Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101209

Financial Crisis
»Billions in EU Cash Intended for Small Businesses Being Hoarded by Banks Instead
»Cancun: Britain is Urged to Impose £15 Billion in Green Taxes
»Ireland Bailout Could Cost British Taxpayers Over £7 Billion
»J.P. Morgan Getting Squeezed in Silver Market? (Slv, Jpm)
»Jordan: 80% Earn Less Than USD 500 a Month, Study
»Baltimore Man Who Plotted to Blow Up Military Recruiting Station ‘Wrote of Plans on Facebook’
»Demolition Teams Torch California “Bomb House”
»Diana West: Lt. Michael Behenna’s Day in Appeals Court
»Laser Weapon Lasts for 6 Hours
»Officials Worry About Some Latino Converts to Islam
»White House Asks Congress for More Weather Satellite Money
»WikiLeaks Exposes Obama
»Chinatown LRT Opponents Say Proposed Route is Bad Feng Shui
»Emotional Goodbye for Murdered Ottawa Teen
Europe and the EU
»A Tipping Point for Religion in Britain?
»Belgium: ‘Tintin in the Congo’ Racism Hearing Postponed
»Chopper Rescues Frenchwoman Trapped in Tree by Wild Pigs
»Denmark: Dog Doo is Nation’s Biggest Social Don’t
»Infrared Add-on Could Let Standard Cameras See Cancer
»Irish Politicians Earnings vs U.S.
»Italy: Fiat Opens Talks With Unions on Future of Turin Plant
»Italy: Rome Still Seeking Colosseum Sponsors
»Lockerbie Bomber: Victims’ Relatives Accuse UK of ‘Caving in’ To Gaddafi and Libya
»Murder of Newborns in France Five Times Official Rate: Study
»Netherlands: Al-Qaeda Mouthpiece Run by Dutch Extremists
»Netherlands: First Arrest Made in WikiLeaks Revenge Attacks
»Snow Shuts Eiffel Tower, Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport
»Something Rotten in Denmark’s Deal for NATO Job?
»Spanish Town Becomes First to Ban Face-Covering Veils
»Swede Death by Husband ‘Unforgivable’: Sister
»Swiss People’s Party “Sets Pace” For General Election
»The Counterproductive War on Smokers: The Future of Resistance Against the Nanny State?
»UK: ‘Vandals Have Hacked at the Heart of Christianity’: 2,000-Year-Old Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury is Cut Down
»UK: “Fashion is Still Racist, Says Naomi Campbell”
»UK: 3,000 Patients Starved to Death in Hospital Under Labour
»UK: Blatter Denies FIFA Corruption
»UK: Bungling Petrol Bomber Amir Ali Jailed for Trying to Burn Down a Pub… Before Running Straight Into a Lamp Post
»UK: Critically-Ill Great-Grandmother ‘Left in Urine-Soaked Bed for 12 Hours While Nurses Chatted Nearby’
»UK: Julian Assange Put in Segregation Unit as Lawyers Aim for Bail
»UK: MPs’ Expenses: Secretly ‘Rectification’ Deals Are Finally Made Public
»UK: No Rotten Eggs, Just Sour Grapes
»UK: Rugby-Mad 12-Year-Old Hangs Himself After ‘Being Bullied for Talking Too Politely
»UK: Sepp Blatter: England Are Just Bad Losers
»UK: Sepp Blatter: England Are Bad Losers
»UK: Sepp Blatter Attacks English “Arrogance” After World Cup 2018 Failure
»UK: Tuition Fees Protesters Attack Car Carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall
»UK: Tuition Fees Vote Protest: Thousands of Students Descend on Parliament
»Why Finnish Pupils Are Top of the European Game
»WikiLeaks Latest: A Minefield in Eastern Europe
»Croatia: Former Defence Minister Jailed for Defrauding State
»WikiLeaks Cables: Kosovo Sliding Towards Partition, Washington Told
»WikiLeaks Cable Exposes US-UK Rift Over Croatian Accession to EU
»WikiLeaks Cables: Serbia Suspects Russian Help for Fugitive Ratko Mladic
»WikiLeaks Cables: Former Croatia PM Flees Over Corruption Claims
North Africa
»An Insider’s Look at the Libyan-Swiss Hostage Crisis
»Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi ‘In a Coma’
»WikiLeaks: USA: Algerian Security Inept Against Terrorism
»WikiLeaks Cables Cast Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s Ruler for Life
Middle East
»Airbus: Half of Airplanes to Wealthy People From Gulf Region
»Dutch MP’s Plea for Palestinian State in Jordan Rejected
»Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani ‘At Home’ Pictures Trigger Confusion Over Her Fate
»Iraq: Southern Christians Flee in ‘Worrying’ Numbers
»Minister Rejects Wilders’ Plea for Palestinian State in Jordan
»Syria: Jailed Rights Defender Assaulted, Punished in Prison
»The WikiLeaks Vindication of George W. Bush
»Turkey Fights to Protect National Anthem From German Royalty Claims
»Turkish Sector’s Exports to Israel and Russia Up
»Why Mullahs Need Atom — Thinking Ahead
»Polish Government Deeply Fearful of Russia, US Cable Shows
South Asia
»Afghan Women Still Suffer Horrendous Abuse, Says United Nations Report
»Indonesia: Bomb in a Church in Central Java, Archbishop Calls for Calm
»Pakistani Media Publish Fake WikiLeaks Cables Attacking India
»Religious Lobby is Running Riot in Pakistan
»Senior Scottish Ministers Plea for Release of Pakistani Christian Woman
»Taliban Bombs Hit New High — 1,500 in November Alone
»WikiLeaks Cables Suggest Burma is Building Secret Nuclear Sites
Far East
»Stimulus Money is Helping Chinese Employment
Sub-Saharan Africa
»A Discreet Deal for the War in Sudan
»Deep-Seated Corruption in Kenya a Cause for US Concern
»Nigeria: Police Arrests 4 Alleged Sect Members
»Somalia: Two ‘Islamist Militants’ Killed in Central Puntland Region
Latin America
»Literature Laureate Warns of Nuclear Peril
»UN Peacekeepers Likely Cause of Haiti Cholera Outbreak
»Netherlands and South Africa Join Forces on Immigration
»Number of People Living in Britain But Born Abroad Doubles to 6.9m in 30 Years
»Spain: Police Break Up Barcelona Forgery Ring
»Tunisia: ‘Emperor of Crossings’ Arrested
Culture Wars
»College Slammed for Censoring Class on Islam
»Defense Bill With ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Falls Short in Senate
»High-School Hunter Faces Expulsion Over Gun Locked in Trunk
»Sex Prof: Child Porn Can Do Some Good!
»Assange’s ‘Poison Pill’ File Impossible to Stop, Expert Says
»Blue Whale Feeding Methods Are Ultra-Efficient
»Experts Challenge Story of Arsenic-Loving Bacteria
»Global Warming Ideology Still on Top
»Greenland’s Ice Has Secret Weapon Against Melting
»People With ‘Warrior Gene’ Better at Risky Decisions
»Sex Boosts Happiness in Neurotic Newlyweds
»The Future is Here: Cyborgs Walk Among Us
»YouTube Employing Extra Staff to Tackle Al-Qaeda Hate Videos

Financial Crisis

Billions in EU Cash Intended for Small Businesses Being Hoarded by Banks Instead

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Billions in EU cash intended as loans for small businesses in eastern Europe who have been bludgeoned by the economic crisis have instead been hoarded by intermediary banks.

In 2008, evidence began to mount of how small and medium-sized businesses were being cut off from access to loans as a result of the credit crunch.

‘Many intermediaries appear to be making very few allocations to SMEs’ (Photo: snorski)


Comment article

In response, European finance ministers unveiled a stimulus package that involved rapid deployment of €15 billion in loans via the European Investment Bank expressly intended for these businesses.

However, the process involved the EIB first providing loans to third-party intermediary institutions — for the most part commercial banks — who were then supposed lend on the funds along with their own contribution to small businesses.

According to a new report from Bankwatch, a Prague-based transparency campaign group, these banks have instead held on to the loans, boosting their own liquidity, but not passing them on to their intended recipients.

“Many intermediaries appear to be making very few allocations to SMEs despite the fact that they have often received the entire global loan amount and have had, in some instances, over two years to find SME beneficiaries,” the report authors state.

Examining the lending process in four eastern EU member states — the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia — from 2008 to June 2010, the report found that just 0.001 percent of all small and medium-sized businesses in the region had received any loan allocations.

Of the extra €15 billion set aside for small businesses, only 74 percent has so far been disbursed by the EIB to intermediary banks.

Of this, in what the authors call a “best-case scenario”, just 69 percent has been passed on to such businesses. Moreover, those that did receive funding tended toward the larger end of the small-to-medium-sized spectrum…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Cancun: Britain is Urged to Impose £15 Billion in Green Taxes

The economist said the UK would have to contribute around £1.5 billion from 2020 to a new ‘green fund’, that is expected to be set up during global talks on climate change in Cancun this week.

The Treasury is unlikely to set up new mechanisms to raise such a small amount of cash.

Therefore it is better to raise ten times as much and use just ten per cent for the green fund. The rest can be used as the Government sees fit.

Lord Stern said an extra £15 billion could be raised in taxes on polluting industry and power from coal, gas and petrol. Although the levies will be directly on factories or power stations, eventually it will come down to the consumers.

“People would see these tax rises through electricity, through cars,” said Lord Stern.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Ireland Bailout Could Cost British Taxpayers Over £7 Billion

The cost to UK taxpayers of rescuing the Irish economy could exceed £7billion, the Chancellor said yesterday.

George Osborne admitted the handout may exceed initial Treasury estimates — and refused to rule out further help for other failing EU states.

Officials will today publish draft legislation allowing for a direct loan of £3.25billion to Ireland.

The UK is also obliged to contribute another £3.75billion through a bailout fund set up by the International Monetary Fund and the EU.

Mr Osborne told the Treasury Select Committee that the legislation he has drawn up to approve the bailout makes provision for the bilateral loan to be increased — but only with the approval of the House of Commons.

And he said he had explicitly ruled out legislation that would have given the Treasury the right to go ahead with further handouts to EU nations without MPs having to sign off the loans.

But when asked whether he could guarantee that he would not approve further bailouts, Mr Osborne was unable to do so.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

J.P. Morgan Getting Squeezed in Silver Market? (Slv, Jpm)

It is widely known that J.P. Morgan (NYSE: JPM) holds a giant short position in silver. Furthermore, some observers are accusing the bank of acting as an agent for the Federal Reserve in the market — every tick higher in the price of silver undermines confidence in the U.S. Dollar. A lower silver price helps keep the relative appeal of the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies high.

By selling massive amounts of paper silver in the futures market, JPM has been able to suppress the price of the precious metal. It is believed that these short positions are naked (i.e. they are not backed by any physical silver). In fact, reports indicate that JPM is short more paper silver than physically exists in the world.

An article by Max Keiser which appeared in the Guardian on December 2, 2010 claims that the size of the short position is 3.3 billion ounces of silver.

In recent days, rumors have been swirling on the internet that JPM’s massive short position is about to blow up in their face in the form of an almighty short squeeze and potential COMEX default as large traders demand physical delivery of silver that COMEX does not have in their vaults.

J.P. Morgan is currently under investigation by the CFTC for allegedly manipulating the price of silver. The investigation into the bank can be traced back to November 2009 when London metals trader and whistleblower Andrew Maguire contacted the CFTC to report market manipulation prior to it actually occurring.

Maguire had been told by J.P. Morgan commodity traders that the bank was manipulating the price of silver and subsequently reported this to the CFTC. He also gave the CFTC two days’ notice about an impending silver manipulation that would take place around the Nonfarm payrolls number on February 5, 2010.

The manipulation played out EXACTLY as Maguire had predicted. You can find the emails between Maguire and Ramirez here. Shortly after this information came to light, the whistleblower was involved in a bizarre hit and run accident in London which caused him and his wife to be hospitalized.

The price of silver has absolutely exploded in recent months as these reports have surfaced and it is clear that blood is in the water. The predator (J.P. Morgan) has now become the prey. Every tick higher in the price of silver brings more pressure on the bank to cover their short position. This in turn puts more upward pressure on the silver price.

It is not clear if JPM has been actively trying to reduce their exposure or not — but something is definitely going on. The price of the widely traded iShares Silver Trust ETF (NYSE: SLV), which tracks the spot price of the precious metal, has exploded in recent months.

On August 23rd, the SLV closed at $17.61. The ETF closed on Friday at $28.60 and the price of silver is now trading at 30 year highs. Over the last three months, SLV is up over 47%.

In the overnight futures session on Sunday night, silver is currently trading 2.27% higher at $29.935. SOMETHING IS GOING ON. Making matters worse for JPM is the fact that a viral campaign (Crash JP Morgue Video) to buy physical silver and “crash” the bank is now spreading like wildfire on the internet. Just Google Crash J.P. Morgan Buy Silver.

Furthermore, it appears that significant physical silver shortages are developing in the marketplace and the metal is being sold well over spot where it is available. Shortly after popular financial blog ZeroHedge posted the “Crash The JP Morgue” video (linked to above), the website which created the video,, reported that it was sold out of inventory and will not be taking new orders until December 6.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Jordan: 80% Earn Less Than USD 500 a Month, Study

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, DECEMBER 6, 2010 — The worldwide economic downturn is having a significant impact on social classes in Jordan with latest official figures showing around 80 percent of Jordanians earn USD 500 or less a month.

In a survey conducted by Economic and Social Council (ECON) with the support of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the Department of Statistics (DoS) findings showed the middle class is eroding as the country reels under massive state budge difficult, decline in foreign aid and shrinking working opportunities.

Experts said the change in social class has been evident in the aftermath of the slowdown that hit the globe during the past three years.

Eager to trim the USD 2 billion budget deficit, the government of prime minister Samir Refai upped taxation and imposed what it said austerity measures in the public sector. Critics say the government is taking the easier approach to salvage the economy by turning to pockets of citizens.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Baltimore Man Who Plotted to Blow Up Military Recruiting Station ‘Wrote of Plans on Facebook’

Antonio Martinez, 21, an American convert to Islam, was detained after trying to remotely detonate a fake bomb left in a vehicle at an army recruiting office near Baltimore. Also known as Muhammed Hussain, the suspect was charged with “attempting to murder federal officers and employees and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against federal property”, said the Department of Justice. FBI agents were tipped off by a confidential source after Martinez posted his call for violence to stop the oppression of Muslims on the social networking site on September 29. Two days later, he posted a message saying that he “hated any person who opposes Allah and his prophet”.

Prosecutors said an FBI informer then contacted Martinez through Facebook. “Martinez wrote that he wanted to go to Pakistan or Afghanistan, that it was his dream to be among the ranks of the mujahideen, and that he hoped Allah would open a door for him because all he thinks about is jihad,” the department said. Officials involved in the sting offered Martinez the chance to back out of the “plot” on several occasions but said he forged ahead each time, and at one point told an FBI contact he wanted to attack several targets. “We blow one recruiting centre up … people ain’t gonna be able to get recruited at that one. Then we hit another one, then we hit another one (and) there’s no more recruiting centres in Maryland,” prosecutors quoted him as saying. The case resembled that of a Somali-American arrested in Portland, Oregon last month after trying to set off a dummy bomb supplied by undercover FBI agents who had pretended to be accomplices. Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, denied that sting operations had amounted to entrapment. “Stings are part and parcel of the toolbox law enforcement must have and must employ particularly in this kind of a terrorist environment”, she said. “There are rules that govern them and they are done very carefully and the FBI abides by those rules, law enforcement abides by those rules, but they are an important tool to have.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Demolition Teams Torch California “Bomb House”

(Reuters) — Demolition teams set fire on Thursday to an explosives-packed house in suburban San Diego that authorities say was turned into a bomb-making factory by a man now jailed on bank robbery charges.

Flames and thick, gray smoke erupted from the single-story, wood-framed “bomb house” as the long-planned controlled incineration began shortly before 11 a.m. local time. The structure was engulfed within minutes, as two gunshot-like bangs rang out, followed by intermittent, loud popping sounds.

Firefighters earlier had cut holes in the roof to improve ventilation for the blaze, and sprayed fire-retardant gel on homes closest to the burn zone as a precaution.

By 7 a.m. local time, an evacuation of at least 60 homes nearest the “bomb house” had been completed, and the California Highway Patrol shut down a portion of an interstate highway, I-15, that runs within 200 feet of the condemned dwelling.

The home, located in a middle-class neighborhood of the town of Escondido, about 25 miles north of San Diego, had been occupied for about four years by George Jakubec, 54, an unemployed software engineer now in federal custody.

Personnel from some 50 agencies were taking part in the burn operation, including hazardous materials teams, firefighters, bomb squad technicians and members of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Authorities did not disclose how they set the house ablaze, other than to say they ignited the fire by remote-control.

A final legal hurdle to the burning was cleared on Wednesday when a federal judge denied a request by lawyers for “bomb house” suspect George Jakubec, 54, to delay the incineration. His attorneys had argued that the demolition would destroy documents and other evidence needed to defend their client.

But the judge sided with FBI bomb experts who said the house was too dangerous to clear out and process as a crime scene, leaving authorities no alternative but to burn it down.

Jakubec, a native of Serbia who has been in the United States more than 20 years, was arrested last month after police found his house packed from floor to ceiling with high explosives, bomb-making materials, handmade grenades and guns mixed in with piles of paper and other debris.

San Diego County prosecutor Terri Perez has called it “the largest quantity of these types of homemade explosives (ever found) at one place in the United States.”

Jakubec was charged last week in an eight-count federal indictment with three bank robberies and one attempted bank holdup. He also is accused of one count of possessing explosive devices, one count of illegal manufacture of explosives and two counts of brandishing a firearm during a robbery.

Now in federal detention without bond, Jakubec pleaded not guilty on Monday to each of the eight charges, which carry a maximum possible penalty of 20 years in prison.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently issued an emergency declaration freeing the state of liability for destroying the house, owned by a San Francisco Bay-area woman, according to county property records.

The house came under scrutiny on November 18 when a gardener working on the premises was injured by an explosion there.

[Return to headlines]

Diana West: Lt. Michael Behenna’s Day in Appeals Court

Just came back from a tense morning in the Army Court of Criminal Appeals in Arlington, Virginia, where long-awaited oral arguments appealing US Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna’s surreal conviction for “unpremeditated murder” while fighting the war in Iraq were heard. Lt. Behenna, 27, is currently serving 15 years in military prison (reduced from 25 years) for killing a known al Qaeda operative named Ali Mansur believed to have been responsible for attacks on Behenna’s platoon in 2008. Michael is one of the Leavenworth Ten we must not forsake.

Fifteen years is a harsh (insane) sentence, and harsher than other such sentences handed down for the same “crime,” as Michael’s father Scott Behenna explained to a Clemency Review Board on December 2. At todays appeal, civilian defense attorney Jack Zimmerman of Houston argued, quite convincingly I thought, two main points: 1) that key forensic evidence from a government witness in support of Lt. Behenna’s claim of self-defense was not heard during the trial; and 2) that, on a more arcane legal point (as I understood it), crucial instructions to the jury were unclear.

By now, Michael’s nightmare is a familiar tale of the Iraq war: Sunni/Al Qaeda attacks. IEDs. Casualties. “Catch-and-release,” with Lt. Behenna ordered personally to release Mansur — actually, to drive him right to his home. One more unauthorized try at interrogation. Mansur attacks Behenna. (US Government says Mansur didn’t attack, was seated on a rock the whole time; unheard forensic evidence mentioned above supports Michael’s story.) Two shots. Self-defense or murder?

I still find myself balking at the whole “murder” charge thing just as though this had been a barroom brawl…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Laser Weapon Lasts for 6 Hours

A 100-kilowatt solid-state laser that Northrop Grumman demonstrated for potential weapon applications 18 months ago has now fired at full power for more than 6 hours. How much that impresses you will depend on how much you know about laser weapons and how they would be used on the battlefield.

The US has built and demonstrated several lasers in the 100 kilowatt to megawatt class since the 1970s, most recently the Airborne Laser. All the earlier were essentially giant rocket engines that burned chemical fuels and reached impressive powers. Some even shot down test missiles. But all of them only ran for seconds at a time, and needed special fuels that would have created nightmares for battlefield logistics.

