Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101211

Financial Crisis
»Alitalia Investors Poised to Collect Government Bonds
»Hot Air From the Unsustainable Wind-Energy Industry
»Political Class, Middle America Headed in Opposite Directions on Economy
»The Euro Will Not Fail, Schäuble Says
»Alabama Store Owner Sparks Outrage After Putting Up Electronic Message Banning Muslims From His Shop
»Army Star: Islam Poses Threat to U.S.
»College Told to Halt Islam-Induced Speech Limits
»Holder Reassures Muslims of DOJ’s Anti-Bias Focus
»Holder Tells Muslim Group Stings Are ‘Essential’
»Radical Jihadism is Not a Mental Disorder
»Son of Disgraced Financier Bernie Madoff Found Hanged in His New York Apartment on Second Anniversary of His Father’s Arrest
»The Best of the Best Shuttle Launches Footage
Europe and the EU
»Being Born a Poster Child for the Third Reich
»EADS Boss Louis Gallois on the A380: ‘I Was Told There Was a Problem’
»Film Says 1,000 Italian Villages Have Been Abandoned Because of Ghosts
»German Troops Stationed in France for First Time Since WWII
»Manipulating the Political Dwarves of Europe
»Spanish Town Becomes First to Ban Face-Covering Veils
»Sweden: Car Explodes in Central Stockholm, 2 Injured
»UK: Anti-Islamophobia Parliamentary Group Drop ‘Islamist’ Secretariat
»UK: David Miliband Paid £25,000 for Speech at Luxury Middle East Resort
»UK: Harman Praises ‘Hero’ Immigrants Who Send Welfare Handouts Home
»UK: London’s Hub of Israel Hate
»UK: One in Four Trainee Teachers is a Dunce: Thousands Struggle to Pass Simple Literacy and Numeracy Tests
»UK: Pensioner Wearing His Old RAF Jacket is Headbutted by Thugs Shouting ‘Death to the Soldiers’
»UK: Photos: ‘Stupid and Reckless Blunder’ Which Left Camilla Cowering on Car Floor After Being Hit With Stick by Anarchist Mob
»UK: Time to Attack Local Terrorism
»UK: Toddler’s ‘Cold’ Was Cancer: Doctors Send Girl, 16months, Home Three Times Before Tumour is Discovered
»UK: Teen Girl Whipped by Brute Bature Bashir
»UK: Theresa May Pressed to Halt Visit by Anti-Muslim US Preacher
»UK: We’re Powerless to Prevent More Violence, Police Forced to Admit
»Wikileaks Cables: Pope Wanted Muslim Turkey Kept Out of EU
»Wikileaks ‘Rape’ Victims Had Hidden Agendas … and I’ve Seen the Proof Says Assange Lawyer
»Croatia: Former Police Official Arrested for War Crimes
»Serbia: Nobel Prize Boycott Splits Politicians and Public
North Africa
»‘Coptic Blood is Not Cheap’ Says Egyptian Coptic Pope
»Egypt: Court Listens to Witnesses of Muslim Brotherhood International Organization Case
»Shark Attack Victim: ‘I Thought it Was a Dolphin, Then it Sank Its Teeth Into Me, Biting Again and Again’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Terrorism: Can You Really Stop a Bomber by Asking, ‘Are You Terrorist?’
»Why Did U.S. Peace Process Diplomacy Fail; What Happens Next?
Middle East
»Iranian Man to be Blinded as Punishment
»Notes From an Undeclared Cold War
»Obama and Arab Imperialism
»Saudi Media Fall for Obama Muslim Joke
»This Exists: Vladimir Putin Sings Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”
»Wikileaks Cables: Russia ‘Was Tracking Killers of Alexander Litvinenko But UK Warned it Off’
South Asia
»Newlywed Swedish Man Kidnapped in Pakistan
Latin America
»In Mexico, A Legal Breakdown Invites Brutal Justice
»Sweden to Stop Asylum Expulsions to Greece
Culture Wars
»CAIR’s Hate Crime Campaign Thoroughly Consistent With Policy of Advancing Shari’a
»Canada: Grinch U — Where the Academics Stole Christmas
»College Told to Halt Islam-Induced Speech Limits
»Merry Christmas — Classic Canadian Words
»Payout for Anti-Gay Preacher Over Arrest: Landmark Ruling in Christian’s Battle for Free Speech
»When it Comes to Religious Hate Crime, The Jews Are the Chosen People.
»How to Settle, Once and for All, The Whole “What’s a Planet?” Debate
»Lord Monckton: Abdication of the West at COP16 Cancun, Mexico
»Streetlight Effect
»Swine Flu Redux
»Swine Flu and Vigilance
»The United (Muslim) Nations?
»Two Black Georgia Democrats Bolt Party for GOP

Financial Crisis

Alitalia Investors Poised to Collect Government Bonds

Rome, 7 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Investors in Italy’s largest airline Alitalia will soon be able to collect Italian government bonds they were offered in exchange for their securities after the former national carrier was declared insolvent in 2008.

The finance ministry said in a statement that its decree permitting the swap had been published in the government’s official gazette, allowing for the bonds with a nominal value of 312.9 million euros to be transferred to the Bank of Italy for disbursement.

Under the initial terms of the plan, bondholders were due to recoup 71 percent of their securities’ nominal value. Shareholders will be allowed to swap their stock for the bonds at a value of about 27 cents a share.

Alitalia was put into bankruptcy administration in August, 2008 and broken up in early 2009. The passenger-flight business is now owned by a group of Italian investors and Air France-KLM group, while the rest of the company is operating under protection from creditors.

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

Hot Air From the Unsustainable Wind-Energy Industry

More unsustainable than it is sustainable, Wind industry pleas for subsidy

Wind energy; you hear a lot about how great it is. But what is the truth? Well, apparently this source of power which environmental activists tout as the solution to all of our problems is more unsustainable than it is sustainable.

Right now the wind-energy industry is lobbying hard to get subsidies which have sustained it renewed. For all the bluster about how great this alternative source of energy is, apparently it is not very economically feasible and has become yet another government boondoggle along the lines of the whole ethanol industry.

Just perusing the articles of the past couple days we see that those making their living off wind-energy are really concerned about not getting their hands into the precious government cookie jar. At, there is an article called “Wind industry pleas for subsidy”.

The article bemoans how these subsidies are keeping the industry afloat and how the loss of the subsidy, ostensibly because of evil people soon to take over the House of Representatives, would cost jobs. Yes, it is the same old government creates jobs song and dance that we have heard many times before. Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, is quoted in the article as laying the ground work for the complaint as to what will happen if those dastardly Republicans do not give them their money. “No one will want to have another series of people, a group of people in unemployment lines, in the renewable sector,” she said.

Hey Denise, sweetheart, why not find a way to actually make money instead of trying the same old complaints about how without government you cannot succeed? This article also points out how wind installations dropped from 10 gigawatts in 2009 to 5.5 gigawatts this year despite the subsidy. But, miraculously if the subsidies are renewed that number will jump to “seven to eight gigawatts in 2011” or so Ms. Bode’s group claims. Again, you cannot increase installation capacity on your own why exactly? Possibly some sort of economic laws which, try as you might, cannot be violated?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Political Class, Middle America Headed in Opposite Directions on Economy

by Mark Tapscott

A new Rasmussen Reports survey turns up new evidence of a yawning divide between the nation’s Political Class and the rest of the country on what to do about the federal government’s fiscal crisis.


“It’s telling to note that while 65% of mainstream voters believe cutting spending is more important, 72% of the Political Class say the primary emphasis should be on deficit reduction,” Rasmussen said.

The same survey found a distinct lack of optimism among mainstream voters concerning the prospects that 2011 will see much progress being made by President Obama, the Democratic Senate and Republican House.

