make no bones about the state of the small Maghreb country, widely considered one of the most repressive in a repressive region.

“The problem is clear,” wrote ambassador Robert Godec in July 2009, in a secret dispatch released by Beirut’s al-Akhbar newspaper. “Tunisia has been ruled by the same president for 22 years. He has no successor. And, while President Ben Ali deserves credit for continuing many of the progressive policies of President Bourguiba, he and his regime have lost touch with the Tunisian people. They tolerate no advice or criticism, whether domestic or international. Increasingly, they rely on the police for control and focus on preserving power.

“Corruption in the inner circle is growing. Even average Tunisians are now keenly aware of it, and the chorus of complaints is rising. Tunisians intensely dislike, even hate, first lady Leila Trabelsi and her family. In private, regime opponents mock her; even those close to the government express dismay at her reported behaviour. Meanwhile, anger is growing at Tunisia’s high unemployment and regional inequities. As a consequence, the risks to the regime’s long-term stability are increasing.”

Effective delivery of services, 5% economic growth, model rights for women and religious tolerance are all impressive and unusual for the region. But Tunisia suffers from high unemployment and regional inequities. It is also “a police state, with little freedom of expression or association, and serious human rights problems”. France, the former colonial power, and Italy are singled out as having “shied away” from applying pressure for political reform…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Anti-Muslim European MPs Tour West Bank Settlements

European members of parliament affiliated with right-wing and anti-Muslim parties took a tour of West Bank settlements on Monday, to get a look at the the lives and various activities of Israel’s right-wing activists.

European members of Parliament on West Bank tour, Monday, Dec. 6, 2010.

The Austrian Opposition leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who has a viable chance of being elected the next Austrian chancellor, said that in order to understand the problems of the region one has to visit and see for themselves.

He added that the Europeans were responsible to ensure that the Jewish people had a secure future after what was done to them in the Diaspora.

Strache was joined by officials from Austria, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Britain, and Sweden, who were guided through the settlements by Shomron Regional Council chairman Gershon Mesika.

“The parliament members on the tour in the Shomron region all battle Islamic extremism and the spreading of terror organizations in Europe, while explicitly supporting the state of Israel,” Mesika said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

European ‘New Right’ MPs in Samaria: ‘This is Jewish Land!’

Sixty-five years after the defeat of the Third Reich, a senior delegation of European right-wing politicians toured Samaria Monday in support of the Jews who live there, whom they see as a bridgehead in the struggle against a common foe — Islamic jihadism and expansionism.

Video: Euro MPs in Judea and Samaria: This is Jewish Land nd/

The delegation of senior European parliamentarians toured Samaria’s Jewish communities Monday as guests of the Samaria Liaison Office, which said the group was “unprecedented” in its political importance. The parliamentarians learned from up close about the strategic value of the region and visited sites of historic and biblical significance.

The delegation included 35 senior European parliamentarians from Austria, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Britain and Sweden, including some who are believed likely to one day head their countries. Germany, Austria and Italy, under extreme right-wing parties, were at the heart of the Axis that fought a genocidal war against the Jewish nation and a war of conquest against the Allied Powers in the 1930’s and 40’s.

A spokesman for the Shomron (Samaria) local authority explained that most of the visitors were from what is known as the “New Right” in Europe. These are parties that support Israel, renounce anti-Semitism and see the Islamic takeover of Europe as a clear danger, the Samaria spokesman said. Most of the touring parliamentarians were Christians, while some were Jews. The visitors agreed that Judea and Samaria constitute Jewish land.

The group included Heinz-Christian Strache, head of the German Freedom Party, who is seen as a likely candidate to become the next chancellor of Austria; Filip Dewinter of Belgium’s Vlaams Belang party; MP Frank Creyelman, who heads the Belgian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee; René Stadtkewitz, Chairman of Germany’s Freedom Party; and Claus Pandi, editor-in-chief of Krone Zeitung, the biggest newspaper in Austria. The visit coincides with that of Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders in Israel.

The parliamentarians visited secular and religious communities including Barkan, Elon Moreh and Har Bracha, in order to get a better understanding of Jewish residents’ motivation for living in the contested biblical land.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

U.S. No Longer Seeks Israeli Settlement Freeze: Diplomat

Washington will no longer seek an Israeli settlement freeze to renew stalled Middle East talks, and was “ending the contacts to try and achieve another moratorium,” a senior U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday.

U.S.-brokered Israeli, Palestinian peace talks relaunched in September broke down weeks later over the settlements issue, and Washington has tried unsuccessfully ever since to resolve it.

The diplomat, briefing reporters in Jerusalem on condition of anonymity, said “we reached the conclusion this is not the time to renew direct negotiation by renewing the (settlements) moratorium.”

He added that Washington would now seek to work toward a deal on security and border issues. “We will try to forge another way to renew peace talks,” the diplomat said.

Palestinians had no immediate comment, but a senior official in Ramallah said a week ago there appeared to be deadlock in U.S. efforts to get renew negotiations aimed at achieving Palestinian statehood in land Israel captured in 1967.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suggested in a television interview on Friday he would dissolve the Palestinian government, a limited form of self-rule agreed in an interim deal in 1993, if a deal for statehood could not be achieved…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Australians on Yemen Terror List

US INTELLIGENCE agencies have blacklisted 23 Australians in Yemen suspected of terrorist links, as Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism chief warns that the world must confront al-Qaeda fighters in Yemen eager to attack the West.

A diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, revealed by the WikiLeaks website, lists the names and birth dates of Australians thought to have connections to “al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”.

Some of the names have been added to a US list of people banned from boarding commercial flights, with the rest to be monitored by US spy agencies.

The January 2010 cable has not been publicly released but the contents — excluding the personal details of the Australians — have been reported by The New York Times, one of several news outlets granted special access to leaked cables.

In other developments in the WikiLeaks cables affair: Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd defended his tough, frank comments on China revealed by WikiLeaks, saying diplomacy was about prosecuting the national interest and the Australia-China relationship was strong enough to cope.

Six industrial sites in Australia appeared on a leaked list of infrastructure and resources around the world identified by the US as possible targets for terrorists who want to harm America’s national interests.

A leaked US diplomatic cable identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist extremists.

Responding to the revelations about US concerns on Yemen, White House counter-terrorism adviser Daniel Benjamin told The Age that Yemen was a major recruiting ground for al-Qaeda, especially for people who hold Western passports.

“There are individuals from many countries around the world who have made their way to Yemen,” he told The Age. “Many of them did so fairly innocently — to acquire, for example, Arabic language training or other schooling — who have been radicalised.

“That is certainly a significant concern for the counter-terrorism community.”