Field commanders instead asked the Pentagon to develop a solid-state laser weapon, which could run on electric power from diesel generators. The Joint High Power Solid State Laser program sought a laboratory test bed that could fire 100 kilowatts for five solid minutes. Northrop Grumman met that goal last year; Textron Systems met it this year with their own design.

Operating repeatedly at 100 kilowatts or more for over 6 hours is a first. Demonstrating this kind of prolonged usage is necessary because optical damage is a major concern at such high powers. It’s very likely that some device components have been replaced, but any damage has not been catastrophic enough to require a complete rebuild. That’s an important step forward.

Still, it has a long way to go. Lasers deployed on the battlefield will be required to be ready to run 24/7, and must be able to keep running during a sustained attack. We’re many years from that point.

The next step will be integrating the laser with a pointing and tracking system at Northrop Grumman’s factory in Redondo Beach, California. Then it will be shipped to the Pentagon’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico for field testing.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Officials Worry About Some Latino Converts to Islam

The FBI arrested Antonio Martinez, a 21-year-old Muslim convert, Wednesday and charged him with plotting to blow up a military recruitment center. There are two things about this case that make it particularly interesting to counterterrorism officials. The first is that Martinez appears to have been radicalized in the U.S. The second is that he is Latino. Latino converts to radical Islam have been connected to terrorism cases in this country with increasing frequency — and officials are trying to understand why.

The FBI began tracking Martinez, who also went by the name Muhammad Hussain, in October. That’s when, according to the criminal complaint against him, Martinez allegedly struck up a conversation with an FBI source and told him that he wanted to attack U.S. military personnel.

Martinez allegedly believed that the U.S. had long been at war with Muslims, and he said that Muslim brothers needed to strike back. After taping hours of Martinez’s conversations, the FBI ended up providing him with what he thought was a car bomb. He allegedly parked it outside an armed forces recruiting station in Catonsville, Md., on Wednesday and was arrested after he allegedly tried to detonate it.

The explosives were inert and no one, Justice Department officials said, was ever in any danger. While there is already some discussion about Martinez having been entrapped by a terrorism sting operation launched by the FBI, officials say to concentrate on that misses another wrinkle in the case: Why do a small number of Latinos in this country seem to convert not just to Islam but to a radical form of it?

“In some ways, it is not the volume [of conversion] necessarily. It is not like folks are worried about vast communities or subcommunities of Latinos joining al-Qaida,” said Juan Zarate, a former deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration who is now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “What has got people’s attention is the nature of individuals who have been caught in this web.”

The individuals involved have been at the center of what terrorism officials consider important cases…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

White House Asks Congress for More Weather Satellite Money

WASHINGTON — The White House is asking Congress to significantly boost funding in 2011 for a planned civilian weather satellite system as lawmakers draft a budget measure that would hold spending on most other federal programs to 2010 levels, according to government and industry sources.

With Congress having been unable to pass any spending bills for 2011, the federal government has been operating since Oct. 1, the start of the fiscal year, under a series of stopgap measures known as continuing resolutions, which typically hold funding to prior year levels.

A final continuing resolution that would fund the government for the remainder of fiscal 2011 could be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives as early as Dec. 8, and the White House has requested that the measure include an additional $528 million for the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS), sources said…

[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Exposes Obama

Recently published Wikileaks documents expose the failure of President Obama’s counter-terrorism policy.

While reaffirming a 1,400 years old Muslim track record, the documents refute Obama’s fundamental assumptions, which have shaped his counter-terrorism policy: that the Palestinian issue is a root cause of Middle East turbulence and anti-Western terrorism; that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are allies of the US; that there is no Islamic terrorism since Islam promotes peace and not terrorism; that there is no Jihadist terrorism since Jihad is a process which purifies the soul; that there is no global terrorism; that Islamic terrorists represent a Muslim minority which rejects modernity and that Islam has always been part of the American story.

According to the documents, Islamic terrorism has afflicted the globe from Latin America through the US and overseas American targets, Western Europe, the former USSR, Africa, the Middle East (hitting mostly fellow-Muslims), South Asia, the Far East and Australia.

The worldwide proliferation of Islamic terrorism is orchestrated and executed, also, by multi-lingual graduates of Western universities, who proficiently use the Internet, Blackberry, iPod, Twitter and Facebook. Contrary to Obama’s assumption, modern-day Islamic terrorists do not reject modernity. In fact, they leverage modernity in order to advance Islam’s historical values and goals. They believe that Islam’s destiny of religious and territorial domination of the globe is divinely-ordained. And, they pursue their goals via violence, intolerance toward “infidels” and “apostates,” totalitarianism and “Holy Wars” (Jihad) against civilizations and entities that undermine their megalomaniac aspirations, which transcend the Palestinian issue and Israel’s policies or existence.

Irrespective of the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muslim terrorists operate along the joint border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as in San Paulo, Foz do Iguacu and Parana, Brazil. Independent of Israel’s policies and existence, the Lashkar-E-Taiba, Jaish-E-Mohammed and other Islamic terrorist organizations — operating with the backing of Pakistan — target India. Moreover, Lashkar-E-Taiba expands its presence in Pakistan — where it collaborates with the Inter Services Intelligence — Sri Lanka and Nepal in order to intensify terrorism in India.

Tailwind to terrorists According to WikiLeaks — quoting a December 2009 Secretary of State Clinton memo — Saudi Arabia (especially), Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the chief financial supporters of global Islamic Sunni terrorism, such as al-Qaeda, Taliban and Lashkar —E-Taiba, raising funds for terrorism through seemingly philanthropic organizations during pilgrimages to Mecca….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Chinatown LRT Opponents Say Proposed Route is Bad Feng Shui

EDMONTON -Some members of Edmonton’s Chinese community oppose the proposed LRT route through Chinatown, saying it threatens the community’s cultural importance and is bad Feng Shui.

“It creates a sense of barrier, stopping energy from going to Chinatown,” said Stephen Chan, a Feng Shui practitioner.

Feng Shui is the ancient Chinese practice of achieving harmony and balance through environmental and esthetic design.

Chan said the proposed route, which sees the LRT running along 102nd Avenue through the China Gate, will put Edmonton’s “Dragon Vein” into turmoil, and could throw the entire city’s positive energy into a negative cycle. Chan said he knows some people do not believe in Feng Shui, but he asks people to be open-minded about the wisdom contained in the ancient practice.

He said the current plan is “really bad” Feng Shui.

Chan will be among several delegations from the Chinese community appearing Wednesday in city council chambers to present their concerns to the transportation and public works committee. Chan said the Chinese community has been “shaken” by the proposed downtown LRT connector route. Some fear it could threaten the Chinatown area…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Emotional Goodbye for Murdered Ottawa Teen

Family and friends bid an emotional goodbye Thursday to a 16-year-old Ottawa boy who was shot and killed earlier this week.

Yazdan Ghiasvand Ghiasi, a Grade 11 student at Notre Dame Catholic High School, is being laid to rest Thursday. About 200 people attended a funeral for the young teen at Ottawa’s central mosque on Scott Street this morning.

“We’re just here to support because they’re our neighbours and Yazdan was a wonderful, wonderful boy. We enjoyed him as our neighbour and as he was growing up, and now that’s gone,” Patty MacMillan told CTV Ottawa.

“The ceremony — I’ve never seen anything like it. It was so emotional, so heartfelt from the singer. I thought it was nice,” added Brian MacMillan.

Ghiasi’s violent death shocked family and friends when they were notified earlier this week.

Ghiasi’s friend told CTV Ottawa he skipped school on Monday to meet up with some people. Ghiasi was later dumped out of a car on Booth Street bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound.

Although witnesses tried to stop the bleeding, Ghiasi was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Three young Ottawa men have been charged in connection with his murder.

Abdulhamid Wehbe, 20, who is studying to become a police officer at Algonquin College, is charged with second-degree murder. Zakaria Dourhnou, 18, and Khaled Wehbe, 19, are both charged with accessory after the fact.

All three of the accused appeared in court Wednesday and were remanded in custody until next week.

Police have not released a motive for the teen’s death. But sources have told CTV Ottawa the killing was likely linked to drugs.

The teen’s family and friends deny Ghiasi was involved with drugs. Rather, they are remembering him as a kind, young man whose life was full of accomplishments.

Ghiasi’s family came to Canada from Iran when he was just a child. They say they never could have imagined their son’s life would be cut short on the streets of Ottawa.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

A Tipping Point for Religion in Britain?

Today may come to represent a significant milestone in the changing face of religion in Britain, following the Church of England’s publication of plans to merge three dioceses into one. The news may well get lost amongst the commotion surrounding the tuition fees vote — maybe a sign of increasing media savvy from the Church’s press office which is trying to put a positive spin on the announcement. The language is not of cuts, but instead of a “radical and realistic” approach, and Church House argues the changes will make “for more effective ministry and mission”. But for all the attempts to try and talk up the new proposals, it is difficult to see past the fact this represents the first time the Church has reduced the number of its dioceses. It is also difficult not to see the merger — or axing depending on which way you’re looking at it — in the context of the rise of Islam in Britain. In Bradford, one of the dioceses that is being subsumed, Muslims make up as much as three-quarters of the population in some parishes…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Belgium: ‘Tintin in the Congo’ Racism Hearing Postponed

A hearing into a ban on popular comic book “Tintin in the Congo” on the grounds of racist and offensive cliches about Africans was postponed until next week, court officials said.

Congolese citizen Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo and a black rights group have filed a complaint against the 1931 book by celebrated Belgian author Herge.

Judges postponed Wednesday’s scheduled hearing after a plaintiff withdrew from the case, delaying a new hearing until next week.

Plaintiffs have said the book about the adventures of the intrepid reporter and his dog Snowy in Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo, should at least be relegated to the adult sections of libraries.

Herge, real name Georges Remi (1907-1983), justified the book by saying it was merely a reflection of the naive views of the time. Some of the scenes were revised for later editions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Chopper Rescues Frenchwoman Trapped in Tree by Wild Pigs

A Frenchwoman had to be rescued by helicopter after she got stuck in a tree where she took refuge from a herd of wild pigs she ran into while strolling in a valley, police said Wednesday.

The 30-year-old was walking near the southwestern town of Bagneres-de-Luchon on Monday when she took fright after seeing the boars and climbed up a nearby tree.

When she later tried to climb down she fell two metres (six feet) and got stuck in branches from where she called rescue services with her GPS-equipped mobile phone and was able to give them her exact location, police said.

When rescue workers arrived they decided they would need a helicopter to extricate her safely form the tree and summoned one from a nearby base.

“She was shivering and suffering slightly from hypothermia” but had no broken bones or other injuries, said a rescue worker.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Dog Doo is Nation’s Biggest Social Don’t

Dog owners who don’t clean up after their pets are far more annoying to Danes than tax cheats and people who have affairs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Infrared Add-on Could Let Standard Cameras See Cancer

Doctors could one day instantly detect cancers by photographing patients with a digital camera.

Jeppe Seidelin Dam and colleagues at the Technical University of Denmark in Roskilde are developing a device that can convert infrared radiation into visible light. Attached to a digital camera fitted with an infrared flash, it could detect tumours by recording the telltale pattern of infrared light they reflect.

“This would allow a surgeon to quickly determine if the entire tumour has been removed before finishing an operation,” he says.

At the heart of the system is a multilayered crystal of potassium titanium oxide phosphate in which the infrared photons from the object to be imaged interfere with photons from an infrared laser, also fired into the crystal. The interaction shifts the wavelength into the visible spectrum while preserving the image information, allowing it to be captured by a normal camera.

Mirror amplifiers

The idea was first explored in the 1970s, but improvements to methods for growing crystals since then have improved the resolution of the device 300-fold. By placing a pair of mirrors on either side of the crystal so that the laser light reflects back and forth, the team increased the odds of its photons interfering with infrared photons from the object.

“We pass the same photons through the crystal up to 100 times,” says Dam. The crystal was able to capture an infrared panorama with a resolution of 200 by 1000 pixels, the team says.

The device could be placed in front of a digital camera lens like a filter, and be used to take thermal photographs or video. Shrinking it down to a size suitable for everyday use should not be difficult, says Dam. “These are basically the same components that are in green laser pointers.”

While current infrared colour imagers need to run at -200°C and cost around $100,000, Dam says that an upconversion imager would run at room temperature and cost about $10,000.

Stefano Bonora of the University of Padua, Italy, calls the upconversion technique “really interesting” for its potential to generate infrared images at room temperature. Such detectors are lacking at the moment, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Irish Politicians Earnings vs U.S.

Want to know why Ireland (POP. 4.5-MILLION) is in such dire financial trouble? Well it may have to with the incredible salaries that government workers of almost all stripes earn compared to their U.S. (POP. 320-MILLION) counterparts.

Here is a comparison:

Remember we are comparing a country with 320 million people and fifty states to one of 4.5 million people or the size of the state of Maine.

1. President of the United States $400,000

*President of Ireland $433,000

2. Secretary of State, America $191,300

*Irish Foreign Minister $270,000

3. Senator, America $174,000

*Member of Parliament, Ireland $136,000

4. Top Department head U.S. government $150,000

*Top civil servant Ireland $400,000

5. Salary CEO head of Pacific Gas and Electric serving 15 million people $1.1 million

*Salary ESB (Electricity Service Board) serving 4.5 million people $1.1 million

6. U.S. Secretary of Heath and Human services $131,000

*CEO Health Service Executive Ireland $422,00

7. CEO New York Port Authority (handling La Guardia, Kennedy, Newark) $286,000

*CEO of Dublin Airport Authority: $748,000

Any wonder the Irish are in trouble?

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat Opens Talks With Unions on Future of Turin Plant

Mirafiori to produce Jeep and Alfa Romeo models

(ANSA) — Turin, November 26 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne on Friday opened talks with unions on the future of the automaker’s main Turin plant, Mirafiori, urging them not to delay in reaching an accord.

“If we want to kick off investments and embark on our development plan, we cannot spend months talking, there are industrial considerations that cannot wait. The need to be serious and responsible obliges us to hammer out a quick solution,” Marchionne said.

“We are ready to talk but one thing must be clear and agreed to from the start: we all have to work towards creating the best conditions to make this plant productive,” he added.

“The first and most important responsibility we must assume is to respect an accord once we have reached one. It is an obligation we must take on in full sincerity. We are faced with a challenge which sees us against the rest of the world and the only way we can win it is to stand united and all work in the same direction, share the same objectives,” the CEO said.

Speaking to the union leaders, Marchionne “confessed” that he felt “bitter over the unfair accusations and attacks which have been made against Fiat. A lot of words have been said, perhaps too many”.

“Sometimes I find it hard to believe the statements I have read because there were so absurd and unjustified. But I don’t want all this to condition our decisions because they will be made in consideration of Fiat’s industrial future in Italy, the future of the nation and of our people,” he added.

Once an accord has been struck for Mirafiori, the CEO said, it will be important for the workers to agree and accept it.

“They will be the ones who will have the responsibility and privilege of transforming Mirafiori into a plant of an international stature. It may be useful for all of us, everyone in this room, to know directly from them what they think, perhaps through a referendum,” he told the union leaders.

Marchionne went on to add “what I ask of all of you is to leave politics out of this and to keep extremism away from our factory. What we need to bring to this negotiating table are ideas and proposals, the desire to construct and the commitment to do something of value”.

“We must also bring a readiness to sacrifice something, all of us, no one excluded, in order to achieve a goal which is much greater than a newspaper headline. We must do this first of all for our workers,” the CEO said.

Turning his attention to the future of the Mirafiori plant, Marchionne said that this was linked to a joint venture with Chrysler, the American automaker which Fiat now controls.

This joint venture, he explained was based on “a new platform which will be used to produce larger cars and SUVs for both the Jeep marque and Alfa Romeo”.

The platform he said, was an evolution of the one currently used for Alfa Romeo’s latest model, the Giulietta, which has been “modified and improved at Chrysler to become a universal platform for both marques”.

Future models produced at Mirafiori, Marchionne said, “will not only be sold in Europe. More than half will be sent to markets throughout the world, including America”. “Mirafiori has all the qualities necessary to become an international plant, one that produces vehicles not only for Fiat but also for Chrysler. When I said time and again that the partnership between our companies was the salvation not only of Chrysler but also Fiat, this is exactly what I meant,” he added.

Bringing the new platform to Mirafiori, Marchionne explained, “will ensure the possibility of the plant producing up to 250-280,000 vehicles a year, something like 1,000 a day”.

Fiat is ready to invest one billion euros in the new platform project, the CEO said, that will be divided proportionally between Fiat and Chrysler depending on the volume of vehicles they produce. “Producing the volume we need here will take a greater workforce than we currently have and this will open the door to new jobs,” Marchionne said. “It is my hope that today we open negotiations with a clean slate in order to achieve something that is real and concrete.

If we all share the same vision then we need to stop talking about it and work to make this dream come true,” the CEO told the unions.

Fiat has drawn up a 20-billion-euro investment plan for Italy that hinges on unions agreeing to bypass a national contract in favor of individual factory accords. One has already been negotiated for the Pomigliano d’Arco plant near Naples with the agreement accepted by all unions except FIOM, the left-wing autoworkers union which is part of the national CGIL trade union, Italy’s biggest.

Fiat maintains that separate contracts are needed to meet the individual conditions necessary to boost productivity at each of its plants.

The automaker has made it clear that without an accord with unions it would invest outside Italy, a move which observers say would distance Fiat from its native base.

Marchionne this year also became CEO of Chrysler, which Fiat acquired management control last year by offering its small-car and green technology in exchange for an initial 20% stake.

Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler has allowed it to return to the American market after 26 years, with its popular 500 city car hitting showrooms next month.

This is the first benchmark which will enable Fiat to begin increasing its stake in the US automaker to 35%.

Fiat can boost its stake to over 50% when it meets other benchmarks, including repaying federal bailout loans.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Still Seeking Colosseum Sponsors

Shoe king must be flanked by others says mayor

(ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — Rome is still looking for sponsors to fund a multi-million-euro clean-up and restoration of the increasingly vulnerable Colosseum, Mayor Gianni Alemanno said Tuesday.

Last week Italian shoe king Diego Della Valle said he could go it alone in sponsoring the 23-million-euro project after reports that a budding consortium had folded.

Alemanno said Tuesday Della Valle had been “contacted” but the city felt it needed more names behind the scheme.

“The people who put in the money are of secondary importance. The important thing is getting it,” Alemanno told reporters.

“We’re optimistic we’ll muster the 23 million from private sponsors. That way, the Colosseum will be an example for all the private companies that want to invest in our monuments with high-profile but non-invasive sponsorships”.

The Colosseum sponsors will be able to link their names on the 2,000-year-old symbol of Rome but the city council has stressed that they must agree to much lower visibility than they might usually expect.

Culture Undersecretary Francesco Giro said talks with Tod’s footwear mogul Della Valle would be finalised by the end of the year and the rest of the work would be put out to European tender, expected to produce a full list of companies by next August. Last week the Italian media said the campaign to muster enough private sponsors behind the project had flopped.

The La Repubblica daily said tenders submitted before an October 31 deadline had been adjudged as “not appropriate”.

Culture Minister Secretary-General Roberto Cecchi was quoted as saying the city administration would now be forced to launch a new negotiation procedure.

On Tuesday Giro said the failure to attract bidders so far would mean a delay “of between six and eight months” but the Colosseum would still be “restored to its original splendour in 2013”.

Advertisements for sponsors to fund the restoration appeared in Italy’s Official Gazette and two international newspapers in August.

The exact form the eventual sponsorship will take is still not clear.

Some concerns have been raised over allowing corporate advertisers to use the Colosseum to promote their products.

But the culture ministry and Rome city council representatives have promised the sponsorship will be discreet and in keeping with the dignity of the ancient monument.

Alemanno has also guaranteed that sponsoring firms will not be allowed to put their names on the giant tarpaulin sheets masking the scaffolding during the restoration work.

Pressure to get the project moving has risen since parts of an inside wall fell off in May.

Fortunately, their impact was cushioned by protective netting that has been around several sections of the Colosseum since the 1980s.