“Most voters are still not convinced, even with a new Republican majority in the House, that Congress will actually cut government spending substantially over the next year. GOP voters are among the most doubtful,” the pollster said.

“Sixty-nine percent (69%) of voters, in fact, are pessimistic about what Congress will accomplish in terms of government spending.”


[Return to headlines]

The Euro Will Not Fail, Schäuble Says

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble on Saturday warned speculators on the financial markets not to bet against the euro, as European leaders prepared for a summit next week to shore up the embattled currency.

“Whoever bets his money against the euro will not succeed,” Schäuble told the mass circulation weekly Bild am Sonntag, in an interview to appear in Sunday’s edition.

“The euro will not fail,” added the minister, amid speculation that debt crises in some countries of the 16-nation zone could bring down the currency.

“All those in charge in Europe are agreed: The euro brings us all advantages. And therefore we will successfully defend it,” Schäuble added.

The finance minister also set out the stakes if the crises in Ireland and Greece were to spread to Portugal, Spain and others, forcing one of the countries from the eurozone.

“Even if one of the small countries were to leave, the consequences would be incalculable,” Schäuble said.

“And when I look back at the effects of the Lehman Brothers crash, I say, ‘Let’s not make the same mistake twice,’“ he concluded, referring to the collapse of the large US investment bank that sparked the financial crisis.

EU leaders will meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss setting up a permanent crisis fund for the euro area after its current fund expires in 2013.

The EU decided on May 9 to create a €750-billion ($992-billion) joint fund with the International Monetary Fund, a mixture of loans and guarantees from eurozone and EU partners for troubled states.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Alabama Store Owner Sparks Outrage After Putting Up Electronic Message Banning Muslims From His Shop

An Alabama store owner has sparked fury after putting up a ‘joke message’ saying Muslims were banned from his shop.

Chuck Biddinger, who owns the Electronic Repair Company, put up the sign which read: ‘BBQ pork restaurant is safest, no Muslims inside’.

He has refused to apologise for putting up the message and insists he has received more support than criticism.

Defiant: Chuck Biddinger, owner of Electronic Repair Company, as refused to apologise for putting up a sign saying ‘No Muslims inside’

He told TV station ABC 33/40: ‘Muslims do not eat pork. It’s a known fact that Muslims have tried to commit crimes in this country.

‘I have gotten a few complaints about it, but for every one complaint about it I’ve had, 10 people tell me that they like it and support it.

‘I never thought about that until it got picked up on the internet and it went totally viral when I put this sign up.’

It is not the first time Mr Biddinger has hit the headlines for his electronic messages.

In May he posted a message that caused outrage among domestic violence groups in Alabama which read: ‘A dog is wiser than a woman — it does not bark at its master.’

Mr Biddinger put out a public service announcement urging victims of domestic violence to call a hotline after he received strong criticism.

He added: ‘For the local area, if I offend a few Muslims, there will be a lot of people who support it. I believe it’s a positive.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Army Star: Islam Poses Threat to U.S.

Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin’s first words to an audience of about 300 on Friday set the tone for the three-part lecture on current events and military history he will give this weekend at the Owego Treadway Inn.

“Do we have any Muslims in here?” he asked. “Who’s in here to cause trouble?”

Boykin’s talk on Friday was the first of his three-part discussion, “America and the Greatest Threat of our Time.” His lecture will continue with the second and third installments today at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the Owego Treadway Inn.

“I believe today we face as great a threat as we faced in 1776,” Boykin said. “The situation in America is much far more serious than most Americans realize, and there’s no longer any excuse for not knowing.”

That threat, he said, is Islam.

“You need to remember one thing from tonight’s presentation,” Boykin told the audience. “Their objective is to replace our Constitution with Sharia Law.”

Boykin spent 36 years in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant general in 2007. He was the U.S. undersecretary of defense for intelligence during part of the George W. Bush administration.

Boykin also was an original member of the Army’s elite special operations unit, Delta Force. He either commanded or served on Delta Force missions in Iran, Grenada, Columbia and Somalia.

He was the Army’s mission commander during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, depicted in the movie “Black Hawk Down.”

He said his experiences on these missions have led him to believe that Islam poses a threat to America.

“You need to understand that this is a war of ideology — it’s not a war of Islam versus Christianity,” Boykin said. “This is a war of Islam against everybody that is not submitted to Allah. Now because most of the world is Christian, it falls out that most of the people who are under persecution, or the targets of Islam, are Christians.”

Boykin said the way to solve what he considers the greatest threat of our times is to change the religious belief of Muslims.

“I have no resentment, no animosity towards them because I know that they’re living under a hall of darkness,” Boykin said, “and I know that the ultimate resolution to this is to take the gospel to them, to bring light to them.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

College Told to Halt Islam-Induced Speech Limits

Legal team says institution ‘not free to breach contract, censor viewpoints’

A community college in Oregon that abruptly and without explanation canceled a “What is Islam” class it already had approved following complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror financing trial, is being warned its actions violate the U.S. Constitution and the class should be reinstated.

“While CAIR is free to exercise its freedom of speech to criticize viewpoints with which it disagrees, [Lane Community College] is not free to breach a contract and censor viewpoints in the name of ‘sensitivity’ or political correctness,” said a newly released letter from the American Center for Law and Justice.

“For a biased and questionable group such as CAIR to willfully try to interfere with a contract and attempt to stifle First Amendment rights of any potential opposition is to be entirely expected. However, for a state institution to follow suit is not!” said the letter signed by CeCe Heil, senior counsel for the ACLJ.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Holder Reassures Muslims of DOJ’s Anti-Bias Focus

MILLBRAE, Calif. (AP) — Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated his resolve to prosecute hate crimes while standing behind the methods used in anti-terrorism cases during a speech Friday night before a Muslim advocacy group near San Francisco.

Speaking to Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based group, Holder told the group that he’s heard from many Muslim and Arab Americans who feel uneasy and singled out by law enforcement.

The organization is one of several groups voicing concerns over hate crimes, alleged rights violations at the hands of law enforcement and the tactics used in anti-terrorism cases.

Carefully-crafted sting operations by FBI and Justice Department officials have included plots against a Portland, Ore., Christmas celebration, Dallas skyscrapers, Washington subways, a Chicago nightclub and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Undercover operatives in these cases have let suspects make clear they wanted to carry out an attack and gave them a chance to change their mind, according to authorities.

But Holder told the group he would make “no apologies” for the handling of the case against Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, a Somali-born Muslim accused of plotting to set off a bomb in Oregon.

“Those who characterize the FBI’s activities in this case as ‘entrapment’ simply do not have their facts straight or do not have a full understanding of the law.”

In that case, Mohamud has pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. After his arrest, someone set fire to an Islamic center where he occasionally worshipped.

Critics have called the stings entrapment of people who otherwise couldn’t have carried out an attack and said the government has been enticing Muslims into terrorism…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Holder Tells Muslim Group Stings Are ‘Essential’

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. defended the use of sting operations orchestrated by government informants, telling advocates for Muslim-American civil rights in remarks on Friday night that the tactic is an “essential law enforcement tool in uncovering and preventing terror attacks.”

In a 20-minute speech delivered in this suburb of San Francisco at the annual dinner of Muslim Advocates, a national legal advocacy and civil-rights organization, Mr. Holder rejected criticism by such groups that sting operations amount to improper “entrapment.”

About 300 Muslim community leaders from around the United States attended the dinner. Having a United States attorney general speak at such an event was unprecedented, the group’s president, Farhana Khera, said in an interview earlier on Friday.

Mr. Holder was given a standing ovation as he took the stage, and many applauded during his speech. But the room fell silent for several minutes while Mr. Holder defended the sting operation in an Oregon bombing attempt last month, calling it a “successful undercover operation” and not a case of entrapment. Those who think otherwise, he said, “simply do not have their facts straight.”