Mr Benjamin said concerns about Yemen had skyrocketed in March last year and were confirmed by recent plots emanating from the country, including an attempt to destroy a passenger jet over Detroit last Christmas Day and bombs mailed to the US in October.

He said Yemen was beset by significant problems, including explosive population growth, exhaustion of natural resources and a depleted water table.

Local al-Qaeda affiliates were the most aggressive beyond the group’s leadership hiding in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said. “They are very technically savvy and are eager to carry out attacks.”

Australia has recently increased its focus on Yemen, and in recent weeks declared al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a proscribed organisation.

Many of the Australians listed in the US cable were women, The New York Times reported, as al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen sought “to identify a female for a future attack”.

Australian agencies have reportedly been monitoring electronic communications between Australia and Yemen.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland declined to answer questions about the listed Australians. A spokesman said the government had no intention of commenting on the contents of US classified documents.

Another WikiLeaks cable focuses on Saudi links to terror groups, quoting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying “more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT [an Islamist group in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups”

           — Hat tip: Anne-Kit[Return to headlines]

In Iran, Divorce Soars, Stirring Fears of Society in Crisis

The wedding nearly 1,400 years ago of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam’s most revered figure, and Fatemeh al-Zahra, the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, is commemorated in Iran’s packed political calendar as a day to celebrate family values. But in a sign of the Iranian authorities’ increasing concern about Iran’s shifting social landscape, Marriage Day, as it is usually known in Iran, this year was renamed No Divorce Day. Iran’s justice minister decreed that no divorce permits would be issued.

Whether the switch was effective or not, the officials’ concerns are understandable. Divorce is skyrocketing in Iran. Over a decade, the number each year has roughly tripled to a little more than 150,000 in 2010 from around 50,000 in 2000, according to official figures. Nationwide, there is one divorce for every seven marriages; in Tehran, the ratio is 1 divorce for every 3.76 marriages, the government has reported.

While the change in divorce rates is remarkable, even more surprising is the major force behind it: the increasing willingness of Iranian women to manipulate the Iranian legal system to escape unwanted marriages.

The numbers are still modest compared with the United States, which typically records about a million divorces a year in a population about four times as large. But for Iran, with a conservative Islamic culture that strongly discourages divorce, the trend is striking, and shows few signs of slowing. In the last Iranian calendar year, ending in March, divorces were up 16 percent from the year before, compared with a 1 percent increase in marriages.

“In May, a registry office I work with recorded 70 divorces and only 3 marriages,” said a lawyer who requested anonymity for fear of retribution by the Iranian authorities. “The next month, a friend at another office said he recorded 60 divorces and only one marriage.” He noted that both offices were in central Tehran and not in the city’s affluent north, which is considered more liberal and Westernized.

Not only is divorce on the rise, but marriages are also failing early, with 30 percent of divorces in any given year occurring in the first year of marriage and 50 percent in the first five years. Some people, doubtful of the government statistics, suspect that the numbers are even higher.

Conservative commentators call the problem a social ill on par with drug addiction and prostitution. Senior officials and members of Parliament have increasingly referred to the issue as a “crisis” and a “national threat.” Explanations for the rising divorce rate vary. More liberal commentators emphasize factors like rapid urbanization, high living costs and a jobless rate that official figures put at close to one in four among 16- to 25-year-olds. Conservatives often point to what they say is growing godlessness among the young and the corrupting effects of the Western media.

“High dowries, high living costs, lack of jobs and financial support make young people fear marriage,” said a member of Parliament, Gholamreza Asadollahi, who also blamed young people who had lost their belief “in the unseen power of God to solve life’s problems.”

But most experts agree that nothing has contributed as much as a deep-rooted awakening in Iranian women that is altering traditional attitudes toward marriage, relationships, careers and, generally speaking, women’s place in what is still an overwhelmingly patriarchal society.

Twenty percent of Iranian women are employed or actively looking for jobs, according to government figures, compared with 7 percent in the first years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Female undergraduate students outnumber men in Iran’s universities almost two to one.

“This economic freedom has had an effect on the behavior of women in the home,” said Saeid Madani, a member of the Iranian Sociological Association. “In the past, if a housewife left her home, she would go hungry; now there is a degree of possibility of finding a job and earning an income.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

In Iran, A Christian Pastor Faces Death Sentence

A Christan pastor in Iran has been sentenced to death for allegedly renouncing his Muslim religion and another faces a possible indictment on the same charge of apostasy, according to a prominent activist group working for human rights in Iran. Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32-year-old member of the Church of Iran ministry and pastor of an approximately 400-person congregation in the northern city of Rasht, faces death, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. In the southern city of Shiraz, another Christian pastor, Behrouz Sadegh-Khanjani, 35, is facing a possible indictment for apostasy. “This is part of a greater trend of persecution against Christians,” said Firouz Sadegh-Khanjani, brother of Behrouz and member of the Church of Iran’s Executive Council. Christians are feeling the heat in other parts of the Muslim world as well. In Iraq, Christians have been attacked and many have fled their homes for other lands. In Pakistan, a Christian woman faces a death sentence for blasphemy for allegedly defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed. On September 22, Iran’s 11th Circuit Criminal Court of Appeals for the Gilan Province upheld the death sentence and conviction of Nadarkhani for apostasy…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Elderly Married Christian Couple Killed When They Returned to Baghdad to Sell Home

(AKI) — A married Christian couple killed in Baghdad on Sunday had fled to the north to escape sectarian violence and returned to the capital to sell their home, according to Christian Iraqi website Ankawa.

Hakamat Jiburi and Samira Sabri were stabbed to death by assailants who broke into their Baghdad home and escaped on a scooter, according to Ankawa.

The elderly couple had fled to a village in northern Kurdistan in northern Iraq following attacks on Christians by Al-Qaeda terrorists.

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

Some of Iraq’s leaders have spoken out against the violence and pledged to protect the religious minority.

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

Iraq: Al-Qaeda Suicide Attacks Against Shias Feared During Muslim New Year

Iraq police stepped up security at Shia mosques in in volatile northern Diyala province for the Muslim New Year on Tuesday after Al-Qaeda issued a series of threats, pan-Arab daily al-Hayat reports. Iraqi security services said they believed Al-Qaeda was plotting an attack against worshippers during the Shia Ashura mourning ritual which this year also falls on Tuesday. “We have deployed 18,000 policemen and soldiers to safeguard the Ashura in Diyala alone,” al-Hayat quoted police chief Raid Atiya as saying. “We fear Al-Qaeda may launch suicide attacks against Shia worshippers,” Atiya said. Flyers were reportedly distributed in Diyala’s capital, Baquba in recent days, containing threats against Shias and vowing that attacks would be carried out during the Ashura. Ashura is one of the holiest days for Shia Muslims, a day of mourning that honours the martyr Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, at the Battle of Karbala in 680 AD. Sunni extremists have targeted Ashura pilgrims in Iraq and elsewhere in the past. A suspected female suicide bomber was arrested on 7 January 2009 in th northern Iraqi city of Balad Ruz as millions of Shia Muslims gathered across the country for the annual Ashura ceremony.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Average Age Spinsterhood Rising

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 6 — The average age of men and women in Jordan who never got married has risen, according to a report that was recently published by the Afaf (chastity) Charity Association.