“The Colosseum is chronically ill. It’s showing all the signs of its age, a natural, physiological disease,” Giro said at the time.

The complete restoration of the almost 13,000 square meters of exterior walls is expected to start next year.

As well as the clean-up, unsightly barriers between the lowest arches will be removed and replaced by protective fences like the ones set up around the Roman Forum some years ago.

The monument, which is already lit up occasionally for special events, will then get a permanent illumination system.

The project will follow the recent reopening of the Colosseum’s third tier with its panoramic views of Rome and, far below, the first opening of the underground network of tunnels that took gladiators and wild beasts up to the arena.

As part of the restoration, new fire and security systems will be installed.

There will also be state-of-the-art metal detectors which, like the fences, will be positioned at some distance from the monument.

Alemanno has described the planned project as “epoch-making”, promising it will make the monument safe for years to come.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber: Victims’ Relatives Accuse UK of ‘Caving in’ To Gaddafi and Libya

The Lockerbie bomber was said to be close to death today after a rapid deterioration in his health.

Terminally ill Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was on a life support machine in Libya and his family expected him to die within days.

He stopped being able to speak some weeks ago and then fell into a coma, the broadcaster said, citing sources close to the family.

The Libyan was controversially freed from Greenock prison on compassionate grounds last year after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.

He was sentenced to life in jail after his conviction for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

The decision to free him, which was taken by Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill, sparked fury in the US and was condemned by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Last week Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi said Megrahi’s family would be suing over his ‘neglect’ in Greenock Prison.

Speaking to students in London via a video link, he said: ‘His health was not looked after in prison. He didn’t have any periodic examination. I wish him a long life.

‘After he passes away, his family will demand compensation because he was deliberately neglected in prison.’

A group of campaigners in the UK is calling for an independent inquiry into the bomber’s conviction…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Murder of Newborns in France Five Times Official Rate: Study

The number of newborns in France killed within 24 hours of birth is more than five times higher than official mortality statistics, according to a study by French researchers.

Anne Tursz and Jon Cook of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research near Paris examined court records in 26 judicial districts in France for 1996 to 2000, covering a third of all births during that period in metropolitan France.

The number of cases of neonaticide — the murder of infants within a day of being born — corresponded to a rate of 2.1 per 100,000 births, or 5.4 times the official rate of 0.39 cases per 100,000 births.

Previous tallies of neonaticide were based on death certificates, not police and court records.

Based on a total of 27 cases, the researchers also sketched out a psychological and social profile of the murderous mothers, nine of whom went missing.

The average age of the women was 26. A third already had at least three children, and more than half lived with the father of the newborn killed.

About two-thirds were employed, and the group as a whole did not differ significantly with other women in terms of social level or occupation.

Psychologically, most of the women were described as lacking confidence, immature and moody, and highly dependent on others.

None were clinically diagnosed as mentally ill.

All of the women hid their pregnancies from their families and friends, though none were said be suffering from “pregnancy denial,” a rare — and disputed — condition whereby women do not admit to themselves that they are carrying a child.

The mothers also gave birth alone and in secret.

“Identifying the profiles of the mothers will make it easier to identify vulnerable women so that appropriate solutions can be proposed,” said Tursz.

“The findings suggest that preventative action targeting only the young, the poor, and women living alone, without work or in pregnancy denial, is misguided,” she said in a statement.

Murder of newborns in France made headlines worldwide earlier this year when it was revealed that a French woman, Dominique Cottrez, admitted to killing eight of her offspring.

In another case from last year a French woman was found guilty of killing three of her newborns, keeping two of the bodies in her freezer and burning the third.

The study was published in the online edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood, a journal of the British Medical Association.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Al-Qaeda Mouthpiece Run by Dutch Extremists

The Jihadist Ansar Al Mujahideen site is mostly run by Dutch Muslim extremists.

The Dutch behind Al Ansar not only fill the website with English and Dutch hate-texts and propaganda, but also use computer servers in Amsterdam. These Dutch Muslim extremist had close ties with the Hofstad Group in the past.

The terror cell which was recently arrested in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria discussed attacks in the Jewish Quarter in Antwerp, train routes, and crowded locations, and used the site collect money and recruit fighters for a Chechen Jihad group. The site is registered by Ali Mahmoud, with a Brussels PO Box. New members are only accepted to the site if they’re trusted by the other Jihadists.

Ansar Al Mujahideen — one of the most important propaganda mouthpieces of al-Qaeda worldwide — is carefully watched by security services, also in the Netherlands. Sources confirm that the website is not only facilitated by the Dutch, but also financed in the Netherlands. The website publicizes official announcements by al-Qaeda…

           — Hat tip: Esther[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: First Arrest Made in WikiLeaks Revenge Attacks

4chan vigilante group Anonymous is used to getting away with its DDoS attacks and other Internet shenanigans, but that’s not going to be the case this time around. An arrest has been made in 4chan’s revenge attacks on PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard, begun after the companies stopped providing services to WikiLeaks. The first to go down is a Dutch 16-year-old boy, who has been arrested by the Dutch High Tech Crime Team and is being held for interrogation.

The teenager went unnamed by the National Prosecutor, but the team said in an announcement Thursday that the cyberattacks (some of which came out of the Netherlands) “quickly led” investigators to the suspect. In addition to his arrest, the 4channer’s computers and other devices were seized.

In addition to the high-profile attacks on the payment processors, Anonymous also made an attempt to take down Amazon after the company kicked WikiLeaks off its servers. That attempt appears to have failed (as did the initial attacks on PayPal), but the group could decide to renew its efforts at any time.

As for the arrested teenager, he has already confessed to being part of the attacks on Visa and MasterCard, according to Dutch authorities. The investigation is ongoing, though, because a larger group is “probably” involved. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that a single arrest won’t put a stop to the actions of that larger group.

[Return to headlines]

Snow Shuts Eiffel Tower, Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport

Heavy snow shut Paris Charles de Gaulle-Roissy airport on Wednesday and forced the operators of the Eiffel Tower to close the landmark tourist attraction, officials said.

The airport was to remain shut until at least 1600 GMT while workers tried to clear the runways of the heavy snow that began falling around midday, airport officials said.

One in five flights at the air hub had already been cancelled at the request of France’s civil aviation authority (DGAC) due to the poor weather forecast.

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

Something Rotten in Denmark’s Deal for NATO Job?

Allegations of horse-trading between Turkey and Denmark over the April appointment of a new NATO chief have prompted a media storm in the Nordic country, where lawmakers are now asking if something is rotten in Copenhagen.

A U.S. diplomatic cable sent from Ankara in January 2010, and released last week by the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, suggests that Turkish diplomats were expecting the Danish-based Kurdish channel Roj TV to be closed down as part of a deal to ensure Turkey’s support for Danish politician Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s bid to become NATO secretary-general.

According to Holger K. Nielsen, a Danish parliamentarian from the Socialist People’s Party, it appears as if Turkey was promised the closure of the controversial television station, which the Turkish government accuses of being tied to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Last week, several Danish opposition parliamentarians described the alleged incident as a “dirty horse-trading agreement.”

“It doesn’t surprise me at all. He’s [Fogh Rassmussen’s] been playing a double game, using all means to obtain his objective,” Nielsen said last week.

Lars Lykke Rasmussen, Denmark’s current prime minister, rejected the claim that Denmark promised to close Roj TV in exchange for Turkish support for Fogh Rasmussen’s appointment. But speculation continues to swirl about the allegations.

“This is an extremely serious case and if the government accepted a deal with Turkey and actively pushed for a case against Roj TV, then we are talking about constitutional breaches of Denmark’s tripartite divisions,” said Frank Eaen from the Enhedslisten Party.

Danish authorities sequestered Roj TV’s properties and bank accounts in October, only to be forced to unfreeze bank accounts containing 327,000 kroner ($58,500) as a result of ruling Monday by Copenhagen city courts that the confiscation was illegal. The judge said freezing the accounts violated European laws protecting freedom of expression, said Bjoern Elmquist, the station’s lawyer.

“For me personally, I have to admit that it has raised suspicion, but if Roj TV is acquitted of charges linking them to the PKK, it will look even more embarrassing for certain people,” said Oslem Sara Cekic, a Danish parliament member on the foreign affairs committee.

Danish investigations carried out in 2005, 2007, and 2008 have all rejected allegations about the station’s PKK ties.

“If these allegations [about a deal between Turkey and Denmark] turn out to be true, it would not only be embarrassing, but equally frightening that it has become possible to pressure a democratic country to this extent,” Cekic told the Daily News.

Large Danish newspapers, including Politiken and Information, ran headlines suggesting not only that a deal had been made between Turkey and Denmark, but also that Fogh Rasmussen had no authority to fulfill his end of the bargain.

“If really true, it is added embarrassment that Fogh Rasmussen indulged in a deal that he could not possibly uphold, because he simply lacked the authority to do so,” Nielsen told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

Turkey had objected to the candidacy of Rasmussen over his inaction as Danish prime minister over the “cartoon crisis” in 2005, saying his insensitivity about the caricatures depicting the Prophet Mohammed would be counterproductive as NATO conducts operations in Muslim countries like Afghanistan. Unable to gather support for its arguments from other NATO members, Turkey retracted its opposition. Rasmussen’s appointment was announced in April 2009.

Turkey has never confirmed or denied that a deal was made, but the Turkish press at the time widely reported allegations that a deal had been brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama based on promises that Roj TV would be closed and a Turkish official would be appointed as an assistant to the secretary-general.

WikiLeaks sparks suspicion and public debate

The cable from Ankara discusses a 2010 meeting between U.S. Undersecretary Nicholas Burns and his Turkish counterpart Feridun Sinirlioglu and quotes Tacan Ildem, Turkey’s Representative to NATO, who was also present at the meeting, complaining that Belgium and Denmark were reluctant to suppress PKK-affiliated groups active in their countries. The PKK has been listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

“Tacan Ildem added that as part of the 2009 POTUS [President of the United States]-brokered appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO Secretary-General, Denmark had promised to clarify its legal requirements prerequisite to acceding to Turkey’s request for the closure of Roj TV, a PKK mouthpiece. This still needed to be done, Ildem said,” the cable read.

In another section of the cable, Feridun Sinirlioglu notes the deal had included an understanding that a qualified Turk would be considered for assistant secretary-general of NATO. “Instead, he said, a German of uncompelling merit was selected. ‘We suspect a deal between Rasmussen and Merkel,’“ the cable quotes the Turkish diplomat as saying,

Ambassador Hüseyin Diriöz was selected as an assistant secretary-general a few months following the meeting between Burns and Sinirlioglu, fueling suspicions that a deal had been made between Turkey and Denmark.

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

Spanish Town Becomes First to Ban Face-Covering Veils

The Islamic veil has sparked intense debate in many European countries, with France in October passing a law to ban the wearing of the niqab and other face-coverings in public places. The issue is a relatively new one for Spain, an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country. The number of immigrants living in Spain soared from around half a million in 1996 to 5.7 million last year, out of a total population of just under 47 million people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swede Death by Husband ‘Unforgivable’: Sister

The sister of Anni Dewani said on Thursday that it would be an “unforgivable” crime if the slain Swedish newlywed’s new British husband was found guilty of killing her during their South African honeymoon.

Speaking publicly for the first time about her sister’s death, Ami Denborg told the London-based newspaper The Times that her family had been charmed by the wealthy Shrien Dewani.

South African authorities accuse the 30-year-old businessman of paying to have his bride Anni killed in a carjacking during their honeymoon in Cape Town.

Speaking from her home in Sweden, Denborg, 32, would not say whether her family thought Dewani played a part in her sister’s killing.

However, if he was found guilty, “then what he has done is unforgivable. You can’t just kill somebody. It is scary. What the hell was he thinking?” she told the paper.

She said the family would go no further on the matter until the legal process was completed and they felt justice had been served.

“It is terrible enough to lose a sister, but it is even more terrible to lose a sister in such a way. The saddest part in all of this is that it doesn’t matter what happens to Shrien, to the driver, or to whoever killed her — I will never get my sister back,” she said.

Dewani appeared Wednesday at City of Westminster Magistrates Court in London on an extradition warrant. Dewani had handed himself in to a police station in Bristol, southwest England, on Tuesday.

His 28-year-old wife was killed on November 13th after the couple’s taxi was reportedly hijacked outside Cape Town.

In a South African court on Tuesday, taxi driver Zola Tongo said he was offered 15,000 rand ($2,175) by Dewani to kill his wife.

Dewani strongly denies any involvement in the murder and told the court in London he did not agree to the extradition.

The judge in London first granted bail to Dewani, but in a dramatic twist, he was told that for procedural reasons he must now remain in custody pending a High Court hearing.

District Judge Howard Riddle said initially he had agreed to grant bail to Dewani because he had cooperated with the South African police investigation.

The South African authorities have appealed against the decision to grant conditional bail. The appeal will be heard Friday and Dewani will remain in custody until then.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swiss People’s Party “Sets Pace” For General Election

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party has clearly shown its campaigning prowess ahead of next October’s general election, according to a political analyst.

Georg Lutz of Lausanne University told that the party is “setting the pace” and is ahead of all other parties.

Unwelcome on Saturday in the city of Lausanne for security reasons, the People’s Party knew once again how to hit the headlines by holding a delegates’ conference in an open field in wintry conditions near Gland in western Switzerland.

Fresh from its victory on November 28 when a majority of Swiss backed its initiative to expel criminal foreigners, the party approved a number of ideas on how the country should deal with foreigners.

Among the ideas put forward were that foreigners who wish to reside in Switzerland should pay a deposit of several thousand francs when they enter the country. The party also wants to leave the Schengen area, which has no internal border controls.

In another move, it wants to see former Swiss Justice Minister Christoph Blocher sit on a working group set up by the government that will put forward ideas on how to put the expulsion initiative into practice.

The party also set the record straight about holding its open-air meeting near Gland.

“The whole of Switzerland saw on TV that the biggest party in our country is not allowed by the government of a canton to have an assembly in that canton,” Ulrich Schlüer from the People’s Party told

“Dangerous development”

“It’s a very dangerous development when freedom to express your opinion is no longer allowed.”

Political scientist Lutz said this view had an effect but was only the prelude to the election campaign.

“At the end of the day it will be like a short story in a long electoral campaign,” he told

There have been many voices in and outside Switzerland since the November 28 vote which say that the deportation initiative will be hard to put into practice because it will violate Switzerland’s obligations in international accords, particularly as regards freedom of movement.

Schlüer said that the will of the people now had to be accepted.

“It does not violate any agreement. There is no human right that a criminal can choose a country where he wants to stay,” he argued.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Counterproductive War on Smokers: The Future of Resistance Against the Nanny State?

The European Commission is preparing a general ban on smoking in public areas. However, a Czech legal expert argues that the desire to legislate to improve public health could ultimately undermine civil liberties.

Tomáš Brichácek

The European Commission is currently preparing proposals to be presented next year for a draconian reinforcement of anti-smoking legislation. The planned measures include the introduction of a standard cigarette pack to be extensively marked with shocking images and health warnings. But without a doubt the major change will be the imposition of a Europe-wide ban on smoking in all public areas, notably in restaurants and bars, and also at transport stops.

It is often said that history repeats itself, but only rarely are we invited to look at the preponderant role of dogmatic ideologues in this recurring phenomenon. As always, they insist that the state should re-educate their fellow citizens by imposing their vision of what is “good,” and this is the case with anti-smoking activists, who are now leading the charge of the partisans of “progress.” Over the last few years, they have successfully campaigned for the introduction of increasingly severe anti-smoking legislation in most European countries, and in so doing, they have taken advantage of a widespread phenomenon in Western civilisation: the drift towards a nanny state and the growth of a culture that is hostile to even the slightest risk.

Turning into over-solicitous parents

Caught in the vice-like grip of these two mutually reinforcing trends, states are turning into over-solicitous parents intent on protecting the safety of their citizens. As a result, people have stopped counting on themselves, and embraced the belief that someone else should pay for all of their bad decisions. In this context, it is not surprising that those who prefer to view individuals as children in constant need of education, protection and guidance, have come to consider alcohol and tobacco as two intrusive substances that must be expunged from the body politic.

Reasonable regulation in the form of bans on sales to minors, advertising restrictions and higher taxes on these products is no longer deemed to be sufficient. Now the self-proclaimed saviours of their fellow citizens have decided to interfere in what used to be the strictly private sphere of relations between restaurant owners and their customers. Specifically, they want to deprive them of the right to organise their businesses in accordance with economic imperatives and their own judgement.

Impact on the free circulation of goods

You might be forgiven for thinking it strange that the regulation of smoking is now a matter for the EU, but that is in fact the case. Tobacco products are considered as goods, and in accordance with the principle of the free circulation of goods in the Europe, they are regulated by the law of the EU internal market (in particular see article 114 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). A number of directives have already set out rules for the composition and labeling of tobacco products, their radio and press advertising, and industry sponsorship of sporting events, and we now have an outright ban on audio-visual advertising for tobacco.

At the same time, the drive to reform the common agricultural policy has also reduced direct EU subsidies for tobacco growers. There are many convincing arguments to justify EU regulation of the tobacco industry, particularly with regard to the harmonisation of rules on the composition of cigarettes and indirect taxes charged on tobacco sales. Legislation in both of these areas does have an impact on the free circulation of goods. However, other laws, like those which ban advertising, restrict sponsorship, or prohibit smoking in work places, are much more contentious, because they are only vaguely related to the single market.

Social engineering projects have unexpected results

But even if we allow that they do have some legal validity, I can see no justification for a Brussels imposed ban on smoking in restaurants, at transport stops and in other public areas. Even in the US, this is a matter regulated by individual states and not by the federal government. In its 2007 green paper “Towards a Europe free from tobacco smoke,” in support of its right to legislate on this question, the European Commission simply asserts that “binding legislation would impose a comparable, transparent and enforceable basic level of protection from the risk of exposure to environmental smoke throughout the Member States.”

Experience has shown that social engineering projects that aim to curtail fundamental freedoms often have unexpected results and in most cases prove to be unqualified failures. This is the future that I foresee for the very strict repressive measures that the EU may be about to impose on smokers, who represent more than a third of the population of Europe’s member states. A few years from now, this kind of legislation could make smoking a symbol — and not just for smokers — of resistance to intrusive and paternalist public authorities and the relentless appetite for regulation in the EU, which is an increasing source of exasperation for a growing number of its citizens.

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

UK: ‘Vandals Have Hacked at the Heart of Christianity’: 2,000-Year-Old Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury is Cut Down

Vandals have destroyed one of the most celebrated Christian pilgrimage sites in Britain and chopped down a tree said to have sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea 2,000 years ago.

The Holy Thorn Tree of Glastonbury, Somerset, is visited by thousands every year to pay homage and leave tokens of worship. Those visiting today were moved to tears on finding the tree cut to a stump.

The sacred tree is unique in that it blossoms twice a year — at Christmas and Easter — and sprigs taken from the thorn are sent to The Queen each year for the festive table.

Avon and Somerset Police have launched an investigation after locals found that vandals had hacked off the branches of the iconic tree. They were dumped next to the trunk which is protected by a metal cage.

Locals wept openly today at the foot of the tree, on the town’s Wearyall Hill opposite its world-famous Tor as they struggled to contain their emotion.

Katherine Gorbing, curator of Glastonbury Abbey, said: ‘The mindless vandals who have hacked down this tree have struck at the heart of Christianity.

‘It holds a very special significance all over the world and thousands follow in the footsteps of Joseph Arimathea, coming especially to see it.

‘It is the most significant of all the trees planted here and can be linked back to the origins of Christianity.

‘When I arrived at the Abbey this morning you could look over to the hill and see it was not there.

‘It’s a great shock to everyone in Glastonbury — the landscape of the town has changed overnight.’

Glastonbury Mayor John Coles rushed to the tree site after he heard the news.

Mr Coles, 66, said: ‘I’m stood on Wearyall Hill looking at a sad, sad, sight. The tree has been chopped down — someone has taken a saw to it.

‘Some of the main trunk is there but the branches have been sawn away. I am absolutely lost for words — I just do not know why people would want to do this.