Ms. Khera said the group had invited the attorney general several months ago. She portrayed the Muslim-American community as torn by a mistrust of law enforcement because of what it sees as intrusive surveillance and harassment — like sending informants into mosques — and by its concerns about anti-Muslim hate crimes.

Mr. Holder said the cooperation of Muslim-Americans had been essential in preventing terrorist attacks. He said that the Justice Department was focusing on “violence, threats, vandalism and arson against Muslims and Arab-Americans,” and that in the last fiscal year federal prosecutors won convictions of more hate-crime defendants than any year but 2000.

“I believe that law enforcement has an obligation to ensure that members of every religious community enjoy the ability to worship and to practice their faith in peace, free from intimidation, violence or suspicion,” Mr. Holder said.

But he also rejected criticism of some counterterrorism techniques used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including sending informants into mosques in search of would-be terrorists and creating elaborate sting operations enabling them to carry out fake attacks using dummy bombs.

Ms. Khera emphasized that Muslim Advocates recognized that “there are actual threats that do exist and as Americans who care about the country, we want law enforcement to be effective.”

But the complex “entrapment operations,” she contended, may be getting people involved in terrorism who otherwise would not have done anything. She also argued that the operations divert investigators from “actual threats” and stoke “anti-Muslim sentiment.”

At a reception after the speech, many in the audience voiced their gratitude for Mr. Holder’s presence, saying it would help rebuild trust between U.S. law enforcement and Muslims. “This is a positive step toward engaging a vital community and perhaps one of the most important partners in combating extremism and terrorism in America,” said Wajahat Ali, 30, a lawyer and playwright from Fremont, Calif. “He said exactly what needed to be said. Now those words need to be translated into action.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Radical Jihadism is Not a Mental Disorder

The case of Omar Khadr was the first war crimes prosecution of the Obama administration, and it could set a dangerous precedent for how mental health professionals are used in terrorism trials.

I attended the proceedings in October — the first American tribunal for a child soldier since World War II — because I had been working with Khadr’s defense team for two years. I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a retired Army brigadier general; the defense had asked me to evaluate Khadr’s physical and mental health, as well as advise on military procedure.

As I listened to the prosecution’s expert testimony depicting Khadr’s state of mind, I was reminded of psychiatry and the politicization of mental health under the Soviet regime. Those were the years when political dissidents were accused of insanity simply because they had the audacity to challenge the Soviet system. The medical profession, especially psychiatry, was a political instrument of control and repression.

Prosecutors from the military and the Justice Department built their case against Khadr largely on testimony from their expert witness, forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner, whom they called upon to offer a medical opinion on Khadr’s mental condition. Welner, a physician in private practice in New York and a professor at New York University, is developing the Depravity Scale, a tool that is intended to help juries judge the heinous or evil nature of a crime.

Painting a broad picture of the defendant, prosecutors portrayed Khadr as an unrepentant and dangerous warrior who threw a grenade that killed a special forces medic during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr was 15 years old at the time. Army medics saved his life after he was shot in the back twice and the compound where he lived was bombed to rubble.

During the trial, according to my notes and observations, Welner depicted Khadr as a continuing risk to society. “In my professional opinion, Omar Khadr is at a high risk of dangerousness as a radical jihadist,” Welner said. Based on hundreds of hours of reviewing records and interviewing witnesses, and 7 to 8 hours of examining the prisoner, the doctor said he concluded that Khadr was a radical jihadist who was at risk of inspiring others to violent acts in the future.

But radical jihadism is not a clinical condition, and diagnosing it is not within the domain of psychiatric experts. Radical jihadism is an ideology — and can be embraced by the psychiatrically sane and insane alike.

Beyond being simply unscientific, however, the testimony had another troubling aspect. Welner relied, in part, on the research of a particularly egregious source: Danish educational psychologist Nicolai Sennels.

Welner noted that there are few academic or medical sources on the “future dangerousness” of “radical jihadists who have been apprehended and detained.” Sennels, he said, is an exception. Welner described the lengthy conversation the two men had held and said his perspective was informed in part by Sennels’s research on Muslim youth whom he treated as a prison psychologist. But Welner wasn’t familiar with all of Sennels’s written work. As the defense explained during cross-examination, Sennels is also known for inflammatory views on Islam, having claimed that “massive inbreeding within the Muslim culture during the last 1,400 years may have done catastrophic damage to their gene pool.” Sennels has described the Koran as “a criminal book that forces people to do criminal things.” Welner specifically repudiated these views in court.

In making its case against Khadr, the government relied on Welner’s professional status as a forensic psychiatrist to put a scientific sheen on what were essentially lay opinions. The prosecutors depicted Khadr as a probably violent and radical charismatic leader. He had pleaded guilty to murder (albeit in a firefight when he was 15), was a devout Muslim and was well-liked by both detainees and guards, so he had to be dangerous. Through testimony disguised as expert psychiatric opinion, the prosecution portrayed Khadr as having “marinated” in jihadi thinking before and during his long internment at Guantanamo, and described him as a “rock star” who, as the son of a close lieutenant of Osama bin Laden’s, enjoyed the adulation of other detainees.

How should Khadr be treated, then, according to the prosecution? He was a candidate for what they called “deradicalization,” much like Saudi Arabia has carried out with other detainees who have returned from Guantanamo. Unfortunately, they noted, such programs are not available in the United States or Canada.

Khadr’s attorneys, who were concerned that the trial could degenerate into a battle between experts, chose not to call the defense mental health experts who know him well. That means I didn’t get to take the stand. If I had, I would have said — without violating the confidentiality of my work for more than two years with Khadr, and after spending more than 200 clinical hours with him — that he does not need “deradicalization” and does not show any proclivity toward committing terrorist acts. What he needs and deserves is physical and mental health treatment. He suffered extensive wounds, had multiple surgeries, is blind in his left eye and lives with the aftereffects of his injuries and interrogations.

The defense opted instead to allow Khadr to make the statement that he wanted to make, believing that his words would be more powerful than anything a mental health expert could say. Khadr apologized to the medic’s widow and gave a moving repudiation of hate and violence…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Son of Disgraced Financier Bernie Madoff Found Hanged in His New York Apartment on Second Anniversary of His Father’s Arrest

The son of jailed financier Bernie Madoff was found dead in New York today as his two-year-old son slept in the next room.

Mark Madoff, 46, was found hanging by a dog leash in his SoHo loft apartment on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest.

His body was discovered by his father-in-law, Martin London, at 7.30am this morning.

Mr Madoff’s wife Stephanie, who is in Florida with their other son, four, had raised the alarm after she received a series of disturbing emails from her husband.

Mark and his brother, Andrew, were under investigation but hadn’t faced any criminal charges in the massive Ponzi scheme that led to their father’s jailing.

‘He was found hanged in his apartment. It was an apparent suicide,’ a police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Mark Madoff’s lawyer, Martin Flumenbaum, said: ‘This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.

‘Mark was an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.’

Police sources said that Mr Madoff’s wife Stephanie became concerned about her husband after he sent an e-mail to her Friday night or early Saturday morning saying that someone should check on their son who was him in his apartment.

She then asked her father to check on the home, where he found Madoff’s body.

The child was sleeping in a bedroom unharmed and a dog was also found in the apartment.

Bernie Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after he was found guilty in June 2009 of swindling more than £45bn in the elaborate fraud.

Both Mark and Andrew had worked in senior positions for their father’s securities firm since their twenties and supervised Madoff’s stock-trading desks.

But it was a side of the firm not directly involved in the Ponzi scheme.

The 72-year-old former Wall St. genius was forced to sell his Manhattan and Florida homes as U.S. authorities seized all his assets.

His 67-year-old wife lives in Florida, where she carries out ‘Meals on Wheels’ charity work.