According to Al Jazeera online, a total of 98,633 women never got married at the age of 30 in 2009. This number is 15 times higher than in 1979. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Official Ankara Causing Turkey to Go Back to Middle Ages, Turkish Expert Says

The spread information is striking evidence that Turkey is under the U.S. watchful eye. The U.S. has Turkish government of the Justice and Development Party (JDP) in the palm of its hand, ready to blackmail the Turkish leadership at any moment, the Turkish political expert Mehmet Perinçek told Novosti-Azerbaijan, commenting on the WikiLeaks publications.

“I wonder how the Turkish authorities could displease the U.S. They bargained so much, manipulating the country’s interests, did they not? On the other hand, the real essence of the cooperation between the U.S. and the JDP has been revealed.

Numerous details — from the Kurdish problem to Turkey’s admission to the EU, from relations with Israel to corruption within government circles — were ‘documented’ Also, it is clear that the JDP’s policy to Iran, Israel and Syria is in full harmony with the U.S. Big Middle East Project (BMEP). Turkey, which lays claims to leadership in the Middle East under the U.S. auspices, is pretending to be implementing an anti-Israeli policy, while seeking leadership in the Arab world and isolation of Iran,” Perinçek said.

According to him, this is evidence Turkey will never join the EU. Another “shocking” aspect is turkey’s efforts to join the EU, implementation of the EU requirements, cooperation between the U.S. and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), information leaks to the U.S. Embassy. So turkey’s ruling party wants to hush up the matter and present the information as false.

To act as mediator between the U.S. and the Middle East, as well as Asia, Turkey has to enhance its regional reputation. “No one will trust a secular pro-American Turkey. There is a need for a new Turkey a ‘friend’ of Arab states and ‘an enemy’ of Israel. It is by means such Turkey that the U.S. can consistently impose its will on the Middle East countries. Thus, the U.S. intends to isolate the anti-American Iran bringing pro-American Turkey into the foreground. To play this role, Turkey is trying to assume an image of ‘academic Islam’. In fact, ‘academic Islam’, as a U.S. project, is not of benefit to Turkey. On the contrary: the U.S. maintains its control over Turkey, and Ankara is gradually deviating from Ataturk’s policy, causing the country to go back to the Middle Ages,” the Turkish expert said.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Involvement in Iraq: A Lot of Blood for Little Oil

Contrary to what many people believe, the Iraq war provided few advantages for the US oil industry. The diplomatic cables show that, in most cases, it was competitors to the Americans who often did better in the country. Only one US company truly profited: Halliburton.

During the first bidding rounds, the oil bosses were still laughing. When Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani issued the first drilling contracts for foreign multinational companies at Baghdad’s al-Rashid Hotel on June 30, 2009, he made clear that there would not be any sharing of profits, but rather a fixed price paid for each barrel of oil drilled.

But the companies still had great hopes. A consortium led by the US company Conoco Phillips wanted to get $26.70 per barrel in one difficult oil field. For the Rumaila area near the Kuwaiti border, ExxonMobil offered $4.80 per barrel. A consortium led by BP would have been happy with $3.99.

“There was buzz in the room” during these bids, noted US Ambassador Christopher Hill.

But when the minister announced what his government actually wanted to pay, there was “stunned silence.” Two dollars per barrel — and nothing more. In addition, the companies would have to replace the Iraqis’ ramshackle oil drills with new equipment. “Giggles were heard” when these figures were revealed, the ambassador wrote. Afterwards, Shahristani named the offer for other oil fields at prices that were even lower. Things grew silent.

A half a year later, in December 2009, Hill wrote a long report about the next bidding round. This time, Shahristani made even lower offers than during the first round. But that didn’t stop companies for making bids at prices they would have laughed at only months earlier. In the end, bidder consortiums led by France’s Total and China’s CNPC secured contracts. Other companies awarded contracts were from Malaysia, Vietnam, Angola, Norway, Britain and Russia.

But there were no US companies.

Outside of the formal bidding process, only two US oil giants managed to secure contracts for other oil fields — Exxon and Occidental.

“No Blood for Oil” had been a slogan used by protesters against George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. A SPIEGEL cover story in January 2003 even carried the title “Blood for Oil” and analyzed Iraq’s role as an oil power. Neoconservatives in Washington had always said that the money from Iraq’s oil would be used to pay for the war and the reconstruction.

Few Oil Profits from $700 Billion Investment

But the opposite came true. A lot of blood was spilled, but very little oil flowed for the US. With production of 2.5 million barrels of crude oil daily, production in Iraq has returned to close to its prewar levels. Forecasts now suggest it will take 20 years before that production is doubled or tripled, however. The US spent more than $700 billion on Iraq, but now Iraq’s oil profits are going to other countries.

For almost five years, US diplomats have urged the Iraqis to finally pass a national oil and gas law. The main aim of the law was to stipulate a just sharing of oil revenues in the northern part of the country with the Kurds and to offer a level of investment security to firms doing business in Iraq. More than 50 diplomatic cables cover the wrestling over the law — but al-Shahristani continued to hold the US at bay.

Even directly after the invasion, the US troops didn’t pay close attention to the issue of oil. Plunderers began dismantling the facilities that, despite everything, still represented 90 percent of state revenues. Again and again, US diplomats living in the country that has the world’s fourth-largest oil reserves complained that there was hardly any gasoline available. People had to wait for hours at gas stations, and gasoline even had to be imported from other countries.

Diplomats complained in 2007 of a “wild west atmosphere” that prevailed at the refinery in Baiji near Tikrit. “In practice the sprawling facility is jointly controlled by a number of official and unofficial actors,” it reads. There was apparently a fuel smuggling epidemic.

Shortly afterward, US diplomats were also present when then-presidential candidate John McCain met with senior Iraqi government advisers. According to the cable, McCain rumbled that, “FedEx knows the location of every package it sends worldwide while the Iraqi oil ministry cannot account for 20-30% of the oil it produces.”…

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

Wikileaks Cables: Syria Stunned by Hezbollah Assassination

Syrian officials were stunned by the mysterious assassination of a senior Hezbollah operative in Damascus two years ago, triggering a blame game between rival security services and frenzied speculation across the Middle East about who did it.