‘This tree was visited by thousands of people each year and is one of the most important Christian sites. It is known all over the world.’

Deputy Mayor William Knight, 63, added: ‘This is absolutely mindless. We are all devastated.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: “Fashion is Still Racist, Says Naomi Campbell”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell accused the fashion industry of racism today as she urged designers to use more black models.

The 40-year-old from Streatham said the industry had taken a step backwards, as she collected a special honour at the British Fashion Awards.

She told the Evening Standard: “We’re all aware that we need to introduce more women [of colour].

But what I’ve seen recently is that I’ve seen it go backwards slightly. We need to raise awareness again and need to start using women of colour more. When I look at the shows this season, there weren’t as many as a year-and-a-half ago. We’ve got to keep speaking out, so as boring as it may be, if you hear me saying it over and over again I have to stand up for my fellow comrades.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: 3,000 Patients Starved to Death in Hospital Under Labour

Almost 3,000 patients starved to death through neglect during Labour’s years of power, it was revealed last night.

Official figures obtained by the Daily Mail show that scores succumb to malnutrition in English and Welsh hospitals every year.

And the numbers starving to death — the vast majority of them elderly — soared by 62 per cent between 1997 and 2009.

Another 400 or so died of malnutrition after being neglected in care homes.

The frightening statistics — taken from death certificates — will be just the tip of the iceberg, because nutrition is not always specified.

There will be thousands more whose pneumonia and other fatal conditions were aggravated by lack of food on NHS wards. Jane Hopes

It comes only days after the Mail revealed that the numbers becoming malnourished in hospital have doubled in three years.

A record 13,500 patients fell victim to nutritional deficiency last year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Blatter Denies FIFA Corruption

FIFA president Sepp Blatter has denied allegations that football’s world governing body is corrupt and says England was a “bad loser” for complaining after Russia was chosen last week to host the 2018 World Cup. Blatter said Wednesday FIFA is “financially clean and clear,” but acknowledged it needs to improve its image. He promised to form a task force to look into compliance issues. England bid officials accused FIFA executive committee members of not delivering votes they had promised. England’s 2018 bid chief Andy Anson claimed Blatter influenced committee members against England’s bid by reminding them of British media reports that resulted in two members being banned.

Blatter also said England’s reaction was an example of the arrogance of the western world, and that is unhappy when “others get a chance for a change.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Bungling Petrol Bomber Amir Ali Jailed for Trying to Burn Down a Pub… Before Running Straight Into a Lamp Post

A bungling petrol bomber who was caught by police after he ran into a lamp post was today jailed for eight years.

Amir Ali and another unidentified man attempted to fire bomb the Imperial Arms pub in Crawley, West Sussex, while people were asleep in the property.

Father-of-two Ali, 28, threw two bricks, breaking a window.

The other man then threw the petrol bomb, which accidentally bounced back, hit Ali and then burst into flames.

The flames died away almost immediately, but the panicked pair had already fled.

Ali then sprinted straight into a lamp post, hitting his head and falling to the ground.

In CCTV footage of the incident, he can be seen limping off.

He then went to a walk-in medical centre in Crawley for treatment to his head injury and was linked to the attack by investigating officers.

Ali, of Crouch End, North London, denied the offence but forensic and CCTV evidence helped bring him to justice.

The landlord of the pub was woken by banging noises at 3.30am and came downstairs to find the front door had been smashed.

Two bricks and the remains of the petrol bomb that had failed to ignite were lying on the ground outside.

Caught in the act: Wearing a grey tracksuit, Amir Ali throws a rock at the window of the Imperial pub in Crawley, West Sussex, as his accomplice prepares to throw a petrol bomb

Alit was found guilty of attempting to burn down the pub in August 2008.

He was jailed for eight years at Brighton Crown Court yesterday.

Recorder John Hardy QC told Ali his offence was at the top end of the scale, despite the fact his ineptitude had thankfully meant it was doomed to failure.

He said: ‘On that day, for whatever reason, you became embroiled in a planned and calculated attack which was part of a campaign of violence and intimidation by the local drug lords in Crawley against the licensees of this pub.’

The attack was described as ‘amateurish and comical’ by prosecutors.

Recorder Hardy said: ‘Had you succeeded and the pub had caught fire, damage to it and the neighbouring buildings would have been massive and the risk to life obvious.’

After sentencing Detective Constable Craig Allan said: ‘This was a prolonged and difficult investigation during which the defendant consistently denied being responsible.

‘However, gradually we were able to piece it all together.

‘Today’s sentence reflects the seriousness with which the courts take this kind of behaviour.’

The second man has not been identified and Sussex Police are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Critically-Ill Great-Grandmother ‘Left in Urine-Soaked Bed for 12 Hours While Nurses Chatted Nearby’

A great-grandmother was left helpless in soiled bed sheets for 12 hours as nurses chatted outside her room in a multi-million pound NHS hospital.

Ruby Hamilton, 75, had been admitted to the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham, with heart failure five weeks ago but was forced to sleep in urine and vomit-covered sheets despite repeatedly buzzing the nurses for help.

The mother-of-four, who has 17 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren was only cleaned and helped from the squalid bed after her family arrived and complained.

Ruby’s horrified daughter Christine, 48, said: ‘I was so shocked a patient could be left in such an appalling state.

‘My mother had been lying in her own filth overnight. It was so bad her sheets were drenched with urine.

‘She was very distressed and humiliated but the nurses didn’t seem to care. They just stood outside her room gossiping while my mother suffered.’

The family claim to have recorded a three-minute video of Ruby’s sheets covered in urine and vomit while the distressed woman is helped into a chair.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Julian Assange Put in Segregation Unit as Lawyers Aim for Bail

Julian Assange the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has been transferred to the segregation unit of Wandsworth prison where the authorities are planning to give him limited access to the internet, it emerged tonight.

Assange, the most famous inmate in the Victorian jail, met his legal team after being sent there on remand when he was refused bail on Tuesday. Sweden is seeking his extradition over allegations of sexual assault.

Assange is thought to have asked to be housed away from other prisoners, who had shown a high degree of interest in him after he arrived. A source said other inmates had been supportive of Assange, whom the US has accused of jeopardising its national security by releasing a flood of confidential diplomatic documents.

Assange’s legal team will attempt to secure bail for him from Westminster magistrates next Tuesday.

His solicitor, Mark Stephens, said Assange was “quite chipper — he seemed to be bearing up”. Assange was wearing a grey prison tracksuit because he did not have any of his own clothes. The decision by the judge to remand him in custody had taken the WikiLeaks founder and his lawyers by surprise, and he went to prison in the clothes he was wearing.

Assange complained about the daytime TV, Stephens said, adding that “he doesn’t have access to a computer, even without an internet connection, or to writing material. He’s got some files but doesn’t have any paper to write on and put them in.”

In the wake of online attacks on corporations by pro-WikiLeaks hackers, Stephens said Assange was concerned that “people have unjustly accused WikiLeaks of inspiring cyber attacks”.

Assange, 39, was seen by a doctor when he arrived at Wandsworth — all prisoners are assessed to see if they pose a suicide risk. He was kept for a night in the prison’s Onslow centre, which contains sex offenders and others assessed to be vulnerable.

As part of a scheme called “access to justice”, prison authorities are arranging for Assange to be given a computer so he can work on his case. The computer will have limited internet access.

Assange asked for one of his legal team to be allowed to bring him a laptop, but was refused — prisoners are not commonly allowed their own computers.

Assange, who was born in Australia, also saw officials from the Australian high commission. He has his own cell and because of the consular and legal visits did not exercise, but will normally get one hour a day. Because he is in the segregation unit, his association with other prisoners will be limited.

Swedish prosecutors want to interview Assange about allegations of sexual assault against two women. His lawyers say they fear the US will attempt to extradite him to face charges over the release of hundreds of thousands of secret cables, although Washington has not so far launched any legal action against him.

In a letter to the Guardian appearing tomorrow, prominent supporters including John Pilger, Terry Jones, Miriam Margolyes and AL Kennedy call for Assange’s immediate release. “We protest at the attacks on WikiLeaks and, in particular, on Julian Assange,” they write, adding that the leaks have “assisted democracy in revealing the real views of our governments over a range of issues”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: MPs’ Expenses: Secretly ‘Rectification’ Deals Are Finally Made Public

One member quietly repaid £755 claimed on expenses for software that used astrology to diagnose medical conditions, while another handed back costs for maintaining an Aga-style cooker at a house he had rented out. Under the so-called “rectification” procedure, standards commissioner John Lyon has the power to fast-track investigations when the MP involved admits they have broken rules and he does not regard the matter as too serious. However, the practice has come under fire because the allegations and his conclusions were not always made public — until now.

They include that of Tory MP for Bosworth David Tredinnick, who was subject to a complaint last year that he had spent £755.33 of taxpayers’ money on a computer programme providing “interpretations and analyses of a person’s condition based on astrology”. Mr Tredinnick argued that the outlay on “Solarfire V” was justified as he had a long-standing interest in astrology and complementary medicine that had been expressed in parliament. “Solarfire V provides interpretation in both Western and Indian astrology and it is easy to switch between the two systems,” he wrote in a letter to the commissioner. “As a result I now have a better understanding of the Indian system of Medicine, Ayurvedic, its definitions of personalities as being Vata or Airy, Kapha or Earthy or Pitta — Fiery types and how these personalities are reflected in Rashi and Navamsha Indian astrological readings.” He continued: “All this information is helpful in discussions and debates in my work in Parliament. I have not yet made a major speech on the subject in the House because of prejudice but one day I will. In discussions I use this information frequently.” But after a lengthy exchange of correspondence with the commissioner, Mr Tredinnick agreed to repay the cash, sparing him a full-blown probe…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: No Rotten Eggs, Just Sour Grapes

President Sepp Blatter has defended FIFA’s decision to hand Qatar the 2022 World Cup and says China and India appeal as future hosts. In an interview with Swiss magazine Die Weltwoche, Blatter denied Qatar’s healthy financial situation played a part in it winning its bid over the likes of Australia and the United States.

“I’ll say it clearly: there is no systematic corruption at FIFA. That’s nonsense. We are financially clean and transparent. Nobody can come along and simply hold out their hand. There are no rotten eggs.”

He slammed “bad losers” England over their reaction to their 2018 bid defeat at the hands of Russia, saying the onus is on FIFA to spread the beautiful game throughout the world.

“It’s my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India. Football has become a political matter. Heads of state court me. Football has become a monster, but it’s a positive monster.”

Blatter did however admit that some things needed to change with the organisation following heavy criticism of the voting process for World Cup hosting rights.

We can’t go on like this. We need to improve our image. We also need to set some things straight inside FIFA.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Rugby-Mad 12-Year-Old Hangs Himself After ‘Being Bullied for Talking Too Politely

A schoolboy hanged himself after playground bullies terrorised him for the way he talked, it has emerged.

Rugby-mad Bradley Wiseman, 12, who it was claimed was being targeted because of his well-spoken voice, was found at his home on Monday.

Hundreds of friends have now blasted bullies, said to have tormented Bradley at school, on an on-line memorial page.


A neighbour said: ‘We’re all here for her. He was a lovely lad, so polite.

‘It is completely out of character, he never would have done it if he wasn’t being bullied at school.

‘They bullied him because he talked politely, he was very well spoken, you wouldn’t have known he came from round here.

‘He was a lovely kid and it is so sad what has happened. We are all devastated.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Sepp Blatter: England Are Just Bad Losers

Fifa president Sepp Blatter was blasted yesterday for labelling England “bad losers”. He defended football’s governing body from allegations of treachery and corruption after our failed bid to host the 2018 World Cup. Seven delegates had pledged to back England yet the bid got just two of Fifa’s 22 votes as mafia-riddled Russia won. But Blatter, 74, said: “I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fair play ideas. Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers.”

Blatter even accused critics of the winning 2022 bid by oil-rich Qatar of racism. He said: “I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the western world of Christian background. Some simply can’t bear it if others get a chance for a change.” His comments infuriated Kevin Miles, of England’s Football Supporters’ Federation. He said: “Instead of defending the indefensible, he is attacking the people who dare to criticise the indefensible.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Sepp Blatter: England Are Bad Losers

FIFA president Sepp Blatter last night put the boot into England’s failed bid to host the World Cup — branding us “bad losers”.

And the Swiss football fatcat even had the cheek to slam reaction to Russia being awarded the 2018 tournament as “arrogance”. Speaking for the first time since last week’s controversial decision — when England’s bid got just TWO votes despite promises of more from FIFA’s 22 delegates — Blatter denied footie’s governing body was corrupt.

He said: “To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fair play ideas. Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers. You can’t come afterwards and say so-and-so promised to vote for England. The results are known. The outcome came out clearly.”

Blatter said the reaction to the 2018 decision — and to giving the 2022 tournament to Middle East state Qatar — showed Western “arrogance” in the face of his drive to expand soccer’s frontiers. He said: “I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the Western world of Christian background. “Some simply can’t bear it if others get a chance for a change.” He added: “It’s my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India.”

England’s bid chief Andy Anson suggested last week that Blatter had influenced delegates before the vote by reminding them of British media stories alleging corruption in FIFA.

But Blatter said: “There is no systematic corruption in FIFA. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear.” However he conceded: “We need to improve our image.”

Asked why he has survived so long as president he added: “The secret is, people believe in me. They have seen what I have achieved in football since 1975.” Speaking to a Swiss magazine, Blatter, 74, dismissed suggestions he was interested in money and power. He said: “I am all about football..” But then he admitted: “Football has become a political matter. Heads of state court me. Football has become a monster, but it’s a positive monster.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Sepp Blatter Attacks English “Arrogance” After World Cup 2018 Failure

Fifa’s president, Sepp Blatter, today called England “bad losers” and flatly rejected allegations of corruption in the wake of last week’s decision to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively. “To be honest, I was surprised by all the English complaining after the defeat. England, of all people, the motherland of fair play ideas,” said Blatter. “Now some of them are showing themselves to be bad losers. You can’t come afterwards and say so and so promised to vote for England. The results are known. The outcome came out clearly.”

Senior England 2018 bid executives have complained that certain executive committee members promised them their vote before switching to their rivals, leaving them with only two votes. The chief executive, Andy Anson, said Blatter had also reminded them of the “evils of the media” ahead of the vote, in the wake of investigations by the Sunday Times and the BBC’s Panorama into Fifa corruption.

The prime minister, David Cameron, was today asked in parliament what he thought about the global governing body after his experience of England’s World Cup bid. “I certainly learned one thing which is when it comes to breaking promises, politicians have got nothing on football management,” he said, laughing. Blatter claimed the response showed a misplaced sense of entitlement. England, Australia and the USA all criticised the opaque voting process and said that if the rationale was to take the tournament to new frontiers, that should have been made clear from the start. “I really sense in some reactions a bit of the arrogance of the western world of Christian background. Some simply can’t bear it if others get a chance for a change,” Blatter told the Swiss weekly magazine Weltwoche. “What can be wrong if we start football in regions where this sport demonstrates a potential which goes far beyond sport?”

Blatter, apparently obsessed with the idea of taking football to new territories, said: “It’s my philosophy to drive forward the expansion of football. The next regions that we need to conquer would be China and India.” He added: “Football has become a political matter. Heads of state court me. Football has become a monster, but it’s a positive monster.”

Blatter dismissed suggestions that Fifa officials are tempted to cash in on football’s global importance: “Nobody can come along and simply hold out their hand. There are no rotten eggs.” He rejected corruption allegations and said he was being targeted by anti-Fifa journalists: “There is no systematic corruption in Fifa. That is nonsense. We are financially clean and clear.”

In the wake of the Sunday Times revelations, six senior Fifa officials were suspended over damning bribery allegations and Panorama, aired three days before the vote, said three members of the executive committee were among those named in a list detailing $100m (£63.2m) in bribes paid over a 10-year period. But Blatter admitted Fifa could not act as if nothing had happened, adding he wanted to set up a taskforce to look into compliance issues, without giving details: “We need to improve our image. We also need to clarify some things within Fifa.” Blatter singled out the case of Issa Hayatou, the president of African football’s governing body. “He was portrayed as criminal by the media, because his federation supposedly took $25,000. I can tell you: Hayatou is the son of a sultan and hasn’t done anything wrong,” he said. Asked about calls by Cameron for reform, Blatter said: “Prime minister Cameron is heartily invited to make his proposals.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Tuition Fees Protesters Attack Car Carrying Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall

A car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall has been attacked by protesters amid worsening violence that has followed victory for the Government in the crucial tuition fees vote.

Prince Charles and the Duchess were unharmed as the window of their Rolls Royce was smashed and the car covered in paint.

An eyewitness said the car became separated from their police escort as they drove up Regent Street towards the London Palladium, and found themselves in the midst of crowds who had just left the protest in Trafalgar Square. Protesters bombarded the car with bottles and bins.

When the royal couple arrived at the London Palladium they appeared relaxed and smiled and joked with Kylie Minogue, Take That and N-Dubz, some of the acts performing for them.

David Cameron said the attack on the car was “shocking and regrettable”. The Prime Minister said those who came “determined to provoke violence, attack the police and cause as much damage to property as possible… must face the full force of the law”.

Another vehicle, which had been travelling behind the royal car, also had a cracked window, but its occupants, who work for the couple, were also unharmed.

There was a heavy police presence around the entrance to the Palladium on Oxford Circus.

A Clarence House spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that their Royal Highnesses’ car was attacked by the protesters on the way to their engagement at the London Palladium this evening.

“Both their Royal Highnesses were unharmed.”

Scotland Yard condemned the “outrageous and increasing levels of violence” tonight.

A spokesman said: “This has nothing to do with peaceful protest. Students are involved in wanton vandalism, including smashing windows in Oxford and Regent Streets.

“Innocent Christmas shoppers are being caught up in the violence and disruption.

“It has gone so far that a car in which the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall were travelling through the West End was attacked. Police managed the situation and they were unharmed.”

The spokesman said 38 protesters and 10 officers have been injured. Six officers required hospital treatment and four suffered minor injuries.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Tuition Fees Vote Protest: Thousands of Students Descend on Parliament

Police officers were seriously injured today as mask-wearing anarchists hijacked the final tuition fees protest and turned yet another peaceful demonstration into chaos.

Around 20,000 students and activists descended on central London as the demonstrations of recent weeks culminated in a final show of anger at the hike and the Liberal Democrat U-turn.

Three officers were wounded and had to be taken to hospital after clashes when a hardcore group of protesters repeatedly tried to break through police lines outside the Houses of Parliament.

Footage showed one policeman lying motionless on the ground. Medics fitted him with a neck brace and used a makeshift stretcher to remove him. One mounted officer was knocked from his horse as missiles including flares, sticks, snooker balls and smoke bombs were hurled from the crowds across the cordon.

As MPs prepared to vote on the controversial fee rise tonight, Scotland Yard resorted to ‘kettling’ the demonstrators in Parliament Square in a bid to contain the violence.

Protesters were forced to run back into the Square after mounted police charged at the crowds in a desperate bid to stop the surge. Seven have been arrested so far.

Teenager Sophie Down said: ‘The police were backing off and we were trying to work it what was happening and we didn’t know what was going on, then they all just started charging.

‘I’m worried about my friends. I saw a guy who was sitting on the ground and I could see something was wrong with him.

‘Everyone was in a good mood — it was like a carnival — but there are people who are clearly looking for a fight.’

Elsewhere, as protesters fanned out through Whitehall, a female student was caught climbing up the Cenotaph — the monument to Britain’s war dead — using the Union Jack flying there.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Finnish Pupils Are Top of the European Game

Finnish pupils have once again outperformed their European peers — and most of the world — in the OECD’s international reading, maths and science tests for 15-year-olds. The country came second in the international rankings of the 2009 Pisa survey, which is conducted every three years in 34 OECD countries. When the results of partner economies were included, Finland ranked third overall, beaten only by Shanghai-China and Korea (although Hong Kong-China, Singapore and Taipei-China had slightly better maths results). Finland has performed so well over the past decade that the OECD has devoted a whole chapter in its Pisa report to examining what lessons the US can learn from it. So what is it that gives this small northern European country the edge?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Latest: A Minefield in Eastern Europe

by Srdja Trifkovic

An interesting batch of WikiLeaks documents—probably the most disquieting to date—was published by the Guardian earlier this week. Some concern the decision, made by NATO’s Military Committee less than a year ago, “to expand the NATO Contingency Plan for Poland, Eagle Guardian, to include the defense and reinforcement of the Baltic States.” Others indicate that the Administration has told Poland that a proposed missile shield system, ostensibly meant to defend against potential rocket attacks from Iran, could be adapted to stop “missiles coming from elsewhere”—i.e. Russia—thus disproving numerous official statements to the contrary. In addition, senior U.S. officials have discussed a range of possible American military deployments in Poland in response to the demands from Warsaw for some U.S. “boots on the ground.”