A year ago, the court-appointed trustee trying to unravel Madoff’s financial affairs sued several relatives, including Peter — Bernard’s brother, who played a prominent role in the family’s company — Mark and Andrew, accusing them of failing to detect the fraud while living lavish lifestyles financed with the family’s ill-gotten fortune.

The lawsuit accused Mark Madoff of using $66m he received improperly to buy luxury homes in New York City, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In February, Mark Madoff’s wife petitioned a court to change her last name and the last names of her children, saying her family had received threats and was humiliated by the scandal.

On 11 December 2008, Madoff summoned his sons to his New York penthouse flat to tell them his investment business was ‘one big lie’.

They were devastated. Andrew lay crying on the floor of the kitchen and Mark reacted in fury.

Friends told Vanity Fair magazine that Andrew condemned his father’s ‘biblical’ betrayal. His wife, Deborah, reportedly filed for divorce on the day of her father-in-law’s arrest.

One former Madoff employee, named only as Deborah, said the sons ‘wouldn’t have been able to do what Bernie did: they just didn’t have the evilness in them.’

But she added: ‘If I were to say that Mark and Andy are innocent, I’d get people looking at me like I’m absolutely nuts.’

Mark was said to be obsessed by the scandal, poring endlessly over newspaper and Internet reports.

Twenty-four hours after his father told him what he had done, Mark was said to have missed the office Christmas party and gone home to lay on his bed, fully clothed, without moving for four hours.

After the initial furore died down, he tried unsuccessfully to get a job in trading before starting his own company making applications for iPads.

But the scandal would not go away. Mark recently had been using an email address that does not include his first or last name.

According to the Wall Street Journal, he and his wife Stephanie bought a $6.5m home in Nantucket, Massachusetts in 2008. It is currently for sale.

One of Andrew’s friends, Alexandra Lebenthal, told the magazine that his mood brightened after his father was sent to jail.

‘That was meaningful for him in terms of getting to the next level,’ she said.

She added that Andrew’s priority was to make his daughters understand that ‘just because their grandfather turned out to be one of the worst criminals ever didn’t mean they’re bad people.’

He told friends when his father was jailed that he couldn’t find it in his heart to take pity him.

The magazine claimed the sons cold-shouldered their mother because they believed her tendency to side with her husband, no matter what, enabled his pyramid scheme fraud to succeed for so long.

Madoff wrote to his sons from jail and sent them a gift of a vintage Paul Neman Rolex Daytona, a Piaget and a Cartier Tank watch.

He wrote:’Dear Mark and Andy, If you can bear to keep these watches, they are given with my love. If not, give them to someone who might. Love, Dad.’

A trader who was friends with the family said Madoff considered his sons ‘soft’ because he had worked to make his fortune while they had been given everything on a plate.

‘Mark and Andy had never gone against him. They were always trying to please him, and never could,’ he told Vanity Fair.

Mark’s death is not the first following the fraud scandal. A billionaire associate of Madoff was found dead at his Florida mansion.

Jeffry Picower was discovered at the bottom of his swimming pool in Palm Beach — a seaside playground for America’s rich and famous.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

The Best of the Best Shuttle Launches Footage

by Rick Resteroni

What follows is not the usual fare and in fact may be most suitable for the geeky set but I found it fascinating:

Matt Melis, a longtime NASA engineer, has taken to the ‘Tube to show off what he calls “the best of the best” imagery from shuttle launches, including hi-definition video…


[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Being Born a Poster Child for the Third Reich

How is it discovering you’re the product of a Nazi breeding scheme, Heinrich Himmler’s godson and the bastard child of a war criminal? Exberliner’s Titus Chalk has one man’s story.

“This reminds me of the mug shots they took of the Polish children,” says Guntram Weber, 67, as he’s being photographed. He acquiesces patiently though, posing this way and that — no model, but a man bred to the ‘purely beautiful’ — the child and pride of the bygone utopia of a pure Aryan world.

His genes, in fact, were once amongst Germany’s most prized, but his parentage remained a mystery to him for decades. Born in 1943 in the Third Reich’s Posen (now Poznan in Poland), Weber is a child of Lebensborn, one of National Socialism’s most insidious schemes.

“As a child I remember sensing that I wasn’t quite normal,” he says softly, his tall, angular frame perched on the sofa of his homely Kreuzberg flat. “Family members treated me awkwardly.” His mother was ‘his rock’, but he soon realised her husband was his stepfather, not his biological one. The ensuing insecurity consumed his youth but this was not unusual for a generation shorn of fathers. However the details he would later discover on his identity most certainly were.

Aryan breeding programme

Lebensborn, ‘spring of life’ in old German, was a programme founded in 1935 aimed at increasing birth rates of Aryan children in the Third Reich. SS officers and other high-ranking Nazis with demonstrable Aryan pedigree were encouraged to sow their seed beyond marriages to create a blue-eyed and blonde-haired master race to perpetuate Adolf Hitler’s Germania. As SS leader Heinrich Himmler, the Lebensborn founder and a key figure in Weber’s life, said: “I want to save every drop of good German blood.”

This meant establishing a network of 26 maternity homes in German territory where racially ‘pure’ mothers could give birth to illegitimate children sired by SS lovers away from society’s stigmatising glare. Though lurid tales of breeding farms are wide of the mark, the homes provided a refuge for young women — if they could prove heritage back to their grandfather.

Children were conceived out of love, by mistake or through naivety. Other women certainly conceived on ideological grounds, but for many the choice was a pragmatic one: the promise of support and secrecy from prying eyes in a conservative society. Mothers would slip off to the homes to give birth discreetly.

There, they enjoyed the best medical facilities and ration-busting supplies of food while their children suffered a harsh welcome to the world, modelled on the Spartan practice of exposure greatly admired by Hitler. “You were separated from your mother as soon as you were born and kept away from her for the first 24 hours of your life,” Weber later learned. “Then you would only be given back to her for 20 minutes every four hours and during that time she was strongly discouraged from talking to you or caressing you.”

Children would spend their earliest months or years at the homes in what amounted to being the Third Reich’s crèche, receiving an SS education while awaiting adoption by SS families if their single mothers did not want them. As the war progressed they were joined by Aryan-looking Polish children forcibly sent back from the front to be ‘Germanised’.

As Weber’s mother once told him in an unguarded moment: “The relationship between mother and child is a power struggle.” For the SS, a child’s will existed only to be broken.

Kept in the dark

It is a miracle that Weber has a story to recount at all. Without the will to surmount feelings of shame and persevere in his search for answers, he would still be in the dark that characterised most of his life. Even today, tears fill his eyes when he describes the constant struggle he faced, searching for the truth but running scared from it, desperate to dispel lies but aching for an ostensibly normal family life with his parents and siblings: an older sister and halfbrother born after the war.

Growing up, Weber remembers the subject of his real father was taboo. Extended family members had been well-drilled by his mother to conceal the truth, explains Weber. “‘It was the war,’ they would say. ‘Things were very confusing. We didn’t see much of each other — you will have to ask her.’“ It wasn’t until he turned 13 that his mother agreed to tell him his father’s story. “‘Well Guntram,’ she said,” Weber remembers. “‘You are old enough to know the truth about your father now.’ Then she gave me a name, told me when his birthday was, when they’d been married, and that my father had been a truck driver for the Luftwaffe, far away from the front who had died driving over a landmine. She added that he certainly wasn’t involved in killing anyone.”

This sort of story was doing the rounds in various households around Germany at the time. “I should have been suspicious,” Weber admits. “But so many kids were told lies about what their parents did in the war and it just wasn’t the done thing to question them.”

Curiosity gnawed at him, but his courage to confront doubts waxed and waned. His mother’s story rang increasingly hollow with no photos or documents to back it up and Weber became convinced his father had been a Nazi. Worried, he would inspect his facial features in the mirror and pore over history books in the school library looking for men who bore him some resemblance. For a terrible period he even feared Josef Goebbels might be his father.