US reports from February 2008, revealed by WikiLeaks, described how the regime of President Bashar al-Assad was shocked when Imad Mughniyeh was murdered by a sophisticated bomb planted in his car. Mughniyeh, a founder member of the militant Lebanese Shia movement, was wanted by the US, Israel, France and other governments. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and Syria.

“Syrian military intelligence and general intelligence directorate officials are currently engaged in an internecine struggle to blame each other for the breach of security that resulted in Mughniyeh’s death,” the US embassy reported.

Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon, the well-connected Abdel Aziz Khoja, told US diplomats in Beirut that Hezbollah believed the Syrians were responsible for the Damascus killing. No Syrian official was present at Mughniyeh’s funeral in Beirut’s southern suburbs the following day. Iran was represented by its foreign minister, who, the Saudi envoy said, had come to calm down Hezbollah and keep it from taking action against Syria.

Another rumour, Khoja said, was that Syria and Israel had made a deal to allow Mughniyeh to be killed, an Israeli objective. No one has ever claimed responsibility for the assassination, though Israel has been widely blamed for it.

US diplomats reported that the killing led to tensions between Syria and Iran, perhaps because Tehran shared Khoja’s suspicion of Syrian complicity in the affair.

It took more than a year for Syrian-Iranian relations to improve, with a low-profile visit to Damascus in late 2009 by the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s (IRGC) elite al-Quds force, Qassem Suleimani, described by a Lebanese source as being at “the business end” of Hezbollah’s military activities. US officials speculated that Soleimani’s long absence was “perhaps a reflection of lingering tensions between Iran and Syria that erupted after the assassination of Mughniyeh”.

Both the US and Israel say explicitly that they want to weaken the links between Iran and its main Arab ally, Syria…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Saudi Princes Throw Parties Boasting Drink, Drugs and Sex

In what may prove a particularly incendiary cable, US diplomats describe a world of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll behind the official pieties of Saudi Arabian royalty.

Jeddah consulate officials described an underground Halloween party, thrown last year by a member of the royal family, which broke all the country’s Islamic taboos. Liquor and prostitutes were present in abundance, according to leaked dispatches, behind the heavily-guarded villa gates.

The party was thrown by a wealthy prince from the large Al-Thunayan family. The diplomats said his identity should be kept secret. A US energy drinks company also put up some of the finance.

“Alcohol, though strictly prohibited by Saudi law and custom, was plentiful at the party’s well-stocked bar. The hired Filipino bartenders served a cocktail punch using sadiqi, a locally-made moonshine,” the cable said. “It was also learned through word-of-mouth that a number of the guests were in fact ‘working girls’, not uncommon for such parties.”

The dispatch from the US partygoers, signed off by the consul in Jeddah, Martin Quinn, added: “Though not witnessed directly at this event, cocaine and hashish use is common in these social circles.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Saudis Proposed Arab Force to Invade Lebanon

Saudi Arabia proposed creating an Arab force backed by US and Nato air and sea power to intervene in Lebanon two years ago and destroy Iranian-backed Hezbollah, according to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.

The plan would have sparked a proxy battle between the US and its allies against Iran, fought in one of the most volatile regions of the world.

The Saudi plan was never enacted but reflects the anxiety of Saudi Arabia — as well as the US — about growing Iranian influence in Lebanon and elsewhere in the Middle East.

The proposal was made by the veteran Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, to the US special adviser to Iraq, David Satterfield. The US responded by expressing scepticism about the military feasibility of the plan.

It would have marked a return of US forces to Lebanon almost three decades after they fled in the wake of the 1983 suicide attack on US marine barracks in Beirut that killed 299 American and French military personnel…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


One Scientist’s Hobby: Recreating the Ice Age

Wild horses have returned to northern Siberia. So have musk oxen, hairy beasts that once shared this icy land with woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Moose and reindeer are here, and may one day be joined by Canadian bison and deer. Later, the predators will come — Siberian tigers, wolves and maybe leopards. Russian scientist Sergey Zimov is reintroducing these animals to the land where they once roamed in millions to demonstrate his theory that filling the vast emptiness of Siberia with grass-eating animals can slow global warming. “Some people have a small garden. I have an ice age park. It’s my hobby,” says Zimov, smiling through his graying beard. His true profession is quantum physics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Berlusconi Denies Calling Medvedev ‘Apprentice’

Italian PM ‘never made comparisons’ between Russian leaders

(ANSA) — Rome, December 6 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday denied telling United States Ambassador to Italy David Thorne that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was a mere “apprentice” to the country’s ex-president and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

In a diplomatic cable released by whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks and published by Spanish daily El Pais Monday, Thorne said that during his first-ever meeting with Berlusconi on September 21, 2009, he had had a “long and familiar” conversation on Putin’s qualities as Russian leader and the relative inexperience of Medvedev.

Putin was the “centre of power in Russia” and Medvedev, despite his officially senior position, was just “his apprentice”, Berlusconi said, according to the ambassador’s report to the State Department in Washington.

A note from the Italian premier’s office said Berlusconi “never made the remarks about Russian President Medvedev attributed to him by WikiLeaks, nor did he ever make comparisons, in public or in private, between President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin”.

Previous US cables from Moscow released by WikiLeaks have described Putin as the “Alpha dog” in Russia, saying he is “Batman” to Medvedev’s “Robin”.

In a later cable from Thorne however, on December 30, Berlusconi stressed the good working relationship between the Russian leaders. The Italian premier was quoted by Thorne as saying: “Putin and Medvedev agree, respect each other and have an effective collaboration”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi ‘Has Price on Her Head’

Ashiq Masih has the look of a hunted man — gaunt, anxious and exhausted.

Though he is guilty of nothing, this Pakistani labourer is on the run — with his five children.

His wife, Asia Bibi, has been sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam. That is enough to make the entire family a target.

They stay hidden by day, so we met them after dark.

Mr Masih told us they move constantly, trying to stay one step ahead of the anonymous callers who have been menacing them.

“I ask who they are, but they refuse to tell me,” he said.

“They say ‘we’ll deal with you if we get our hands on you’. Now everyone knows about us, so I am hiding my kids here and there. I don’t allow them to go out. Anyone can harm them,” he added.

Ashiq Masih says his daughters still cry for their mother and ask if she will be home in time for Christmas.

He insists that Asia Bibi is innocent and will be freed, but he worries about what will happen next.

“When she comes out, how she can live safely?” he asks.

“No one will let her live. The mullahs are saying they will kill her when she comes out.”