CONTINGENCY PLANS—At the end of 2009, Paul Teesalu, the director of the Estonian foreign ministry security department, and Sven Sakkov, Estonia’s defense ministry senior official, were thrilled when NATO agreed to expand the plan of Poland’s defense to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Teesalu called it “an early Christmas present” and agreed that all details should be conducted out of the public eye.

A month later (January 26, 2010) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informed U.S. diplomatic posts in NATO countries that the expansion of Eagle Guardian was “a step toward the possible expansion of NATO’s other existing country-specific contingency plans into regional plans… the first step in a multi-stage process to develop a complete set of appropriate contingency plans for the full range of possible threats—both regional and functional—as soon as possible.” They were advised that such planning should not be discussed publicly, however, as

[a] public discussion of contingency planning would also likely lead to an unnecessary increase in NATO-Russia tensions, something we should try to avoid as we work to improve practical cooperation in areas of common NATO-Russia interest. We hope that we can count on your support in keeping discussions on NATO contingency planning out of the public domain.

The plans amount to U.S.-NATO preparations for a fully-fledged war with Russia, including immediate deployment of nine American, British, German and Polish divisions in case of a Russian incursion into the former Soviet Baltic republics. The plans also specify Baltic ports through which naval assault units would disembark, and US and British warships securing them. It should be noted that the documents do not reflect any debate on the strategic implications of such deployments…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Former Defence Minister Jailed for Defrauding State

Zagreb, 6 Dec. (AKI) — Former Croatian defence minister Berislav Roncevic was sentenced on Monday to four years in jail for defrauding the state of 1.35 millions euros. His his aide Ivo Bacic was sentenced to two years.

The two were accused of buying 39 military trucks from Fiat truck-making unit Iveco, paying 1.35 million euros more than the price offered by another company, MAN Importer.

Roncevic, who was defence minister from 2003 until 23008, claimed he opted for the Iveco” offer, because MAN Importer trucks didn’t meet the standards of NATO, of which Croatia is a member.

Apart from the jail sentence, Zagreb District court judge Jasna Smiljanic ordered Roncevic and Bacic to return the contested amount to the state.

Roncevic’s and Bacic defence lawyers have vowed to appeal the sentence.

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

WikiLeaks Cables: Kosovo Sliding Towards Partition, Washington Told

The US fears that Europe will cave in to Serb pressure for Kosovo to be partitioned in a move which diplomats warn could trigger ethnic violence.

US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks show that senior Serbian officials have privately told Washington and the EU that the government of Kosovo will never gain full control of the contested territory — and indirectly pushed for partition.

Senior US officials are fiercely opposed to what they see as Serbian president Boris Tadic’s concerted and patient campaign to partition Kosovo, which, if successful, would defeat a decade of American foreign policy. The officials condemn European “vacillation and weakness” on the contest.

Eleven years after Nato went to war in the Balkans to bomb Serbian forces out of Kosovo, and almost three years after Kosovo declared its independence as a majority ethnic Albanian state, Serbian intransigence and its daily efforts to entrench control over the northern part of Kosovo risk reigniting the ethnic conflict, the US embassy has warned Washington.

“Failure to act soon means losing northern Kosovo and will reopen the Pandora’s box of ethnic conflict that defined the 1990s,” the then US ambassador to Kosovo, Christopher Dell, wrote this year. “The time is right to end the years of drift on the north and to alter the dynamic of a hardening partition between the north and the rest of Kosovo … The current situation is untenable and deteriorating. The aim is to stop the rot.”

Kosovo goes to the polls this weekend in a keenly awaited general election that represents a further milestone in its attempt to become a fully fledged independent state.

Partition has been a strong campaign issue, with analysts and diplomats anxious to see how many Kosovo Serbs vote.

Senior officials in Belgrade warned the Americans and the Europeans that any attempt to impose integration in northern Kosovo around the Serbian nationalist stronghold town of Mitrovica would require Nato military force and destabilise the region.

Jovan Ratkovic, Tadic’s foreign policy adviser and the key official handling negotiations over Kosovo with western diplomats, told the new US ambassador in Belgrade that the Serbs of northern Kosovo would never accept government by Albanians.

“These people have never lived with Albanians, have never felt themselves part of Kosovo and won’t accept rule by Pristina,” Ratkovic told the US ambassador, Mary Warlick, in February this year. “Belgrade is not trying to change the reality on the ground for Kosovar Albanians, but changing the reality for Kosovo Serbs would also be destabilising.”

Ratkovic added that the US and the EU were considering “military intervention” to forcibly incorporate northern Kosovo.

A month earlier Ratkovic laid out a scenario tantamount to partition to Robert Cooper, Britain’s EU troubleshooter on the Balkans and Iran, and policy adviser to Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief.

“Ratkovic more explicitly told Cooper that while Belgrade would need to accept that it would not govern Kosovo again, Kosovo would have to come to the realisation that it would not effectively be able to extend its governance north of the Ibar river” at Mitrovica, reports another cable.

While Serbia publicly and constantly affirms that it will never accept or recognise an independent Kosovo, which it views as sacred historical Serbian territory, the cables reveal Belgrade’s acknowledgment that Albanian-controlled Kosovo is lost and that Tadic’s ambitions of joining the EU will suffer if he continues a hard line on the territory.

“Tadic reportedly told Cooper that he recognised that there needed to be a degree of clarity and finality to any outcome, cognisant that the EU would be unwilling to accept another ‘Cyprus-like’ state as a member.”

Until 2008, Serbia was ruled by nationalists under prime minister Vojislav KoÅ¡tunica, who cemented control of northern Kosovo and vowed no surrender. Hopes have been high in the west that under Tadic’s pro-western democrats a settlement could be reached. Under EU prodding in September, Tadic dropped a UN campaign aimed at invalidating Kosovo’s independence and reopening negotiations on its status, and agreed to EU-mediated talks with the Kosovo government.

But Washington has been told by its embassy that the Tadic government, while better dressed and better-behaved, may be pursuing the same policies as its hardline predecessor.

“Though the pro-western government of Tadic is an improvement on its predecessor in many ways, the general parameters of Serbia’s Kosovo policy remain unchanged,” the US embassy in Pristina advised the US vice-president, Joe Biden, ahead of a visit to Kosovo last year.

“The north has become a proxy battleground for two differing visions of the region’s future: for Serbs and for Belgrade (notably for President Tadic himself) it represents that part of Kosovo most likely to be retained by Serbia in a partition scenario as a precursor to Serbia’s accession into the EU, while for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo retention of the north remains the symbolic key to proving Kosovo’s legitimate sovereignty.”

This year the Americans reported Tadic’s policy on northern Kosovo had become “increasingly aggressive”. “An impending frozen conflict in northern Kosovo remains the greatest threat to a safe and secure environment in Kosovo in the near and medium terms.”

The region was a “home base for illegal Serbian parallel structures and a region rife with smuggling and organised crime. Kosovo institutions have exercised little control there since 1999. The result has been a zone where customs collection is essentially on an ‘honour system’, courts don’t function, international police all but fear to tread, and the only municipal governments are those elected by Serbia.”

The cable says this represents “the very real threat of the partition of Kosovo — a reversal of 10 years of US government policy”.

The prediction is bleak. “We can expect regular ethnic confrontations — with attendant casualties, including among international peacekeepers.”

There are about 8,500 Nato peacekeepers in Kosovo, down from 15,000 last year, while the EU last year launched its biggest ever foreign operation, a rule of law mission with 2,500 troops…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cable Exposes US-UK Rift Over Croatian Accession to EU

Britain’s insistence on blocking Croatia’s attempt to join the European Union until earlier this year enraged the Americans, who feared it could destabilise Croatia and wreck the accession chances of the rest of former Yugoslavia, US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks show.

The UK ambassador in the Croatian capital Zagreb agreed with US objections and encouraged the US state department to lean on the Foreign Office in London to force a U-turn, the American ambassador in Zagreb reported a year ago.

The dispute arose over the issue of Croatia’s co-operation with the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, a key condition for Zagreb’s EU membership bid. Negotiations with Brussels, five years old, are nearing completion and could conclude by next summer, making Croatia the 28th EU country by 2012.

The US concluded that the Croats were performing convincingly in seeking to satisfy the demands of the chief prosecutor in The Hague, Serge Brammertz of Belgium. But Britain and the Netherlands blocked the EU negotiations in the crucial area of judicial reform because Brammertz would not give a positive verdict.

“The impasse could undermine the US stake in the region’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions,” the US ambassador in Zagreb, James Foley, reported in November last year, proposing “high-level approaches to the UK”.

His British counterpart, David Blunt, delivered a withering verdict on the UK government’s attitude to Croatia’s ambitions, saying it was stuck in the war years of the early 1990s when Croatia was in the grip of the extreme nationalist regime of the former president, Franjo Tudjman.

“UK ministers were unlikely to budge,” Blunt said, according to the US ambassador. “Some key officials in London regard Croatia as virtually unchanged since the Tudjman era and are inclined to assume government of Croatia bad faith.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables: Serbia Suspects Russian Help for Fugitive Ratko Mladic

Russia may be withholding vital information about the whereabouts of the fugitive Bosnian Serb general and genocide suspect, Ratko Mladic, who faces war crimes charges in The Hague, senior Serbian government officials have privately told American diplomats in Belgrade.

In discussions detailed in a diplomatic cable marked “secret” and sent to Washington by US chargée d’affaires Jennifer Brush in September 2009, Miki [Miodrag] Rakic, chief of staff to the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, tells Brush it remains likely Mladic is hiding somewhere in Serbia.

But Rakic also suggests the fugitive is being assisted by “foreign sources” and hints darkly that Moscow may have better information about Mladic’s exact situation than does the Serbian government.

“Russia has not been forthcoming on Serbia’s requests for assistance in locating Hague indictee Mladic, presidential adviser Miki Rakic told us on August 25 [2009],” says the American cable, which has been released by WikiLeaks.

Given the frustration with the lack of Russian help, Tadic was expected to raise the Mladic issue with Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, adds Rakic — who heads Serbia’s intelligence-based Mladic manhunt.

“Asking that the information ‘remain at this table’, Rakic told us that he had posed a series of questions about specific contacts between Mladic associates and Russian diplomats, as well as ‘phone calls and trips to Russia by Mladic associates’.”

Rakic said he had addressed his inquiries to the Russian federal security service (FSB) director, Aleksandr Bortnikov, Russian national security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev, and Medvedev’s chief of staff, Vladislav Surkov — but had not received replies from any of them.

“If the Russians did not respond before Medvedev’s visit, Rakic said, Tadic would raise the issue himself,” Brush’s cable reported…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables: Former Croatia PM Flees Over Corruption Claims

The former prime minister who dominated Croatian politics for most of the past decade fled the country today as state prosecutors moved to have him arrested in connection with a major sleaze investigation.

According to cables from the US Zagreb embassy released by WikiLeaks, Ivo Sanader, the centre-right politician who stood down suddenly as prime minister in summer last year, features in several of the corruption cases currently terrorising the Croatian political class.

The country’s chief prosecutor told US diplomats in Zagreb this year he had evidence that Sanader had arranged a bank loan for a business crony in return for a kickback.

The former prime minister was driven across the border into Slovenia today by his daughter, Croatian police reported, after the prosecutor’s office told parliament it wanted to detain him. A special parliament committee promptly lifted Sanader’s parliamentary immunity from prosecution, but not before he had left the country.

Sanader lived for many years in Innsbruck and is believed to have Austrian citizenship. Austria is a 90-minute drive from Zagreb via Slovenia. Reports from Slovenia also said he had boarded a flight to London from Ljubljana.

Croatian police said they could not detain Sanader at the border because no warrant had been issued, fuelling suspicion that the ex-PM had been tipped off about impending arrest. President Ivo Josipovic last night criticised Sanader’s flight as a police failure and demanded the resignation of the interior minister.

Ever since Sanader stood down last year without convincingly explaining why, the Croatian media have been filled with reports of his alleged involvement in several of the high-profile corruption cases currently shredding the political elite.

Sanader’s former defence and interior minister, Berislav Roncevic, was sentenced to four years this week for fiddling army contracts. He has appealed.

His former deputy prime minister, Damir Polancec, was charged in September in the biggest case concerning alleged embezzlement and money laundering to the tune of €60m (£50m) at the country’s largest food company. Government officials describe the case as “Croatia’s Enron.” Polancec has denied the charges.

In September, Mladen Barisic, the country’s former customs chief and treasurer of the ruling party Sanader headed, was also arrested as part of an investigation into illegal party donations from public companies. According to the Croatian media, Barisic has told investigators he carried paper bags stuffed with cash personally to Sanader, the funds allegedly from several large state-owned firms. Barisic is in custody but has not been charged.

Yesterday’s drama and the sleaze allegations surrounding Sanader are reinforced by the US embassy cables.

Mladen Bajic, Croatia’s chief prosecutor, told US embassy officials in January that Sanader was the “target” of “several ongoing corruption probes”.

“Prosecutors are developing at least one case against the former PM which could result in his indictment, and they are continuing to uncover evidence in several other cases which could also implicate Sanader,” the embassy reported in January .

“Sanader has possible involvement in several cases, but the one in which prosecutors have gathered the most evidence involves illegal mediation between his friends and Hypo Alpe Adria Bank Group of Austria. The Hypo Bank case indicates that Sanader allegedly arranged a loan of 4m Deutshce Markloan for his neighbour, Miroslav Kutle, in the 1990’s and received an 800,000 DM kickback from Kutle in return,” Bajic told the Americans.

The Hypo bank, based in Klagenfurt in southern Austria close to the Croatian and Slovene borders, acted as financier to the late Jorg Haider, the far-right Austrian leader. It collapsed two years ago in one of the most dramatic cases of the financial crisis in Europe and was nationalised by the Austrian government. The bank’s failure wrought havoc in Austria and Bavaria, triggering several ongoing investigations into alleged profiteering and property scams in the Balkans, particularly Croatia, Austria and Germany.

Kutle is a Croatian tycoon and media mogul who has twice been jailed, once for mismanagement, the other conviction being quashed.

The US cables paint a picture of pervasive corruption in Croatian politics and business, while also crediting the current government of Jadranka Kosor with a serious clean-up campaign.

The issue is crucial to Croatia’s prospects of joining the European Union since policymakers in Brussels and west European capitals believe they blundered by letting Romania and Bulgaria join in 2007, importing high levels of corruption, a mistake they are keen to avoid repeating. Croatia is close to completing its EU negotiations and could join in a year’s time.

Bajic told the Americans that essentially all state-owned enterprises in Croatia, meaning many of the biggest companies, were sinking in sleaze. “All major Croatian SOEs are now under investigation.”

These included the state companies for national electricity, water, forests, roads, and railways.

In the biggest corruption case over the Podravka food company, US diplomats said in February that Polancec, the former deputy prime minister now on trial, would not have been able to take “some of the actions prosecutors are alleging without Sanader’s knowledge”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

An Insider’s Look at the Libyan-Swiss Hostage Crisis

It was one of the strangest diplomatic stand-offs in recent memory: After Swiss police arrested the son of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Libya abducted two Swiss businessmen. According to US diplomatic cables, the challenge proved almost too great for Switzerland.

The drama began on July 15, 2008. On that day, police in Geneva arrested Hannibal al-Gadhafi, son of Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, in his suite at the Hotel President Wilson after two servants complained of being physically mistreated, an accusation which Gadhafi Jr. denied. The police detained Hannibal for two days before releasing him on bail of 500,000 Swiss francs (€372,000, $505,000) and allowing him and his wife to leave the country.

Libya’s ruling family wanted revenge. It immediately severed all trade relations with Switzerland, and it shut down the offices of Swiss companies in Libya. But, in the end, the real crisis revolved around the fate of two Swiss businessmen who had been working in Libya, Max Göldi and Rachid Hamdani. On July 19, 2008, the Libyans temporarily detained them and forbade them from leaving the country. For the next two years, the two would remain Gadhafi’s hostages.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lockerbie Bomber Megrahi ‘In a Coma’

The Lockerbie bomber has slipped into a coma, is on life-support and is not expected to recover, it was reported today. “Everyday is expected to be his last,” a source close to his family is said to have told Sky News.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has prostate cancer was controversially released from a Scottish prison in August 2009, supposedly because he was on the brink of death. Secret US embassy cables sent to WikiLeaks and published by the Guardian revealed UK government fears that Libya would take “harsh and immediate action” against British interests if Megrahi died in prison.

Megrahi, convicted of killing 270 people by bombing Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988, was feted on his return to Libya.

The source quoted by Sky said: “He is on life support and has been for some days. Many people have been waiting for him to die. That day is coming very soon. Every day, his loved ones expect it to be his last.”

Megrahi was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds but had been expected to live for only three months. The decision caused outrage in the US and Barack Obama warned Libya against giving him a hero’s welcome. But thousands, including Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif, were at a military airport in Tripoli to greet him.

Jack Straw, the former Labour justice secretary, and Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, this week denied Megrahi was released because of Libyan threats. The government in Edinburgh dismissed the leaked cables as “diplomatic tittle-tattle”.

Last week Gaddafi said Megrahi’s family would be suing over his alleged “neglect” in Greenock prison. Speaking to students in London via a video link, he said: “His health was not looked after in prison. He didn’t have any periodic examination. I wish him a long life. After he passes away, his family will demand compensation because he was deliberately neglected.”

Campaigners in the UK are calling for an independent inquiry into the bomber’s conviction.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: USA: Algerian Security Inept Against Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 7 — “Do not expect an improvement in security. None of our contacts think that the security forces (of Algeria, editor’s note) are capable of preventing terrorist attacks,” was one of the messages revealed by Wikileaks, sent by former US Ambassador to Algiers, Robert Ford, currently in Syria, immediately after the attacks in Algiers on December 11 2007 against the UN office and Constitutional Court. “In the future we can speculate that the security situation might remain the same or deteriorate further,” continued the cable, published by Algerian daily El Watan. Algerian services “do not know when terrorist attacks may be launched,” wrote Ford, who called the reaction by the Algerian authorities to the attacks “weak and stupid”. “Bouteflika appeared to be highly distressed” and “he does not know what to do”, continued the ambassador. The silence of the president shows “his embarrassment” since the two suicide bombers “were already known to the secret services and benefitted from national reconciliation,” the law enacted to put an end to Algerian terrorism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables Cast Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s Ruler for Life

Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s long-serving president, is likely to seek re-election next year and will “inevitably” win a poll that will not be free and fair, the US ambassador to Cairo, Margaret Scobey, predicted in a secret cable to Hillary Clinton last year.

Scobey discussed Mubarak’s quasi-dictatorial leadership style since he took power in 1981; his critical views of George Bush and American policy in the Middle East; and the highly uncertain prospects for a succession.

The disclosures come one day after Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear agency chief, announced he would not run for the presidency and urged all Egyptians to boycott the vote. ElBaradei dismissed last month’s parliamentary elections as fraud and vowed not to associated with a repeat performance. “We will not participate in this farce next year in the presidential election if changes to the constitution are not completed,” he said. Mubarak has not yet formally declared whether he will seek a sixth consecutive term.

Scobey’s candid view, in a cable dated May 2009, is that Mubarak, 82, who heads the Arab world’s most populous and influential nation, is most likely to die in office rather than step down voluntarily or be replaced in a plausible democratic vote. “The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011 and if Mubarak is still alive it is likely he will run again and, inevitably, win,” Scobey writes.

“When asked about succession he states that the process will follow the Egyptian constitution. Despite incessant whispered discussions no one in Egypt has any certainty about who will eventually succeed Mubarak nor under what circumstances.