The mysterious silver cup

An incident in his teens brought him closer to a no less-harrowing truth. “My mother had a strongbox in the bottom right-hand corner of her wardrobe. One afternoon when she was out, I decided to look in. I had terrible qualms about it though,” he confesses. “I knew I was breaking the trust between us and she was my only security in the world.” Inside Weber found the first clue to his real identity: a small silver cup.

“We were a fairly poor family at the time,” he explains. “Like many others, my mother had lost everything during the war, so to find a silver object in the house was extremely unusual. I picked it up carefully and discovered my name on it. ‘Oh!’ I thought, ‘what’s this?’ Because there was also another name there. ‘Guntram Heinrich,’ it said. I’d never heard that before. And on the other side it read: ‘From your godfather, Heinrich Himmler.’

It was a revelation Weber could hardly comprehend: “I even told myself this ‘Guntram Heinrich’ must be someone else,” he says. “Besides, I couldn’t ask my mother about it as I had betrayed her trust.”

The silver cup is tarnished now, but Weber swears he will never honour it with a clean, nor shall he ever let it touch his lips. Holding it is troubling enough — the aged artefact is the nearest thing Weber has to an umbilical cord, tethering him to the deeds of men whose boots he was supposed to fill one day. “For a while with my first wife I even used to joke about that,” he says. “‘If Hitler had won, I would have been made Governor of such-and-such a place,’ I would tell her.” By then, Weber had another piece of the puzzle.

More clues and false promises

In 1966, his older sister needed her birth certificate in order to get married. Their mother, obfuscating, said there was no hope of finding it, but an enquiry at her place of birth turned up the unexpected news that she had been born the illegitimate child of an army officer. Her records were miraculously still intact and being four years older than Weber, she realised she had been born in a Lebensborn home. The word entered the siblings’ discourse for the first time.

Weber inferred that he too was one, albeit from a different father, but before he could summon the strength to question his mother, he moved to the US in pursuit of love, staying there for eight years until his wife’s tragic death in a car crash. He returned to Germany with a son of his own and started teaching writing workshops for disadvantaged children in Kreuzberg.

As more information about Lebensborn trickled into the public consciousness, Weber occasionally grappled with the unknowns of his past. In 1982 he decided to confront his mother one day during a long car journey. He pulled off the road and forced his mother from the car. Finally, says Weber, he had her, “where she could not escape”.

Despite her angry protestations stranded by the roadside, “my mother uttered three sentences that I will never forget: Firstly, ‘I don’t want to talk about that.’ Secondly, ‘People will throw dirt at you.’ And thirdly, ‘I will write it all down for you.’ This was a promise. Suddenly I felt OK, knowing she would eventually give me the truth.

“But she didn’t do it,” he says bitterly. “She couldn’t bring herself to do that for me and she died two years later. I’m stark raving mad at her for that.”

Weber runs his fingers through his short, steelcoloured hair, before tucking his hands behind his head and pulling his elbows in around his face for a moment’s security. His arms tense, hinting at the strength it takes to stop the human body simply exploding from pent-up emotion.

Around him stand shelves filled from floor to ceiling with books, reams of paper print outs, dozens of lever arch files — evidence of a painstaking search for answers. It was not until eight years ago though, after several false starts, that Weber finally found the resolve to confront his past, come what may. “The woman I was living with at the time said to me: ‘You have to find your father.’ And she was right. All the energy had gone out of my life, the same way a battery goes flat,” he remembers…

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

EADS Boss Louis Gallois on the A380: ‘I Was Told There Was a Problem’

The A380’s image has been tarnished ever since a Qantas plane was forced to make an emergency landing after an engine exploded. In a SPIEGEL interview, the CEO of Airbus parent company EADS, Louis Gallois, talks about the defective Rolls-Royce engines, competition from China and the ongoing dispute with Boeing over illegal subsidies.

SPIEGEL: Monsieur Gallois, what is your opinion of German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg?

Louis Gallois: He is clever, he grasps issues quickly and he is a good conversationalist. In short, he has impressed me, even if we sometimes hold different views.

SPIEGEL: Guttenberg wants to trim the German defense budget by more than €8 billion ($10.6 billion), a move that will include cancelling orders for EADS helicopters.

Gallois: I hear rumors like that again and again. But they are certainly not as noteworthy as the minister himself!

SPIEGEL: Other European countries are also reportedly seeking to reduce their military budgets.

Gallois: Our home countries are indeed facing tight budgets. But it doesn’t look quite so grim yet. Our orders are safe in Great Britain, for example, where they see the A400M, the tanker and the Eurofighter as being indispensible for their own security. In France, spending has at least remained constant. We expect more detailed information for Germany in early 2011. The focus there, for now, is probably that the Defense Ministry wants to reduce spending and adapt the structure of the Bundeswehr to future missions. As far as our contracts are concerned, we are taking a wait-and-see approach, and I’m not without hope. After all, the budgetary situation in Germany isn’t nearly as tight as in other European countries.

SPIEGEL: Although governments have accommodated you on orders for the A400M military transporter, you have still had to lower your expectations. Will you ever make money with it?

Gallois: We are grateful to the governments for having supported us in reaching an agreement. However, the project is still a substantial burden for us. We have written off €4 billion for the first 170 aircraft. That was a shock for us, but now it’s over. The aircraft has strong export potential for the future, because it’s extremely cost-effective for operators and can be used in a broad range of applications. We are already in touch with potential buyers, including the United States, which is also interested. However, we can only offer them delivery dates starting in 2020, because our production is fully booked up until then.

SPIEGEL: You also want to grow your security business. Is the defense business becoming less important for EADS?

Gallois: Not at all, but we do have to promote exports. In addition to Europe, the biggest potential clearly lies in the United States. We represent about half of the worldwide defense market. As a third regional pillar, we are expanding our presence in Asia, the Middle East and Brazil, where we need to make massive investments in research, labor and production. At the same time, we want to expand our security-solutions business, which is growing rapidly. It’s something that affects each and every one of us. Just think of the recent discovery of a dummy bomb at the airport in Namibia.

SPIEGEL: A recent engine problem on an A380, your civilian flagship jet, owned by the Australian airline Qantas, attracted a great deal of attention. How did you find out about it?

Gallois: I received a call from Airbus and was told that there was a problem with one engine. I was initially very calm, however, because I knew that the plane has four engines and can easily fly with three.

SPIEGEL: And were you dismayed when you saw how much damage the explosion had caused?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Film Says 1,000 Italian Villages Have Been Abandoned Because of Ghosts

Reggio Emilia, 2 Dec. (AKI) — One thousand Italian villages with enough buildings to house the combined populations of Rome and Milan have been abandoned because of ghost ‘infestations’, according to new documentary due to be screened Thursday.

Children screaming from the bottom of wells, shadows of women, tortured partisans and other victims of foul play crowded out the living from their Mediterranean towns, giving Italy the highest density of ghosts in the world,.

This is the claim made by “Empty Houses,” the documentary the director Alessandro Scillitani will present at the Reggio Emilia Landscape Biennale.

The event in the northern Italian city brings together people from the scientific and intellectual communities, public administration to discuss urban planning.

Scillitani’s movie isn’t simply an inventory of abandonment, depopulation and decay, but a gallery of dark legends: the story, maybe true or not, of the wails from child cast into a well to die; the sightings of a baby — born from the illicit love of a priest and a nun buried alive to hide the transgressions against their celibacy vows.

Scillitani is the artistic director of the Reggio Emilia Film Festival, has directed seven documentaries and works in theatre, according to his website.