Asia Bibi, an illiterate farm worker from rural Punjab, is the first woman sentenced to hang under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

‘Old score’ As well as the death penalty hanging over her, Asia Bibi now has a price on her head.A radical cleric has promised 500,000 Pakistani rupees (£3,700; $5,800) to anyone prepared to “finish her”. He suggested that the Taliban might be happy to do it.

Asia Bibi’s troubles began in June 2009 in her village, Ittan Wali, a patchwork of lush fields and dusty streets.

Hers was the only Christian household.

She was picking berries alongside local Muslim women, when a row developed over sharing water.

Days later, the women claimed she had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Soon, Asia Bibi was being pursued by a mob.

“In the village they tried to put a noose around my neck, so that they could kill me,” she said in a brief appearance outside her jail cell…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Court Orders Government Not to Change Blasphemy Law

The Lahore High Court has ordered the Pakistani government not to change the nation’s blasphemy law before the court hears the appeal of Asia Bibi, the Christian mother who was sentenced to death for blasphemy after she refused to convert to Islam.

Terrorist organizations associated with the Taliban have issued a fatwa against Shabhaz Bhatti, the Catholic layman and cabinet minister who is leading a commission that will consider changes to the nation’s blasphemy law.

Shaheryar Gill, a Pakistani Christian who serves as associate counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, shed light on the effects of the blasphemy law.

“You see, 20 years or more of the blasphemy law in Pakistan has instilled in people that punishment for insulting Islam is death,” Gill said in a recent interview. So, rather than going to the court, people have taken the law into their own hands.” Gill recounted:

There was an attack on a village in Kasur by a Muslim mob where hundreds of Muslims attacked a Christian village of 135 families. The triggering event was a blasphemy charge. There was a dispute between a Christian and a Muslim.

A Christian was driving his tractor and he saw a motorbike standing in the middle of the road. He asked the owner of the motorbike to please move so that he could pass. The owner said to the Christian with the tractor: “How could a ‘Chuhra’ tell him what to do”? A “Chuhra” is a derogatory term for Christians. Over this they had a little fight. Some people intervened and stopped the fight and everybody went home.

After a few hours a Muslim family gathered other people and attacked and beat the Christian family. The next day they announced in the mosque that a Christian desecrated the Quran. A mob gathered and attacked 135 families of that village just because of a petty fight between two people.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Afghanistan Scandal, Cont’d: Ana Recruits Require “Backing of Village Elders”

by Diana West

On Dec. 3, Maj. Gen. John Campbell, commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, spoke to reporters about the Afghan Border Policeman who shot and killed six US soldiers from the 101st on Nov. 28. He doesn’t mention teatime, as NATO reported, also on Dec. 3, but he does add details, particularly to the larger unfolding story.

From the Clarksville (TN) Leaf Chronicle report:

Campbell spoke with reporters Thursday about the attack Monday at a remote Afghan observation post in Nangarhar province.

The soldiers went to the OP to check on the ABP officers stationed there, he said, and were shot in the back during an artillery practice. They were with Afghan National Army soldiers and were greeted by ABP, one of whom was the gunman, Campbell said.

Five of the soldiers — all members of 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team — were watching the impact area from the elevated position when the ABP officer shot them in the back. He turned his weapon on the sixth, and then was killed by other 101st soldiers.

The incident lasted between 10 and 15 seconds, Campbell said.…

Nothing about “officials” saying the policeman was “tracked down and killed in a shootout near the Pakistan border,” as this Dallas Morning News Story reported on Dec. 4…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Lofty Goals: Space Station, Moon and Mars Exploration

China is shifting its space program into high gear, with recently announced goals to build a manned space station by 2020 and send a spacecraft to Mars by 2013 — all on the heels of its second robotic moon mission this year. Yet some space analysts worry that China’s ascendancy in space means the waning of American superiority in spaceflight. The United States is retiring its storied space shuttle fleet in 2011 and plans to rely on commercial spaceships for orbital flights, once they’re available, while planning future deep-space missions. “Certainly [the Chinese] see it as an opportunity to garner prestige at a time when the U.S. space program is in what some people call turmoil, and what others call regrouping,” said Joan Johnson-Freese, chairwoman of the department of national security studies at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I., and an expert on China’s space program. Among Americans, she said, “there is the perception that China is somehow getting ahead, that the U.S. is sliding behind.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

German Hesitancy May Have Worsened Saharan Hostage Drama

When four Western tourists were taken hostage in the Sahara Desert in January 2009, the US Embassy in Mali urged European governments to respond quickly — in vain. Before action was taken, the tourists were handed over to al-Qaida, and one was murdered.

Outlaws in the Sahara had already made millions in ransom money by taking hostages and Germans had often been the victims. The German Foreign Ministry and the Federal Criminal Police Office, however, have tended to be secretive as to the details.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Rapists Stalk Women in Somali Refugee Camps

The three masked gunmen burst into Asha Muse Ali’s tent at night and grabbed every item of value they could find: $85 in cash, a cell phone and a gold ring. Then the attackers embarked on a crime that carries a severe social stigma in this conservative Muslim country: They raped Ali and her aunt. Ali and her family are among almost 60,000 internally displaced people in the central Somali town of Galkayo, where hundreds of families have sought refuge from violence in Mogadishu and in south-central Somalia. But once there, the women risk being raped. Aid workers say the number of rapes are alarming and that in some cases, they are fueled by young men watching pornographic videos. The Galkayo Education Center for Peace and Development said it has documented 51 cases of rape against women in Galkayo this year. Last year the center recorded 104 cases, most of them inside the refugee camps. Many more cases go unreported. “The number is bigger than what we recorded because there are women who suffer in silence for fear of reprisals, divorce or allegations that they consented to the act,” said the center’s Saado Mohamed Ise. Antonio Guterres, the head of the U.N.’s refugee agency, expressed outrage about the rapes as he toured camps in Galkayo and Bossaso last week. “That is a heinous crime and it needs to stop. It is a central human rights question,” Guterres said. Refugees also told him they lack food, education, health care and proper shelter. The U.N. refugee agency says more than 12,000 people have fled Mogadishu since Oct. 1. Somalia hasn’t had a central government for nearly 20 years. Much of Mogadishu is ruled by violent Islamist militias who impose conservative social rules on families and mete out harsh punishments for violations of the social code. Rape as a weapon of war has occurred in many countries across Africa, most notably in Congo. Rape and other kinds of sexual violence are a reality in Somalia as well, although rapists are widely despised here. Al-Shabab, the country’s most powerful Islamist militia, has sentenced men to death for sexual assaults. Violence against women in Somalia can trigger clan wars. The family of an accused rapist will pay monetary or livestock compensation for sexual assaults. Somali families have also arranged marriages between the rapist and the victim to clear the victim from the stigma associated with rape.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Sudan Warned to Block Iranian Arms Bound for Gaza

The US has worked discreetly to block the supply of Iranian and Syrian weapons to the Palestinian movement Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, pressuring Arab governments not to co-operate — in many cases where the requests were based on secret intelligence provided by Israel.