“The most likely contender is presidential son Gamal Mubarak (whose profile is ever-increasing at the ruling party); some suggest that intelligence chief Omar Soliman might seek the office; or dark horse Arab League secretary general Amre Moussa might run.

“Mubarak’s ideal of a strong but fair leader would seem to discount Gamal Mubarak to some degree, given Gamal’s lack of military experience, and may explain Mubarak’s hands-off approach to the succession question. Indeed he seems to be trusting to God and the ubiquitous military and civilian security services to ensure an orderly transition.”

Scobey, writing ahead of Mubarak’s visit to Washington in August last year, gave her impressions of Egypt’s leader based on personal encounters. She said the president was a political survivor who maintained his grip on power by avoiding risks. She noted his low opinion of the former US president George Bush.

“Mubarak is … in reasonably good health; his most notable problem is a hearing deficit in his left ear. He responds well to respect for Egypt and for his position but is not swayed by personal flattery.

“During his 28-year tenure he survived at least three assassination attempts, maintained peace with Israel, weathered two wars in Iraq and post-2003 regional instability, intermittent economic downturns and a manageable but chronic internal terrorist threat.

“He is a tried and true realist, innately cautious and conservative, and has little time for idealistic goals. Mubarak viewed President Bush as naive, controlled by subordinates and totally unprepared for dealing with post-Saddam Iraq, especially the rise of Iran’s regional influence.”

Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s secretary of state, chose Cairo for a 2005 speech advocating democratic reform across the Arab world. Cairo was also the setting for Barack Obama’s speech last year on the west’s relations with Islam.

“On several occasions Mubarak has lamented the US invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam. He routinely notes that Egypt did not like Saddam and does not mourn him, but at least he held the country together and countered Iran.

“Mubarak continues to state that in his view Iraq needs a ‘tough, strong military officer who is fair’ as leader. This telling observation, we believe, describes Mubarak’s own view of himself.”

Scobey reports that Mubarak, “a classic Egyptian secularist”, believes US interventions in the Middle East routinely result in disaster and that another is looming in Afghanistan and Pakistan as religious extremists gain influence.

In Mubarak’s view US pressure for reform in the Shah’s Iran pre-1979, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and US support for elections in Gaza that brought Hamas to power in 2006 were all policies that backfired calamitously…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Airbus: Half of Airplanes to Wealthy People From Gulf Region

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 8 — Half of the private airplanes that Airbus has delivered this year went to wealthy individuals from countries in the Gulf Region. This elevated number shows that the French country’s influence in the area has grown, according to satellite TV network Al Arabiya’s website. The French group has delivered 16 private airplanes this year compared to 14 in 2009 and predicts that they will equal the numbers achieved in 2010 next year as well.

In addition to the eight airplanes delivered this year to wealthy people in the Gulf Region, Airbus has signed new agreements for next year, according to Francois Chazelle, the Vice President of the VIP jet lines division of Airbus. The company intends to invest over a billion euros in the project for their new aircraft, the “A 320 Neo”, with the objective of improving its performance and reducing noise. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Dutch MP’s Plea for Palestinian State in Jordan Rejected

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has distanced himself from views about a Palestinian state expressed last Sunday by Dutch MP Geert Wilders in Israel.

The anti-Islam Freedom Party MP said that Jordan should become the Palestine state, arguing that Palestinians should have the right to settle in Jordan, which could then transform itself into Palestine. Mr Wilders implied that the Palestinian territorities currently occupied by Israel should become part of the Jewish state.

Speaking in the Lower House, Minister Rosenthal emphasised that Mr Wilders’ views are not shared by the Dutch government. He said that he had informed Jordan’s government about the Netherlands’ position.

MP Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is providing key support to the rightwing minority government, but his party has no ministers in the cabinet. The views he expressed on his recent visit to Israel were described by Dutch Labour MP Frans Timmermans as “chimeras and idiotic ideas”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani ‘At Home’ Pictures Trigger Confusion Over Her Fate

Confusion surrounded the fate of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman whose sentence of death by stoning for adultery triggered an international outcry, after photographs of her meeting her son at home were released by Iran’s English channel television tonight.

Pictures from state-run Press TV showed her meeting Sajad at home in Osku in northwestern Iran, boosting supporters’ hopes that she had been released.

But footage of Ashtiani broadcast by the station later raised questions about whether she had actually been released from prison, or whether Iranian authorities had merely taken her to her home to collect evidence against her and film a confession.

In a short clip she is seen to say: “We planned to kill my husband.”

The move came weeks after Iran signalled it might spare the life of Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, a mother of two who has been in Tabriz prison since 2006, and who faced execution by stoning for “having an illicit relationship outside marriage”.

An international campaign for Ashtiani’s release has been launched by her son Sajad, who was later arrested along with her lawyer Houtan Kian and two German journalists who were arrested after trying to interview her have also been freed.

The extraordinary case brought an unwelcome focus on human rights in Iran at a time when the Islamic regime was seeking to return to normal after the unrest that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory in a disputed presidential election in June 2009.

Ecstatic campaigners initially hailed the news. “This is the happiest day in my life,” said Mina Ahadi of the International Committee against Stoning (Icas). “I’m very happy for her son, Sajad, who fought single-handedly and bravely in Iran to defend his mother and tell the world that she is innocent. I’m sure that this day will be written in Iranian history books, if not the world’s, as a day of victory for human rights campaigners.”

International pressure over Mohammadi Ashtiani’s fate began with campaigning on social networking sites and was later taken up by mainstream media as protest rallies were held in London, Rome and Washington, with support from Amnesty and other human rights groups, as well as a star-studded cast of celebrities including Colin Firth and Emma Thompson in Britain.

Iran’s friends and enemies tried to intervene. Brazil’s president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, offered to give Mohammadi Ashtiani asylum in his country, while the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, urged Tehran to respect the fundamental freedoms of its citizens. Britain’s foreign office minister Alistair Burt condemned the laws used against her as “medieval.”

Tehran hit back furiously. Kayhan, a conservative paper, called Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French president’s wife, a “prostitute” who “deserved death” after she condemned the sentence.

Iran accused its critics of trying to turn a criminal case into something of wider significance. “It has become a symbol of women’s freedom in western nations and with impudence they want to free her,” the foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast protested last month. “They are trying to use this ordinary case as a lever of pressure against our nation.”

Evidently feeling the heat, Iran described her as “an adulterous woman” and introduced new charges, portraying her as a murderer who killed her husband. Mohammadi Ashtiani was put on state TV three times to confess to her charges but human rights activists insisted she had been tortured.

But signs of a possible change of heart came after Mohammad Javad Larijani, a top adviser to the Iranian supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, visited the UN last month and invited the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to visit Iran. Still, he compared Ashtiani’s case with that of Teresa Lewis, who was executed by lethal injection in the US state of Virginia for arranging the murder of her husband and stepson.

Under Iranian sharia law, those sentenced to death by stoning are buried up to the neck (or to the waist in the case of men), and those attending the public execution are called upon to throw stones. If the convicted person manages to free themselves from the hole, the death sentence is commuted.

Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in May 2006 of conducting an illicit relationship outside marriage. She endured a sentence of 99 lashes, but her case was re-opened when a court in Tabriz suspected her of murdering her husband. She was acquitted, but the adultery charge was reviewed and a death penalty handed down on the basis of “judge’s knowledge” — a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present.

Five years ago when Mohammadi Ashtiani was flogged, Sajad, then 17, was present. “They lashed her in front my eyes and this has been carved in my mind since then,” he told the Guardian before his own arrest.

Iran has rarely carried out stonings in recent years. But it executed 388 people last year — more than any other country apart from China, according to Amnesty International. Most were hanged.

Ten Iranian women and four men are on death row awaiting execution by stoning, among them Azar Bagheri, 19, Iran Iskandari, 31, Kheyrieh Valania, 42, Sarimeh Sajadi, 30, Kobra Babaei, and Afsaneh R.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Southern Christians Flee in ‘Worrying’ Numbers

Rome, 9 Dec (AKI) — Forty christian families have fled the southern Iraq port city of Basra, according to provincial authorities in the Shia-dominated Iraqi city.

“We have registered the emigration of 40 families, which moved to various European countries or to villages in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Saad Petrus, the president of the commission for minorities in Basra province told Al-Sumaria news.

“Many fled after the attacks against the church in Baghdad. The situation deeply shook the Christians of Basra who feared they would be subjected to similar attacks,” he added.

He was referrring to an attack against a Christian church in Baghdad on 31 October which left 58 worshippers dead including two priests.

Basra’s administrators expressed concern at the Christians’ flight, saying there had never been any anti-Christian violence in southern Iraq.

The October assault on the church in Baghdad was one of the worst in a wave of attacks that have targeted Christians in Iraq and have left scores dead over the past two months in the capital and in the northern city of Mosul. Officials in those cities have been encouraging Christians to move to northern Iraq, where they should be more secure.

Petrus asked the government to reinforce security for Iraq’s vulnerable Christian minority and to approve the building of new churches.

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.

There have been calls for Iraq to create an autonomous Christian region in the north of the country, where around 100,000 Christians have taken refuge since the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003.

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

Minister Rejects Wilders’ Plea for Palestinian State in Jordan

Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal has distanced himself from views about a Palestinian state expressed last Sunday by Dutch MP Geert Wilders in Israel.

The anti-Islam Freedom Party MP said that Jordan should become the Palestine state, arguing that Palestinians should have the right to settle in Jordan, which could then transform itself into Palestine. Mr Wilders implied that the Palestinian territorities currently occupied by Israel should become part of the Jewish state.

Speaking in the Lower House, Minister Rosenthal emphasised that Mr Wilders’ views are not shared by the Dutch government. He said that he had informed Jordan’s government about the Netherlands’ position.

MP Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party is providing key support to the rightwing minority government, but his party has no ministers in the cabinet. The views he expressed on his recent visit to Israel were described by Dutch Labour MP Frans Timmermans as “chimeras and idiotic ideas”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Syria: Jailed Rights Defender Assaulted, Punished in Prison

London, November 4, 2010) — Eight leading human rights organizations today called on the Syrian government to guarantee the safety of Muhannad al-Hassani, a human rights defender serving a three-year prison term, after he was assaulted last week in ‘Adra prison, Damascus.

The eight organizations — Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Front Line — urged the Syrian government to investigate the assault and protect al-Hassani from further brutality or ill-treatment.

Al-Hassani, an internationally known lawyer and human rights defender, was physically assaulted on October 28, 2010, by a prisoner sentenced for a criminal offense who was being held in the same cell in ‘Adra prison. The assault came two weeks after a ceremony in Geneva at which the imprisoned lawyer was due to have been presented with the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders.

For five days after the attack, al-Hassani continued to be held in the same cell as his attacker, but is then reported to have been moved to a tiny underground isolation cell. He and other political prisoners in ‘Adra prison have now launched a hunger strike to protest against his solitary confinement.

The prisoner who attacked al-Hassani is said to have been moved into the same cell only recently and to have beaten him using a heavy metal finger ring he was wearing at the time of the assault, although prisoners are not normally permitted to wear such jewelry. As a result of the assault, al-Hassani suffered a cut to his forehead requiring ten stitches, swelling to his eye and cheek, and bruising to his body.

Following the incident, the police took statements from other prisoners who had witnessed the assault and interviewed al-Hassani in the presence of his attacker, but reportedly took no action when the attacker continued to threaten him and accused him of being unpatriotic and did not even make note of the threats.

Al-Hassani was subsequently taken to a doctor at a government forensic clinic in Douma, a town between ‘Adra and Damascus, who issued a report on his injuries on November 1. The case was referred to a court in Douma, though al-Hassani’s lawyers were not informed and so were unable to be present at the hearing.

The eight human rights organizations call on the Syrian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough, and transparent, independent investigation into the assault on al-Hassani and the circumstances which led to his being exposed to such risk. In particular, they must examine whether officials at ‘Adra prison were complicit in the attack by moving the prisoner responsible into al-Hassani’s cell to facilitate it, and why they continued to hold them in the same cell for several days afterwards. The results of such an investigation should be made public, and those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.

The eight organizations also called for an immediate end to al-Hassani’s solitary confinement and for guarantees of his safety while he remains in prison.

Amnesty International and other organizations consider al-Hassani a prisoner of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.

He is serving a three-year sentence imposed in June 2010. His trial before the Damascus Criminal Court was unfair.


Al-Hassani is a lawyer and co-founder of the Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiyah). He has been repeatedly targeted by the Syrian authorities on account if his human rights work.

He was sentenced to a three-year prison term in June 2010 after the Damascus Criminal Court convicted him of “weakening national sentiments” and “spreading false news.” These charges, which are commonly used against government critics, were brought after he published information about unfair trials of political prisoners and torture in Syria, and met foreign embassy officials to discuss human rights.

Al-Hassani is a commissioner of the International Commission of Jurists and was awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for 2010 in recognition of his contribution to human rights. The chairperson of the awards panel described him as a man of “exceptional courage” who is being “arbitrarily detained in unacceptable conditions for defending the rule of law and the right to organize a human rights organization.”

In October 2010 he received the Dean Award from the Amsterdam Bar Association in recognition of his work as a human rights lawyer.

Other government critics are previously reported to have been assaulted by criminal inmates, as well as prison guards, while held in ‘Adra prison.

In December 2006, for example, Anwar al-Bunni, another human rights lawyer, was pushed down a flight of stairs by a criminal detainee and beaten on his head in the presence of prison guards, who failed to intervene.

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

The WikiLeaks Vindication of George W. Bush

Wired magazine’s contributing editor, Noah Shachtman — a nonresident fellow at the liberal Brookings Institution — researched the 400,000 WikiLeaked documents released in October. Here’s what he found: “By late 2003, even the Bush White House’s staunchest defenders were starting to give up on the idea that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. But WikiLeaks’ newly released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added). … Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam’s toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict — and may have brewed up their own deadly agents.”

In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq — on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels — what even the Associated Press called “the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program”: 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: “The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power. … To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam … would have been too big a risk.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Turkey Fights to Protect National Anthem From German Royalty Claims

The discovery that the Turkish national anthem, “Istiklal Marsi,” may be unprotected by copyright has sparked legislative efforts to make the song public property.

A proposed bylaw to do so was opened for signatures during Monday’s Council of Ministers meeting, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey’s Culture Ministry is scrambling to legally protect the country’s national anthem after a German musical society demanded compensation for copyright infringement from a Turkish school in the European country that played the song.

GEMA, a society for composers, songwriters and music publishers that focuses on music licensing, had demanded the royalties from a Turkish school in Germany that played the “Istiklal Marsi” during its Turkish National Sovereignty and Children’s Day celebrations in April 2007.

When their initial objections to GEMA’s demand proved unsuccessful, school administrators contacted the Turkish Culture Ministry for help. At this point, it became clear that despite having been the Turkish national anthem for the past 89 years, “Istiklal Marsi” had never been put under legal copyright protection.

Turkey’s Law on Intellectual Property states that a work is protected for 70 years after the death of the person who created it.

The poet who penned the words to the Turkish anthem, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, died in 1936, while the score’s composer, Zeki Üngör, died in 1958. This means that if the intellectual property rights are applicable to national anthems, rights to the song would still belong to Üngör’s estate.

In order for GEMA to demand royalty payments for the song, the request would have to come from Üngör’s heirs, said lawyer Hakan Hanli, the legal consultant for the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“If the request came from the inheritors, than GEMA can legally demand the payments,” he said Hanli. “If an existing law does not exist protecting the anthem, then it must be added to the Law on Intellectual Property as soon as possible.”

The lawyer added that a Council of Ministers decision would not be enough to legally protect the anthem.

Abdurrahman Çelik, the Culture Ministry’s director for copyright and cinema, told the Anatolia news agency last week that the issue should have been taken care of earlier, but had been either neglected or forgotten until now.

“If foreigners ask us to whom the national anthem belongs, nobody would understand us if we said that it is ‘our national anthem,’“ Çelik said. “The main point of the proposed bylaw is to define the rights to it, so no one can illegitimately demand royalties.”

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

Turkish Sector’s Exports to Israel and Russia Up

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 7 — Turkish automotive sector’s exports to Israel and Russia have increased drastically in the first 11 months of 2010, Anatolia news agency reports. Turkish exports to Israel increased by 152.8% as sales to Russia grew 120.8% in the same period, according to the data released by Uludag Automotive Industry Exporters’ Union (OIB).

Turkish automotive sector mainly exported goods to EU countries in the first 11 months as France topped the export list with a share of 15.01%, OIB said. Turkey’s automotive exports to Spain increased by 74.21% in the mentioned term while exports to Germany, Italy, Britain, Romania, Algeria, Poland, the Netherlands, Iran, Czech Republic, Sweden and Austria also recorded an increase. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why Mullahs Need Atom — Thinking Ahead

A new round of nuclear talks between the Islamic regime and the world key powers started on December 6, 2010 in Geneva. All evidences show another failure in process. Once again, Mullahs will not obey United Nations Security resolutions to stop enriching uranium. No gullible schoolchild believes that the nuclear programme is not intended to build a nuclear bomb. Furor over the bomb is not only an international fear, but rather catches the breath of Iranian people who are the first victims of this Islamic regime because the regime has proved all aggressive characters of an occupying force in Iran. The question is why the Shiite Mullahs need nuclear weapons. It does not make sense if we do not know their real belief behind their nuclear ambitions. Shiite sect of Islam believes in Twelve Imams, started from Imam Ali, the 4th Caliph, and ended with Imam Mahdi who went in the occultation since 872. His return is believed by Shiites to establish the rightful rule of Islam and bring justice for humankind. Mahdi means “guide” and will appear on the earth alongside with Jesus whose aim is to ask Christians to convert into Islam and Mahdi’s rule. Mahdi is the saviour and redeemer of Islam, the only accepted religion for mankind under his rule. A strong current within the Islamic regime, to which Ahamadinejad is believed to belong, is called “Hojjatieh”, referring to “Hojjat” or another name for Mahdi. They believe that since the Imam’s reappearance is stipulated by the extreme sufferance and commitment of sins, the Islamic regime of Iran whose leader is the Mahdi, suffice to hasten his appearance by inflicting sever, unfair, and repressive conditions. Among a number of signs, it is believed that the following catastrophes precede the Imam’s reappearance: …

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Polish Government Deeply Fearful of Russia, US Cable Shows

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski believes that Russia poses a long-term military threat to the West and sees the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy as a way of turning Belarus into a “buffer zone,” a leaked US cable says.

Sent in December 2008, four months after the Russia-Georgia war, by the US ambassador to Warsaw, Victor Ashe, the cable describes what it calls “the Sikorski doctrine” on foreign policy.

“Foreign minister Sikorski told US officials the GoP [government of Poland] used to think Russia would be a danger in 10-15 years, but after the Georgia crisis, it could be as little as 10-15 months,” the cable says. “According to the ‘Sikorski Doctrine,’ any further attempt by Russia to redraw borders by force or subversion should be regarded by Europe as a threat to its security, entailing a proportional response by the entire Euro-Atlantic community.”

“The Eastern Partnership and other Polish policies in the region aim to counter a resurgent Russia,” the cable adds, referring to a Polish-Swedish initiative to relax trade and visa rules for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Noting that Poland “pushed through” an EU decision to suspend travel sanctions on the “dictator” president of Belarus, Aleksander Lukashenka, it says: “In the Poles’ view, an isolated Belarus could become completely ensnared by Russia, with or without Lukashenka in power. Russian domination would jeopardize democratic transformation and — more importantly, in Warsaw’s view — would dash hopes that Belarus could become a buffer state between Poland and Russia.”

Mr Ashe noted that Mr Sikorski was even more hawkish on Russia than the Bush-era US administration by selling portable “Manpad” rockets to Georgia “despite USG [US government] objections.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Women Still Suffer Horrendous Abuse, Says United Nations Report

Bibi Aisha, the Afghan girl whose nose and ears were cut off by her husband, was a “lucky victim” because she survived her attack and got help, a top human rights official in the country said yesterday.

While Aisha escaped her abusive family, the deputy chairman of the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission said that many women in similar circumstances were less lucky. “For sure, we have hundreds of Bibi Aishas in Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Fahim Hakim.