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

German Troops Stationed in France for First Time Since WWII

A battalion of German combat troops was officially stationed in eastern France on Friday for the first time since Nazi forces ended their occupation at the end of World War II.

The battalion, part of the joint Franco-German Brigade, is stationed at Illkirch-Graffenstaden outside Strasbourg, near the German border, and will by 2012 consist of 600 battle-ready soldiers.

The historic move, aimed at cementing friendship between the neighbours who fought three devastating wars in 75 years, was agreed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a Munich summit in 2009.

French Defence Minister Alain Juppe and his German counterpart Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg attended a ceremony to mark the event, with Juppe hailing “a new impetus to move forward the construction of Europe.”

Guttenberg stressed that “the cooperation between our two countries benefits all of Europe” as the 291st Infantry Battalion received its colours under a driving rain.

Merkel and Sarkozy, who held talks in the southwestern city of Freiburg on Friday, also hailed the troops’ arrival.

“German soldiers are today welcome in France,” Merkel told a joint press conference. “For me, that has great symbolism, after all the misdeeds Germany was guilty of during the Nazi era.”

Sarkozy said: “It is an honour for us to receive German soldiers in a peaceful context on the French Republic’s territory.”

“I was always surprised that the Franco-German Brigade only consisted of French soldiers stationed in Germany. We are two sovereign nations, two countries at peace, two countries that founded Europe,” he said, in apparent reference to the European Union’s 1952 forerunner, the European Coal and Steel Community.

The community was set up in the wake of World War II with the explicit aim of making another conflict between France and Germany materially impossible by creating industrial interdependence.

German soldiers have been arriving at the base since April and took part in November 11 Armistice Day commemorations alongside their French counterparts for the first time.

Two French regiments within the Franco-German Brigade, which became operational in 1989 and consists of around 5,400 troops, are stationed in southwestern Germany, at Donaueschingen and Immendingen.

The German battalion is to be stationed in Alsace, a region that changed hands several times between France and Germany over the centuries.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Manipulating the Political Dwarves of Europe

European Union politicians like to see themselves as having global reach. But the US would beg to differ, according to American diplomatic cables from European capitals. Competition between Merkel, Sarkozy and others means it is easy for Washington to play EU leaders off against each other.

It was November 2007 in Texas and the German chancellor was invited to George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford. Only a select few world leaders had been granted such an honor. Even Merkel’s husband Joachim Sauer, casually dressed in jeans, accompanied her for the visit to the then-US president, a rarity for a man who seldom accompanies the chancellor on her trips abroad. Merkel, her husband and the Bushes smiled under the Texas sun.

Prior to the visit, though, US diplomats had coolly assembled a cost-benefit analysis. “Merkel is competing with a more dynamic French President (Nicolas) Sarkozy for attention on the international stage,” reads a cable from the US Embassy in Berlin. Sarkozy’s visit to Washington and his speech before Congress a couple days previous certainly hadn’t escaped the German chancellor’s notice, the cable notes. A visit to the ranch afforded an opportunity for the German leader to present herself as Europe’s most important politician.

One could, however, exact a price for the visit, the memo suggested. Bush could demand progress on certain key issues in return — on Germany’s involvement in Afghanistan, for example.

Especially Susceptible

Pressure, requests, playing various parties off each other — the memo concerning Merkel’s ranch visit offers insight into America’s handling of Europe. The continent, which would so dearly love to retain its role as Washington’s most important ally, is no longer taken so seriously by those responsible for US foreign policy. European leaders are seen as political dwarves, not least because they let themselves be played off against one another so easily.

Nicolas Sarkozy is considered especially susceptible to influence. A memo from the US Embassy in Paris prior to the status-conscious French president’s first official visit to Washington in 2007 reads, “‘Sarkozy the American’ is a well-known epithet long applied to France’s new president…. The US was the only other country Sarkozy mentioned by name in his victory statement.” When Barack Obama, then a presidential candidate, traveled to Paris in July 2008, another dispatch notes, Sarkozy hastily rearranged his schedule just to be able to hold a press conference with Obama. He “is hoping for intense and regular contact with President Obama,” the dispatch reads.

A document from the US Embassy in Great Britain expresses similar sentiments about then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown — a document created shortly after Brown took office. The dispatch noted that the new prime minister didn’t want to be seen as Bush’s “poodle,” as his predecessor Tony Blair had been. Here too, though, the conclusion was that, “he wants — and knows that Britain needs — a strong relationship with the US administration.”

Everyone wants something from Washington, it would seem — and the US looks down on the Europeans as a result. The administration of Bush’s successor Obama thus feels confident about ignoring European wishes or playing politicians off against one another. “Officials in Washington know better than anyone how European leaders compete for an audience with the president or secretary of state,” says British historian Timothy Garton Ash of Oxford University. “The silly game is the same.”

Less than Thrilled

Obama himself considers the game especially absurd. Raised partly in Indonesia and with no personal ties to Europe, the president pays little attention to trans-Atlantic sensibilities. Instead, he looks to Asia and speaks of a “Pacific century.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Spanish Town Becomes First to Ban Face-Covering Veils

A northern Spanish town brought into force a ban on Islamic face-covering veils in municipal buildings, the first such decree in the country.

The town of Lleida, population 120,000, approved in July a municipal ban on body-covering burqas or face-covering niqab garments at about 130 locations, ranging from civic centres to swimming pools.

The law was the first of its kind in Spain, where face-covering Islamic garments are seldom seen despite a sharp rise in immigration from Muslim countries over the past decade.

“I believe the burqa and the hijab, as well as similar garments that completely cover the face are an attack against equality between men and women, they are an attack against women’s dignity,” Lleida mayor Angel Ros said.

“I believe also that equality is something which our society has fought several years for and there can be no reason, not religious, not cultural, that attacks this basic principle,” he said in an interview.

The law prohibits the “use of the veil and other clothes and accessories which cover the face and prevent identification in buildings and installations of the town hall”.

Repeat offenders face fines of €600.

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: Nick[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Car Explodes in Central Stockholm, 2 Injured

STOCKHOLM — Two explosions shook central Stockholm on Saturday, injuring two people and causing panic, rescue officials said.

Police spokeswoman Petra Sjolander said a car exploded on Drottninggatan, a busy shopping street in the center of the city, injuring one person. Shortly afterward, a second explosion was heard higher up on the same street, and a man was found injured on the ground, she said.

Police said it was unclear what caused the second explosion.

Rescue services spokesman, Roger Sverndal said the car that exploded contained gas canisters.

Another rescue services spokesman, Bengt Norberg said two people had been taken to the hospital with injuries.

Gabriel Gabiro, a former AP staffer, was inside a watch store on the opposite side of the street of the second explosion when it went off and saw people running from the site.

“I saw some people crying, perhaps from the chock,” he said. “There was a man lying on the ground with blood coming out in the area of his belly, and with his personal belongings scattered around him.”

“It shook the store that I was in,” he said of the blast. “Then there was smoke and gun powder coming into the store.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: Anti-Islamophobia Parliamentary Group Drop ‘Islamist’ Secretariat

by Martin Bright

A new parliamentary group set up to tackle Islamophobia has been forced to end its partnership with a controversial Muslim organisation which has campaigned against “Zionist” teachings at Jewish schools. It has also defended radical Islamist preachers and targeted moderate Muslim groups which raised concerns about the rise of Islamist politics in Britain.

Eyebrows were raised last month when the new group, chaired by Conservative MP Kris Hopkins, announced that Engage would provide its administrative secretariat. However, Mr Hopkins was this week persuaded to ask the organisation, (not to be confused with the identically-named antisemitism monitoring group), to withdraw its offer of support. The change of heart followed a detailed online attack on the organisation by former Tory MP and communities spokesman Paul Goodman, who is now executive editor of the Conservative Home website.