State department cables released by WikiLeaks show that Sudan was warned by the US in January 2009 not to allow the delivery of unspecified Iranian arms that were expected to be passed to Hamas in the Gaza Strip around the time of Israel’s Cast Lead offensive, in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

US diplomats were instructed to express “exceptional concern” to the Khartoum authorities. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Chad were informed of the alleged Iranian plans and warned that any weapons deliveries would be in breach of UN resolutions banning Iranian arms exports.

Sudan’s foreign minister told a US official his government’s formal response would be that it was not permitting the import of weapons from Iran — only to be told that “a simple regurgitation of Sudan’s previous denial would be unfortunate”.

Months later the media reported that in mid-January Israeli planes mounted a long-range bombing attack on an arms convoy in Sudan’s Red Sea province. The Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted a US official as saying Sudan had been warned in advance about the shipment.

State department documents record that Khartoum then privately accused the US of carrying out two air attacks in eastern Sudan: one in January 2009, with 43 dead and 17 vehicles destroyed, and another on 20 February, with 45 dead and 14 vehicles destroyed. “We assume that the planes that attacked us are your planes,” a senior Sudanese official said. The US embassy in Khartoum then sought clarification from Washington. “Should this potentially explosive story somehow leak to the sensationalistic Sudanese press,” the cable said, “it could very well turn our security situation here from bad to worse.”

Explaining the political background to the confrontation, the head of Sudan’s intelligence and security service, Salah Ghosh, told US diplomats of his government’s frustration over Washington’s support for Israel during the Gaza war. US actions would “calamitously increase support for violent extremism and [push] Hamas into an alliance with Iran”, he warned.

In March 2009, Jordan and Egypt were informed by the US of new Iranian plans to ship a cargo of “lethal military equipment” to Syria with onward transfer to Sudan and then to Hamas. Host nations were requested to require that the flights land for inspection or deny them overflight rights. It is not known whether any deliveries went ahead.

In April Egypt’s interior minister, General Habib al-Adly, was described in US cables as being behind the dismantling of a Hezbollah cell in Sinai as well as “steps to disrupt the flow of Iranian-supplied arms from Sudan through Egypt to Gaza”….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Argentina Recognises Palestine as Independent State

(ANSAmed) — BUENOS AIRES, DECEMBER 6 — The Argentine government has recognised Palestine as an independent state, using the borders fixed in 1967. The announcement was made today by the Foreign Minister, Hector Timerman, who said that the country’s President, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, had sent a letter confirming the position to her Palestinian colleague, Mahmoud Abbas.

On December 3, the Brazilian government led by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva announced a similar decision. There are now eight Latin American countries that recognise the state of Palestine: Argentina and Brazil were preceded by Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Uruguay. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mobs Lynch ‘Witches’ In Haiti for Spreading Cholera Epidemic December 4, 2010

PORT-AU-PRINCE: Haitian mobs fearing a cholera epidemic have killed people whom they had accused of trying to spread the disease, including through witchcraft, police say.

“A dozen people accused of importing cholera to a region that so far has been spared were killed with machetes and stones and their corpses were burned in the streets,” a police inspector said.

A prosecutor, Kesner Numa, said: “These people are accused of witchcraft related to cholera.” The attackers believed the victims were trying to “plant a substance that spreads the disease in the region”.

The first lynching cases took place last week. “Since then we have had cases every day,” the prosecutor said.

Communities in the Grand Anse region in the far south-west of Haiti were refusing to co-operate with investigations into the killings.

“They really believe that witches are taking advantage of the cholera epidemic to kill.” It was not immediately clear if any of the victims had cholera.

Six people were hacked or stoned to death in the town of Chambellan and five others in Marfranc and Dame Marie, officials said.

According to journalists, at least three people were killed by mobs in the city of Jeremie, while several others were killed under similar circumstances in surrounding villages.

Health authorities say Grand Anse is the region least affected by the cholera epidemic, which has killed 1817 in Haiti since mid-October. Only five of those deaths have been reported in Grand Anse.

About half of Haiti’s population is believed to practise the voodoo religion in some form, although many are thought to also follow other religious beliefs at the same time.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Denmark: Crime Across Borders

Is it fair to publish crime rates for certain groups?

Immigrants commit more crime than Danes. That’s old news by now. But one newspaper is asking whether it is fair to specify ethnic groups when crime statistics are published

Jyllands-Posten newspaper today published figures from Statistics Denmark indicating that Palestinian men top the country’s crime statistics. The story is accompanied by an article questioning the specification of ethnic groups in crime statistics.

According to Statistics Denmark, the division into ethnic groups was made to promote a “fairer grouping” than the more general “western/non-western immigrants” categorisation.

“Our main aim is to clarify the great differences between the various countries,” said Thomas Nielsen of Statistics Denmark. “The ‘non-western immigrants’ group covers countries as diverse as China, which has a crime index rating of 43, and Lebanon, which has a rating of 237.”

The category ‘country of origin’ is not restricted to crime statistics. Statistics Denmark also uses this category when determining statistics in areas such as employment and social benefits.

Flemming Røgild, a sociologist at the University of Copenhagen, was sceptical of the practice. “What’s the use of this information? Is it only to show that some countries are more difficult than others?”

According to Birthe Rønn Hornbech, the immigration minister, the main goal was to attain factual information. “I’m generally against judging people by their ethnicity and nationality. But we cannot solve problems unless we know where the challenges lie.”

Sociologist Mehmet Ümit Necef, who has Turkish roots, was in favour of country-specific crime statistics being published. “If Danish-Turks have a problem with seeing bad crime rates related to themselves, it is their responsibility to do something to stop their ‘group’ from committing crimes,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Minister to Ask Saudi Counterparts to Safeguard Immigrants From Abuse

(AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian manpower and transmigration minister Muhaimin Iskandar is slated to meet his Saudi counterparts from the manpower and internal affairs ministries’ offices on Tuesday to ask for their commitment in providing better security for Indonesia migrant workers.

“We are here to ask the Saudi administration to recognize our domestic workers so they could earn some respect,” Muhaimin, who has been in Saudi Arabia since last week, said on Tuesday.

During his trip, Muhaimin visited the tortured Indonesian maid, Sumiati, who is currently hospitalized due to the severe injuries caused by her employer.

Approximately 1 million Indonesians work in Saudi Arabia as domestic workers making the country as the second destination for migration after Malaysia, which is the home for more than two million Indonesian workers.