His remarks came after the news that one of the men responsible for attacking Aisha had been arrested, a development hailed by human rights workers as a sign the Afghan authorities are starting to take deep-rooted abuse of women seriously.

Hakim was speaking during the publication of a major UN report that showed that, despite improvements in women’s rights — long touted as a major goal of the US-led intervention in Afghanistan — the country is still blighted by forced marriages, the giving away of infant girls to future husbands to settle disputes, honour killings and desperate women resorting to death by self-immolation.

The report by the UN’s Afghanistan mission said that such practices are problem in all communities and cause “suffering, humiliation and marginalisation for millions of Afghan women and girls”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Bomb in a Church in Central Java, Archbishop Calls for Calm

The explosive was placed in two milk cans full of nails and stones. The perpetrators are still unknown. The attack is the latest in a long series against Christian places of worship.

Semarang (AsiaNews) — Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta, Archbishop of Semarang, has called the entire Catholic community “to remain calm” after the explosion of two bombs in the church of Christ the King in the district of Gawok (Kartasura, Central Java), on 7 December. The attack is the latest in a series of attacks on Christian places of worship. Chief Inspector of Police Edward Aritonang Central Java, has declined to comment about the possible perpetrator of the act.

The explosive was placed in two milk cans, along with nails and small stones. Tugimin, a local who was accompanying his mother to the market, witnessed the accident and tried to extinguish the fire caused by the explosion.

Also on December 7, two other letter bombs were found in Surakarta, about 20 miles east of Kartasura: the first in a yard, the second near the police station in Pasar Kliwon ,a subdistrict of the city. Wirabumi Edy, a member of the royal family of Kasunanan Surakarta, said: “We hope we are not the target of these provocative actions. We have no enemies here. “

Sunday, December 5 another letter bomb was found in the Protestant church in Muria Indonesia in Surakarta, shortly before the service began. On 1 December, there was also a foiled explosion of homemade grenades near the shrine of the Sendand Sriningsih Virgin Mary. In October, another letter bomb was found in a Protestant church in GKJ Gebyog in Kartasura.

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

Pakistani Media Publish Fake WikiLeaks Cables Attacking India

They read like the most extraordinary revelations. Citing the WikiLeaks cables, major Pakistani newspapers this morning carried stories that purported to detail eye-popping American assessments of India’s military and civilian leaders.

According to the reports, US diplomats described senior Indian generals as vain, egotistical and genocidal; they said India’s government is secretly allied with Hindu fundamentalists; and they claimed Indian spies are covertly supporting Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt and Balochistan.

“Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan,” read the front-page story in the News; an almost identical story appeared in the Urdu-language Jang, Pakistan’s bestselling daily.

If accurate, the disclosures would confirm the worst fears of Pakistani nationalist hawks and threaten relations between Washington and New Delhi. But they are not accurate.

An extensive search of the WikiLeaks database by the Guardian by date, name and keyword failed to locate any of the incendiary allegations. It suggests this is the first case of WikiLeaks being exploited for propaganda purposes…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Religious Lobby is Running Riot in Pakistan

While the country reels from flood devastation, an increasing gap between rich and poor, and a ceaseless energy recession, Pakistan’s religious lobby has lined up to attack a straw woman. Yet again a powerful political lobby has decided to focus on an issue that will not solve the nation’s most pressing problems.

It all began when last year Muslim women in the village of Ittan Walli refused to take water from mother-of-five Asia Bibi because she was Christian. According to one of the women, Bibi reacted with disgust and, it is claimed, made disparaging remarks about the prophet Muhammad. Soon the local cleric and police were involved and Asia was behind bars for breaching Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws. She has already spent close to 18 months in one of Pakistan’s hellish prisons.

The blasphemy laws — a set of provisions inserted into Pakistan’s criminal laws under the Islamist dictator General Ziaul Haq — made it a crime punishable by death for anyone charged with defiling the Qur’an or defaming the prophet Muhammad.

The Lahore high court has taken the unprecedented step of barring the president of Pakistan from pardoning Bibi, a step decried as unconstitutional by legal experts. The blasphemy law “turns them [minorities] into second-class citizens, deprived of freedom of expression or belief,” says Human Rights Watch’s Ali Dayan Hasan.

If squeaky wheels do indeed get the grease then Pakistan’s vocal religious lobby have been liberally lathered by successive governments and a pliant media. Along with criticism of the military establishment, honest and critical exposure of religious chauvinism is a dangerous business.

In Peshawar, Maulana Yusuf Qureshi offered a reward of Rs500,000 (£3,600) to anyone who killed Bibi if the government did not execute her, an astonishing incitement against a fellow citizen. That included calling on the Taliban to take matters into their own hands and murder Bibi if the government did not. A lead editorial in Nawa-e-Waqt, one of the biggest Urdu-language newspapers in the country, lauded Qureshi’s rhetoric. If only sharia law applied in Pakistan, the editorial went on to lament, the current debate over reforming the blasphemy law would be entirely moot.

Meanwhile in Mohmand tribal agency, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a massive suicide blast at a meeting of government officials and a local anti-Taliban Lashkar that killed 44.

Pakistan’s federal minister for minorities and the governor of Punjab have both been threatened with death for calling for Bibi’s death sentence to be commuted. Former information minister Sherry Rehman has also received death threats for introducing a private members bill calling for the blasphemy laws to be amended to reduce its misuse…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Senior Scottish Ministers Plea for Release of Pakistani Christian Woman

Senior ministers in the Church of Scotland are appealing to the Pakistani government to release a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The Very Rev Dr Andrew McLellan, Convener of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland, and the Rev Ian Galloway, Convener of the Kirk’s Church and Society Council, made the appeal in a joint letter to the Pakistani High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan.

They asked him to urge his government to release and pardon Asia Bibi, who was sentenced to hang by a court on November 8.

Bibi was found guilty of committing blasphemy in a dispute with Muslim colleagues over the merits of their faith last year. She denies the charges.

In addition to her release, the Church ministers asked that the Pakistan government ensure protection for Bibi and her family from anyone who might seek to take the law into their own hands.

They reiterated the Church of Scotland’s call for the blasphemy law to be repealed. The Church maintains that the blasphemy law is being misused to intimidate and terrorise minority faith communities in Pakistan and to settle personal scores and vendettas.

Dr McLellan and Mr Galloway said in their letter that the blasphemy law goes against the teachings of Islam and is contrary to the culture of the majority of the Pakistani people.

Bibi has already spent the last year and a half in prison since the charges were first brought against her.

The Pakistani government has come under intense international pressure to release her but was last week barred from pardoning her by the High Court on the grounds that her case is still pending.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Taliban Bombs Hit New High — 1,500 in November Alone

The bad news first: Insurgents in Afghanistan have constructed more homemade bombs in the past six months than at any time during the nine-year war. But those bombs are killing and injuring fewer U.S. and allied forces. Most attempts at blowing up U.S. troops just fail.

According to new figures provided to Danger Room by the Pentagon’s task force known as JIEDDO (Joint IED Defeat Organization) that works to defeat improvised explosive devices, the Taliban and its allies built 1,507 homemade bombs in November 2010, an all-time high. That’s nearly 100 more than the 1,415 they made the previous month — the reigning IED record in Afghanistan.

July, August and September all had monthly bomb totals of between 1,374 and 1,391; all of which were higher than June’s 1,314. And their geographic distribution follows the pattern of violence in the war: 75 percent of them occurred in the southern provinces like Helmand and Kandahar where most of the surge troops are. The surge clearly hasn’t been able to stop the growth in the bomb rate.

But JIEDDO considers those figures to conceal a greater success. Most of the bombs didn’t do any damage. November’s high-water mark killed 24 U.S., NATO and Afghan troops and wounded 301 others. But in June, when there were almost 200 fewer bombings, 52 troops died and 297 were wounded.

That’s a pattern that largely held through the summer: a fairly steady uptick in incidents, but with a relatively low rate in those killed and injured. JIEDDO calculates the improvised-bomb success rate — in which a homemade bomb hurts someone — in November at 17 percent. (Some homemade bombs kill or wound more than one person, so it’s not a simple matter of tallying the killed and wounded figures and dividing by the number of bombs.) In June, that success rate was 21 percent, and from July to September, it ticked up to 24 or 25 percent before dipping back to 21 percent in October.

It’s way too early to claim that November’s dip below the 20-percent effectiveness mark is a new trend. JIEDDO claims that the death rate from jury-rigged bombs has fallen since January, but the figures provided to Danger Room just go back to June. We’ve requested fuller totals — JIEDDO was kind enough to pass along additional data, but that data didn’t include Afghan casualty figures, so an apples-to-apples measurement over time is still elusive. As soon as I get more information, I’ll update this post.

But JIEDDO attributes the recent drop in effectiveness to increased early-detection measures. “We’ve seen really no significant change in the type of explosives being used,” JIEDDO’s outgoing director, Lieutenant General Michael Oates, told the Foreign Press Center in Washington on Monday.

The steady state of the bombs — mostly made from chemicals found in fertilizers with very little metals — has allowed new bomb-sniffers to get up to speed, including blimps, drones and even bomb-sniffing dogs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables Suggest Burma is Building Secret Nuclear Sites

Witnesses in Burma claim to have seen evidence of secret nuclear and missile sites being built in remote jungle, according to secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, heightening concerns that the military regime is seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

A Burmese officer quoted in a cable from the US embassy in Burma said he had witnessed North Korean technicians helping to construct an underground facility in foothills more than 300 miles (480km) north-west of Rangoon.

“The North Koreans, aided by Burmese workers, are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility that is ‘500ft from the top of the cave to the top of the hill above’,” according to the cable. The man is quoted as saying the North Koreans were “blowing concrete” into the excavation.

An expatriate businessman told the embassy in Rangoon he had seen a large barge carrying reinforced steel bar of a diameter that suggested a project larger than a factory. Other informants included dockworkers, who reported suspicious cargo.

The reports add rare detail to rumours that have circulated since 2002, most recently from a military defector this year, that Burma is covertly seeking a nuclear bomb with the help of North Korea. Both countries have strenuously denied this in the past and Burma insists there are no North Koreans in the country.

The cables will compound existing international concern over Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes, and show why Barack Obama has made nuclear non-proliferation one of the central planks of his foreign policy.

According to the witness accounts, pieced together by US embassy staff, the work is at an early stage and haphazard. But they regard it as a troubling development, with the risk that Burma could join Pakistan, North Korea and possibly Iran in having a nuclear bomb.

In a cable dated August 2004 titled “Alleged North Korean involvement in missile assembly and underground facility construction in Burma”, one of the embassy staff wheedled information from an officer during a visit to Rangoon. The officer was in an engineering unit working at the site, where surface-to-air missiles were allegedly being assembled. The site is the Irrawaddy river town of Minbu in Magwe division, west-central Burma.

The officer said 300 North Koreans were working at the site, though the embassy, in its cable back to Washington, described this as improbably high. The officer “claims he has personally seen some of them, although he also reported they are forbidden from leaving the construction site and that he and other ‘outsiders’ are prohibited from entering”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Stimulus Money is Helping Chinese Employment

by Laura Ingraham

A parade of economic news, most of it disappointing, has increased the push for one thing that America needs the most: jobs. In a new report from the Labor Department, their research shows that 6 million Americans did not go to work for one day last year because there was no work available. Of those who are unemployed, over 40% have been unemployed for over 6 months. No matter what spin comes from the White House; this situation has shown zero signs of improvement since Obama took office.

Fear not, however, as $450 million in stimulus funds will be going to create jobs…in China. Two friends of Obama, Cappy McGarr, an early supporter of his presidential campaign (and frequent White House guest), and Ed Cunningham, a former member of Obama’s national finance committee, are working to get stimulus funds for a Chinese firm that would build wind farms in Texas. Since this company based in China the profits will go to China, and the turbines will be built in, you guessed it, China.

At least President Obama and his cronies have finally defined a green job for us…they are jobs for those working in the factories of Beijing.

[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

A Discreet Deal for the War in Sudan

US dispatches have cleared up one of the most baffling weapons affairs of the recent past. In 2008, pirates hijacked a ship full of tanks and other military hardware. Kenya apparently intended to send the materiel on to Southern Sudan. But they were unprepared for the US reaction.

Sometimes things get so bad they’re almost funny. Take, for example, when criminals hold up arms traffickers, and when politicians subsequently lie and are abandoned by their supposed friends — even though they secretly do the same thing themselves.

That’s exactly what happened in the so-called Faina affair, one of the most baffling cases of weapons smuggling in recent memory — an affair which has only now come to light due to the leaked US diplomatic cables.

On September 25, 2008, Somali pirates seized the Faina, a harmless-looking freighter, while it was making its way from Ukraine to the Kenyan port in Mombasa. But they were astonished when they looked in the holds and discovered what was on board: a treasure trove of weapons from Ukraine, including 33 T-72 tanks, each weighing about 40 tons — enough to win a small war in Africa. The Somalian pirates thus blew the cover on a secret transaction that was even more sinister than their own activities.

After almost five months, the Faina was released after, it is thought, a $3.2 million (€2.4 million) ransom payment, and entered the port of Mombasa on February 12, 2009. The Kenyan government denied all speculation that the tanks were really destined for the autonomous government of predominantly Christian Southern Sudan, which rebels from the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have been trying to break off from the Muslim northern part of the country. Kenya insisted that the tanks were meant for their own army.

Triggering US Sanctions

But the American documents now prove that that was false. While the Somali pirates were still holding the Faina captive, in faraway Washington, George W. Bush’s second term as US president came to an end and Barack Obama moved into the White House.

On November 27, a cable classified as “secret” was sent to the US Embassy in Nairobi bearing clear instructions:

“Note to government of Kenya officials the United States government and the international community’s concern with the potential destabilizing effect that the secret transfer of certain heavy military equipment and small arms and light weapons can generate in the region. Inform the government of Kenya … that transfers of lethal military equipment to Sudan would trigger US sanctions against supplier governments.”

On December 15 and 16, Ambassador Michael Ranneberger and senior US military officials based at the US Embassy in Kenya went to work. As he noted in a dispatch dated Dec. 16, 2009, Ranneberger encountered immediate resistance. During a meeting with Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, he was informed “that the government of Kenya was committed to assisting GOSS (the government of Southern Sudan) and that there was ‘intense pressure’ from the GOSS to deliver the tanks.” Odinga then went on to suggest that his government could deliver the tanks to Uganda, and that they could make their way into Sudan from there.

Ranneberger made his position to the prime minister clear: Washington would not tolerate such a deal. Delivering any tanks to Sudan — whether via Uganda or any other country — could result in sanctions against Kenya.

Finding Their Way to Sudan

The Kenyans were surprised. As they saw it, the Bush administration had always been kept informed about Kenya’s arming of the SPLA rebels, had never opposed it and, in fact, had even contributed to it. When US military attaché David McNevin met with Jeremiah Kianga, the Kenyan chief of staff, and Philip Kameru, the head of Kenya’s military intelligence, there was a tense exchange:

“Kameru mentioned that, in the government of Kenya’s view, the tanks belong to the GOSS…. He added that (Kenyan) President (Mwai) Kibaki was personally very angry about this issue. During the meeting, Kianga commented that the government of Kenya was ‘very confused’ by our position … since the past transfers had been undertaken in consultation with the United States…. Kianga asked about the significance of what appeared to him to be a major policy reversal. … Kianga asked that the United States explain directly to the Government of Southern Sudan / Sudan People’s Liberation Army why (they) are blocking the tank transfer.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Deep-Seated Corruption in Kenya a Cause for US Concern

Corruption is in no short supply in Africa. But in Kenya, the problem is particularly virulent, US dispatches show. Indeed, several government ministers are deeply involved in shady deals. That, though, may soon change.

The man is small and eloquent. More than anything, though, he is determined, which makes him seem bigger than he is. His name is Patrick Lumumba, a former lawyer who is currently stirring up the powers that be in Kenya. Some careers he is cutting short, others he is giving a boost. And he would seem to have no fear.

Death threats, murder, disappearances — people aren’t squeamish in Kenya when economic interests are at stake. And those who seek to combat corruption in the country cannot show any weakness either.

Since July, Lumumba has been the director of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC). Whereas his predecessor seemed more interested in protecting those in power, Lumumba has shown a tendency to crack down. In the space of just a few days, the Kenyan foreign minister, the education minister, a state secretary and the mayor of the Kenyan capital Nairobi were forced to step down.

No wonder. Lumumba’s office is convinced that there is hardly a single minister in the country’s bloated, 42-member cabinet, that doesn’t use their position to line their own pockets.

Kenya ‘s Kleptocrats

The US Embassy in Nairobi has long been monitoring the Kenyan kleptocrats — particularly given the central role that Kenya plays in African politics. Those on the take in the government often trigger famines and instigate unrest, which then must be mitigated with Western aid money. As such, diplomats have drawn up a list of the worst offenders. Fifteen high-ranking Kenyan officials have been banned from entering the US.

During the 24 years that Daniel arap Moi was president of Kenya, between 1978 and 2002, the entire body politic was gripped by a system of personal enrichment and corruption. Despite the fact that dozens of investigative commissions have thrown light on hundreds of cases of corruption, not a single minister has ever been convicted.

In the early 1990s, for example, as part of the so-called “Goldenberg Scandal,” the Kenyan government paid export subsidies to Goldenberg International and other companies for gold that was supposedly slated for export. In truth, however, the Goldenberg funds were ultimately used to finance three election campaigns, causing losses estimated at between €400 million and €3 billion. Another pilfering of state coffers came with the so-called “Anglo-Leasing Scandal,” a package of crooked and shady transactions that were also used to stuff private pockets — at a cost to the country of hundreds of millions…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Nigeria: Police Arrests 4 Alleged Sect Members

Police in northeastern Nigeria say they have arrested members of a radical Muslim sect who ambushed security officers at a checkpoint.

Borno state police chief Mohammed Abubakar said Thursday that police arrested four men while four others had fled, after a 30-minute shootout on Wednesday night.

He said the gunmen ambushed police officers and soldiers at a checkpoint in Maiduguri. The only injury was a suspect who was shot in the leg.

Police believe the suspects are members of Boko Haram. The group is accused of killing more than 30 people in recent months including security officers, political and spiritual leaders.

Boko Haram means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Somalia: Two ‘Islamist Militants’ Killed in Central Puntland Region

Mogadishu, 9 Dec. (AKI) — Two suspected Islamist terrorists died in a shoot-out with security forces in Bosaso, capital of Somalia’s central, semi-autonomous Puntland region late Wednesday, local radio station Garowe reported.

The two men had allegedly carried out an a botched assassination attack against Somali finance minister Ali Osman Buh earlier on Wednesday. Buh was injured in the attack but survived.

Local witnesses said that after the attack against Buh, the two men escaped from police by hiding inside a house. Security forces sealed off the area and shot dead the two suspects who came outside armed with guns and hand-grenades.

The suspects are believed to be members of an Islamist group with ties to a Mogadishu-based branch of the the Al-Qaeda aligned Al-Shabab group.

Al-Shabab controls much of southern Somalia. It appears to have consolidated its position as the most powerful insurgent group after it drove its main rival, Hizbul Islam, out of the southern port city of Kismayo in October 2009.

Since then, Al-Shabab has openly declared its alliance with Al-Qaeda and have been steadily moving its fighters northwards towards Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991.

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

Latin America

Literature Laureate Warns of Nuclear Peril

Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa warned on Tuesday of the danger of nuclear weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists, in a speech ahead of Friday’s award ceremony. “Since every period has its horrors, ours is the age of fanatics, of suicide terrorists, an ancient species convinced that by killing they earn heaven,” said the Spanish-Peruvian author. “We have to thwart them, confront them, and defeat them,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UN Peacekeepers Likely Cause of Haiti Cholera Outbreak

PORT-AU-PRINCE — A contingent of UN peacekeepers is the likely source of a cholera outbreak in Haiti that has killed at least 2,000 people, a French scientist said in a report obtained by The Associated Press.

Epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux concluded that the cholera originated in a tributary of Haiti’s Artibonite river, next to a UN base outside the town of Mirebalais.