According to its publicity, Engage is “dedicated to promoting greater media awareness, political participation and civic engagement amongst Muslims.” However, the organisation also has an explicit anti-Zionist agenda with regular posts on its website about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The organisation argues that the injustice of the treatment of Palestinians feeds global Islamophobia.

The new parliamentary group to tackle Islamophobia boasts Labour peer Lord Janner and Liberal Democrat President Simon Hughes as its vice-chairs and also enjoys the support of former Labour Justice Secretary Jack Straw. The JC understands that at least one former Labour minister warned Lord Janner to steer clear of Engage and senior members of the Jewish community have also raised their concerns.

Mr Hopkins and Lord Janner agreed on Tuesday to drop Engage. However, in a surprise move, Simon Hughes issued a statement backing the organisation: “Engage is an organisation which promotes the participation and engagement of young Muslims in the public sphere. Occasionally this may mean that the group represents views that others may disagree with.

“But as long as they stay within the law and enter into the sprit of a democratic dialogue, I have no problem with them providing support to the APPG on Islamophobia, a group which exists precisely to advance reasoned debate on faith issues in our country.”

In June, Mohammed Asif, chief executive of Engage, wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove to express his opposition to Zionism being taught in Jewish schools. “Zionism is not part of the Jewish faith,” he wrote. “It is a political ideology which has its roots in the works of Theodore Herzl and subsequent ideologues that have advanced the idea of a national struggle to establish a homeland for the Jews in the modern era.”

The Engage website described Sunday Telegraph reporter Andrew Gilligan as “deranged” after he raised questions about whether the organisation was independent enough to perform the functions of secretariat to the all-party group. In recent years the group has defended the right of radical Muslim preachers to come to Britain and express their views and opposed the ban on extremist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir from university campuses.

Engage has also challenged those who condemned the Muslim Council of Britain’s Daud Abdullah for signing the Istanbul Declaration, which urged attacks on the British navy.

One comment on the Engage post announcing the establishment of the Islamophobia group said: “Jews and Christian scholars, the so called Western Orientals have always tried to mispresent Islam in their writings. They have always tried to spread baseless lies against Islam in a very authentic and scholarly style, hiding their deep rooted hatred against Islam.”

The equivalent parliamentary group on antisemitism is run by the Parliamentary Committee Against Anti-Semitism Foundation, an independent charity specifically set up for the purpose. Danny Stone, director of the PCAA Foundation and secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism said: “I am 100 per cent behind an all-party group on Islamophobia and have offered my support to its chair, Kris Hopkins MP. Any secretariat would, of course, have to be beyond reproach as regards racism and antisemitism.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: David Miliband Paid £25,000 for Speech at Luxury Middle East Resort

The defeated Labour leadership candidate also had his travel and five-star accommodation covered during the three-day trip, partly by the government of the United Arab Emirates, Parliamentary records show. It suggests that he is following in the footsteps of his mentor, Tony Blair, by turning to the lucrative foreign lecture circuit after leaving frontline politics. According to the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests, Mr Miliband was also paid £2,500 to write a newspaper article defending his “dancing naked women” painting, which his wife had bought him for £800 as a birthday present…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Harman Praises ‘Hero’ Immigrants Who Send Welfare Handouts Home

Harriet Harman has praised ‘heroic’ immigrants who claim welfare payments in Britain and use the cash to support families living abroad.

She said the Government should make it easier for them to send the money home and called for tax refunds to encourage more immigrants to follow suit, in particular those who paid for their children to be educated in the Third World.

The Labour Deputy Leader, who is also the party’s spokesman on International Development, derided ‘those who say we should look after our own first’ in the recession and vowed to fight any attempt to cut the £9.4 billion overseas aid budget.

Helping hand: Harriet Harman gives some advice to one of her Muslim constituents

But last night the Government challenged her ‘bizarre’ conduct.

Her comments were made at a meeting at Southwark town hall in her South London constituency, called to find ways to increase the flow of money from Britain to other nations in ‘remittances’ — money sent by families who have settled here to those left behind.

The meeting was attended by many local voters with Nigerian, Ugandan and other foreign backgrounds, as well as representatives of aid charities.

An eyewitness said: ‘Harriet led a discussion on how to back up what she called the “hidden heroes of development through developing new policies on remittances”.’

Ms Harman said she had conducted a survey of constituents, mainly West Africans, attending her surgeries who were regularly sending money back home to sustain children and other relatives.

‘She said she had been amazed by how many were doing this,’ said a source. ‘Some were themselves in receipt of State benefits here and were still sending what they could abroad.’

Ms Harman said she intended to launch a new international survey to learn how other countries handled remittances to poorer nations to enable Britain to ‘make the procedure easier, even possibly with some sort of tax relief for those who send payments to educate relatives abroad’.

Her radical proposal was supported by some at the meeting.

But one member of the audience said Ms Harman would have to be ‘careful’ how she campaigned on the issue. ‘She was told that if it was found the majority of people sending remittances were on benefits, critics would say it proved that they are receiving too much in State handouts if they can still send money abroad,’ according to one person who was present.

Ms Harman said she was also determined to stop the Government doing a U-turn on its promise not to cut the annual overseas aid budget.

‘We have to keep the Government to their promise of spending on 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international aid after 2012,’ she said. And Labour must do so ‘even with the usual howls from media critics who say that we should be looking after our own first and foremost, especially in this time of austerity’.

Last night Ms Harman stood by her remarks. She told The Mail on Sunday: ‘There are many people in my constituency who come from Africa and work and study and bring up their families here. Many of them also send money back to their village in their country of origin. We should respect and encourage that. International development is not just something done by governments.

‘Some of these families will be receiving child benefit and tax credits to which they are entitled. Charitable generosity has never been confined to the well-off.’

Tory International Development Minister Alan Duncan said last night: ‘Ms Harman’s comments seem bizarre. She has a duty to explain precisely what she means.’

A Conservative official went much further: ‘The idea that people should come here from Africa, claim welfare benefits and send it all back home is ridiculous and irresponsible.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: London’s Hub of Israel Hate

by Martin Bright

The UK has become the centre of a systematic assault on Israel’s right to exist that unites Middle East resistance networks with allies on the liberal-left in Europe, according to a new report by an influential Israeli think tank. According to the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute, which examines the threat posed to Israel’s national security by Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas, the movement to “delegitimise” Israel aims to bring about the country’s implosion on the model of apartheid South Africa. The institute, led by Gidi Grinstein, suggests that London has become a “Mecca of Delegitimisation” for activists working to undermine Israel’s political model.

The report, a draft of which has been seen by the JC, is part of an attempt by supporters of Israel to build what they call a political firewall against the assault on the country’s legitimacy. It calls on British Jews to establish a grassroots movement to take on Israel’s opponents and persuade liberal opinion that much of the activity of the “delegitimisers” is driven by UK-based Islamists and the hard-left. This so-called Red-Green Alliance is seen as particularly influential in the UK capital through the work of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. The authors conclude that the fightback needs to begin in London, which acts as the “hub of hubs” of the movement to undermine Israel.

It is understood that the Israeli government and Israeli diplomats in London are supportive of many of the findings of the report, which urges the construction of a loosely co-ordinated pro-Israel network to rival that of its enemies. This will require a new mindset from Israel itself in order to allow the UK diaspora to take the lead in any future campaign. The origins of the Building a Political Firewall report can be traced to the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War. Hizbollah and other extremist organisations were able to win the propaganda war by representing themselves as resistance movements rather than terrorist organisations. A series of events, including the Gaza war and the boarding of the Turkish flotilla, have further entrenched this position.

Since then, the report claims, the PR assault on Israel has been very successful at blurring the lines between criticism and delegitimisation. This has focused on identifying Israel with apartheid-era South Africa and has led to a boycott campaign which draws its inspiration directly from the struggle against apartheid. At the same time “lawfare” has been used to threaten Israeli politicians with arrest for alleged war-crimes.