Dozens of abuse cases toward Indonesian workers had also been regularly reported from the Saudi Arabian. These reports have sparked controversy in Indonesia, especially between the rights activists who have long demanded the government to pay serious attention in providing better security package for Indonesian workers abroad.

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

UK: Health Minister: Immigrants to Blame for Record Rise in TB

Record numbers of tuberculosis infections are being fuelled by immigration, the health secretary has claimed.

Andrew Lansley said that the 30-year high in cases of TB was caused by people coming to Britain from countries where the disease is prevalent, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the most recent figures there were 9,040 infections last year, the highest recorded since 1979 when there were 9,266 cases.

The disease, caused by bacteria, infects the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, fever and weight loss.

It can be fatal if it is not treated and there are around 350 deaths every year.

But people can carry the disease for several years without having any symptoms — and this is one of the reasons it spreads so quickly

Figures published last month by the Health Protection Agency show that it is particularly prevalent in impoverished inner city areas such as London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

USA: Unusual Methods Helped Ice Break Deportation Record, E-Mails and Interviews Show

For much of this year, the Obama administration touted its tougher-than-ever approach to immigration enforcement, culminating in a record number of deportations.

But in reaching 392,862 deportations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement included more than 19,000 immigrants who had exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics. ICE also ran a Mexican repatriation program five weeks longer than ever before, allowing the agency to count at least 6,500 exits that, without the program, would normally have been tallied by the U.S. Border Patrol.

When ICE officials realized in the final weeks of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, that the agency still was in jeopardy of falling short of last year’s mark, it scrambled to reach the goal. Officials quietly directed immigration officers to bypass backlogged immigration courts and time-consuming deportation hearings whenever possible, internal e-mails and interviews show.

Instead, officials told immigration officers to encourage eligible foreign nationals to accept a quick pass to their countries without a negative mark on their immigration record, ICE employees said.

The option, known as voluntary return, may have allowed hundreds of immigrants — who typically would have gone before an immigration judge to contest deportation for offenses such as drunken driving, domestic violence and misdemeanor assault — to leave the country. A voluntary return doesn’t bar a foreigner from applying for legal residence or traveling to the United States in the future.

Once the agency closed the books for fiscal 2010 and the record was broken, agents say they were told to stop widely offering the voluntary return option and revert to business as usual.

Without these efforts and the more than 25,000 deportations that came with them, the agency would not have topped last year’s record level of 389,834, current and former ICE employees and officials said.

The Obama administration was intent on doing so even as it came under attack by some Republicans for not being tough enough on immigration enforcement and by some Democrats for failing to deliver on promises of comprehensive immigration reform.

“It’s not unusual for any administration to get the numbers they need by reaching into their bag of tricks to boost figures,” said Neil Clark, who retired as the Seattle field office director in late June, adding that in the 12 years he spent in management he saw the Bush and Clinton administrations do similar things.

But at a news conference Oct. 6, ICE Director John T. Morton said that no unusual practices were used to break the previous year’s mark.

“When the secretary tells you that the numbers are at an all-time high, that’s straight, on the merits, no cooking of the books,” Morton said, referring to his boss, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “It’s what happened.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Denmark: Pastor “Executes” Elf to Save Christmas

Jon Knudsen, the pastor of the Løkken Free Church in the Jutland town of Vendsyssel, loves Christmas, but he hates elves. This weekend, Knudsen’s hatred for the creature he says “comes from the devil” manifested itself in the form of a mock execution by hanging of a Christmas elf outside his church. Around the elf’s neck was a sign reading “we reject Satan and all his works and all his empty promises”, a reference to the Christian baptism rite.

Knudsen said decorating with elves at Christmas was “comparable to decorating with Nazi flags”, and described elves of all sorts as “poltergeists that come from the devil and make children sick”. Although the church’s parishioners and some other residents of the town of 1,500 on the North Sea coast supported the protest, others had asked, and even threatened, Knudsen to take the elf down.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lawmakers School Obama on National Motto

A letter signed by 42 members of Congress criticizes President Barack Obama for telling students in Indonesia last month that America’s national motto is “E Pluribus Unum.”

Obama commented to the students last month that the U.S. and Indonesia share a similar history. “It is a story written into our national mottos. In the United States, our motto is ‘E Pluribus Unum’ — out of many, one.”

In a letter to the White House, members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus — mostly Republican — note that the national motto has been “In God We Trust” since 1956.

The caucus chairman, Congressman Randy Forbes (R-Virginia), says “In God We Trust” is too important to be forgotten. He says he and his fellow congressmen want to “make sure that we stand by that proposition and don’t retreat from it.”…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Peter and Hazelmary Bull Sued by Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy

The Christian owners of a seaside guesthouse are being sued in a landmark case — for refusing to allow a gay couple to share a double bed.

Devout Peter and Hazelmary Bull refused to let civil partners Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy use a double room because it would be ‘an affront to their faith’.

They operate a strict policy which only allows married heterosexual couples to share rooms at their B&B in Cornwall.

The gay couple claim the snub was a ‘direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation’.

They are using 2007 Equality Act Regulations to claim up to £5,000 in damages at a landmark case that begins at Bristol County Court next Monday…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Teacher Who Said Child Was ‘White Trash’ Convicted of Race Crime

Jane Turner intervened in a heated argument between a group of children near a school to help end it. However, during the dispute a parent of one of the children reported hearing her say: “Go and play with your own little white friends, you’re nothing but white trash.” After she was reported to police, Mrs Turner initially denied using the phrase but later admitted she had said “white trash” and has since apologised.

Mrs Turner was working at Moseley School, a specialist language college in Birmingham, when the incident took place almost 20 miles away. She was convicted at Halesowen Magistrates Court of an offence of using racially threatening words or behaviour likely to cause harassment or distress. She was made subject of a community order for one year with a requirement to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to pay compensation of £50…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Religion Makes People Happier (Hint: Not God)

Religious people are more satisfied with their lives than nonbelievers, but a new study finds it’s not a relationship with God that makes the devout happy. Instead, the satisfaction boost may come from closer ties to earthly neighbors.

According to a study published today (Dec. 7) in the journal American Sociological Review, religious people gain life satisfaction thanks to social networks they build by attending religious services. The results apply to Catholics and mainline and evangelical Protestants. The number of Jews, Mormons, Muslims and people of other religions interviewed was too small to draw conclusions about those populations, according to study researcher Chaeyoon Lim, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“We show that [life satisfaction] is almost entirely about the social aspect of religion, rather than the theological or spiritual aspect of religion,” Lim told LiveScience. “We found that people are more satisfied with their lives when they go to church, because they build a social network within their congregation.”