He was sent by the French government to assist Haitian health officials in determining the source of the outbreak, a French Foreign Ministry official said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Netherlands and South Africa Join Forces on Immigration

South Africa wants to learn from the Dutch in order to improve its immigration procedures. The two countries have agreed to exchange information and technical know-how. The exchange would involve technology for the registration of people entering the country as well as programmes for the education and training of immigration officers. A senior government official in the capital Pretoria said: “We can learn a lot from the Netherlands’ extensive experience in this field.” South Africa is no stranger to immigration, but, as one of the continents’ rising economies, has only recently begun attracting large numbers of immigrants from neighbouring countries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Number of People Living in Britain But Born Abroad Doubles to 6.9m in 30 Years

The number of people living in Britain who were born abroad has more than doubled in the past 30 years, according to an official count today.

It put the population of those born abroad at 6.9million, more than one in ten of everyone in the country.

The count of people born elsewhere in the world who have made their lives in Britain is regarded as one of the most reliable available indicators of the scale of immigration.

Although it includes many people born abroad to British parents the great majority of those included are people without British connections who have come to this country as immigrants.

The figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 1981 six per cent of the British population were foreign-born: 3.4million people. By 2001, this had risen to 4.9million and made up eight per cent of the population.

In 2009, following the record high immigration of Labour’s years in power, the proportion of those born abroad had risen to 11 per cent of the 62million population.

People born abroad include children of British parents, for example those born to Britons working abroad or to service personnel in, for example Germany.

Among them are some of the country’s most famous individuals: both Cliff Richard and Joanna Lumley, for example, were born in India.

However the great majority of those born abroad have come to this country as immigrants. Figures for people in the country with foreign nationality do not give an accurate picture of immigration since many immigrants take out British nationality.

The ONS figures, given in an article on the country’s population by National Statistician Jil Matheson, underline the impact of immigration over the past 30 years, and especially since Labour came to power in 1997.

The foreign-born population includes around 1.3 million people from the Asian sub-continent and a similar number from Africa. People born in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand together total slightly under 900,000.

Miss Matheson said: ‘Between 2001 and 2009, the estimated number of people resident in the UK who were born in Eastern European EU countries rose from 103,000 to 738,000.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spain: Police Break Up Barcelona Forgery Ring

Officers from Spain’s National Police force made seven arrests in Barcelona today, breaking up a forgery ring run by five people from the Dominican Republic and two from Ecuador.

The gang had put together a high-tech laboratory with all the latest technology and were charging between 500 and 3000 euros to supply forged documents including driving licences, residency cards and DNI cards to people living illegally in Spain.

The investigation into the forgeries began a year ago when a Bolivian man was found to have a false residency card and work permit.

The forgers made contact with their clients via three Spanish citizens originally from the Dominican Republic, who have genuine long-term work and residency permits and who have built up a network to help other immigrants get hold of the necessary documentation.

The forgers have been running a highly-organised outfit, with each person’s responsibilities clearly defined. One was the forger, another responsible for recruiting clients, another for delivering the finished forgeries, another for providing the raw materials needed to forge the documents.

The police have confiscated computers, external hard drives, laminating machines, laser printers, 13 mobile ‘phones, specialist papers, false identity papers, residency cards and driving licences, as well as legal documents that had been reported stolen by their owners.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: ‘Emperor of Crossings’ Arrested

(ANSAmed) — TUNISIA, DECEMBER 8 — Tunisia’s National Guard has arrested a man known as ‘the emperor of the crossings’ who organised a vast network of illegal immigration towards Italy. The man, who was arrested in Sfax, was wanted for his role in organising hundreds of illegal crossings.

Authorities say that the man had travelled to Sfax from Tunis, where he lives, to organise another journey to the island of Lampedusa, but was identified and arrested, along with others. Eighteen arrest warrants had previously been issued against him. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

College Slammed for Censoring Class on Islam

Warned ‘supremacist hate group’ must not be allowed to dictate education

A community college in Oregon is getting slammed for giving in to pressure from a branch of an organization that once was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror funding trial and censoring a class on Islam.

“An Islamic supremacist hate group like CAIR [Council on American-Islamic Relations] must not be allowed to intimidate our nation’s educational institutions and dictate how young Americans are to be informed about the Islamic jihad threat,” Pamela Geller, of Stop the Islamization of America wrote.

The dispute erupted when officials at Lane Community College in Eugene, Ore., were pressured by CAIR to cancel a class proposed by a teacher, Barry Sommer.

He explained he followed procedures to obtain approval for his “What is Islam?” extension course.


The Washington state CAIR chapter had spearheaded the opposition to the class. Leader Arsalan Bukhari said Sommers gave them several reasons for concern.

“There are three main concerns. One is the person’s own views that he very publicly airs. He has a website he maintains where he has a cartoon picture of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban,” Bukhari said.

“That’s something that people should know by now is very insulting to Muslims. The second is, we’re wondering what kind of educational background he has. And of course, he’s a member of ACT for America. He’s the Oregon chapter head. That’s also one of the red flags that we saw,” Bukhari said.

Bukhari accused Act for America President and founder Brigitte Gabriel of being anti-Muslim.


Bukhari told WND an “unbiased” person such as a “Muslim activist” should teach the course.

“We could have a Muslim activist as long as the person presents the information in an unbiased way. If they’ve demonstrated the ability to show information to be accurate,” Bukhari said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Defense Bill With ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Repeal Falls Short in Senate

The Senate has turned down the attempt to move to final debate and votes on a defense bill that would repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The vote was 57-40, three short of the 60 needed.

Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, called a key procedural vote on repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy despite having failed to reach agreement with Republicans to proceed.

Republicans have indicated that without an agreement about the number of amendments and the timing of the debate, they would vote against moving forward to vote on the legislation.

Mr. Reid conceded that that the failure to reach an agreement could doom the effort to repeal the policy, which has been a key priority for President Obama and gay activists.

[Return to headlines]

High-School Hunter Faces Expulsion Over Gun Locked in Trunk

‘She possibly will have her life derailed because of … irrational zero-tolerance policy’

A teenage hunter in Montana is facing a school hearing in a few days that could derail her college plans, career hopes and even risk her identification as a “domestic terrorist” after she inadvertently parked in a school parking lot with a hunting rifle locked in a case inside her car trunk.

The report on the situation is coming from Gary Marbut of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who told WND he was contacted by the student’s mother.

The student and her mother were not available for immediate comment because of job and school schedules, and multiple WND calls to the Columbia Falls school district did not generate a response. In fact, the district office and the high school both told WND to call the other office for comment.

But Marbut told WND that the student, Demarie DeReu, will be facing a hearing on Monday at which the local school board could expel her.

“She will possibly have her life derailed because a bunch of school idiots insist that she must be subject to an irrational, ‘zero tolerance’ policy about guns in schools that does not countenance lack of bad intent. The theory that people with malice will be intimidated into good conduct if people without malice are punished in lieu of them is idiocy at its finest,” he said in his written documentation of the situation.

He said DeReu, 16, is an honor roll student, a member of the Columbia Falls High School student council and a varsity cheerleader.

She’s also a hunter.

“Although she had no intent to break any rules or laws, or harm anyone, Demarie is at risk of having her college education derailed and maybe even being identified forever as a domestic terrorist,” Marbut reported.

It was over Thanksgiving that she went hunting with family and friends, but when she returned home forgot her unloaded hunting rifle was cased and locked in the trunk of her car.

She later parked in the school parking lot but when she heard a “contraband dog” was to be working the lot, she remembered her unloaded rifle and volunteered the information to school officials.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sex Prof: Child Porn Can Do Some Good!

Theory is that offenders use images ‘as substitute’ for criminal activity

A University of Hawaii professor and director of the Pacific Center for Sex and Society is postulating that child pornography actually can serve a beneficial service to society because “potential sexual offenders use child pornography as a substitute for sex crimes against children.”

The idea by Milton Diamond, whose career includes a long list of studies and other works espousing the availability of pornography, however, is taking a bashing from critics.


Dr. Judith Reisman, whose work on pornography also has spanned the decades and who has served on presidential commissions dealing with the issues, told WND that such results would be no surprise coming from a researcher such as Diamond.

She’s a consultant, the scientific adviser for the California Protective Parents Association and former president of The Institute for Media Education. She’s consulted for four U.S. Department of Justice administrations, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“It should not surprise that Diamond (winner of the 2011 [Alfred] Kinsey Award from the Midcontinent Region of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality) like Kinsey, uses bogus ‘data’ to target children as sexual objects,” she said.

“I met many of Diamond’s pedophile-favoring colleagues at the First World Congress of Sexology in 1981. They award each other college degrees and grow in power,” she said. “Having served as a ‘Distinguished Lecturer’ for the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality (IASHS) in San Francisco, Diamond is a long time advocate for legalizing any age victim for pornography/prostitution employment.”

She said Diamond’s institute service “was carried out under Wardell Pomeroy, Kinsey’s co-author and part-time lover.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Assange’s ‘Poison Pill’ File Impossible to Stop, Expert Says

(CNN) — The Poison Pill. The Doomsday Files. Or simply, The Insurance.

Whatever you call the file Julian Assange has threatened to release if he’s imprisoned or dies or WikiLeaks is destroyed, it’s impossible to stop.

“It’s all tech talk to say, ‘I have in my hand a button and if I press it or I order my friends to press it, it will go off,’“ said Hemu Nigam, who has worked in computer security for more than two decades, in the government and private sector.

“Julian is saying, ‘I’ve calibrated this so that no matter how many ways you try, you’re never going to be able to deactivate it,’“ Nigam said. “He’s sending a call to action to hackers to try it. To the government, he’s also saying, ‘Try me.’“

There’s a reason Assange specifically announced — on the Web — that there is a 256-bit key encryption code that only a few trusted associates know that will unleash the contents of the 1.4 gigabyte-size file.

“He’s saying don’t even bother trying. It will take you so long to succeed that by that time, it will be too late,” Nigam said. “Most of the time, you see a 56-[bit]key encryption. That’s considered secure. When you are using 256, you are sending a message: ‘I’m smart enough to know that you will try to get in.’“…

[Return to headlines]

Blue Whale Feeding Methods Are Ultra-Efficient

Blue whales are the biggest and perhaps most efficient animals alive. Their method of filter-feeding takes in 90 times more energy than it uses.

The enormous mammals dive up to 500 metres beneath the surface, then lunge into the swarms of tiny krill above them at several metres per second. As they strike, their massive mouths fill with huge volumes of water, including plenty of krill. The water is pushed out through the filters, or baleen, in each whale’s mouth, trapping the krill.

This feeding technique takes a lot of effort due to the energy needed for the lunges. “We wondered how they coped,” says Robert Shadwick of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Shadwick’s colleague Jeremy Goldbogen of the University of California, San Diego, led a team who set out to track blue whales as they fed. In small boats they zoomed up alongside surfacing whales and attached tracking devices to them using suction caps.

Energy efficient

In total the team tracked 265 blue whales as they carried out 200 foraging dives and 654 lunges. From the speeds the whales reached while lunging, they calculated that each lunge used about 3200 kilojoules of energy.

That may seem high, but it was dwarfed by the amount of energy the whales got from their food. Based on known krill densities in the whales’ feeding grounds, each lunge netted between 34,000 and 1,912,000 kJ — up to 237 times the energy used. Even when the energy costs of diving are included, the whales still gained 90 times the energy they used.

Shadwick says the results could explain how blue whales survive their migratory lifestyles. They feed in Antarctic waters in the summer, then head north to their tropical breeding grounds where little food is available. Even so, the females must still produce enormous volumes of milk for their calves. “This explains how they can cope with seasonal starvation,” Shadwick says.

Foraging whales must have high densities of krill for their feeding methods to be effective, says Alejandro Acevedo-Gutiérrez of Western Washington University in Bellingham. Lunge feeders “have to get more bang for the time underwater, so to speak”, he says.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Experts Challenge Story of Arsenic-Loving Bacteria

NASA’s big astrobiology news last week had nothing to do with E.T., of course—the team behind a study in Science announced the find of a kind of bacteria that appear to thrive in arsenic and can even use it in place of phosphorus in the backbone of its DNA double helix. But after the big announcement finally happened and squelched the more imaginative rumors, scientists started asking some hard questions about the study online…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Global Warming Ideology Still on Top

The science has crumbled, but too much money backs the scare

Through the tireless work of hundreds of thousands of mostly unpaid activists, aided by unquestioning journalists, grant-seeking scientists, pandering politicians, opportunistic or naive industries and well-meaning but misinformed citizens, climate campaigners made “stopping global warming” a cause celebre. The warmists’ message was pounded out, free of charge, daily for years: “We in the West are causing a planetary emergency and the poor of the world are the primary victims.” Celebrities, leading scientists and charismatic mega-fauna such as the polar bear were recruited as the faces of responsible environmental stewardship.

As a result, massive donations from left-wing foundations poured in to groups focused on promoting alarm. With unprecedented resources at their disposal, climate campaigners hired communications and legal exerts to help craft long-term, often ruthless strategies to sway public opinion and frighten industry away from effectively defending itself. Meanwhile, throughout the 1980s and ‘90s, nature cooperated. Global warming, later to become “climate change,” was ready for prime time.

It wasn’t long before scientifically illiterate politicians faced intense pressure to “do something to save the planet.” And so, instead of helping educate the public about climate realities or even seeking qualified alternative opinions, they capitulated, signing international agreements prescribing crippling restrictions on “global warming pollution.” Western governments then diverted billions of dollars of public money to help finance climate alarmism, resulting in the creation of countless climate-change public- and private-sector jobs. These bureaucrats then rewarded activists with yet more grants and donations, which were used to push governments and industry to do still more.

Today, climate alarmism is de rigueur “science” in virtually all public schools, colleges and universities. Most mainstream media, corporations, even churches and essentially all environmental organizations promote the now politically correct view of human-caused climate change. Aside from President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic, not a single prominent world leader contests the hypothesis that humanity’s CO2 emissions are causing dangerous global warming. The fact that the basic science behind the scare is crumbling appears to have no impact on these groups. Instead, science is cherry-picked to prop up public policy that has more to do with pleasing vested interests and satisfying social ideology than protecting the environment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greenland’s Ice Has Secret Weapon Against Melting

Greenland’s vast ice sheets are proving surprisingly resilient. That means the glaciers will melt only slowly as the climate warms, provided it does so steadily. However, wild changes in the weather could make them melt much faster.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

People With ‘Warrior Gene’ Better at Risky Decisions

It’s been called the “warrior gene” — a mutation that seems to make people more aggressive. Now researchers report that people with this gene may not be aggressive, just better at spotting their own interests.

Previous research has found that people with MAOA-L, a gene that controls signalling chemicals in the brain, can be more aggressive. But there is enormous controversy about this, as the gene’s effects seem to vary with people’s backgrounds.

Cary Frydman and colleagues at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have now found that people with MAOA-L “just make better choices”, says Frydman. “This isn’t the same as aggression.”

Raising the stakes

Variants of the gene MAOA produce less or more of an enzyme that degrades several signalling chemicals, known as neurotransmitters. People with MAOA-L, which results in less of the enzyme, sometimes show more aggression or impulsivity — but not always.

To try to dissect these differences, Frydman gave 83 male volunteers 140 hypothetical choices. With 3 minutes for each choice, the men had to decide whether they preferred a sure thing, say being given $2, or a risky option, for example a 50:50 chance of gaining $10 or losing $5.

Previous research has shown that these choices can be used to reveal each person’s overall aversion to risk. The team found this did not differ in people with or without MAOA-L.

But the calculation also allowed them to look at how often each person took the risky option that would also do them the most good. At every level of risk aversion among the participants, “the MAOA-L carriers were better at choosing what — for them — was the more beneficial option”.

The results are consistent with previous research, says Frydman, but his team could distinguish for the first time between the two components of each decision: deciding how much each option was worth , then comparing them. The MAOA-L carriers were better at the second part.

Pay attention

This edge may look like aggression or impulsivity in some situations, but may simply reflect more focused attention, thinks Frydman. “If two gamblers are counting cards, and one is making a lot of bets, it may look like he’s more aggressive or impulsive. But you don’t know what cards he’s counting — he may just be responding to good opportunities.”

“Previous studies that have associated MAOA-L with aggression or impulsivity might have to be interpreted carefully,” says Antonio Rangel, who heads the lab where Frydman works. “The key question is whether, in the context of the lives of the subjects, these decisions were optimal or not.”

In a study published last year Dominic Johnson of the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that MAOA-L carriers were more aggressive, but only after a large provocation and without apparent impulsiveness. “That could be explained by this new work,” he says, because his subjects seemed to be acting in strategic self-interest, the very thing Frydman’s MAOA-L carriers were good at. This also suggests how such behaviour — and the gene that shapes it — could be selected by evolution.

The implications go beyond the so-called “warrior gene”. As gene sequencing gets cheaper, says Frydman, there will be more efforts to link genes to behaviour. To do that accurately, researchers will need to define the components of behaviour as carefully as they do the DNA.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sex Boosts Happiness in Neurotic Newlyweds

Neuroticism can make relationships tough, but according to new research, the cure is between the sheets.

Neurotic newlyweds who have frequent sexual relations are just as satisfied with their marriages as their less neurotic counterparts, according to a study published in the October issue of the quarterly journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. The findings are important because neurotic people struggle with relationships and have higher rates of divorce than people who aren’t neurotic.

“High levels of neuroticism are more strongly associated with bad marital outcomes than any other personality factor,” study authors Michelle Russell and James McNulty of the University of Tennessee said in a statement.

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotion. People who are high in the trait get upset easily, change their mood often and worry frequently.

But sex in marriage seems to ease these neurotic effects. Russell and McNulty followed 72 newlywed couples during the first four years of their marriages. Every six months, both spouses separately and privately reported their marital satisfaction and sexual activity.

On average, couples reported having sex once a week for the first six months of marriage and about three times a month by the fourth year. The amount of sex a couple had wasn’t tied to their marital satisfaction, the researchers found. Sometimes happy couples had lots of sex, and sometimes they had very little.

But neurotic couples were an exception. Spouses with high levels of neuroticism were happier in their marriages if they had more sex, the study found. In fact, frequent sex was enough to wipe away the “happiness deficit” that neurotic people start out with: Getting busy made them as satisfied in their marriages, on average, as non-neurotic newlyweds…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Future is Here: Cyborgs Walk Among Us

“Cyborg is your grandma with a hearing aid, her replacement hip, and anyone who runs around with one of those Bluetooth in-ear headsets,” said Kosta Grammatis, an engineer who also worked with Spence on the EyeBorg project.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

YouTube Employing Extra Staff to Tackle Al-Qaeda Hate Videos

Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, said that the company was “adding people to do reviews of videos” as it is very hard algorithmically to monitor inappropriate comment. Talking to a small group of journalists at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, he went further and said that it was “impossible” to monitor 100 per cent of the content the site receives, which is why YouTube has to rely upon a mixture of algorithm-driven detection and its community to report inappropriate content. The question whether YouTube needs to be more proactively edit the video-sharing site, to which 35 hours of content are uploaded to per minute, has come to the fore following the removal of several al-Qaeda videos which promoted violence. Two weeks ago YouTube began removing al-Qaeda videos from its website after the British Government contacted the White House to complain about the material.

A number of clips by Anwar al-Awlaki, believed to have been the mastermind of the cargo bomb plot, were deleted from the video-sharing site. However scores more, including incendiary calls to wage war on non-Muslims, remain. A Google search for one of the most provocative videos — entitled 44 Ways to Support Jihad — on Google brings up more than a hundred results from YouTube. Several of the top results have now been blocked although the bulk of the rest remain available. Users clicking on the deleted content were confronted with a message saying: “This video has been removed because its content violated YouTube’s terms of service.” A spokesman for YouTube, at the time, said it was looking into the Awlaki videos and would “remove all those which break our rules”. He said the website had “community guidelines that prohibit dangerous or illegal activities such as bomb-making, hate speech or incitement to commit specific and serious acts of violence”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Nick said...

Blatter appears to be admitting that the World Cup was going to go to a nation like Qatar no matter what anyone else said or did.

But he didn't let on until after the event.

Which is kind of the point being made in the English papers.