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Many studies have uncovered a link between religion and life satisfaction, but all of the research faced a “chicken-and-egg problem,” Lim said. Does religion make people happy, or do happy people become religious? And if religion is the cause of life satisfaction, what is responsible — spirituality, social contacts, or some other aspect of religion?

Lim and his colleague, Harvard researcher Robert Putnam, tackled both questions with their study. In 2006, they contacted a nationally representative sample of 3,108 American adults via phone and asked them questions about their religious activities, beliefs and social networks. In 2007, they called the same group back and got 1,915 of them to answer the same batch of questions again.

The surveys showed that across all creeds, religious people were more satisfied than non-religious people. According to the data, about 28 percent of people who attended a religious service weekly were “extremely satisfied” with their lives, compared with 19.6 percent of people who never attended services.

But the satisfaction couldn’t be attributed to factors like individual prayer, strength of belief, or subjective feelings of God’s love or presence. Instead, satisfaction was tied to the number of close friends people said they had in their religious congregation. People with more than 10 friends in their congregation were almost twice as satisfied with life as people with no friends in their congregation…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


A Difficult US Fight to Choke Off Terror Finance

US diplomats around the world have been trying for years to cut off funding for terrorism. But many governments have proven reluctant to join the effort. Particularly in Pakistan, high-level contacts to extremist groups are proving to be a significant hurdle.

The document exuded confidence — and officially it didn’t exist. “With your help,” the US State Department wrote in a “non-paper” to the Saudi Arabian government, “we can learn more and stop the abuse of al-Haramain by terrorists.” Then-US Secretary of State authorized the several-page-long memo on Jan. 28, 2003. Its focus was charitable organizations that allegedly also provided funding for terrorism — organizations like al-Haramain. Above all, the letter was intended to turn Saudi Arabia from a shady half-friend into a solid US ally in the fight against terrorism and its sponsors.

The Americans were aware that cash injections from wealthy benefactors in Saudi Arabia were al-Qaida’s most important source of revenue. “Finding these people and stopping the financial flows — whether through public or private action — would seriously impede the al-Qaida leadership’s ability to reconstitute the group and launch devastating new attacks in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere,” wrote Powell in the non-paper.

His efforts met at least with partial success. Riyadh has since become an ally of the West when it comes to combating terrorism. As recently as a few weeks ago, in late October, Saudi Arabian intelligence helped foil a plan to send two parcel bombs to the US via Europe.

But the flow of money to al-Qaida and organizations connected with it has by no means been stopped in Saudi Arabia. In May 2009, Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, traveled to the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh himself, precisely for that reason. He told Saudi financial investigators that “private donations from the Gulf” were still the most important source of funding for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

‘A Source of Funding’

The US embassy noted that “it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.” It said “donors in Saudi Arabia continue to constitute a source of funding to Sunni extremist groups worldwide.” As for al-Haramain, it apparently continues to operate, albeit under a different name.

Holbrooke’s warning came a full six years after Powell’s memo. But Osama bin Laden continues to lead the al-Qaida terror network, Mullah Omar still heads the Afghan Taliban — and the terrorists haven’t run out of money.

Militant Islamists collected funds for bomb attacks on suburban railway trains in Madrid in 2004 and the London Underground in 2005. They funded suicide attacks on hotels in Jordan and on the Sinai Peninsula, and they pay for deadly bombings in Iraq and Pakistan that take place almost daily. The problem that Powell described back in 2003 has still not been solved. Everyone has an idea how the terrorists get their money, but no-one can find a way to stem the flow of funds.

US diplomats are battling a multi-headed Hydra. The dispatches leaked by WikiLeaks reveal just how bitter this battle has become. The memos repeatedly show the State Department’s barely concealed frustration with America’s partners…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Frightening Newspaper Front Pages Can Harm Children, Says Psychologist

FRONT PAGES of newspapers that scare children break the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a leading Norwegian child psychologist has said.

Prof Magne Raundalen also said the brains of children subjected to long-term, low-grade fear are damaged by high levels of the cortisone hormone which may reduce their IQ by 10 per cent.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Press Council of Ireland on Children and the Media, Prof Raundalen, of the Centre for Crisis Psychology in Bergen, Norway, said newspapers were made for adults by adults, but the front page was read by children.

They were frightened by startling headlines, particularly those involving child death, he said. Children who had suffered traumas in their lives could be particularly susceptible to long-term reactions, “after seeing only one frightening front page”.

“These children can perceive frightening front pages in a way that is harmful to them,” he said.

Prof Raundalen said an American study had shown children from “normal families” who lived with a small, but constant fear of corporal punishment had lost 10 per cent of their IQ. The cortisone hormone, produced when a person was in a state of fear, “poisoned part of the brain” central to memory, he said.

Front-page headlines which scared children could be in breach of article 17 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which recognises the effects of the media on children.

Prof Raundalen suggested a series of guidelines for the press when covering stories about child death on the front page. These included the exclusion of pictures of the child who has been killed, the avoidance of headlines such as “child killed by mum or dad”, and the avoidance of detailed information on the method of death.

Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan suggested there should be some collaboration between her office and the media to offer guidance on reporting about children.

Also speaking at the seminar, Dr Paul Connors, national director of communications with the HSE, said in all reportage on children’s issues, the benchmark before publishing should be “what is in the best interests of the child”.

He acknowledged the media made efforts to protect the identity of children and its role as watchdog, but complained about the publication of “the prurient details” of children’s lives without considering their impact, in particular in the Roscommon childcare case.

He criticised the media coverage of the way the HSE released the numbers of children who had died in care. It was “dangerous” to suggest the HSE was secretive as this would prevent children in care and their families from trusting it.

Dr Connors told delegates the majority of the 5,600 children in HSE care were happy and the media should focus more on that.

Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay said a “central dilemma” in reporting was that sometimes the needs of children demand more publicity, but the needs of an individual child could be damaged by that publicity.

He also said he wanted to believe the vast majority of children in HSE care were leading happy, healthy lives, but he had too much anecdotal evidence of children lost in the system or of foster families unable to get the help they needed.

Catherine Ghent family law solicitor with Kelleher O’Doherty Solicitors, spoke about the need to lift the in camera rule in family law, but she warned any reform would have to be “careful”. She suggested a court reporter with suitable qualifications be allowed to report on family law cases, with a time delay before publication.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Muslims Ambivalent About Extremism

A majority of Muslims around the world welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries’ political life, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, but have mixed feelings toward militant religious groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.

Muslims in Indonesia, Egypt, Nigeria and Jordan were among the most enthusiastic, with more than three-quarters of poll respondents in those countries reporting positive views of Islam’s influence in politics: either that Islam had a large role in politics, and that was a good thing, or that it played a small role, and that was bad.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]