The radical new approach proposed by the Reut researchers will be a challenge to the Israeli government and will cheer those such as UJIA chairman Mick Davis, who have called for a new relationship between Israel and the diaspora. A key paragraph in the introduction calls on all parties in the pro-Israel movement to leave their comfort zones: “Israel will have to let the Jewish community lead the counter-attack in places, such as London, that require nuance and cultural sensitivity”.

At the same time it challenges the Jewish leadership to “allow for innovative thinking, new tools and aggressive experimentation that usually takes place outside of the established community”. At the heart of the strategy is a plan to target left-liberal opinion in Britain. “Importantly, critics from the political left, because they represent liberal values, are also an invaluable voice in delegitimising Israel’s delegitimisation, notwithstanding their common criticism of the Jewish community’s traditional institutions and the policies of the state of Israel.”

For this to be successful, the report argues that only those who are working for the destruction of Israel should be targeted, not those who are critical of individual policies. Other strategies involve naming and shaming key “delegitimisers”, building a network within liberal and progressive circles, focusing on Hamas’s presence in London and promoting Israel’s record in science, the arts and emergency humanitarian response. Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “Together with many other communal agencies we contributed heavily to the compilation of the Reut report.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: One in Four Trainee Teachers is a Dunce: Thousands Struggle to Pass Simple Literacy and Numeracy Tests

Almost one in four trainee teachers cannot do simple sums and a fifth have problems with spelling, grammar and punctuation, worrying figures revealed yesterday.

Thousands repeatedly flunk basic numeracy and literacy tests and seek unlimited resits to pass.

Critics fear the poor quality of the next generation of teachers will have a devastating impact on their pupils.

Trainees have to pass basic skills tests in literacy, numeracy and ICT (information and communication technology) before they can qualify as teachers. The pass marks are just 60 per cent.


The figures do not detail how many times trainees resit the tests beyond three. However one is reported to have taken the tests 27 times before achieving the pass rate.


Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said the tests are not ‘rocket science’.

He said: ‘It’s a very basic assessment so it’s very worrying that so many would-be teachers are not competent in basic literacy and numeracy.

‘The fact they seem to be getting worse is especially concerning. If a teacher cannot tell what is appropriate or what is a mistake in maths, then how are young people going to learn?

‘The Government is right to crack down here as we are just perpetuating the poor use of language and lack of skills in maths if we allow people who cannot handle words and numbers into the classroom.’


Students currently sit the online tests in the final year of their teacher training. They were originally allowed only four or five attempts to pass the tests.

But Labour scrapped the rule in 2001 and gave trainees unlimited resits.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Pensioner Wearing His Old RAF Jacket is Headbutted by Thugs Shouting ‘Death to the Soldiers’

The 69-year-old was punched and headbutted by two Asian or mixed-race attackers who spotted him in military uniform.

Paramedics took the veteran to hospital after he was left with bruising, black eyes and an injured nose following the early evening attack.

The youths, aged between 17 and 20, shouted offensive remarks about soldiers at the white-haired pensioner and then attacked him when he responded.

The incident happened in Sherwood Street, Fallowfield, Manchester, police revealed today.

Officers today released a shocking picture of the bruised victim in a hospital bed with two black eyes after the attack.

Police Constable Michael Seddon, who is investigating the incident, said: ‘This was a mindless and brutal attack on a vulnerable member of the community.

‘The victim was left extremely shaken and he is still recovering from his injuries.’

One of the attackers was described as of stocky build, 5ft 6in tall, had thin braided hair and was wearing dark clothing.

The second man was chubby, 5ft 4in tall, had short shaved black hair and was wearing dark clothing.

The two men fled the scene on bicycles.

The ex-serviceman, who was wearing a poppy, was attacked on November 1 but police have only just released information about the incident.

In another attack on a war veteran, 90-year-old Geoff Bacon died after a thief beat him for his bus pass and £40.

The Second World War serviceman, who drove General Eisenhower in France, was jumped from behind as he entered his flat in Camberwell, London.

He died 11 weeks after the attack as a direct result of the injuries he sustained.

           — Hat tip: Earl Cromer[Return to headlines]

UK: Photos: ‘Stupid and Reckless Blunder’ Which Left Camilla Cowering on Car Floor After Being Hit With Stick by Anarchist Mob

Breakdown in police communication blamed for security breach

The Duchess of Cornwall was jabbed in the ribs with a stick through an open car window as she and Prince Charles were surrounded by a baying mob in the worst royal security breach in a generation.

The full extent of the ‘stupid and reckless’ blunder which left Camilla, 63, cowering on the floor of the royal Rolls-Royce became clear last night as MPs called for a full inquiry.

It is believed the royal couple were driven blindly into the violent mob because of a breakdown in police communications.

Sources said the Duchess, who has not made a formal complaint to police, was ‘very scared’ when a yob leaned into the car and prodded her with the stick.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Time to Attack Local Terrorism

by Geoffrey Alderman

The greatest threat to the safety and security of Jews living in the UK comes from Muslims also living in the UK. Not all British Muslims, of course, or even a majority of them. But a section of British Muslim society harbours malevolent and occasionally murderous intentions towards British Jews.. This is a deeply unpalatable truth. But truth it is. In last week’s JC, political editor Martin Bright commented on a forthcoming report by the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute that identifies the UK as (in Martin’s words) “the centre of a systematic assault on Israel’s right to exist.”

I have no difficulty accepting this analysis but what really caught my eye was the reference to the role, within this “hub of hate”, of “British-based Islamists who find common cause with Hamas.” And Hamas has at its ideological core a hatred not so much of Zionism and Israel as of Jews and of Judaism. Hamas’s antipathy to the Jewish state derives and is inseparable from its aversion to Jews. What the Reut institute is saying is that there is, within the UK, a cadre of British-based Islamists who exult in this aversion.

Next, consider the recent BBC Panorama report into the instruction that is taking place, here and now in the UK, in a network of more than 40 “weekend” schools catering for the religious education of British-born, Muslim children. These institutions boast a syllabus derived explicitly from textbooks celebrating the demonisation of Jews — again, not Zionists but Jews. Jews are, according to this syllabus, descended from monkeys and pigs. To encourage pupils in this teaching, the textbooks invite them to list the “reprehensible qualities” of Jewish people. That is what these British youngsters are being taught, with, presumably, the full-hearted consent of their parents.

Without wishing to minimise the importance of the Panorama report I must point out that this is not the first time such allegations have been made. On the Guardian’s website, on November 24, Rabbi David Goldberg, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, wrote that it “is stating the obvious to affirm that such hate literature… cannot be tolerated in any multi-cultural, multi-ethnic society.” But tolerated it is, here in the UK.

Now let me draw your attention to a report that has not been given anything like the publicity it deserves. In July, the Centre for Social Cohesion published Islamist Terrorism: The British Connections. This weighty tome comprises an analysis of the criminal trials of some 124 individuals convicted, here in the UK, of Islamist-related terrorist offences in the period 1999-2009. Roughly two-thirds of these terrorists were British citizens. Most were in their early 20s. Your “typical” terrorist is a British male of Pakistani origin but with no “formal” terrorist links.

British Islamist terrorists are in fact “home-grown”. Thirty-one per cent are university graduates. Their “radicalisation” took place, for the most part, right here in the UK.

So the heroic sacrifices of our troops in Afghanistan can go only so far. It is said that the war cannot be won there. But it can be won here, once we all admit that there is a war here —- one that can and must be won. In this connection, I must point the finger at my own sector: higher education. I read with astonishment, last September, the report of an inquiry set up by University College London into the career of its former student Umar Abdulmutallab, now charged in the USA with attempting to blow up a transatlantic aircraft using explosives concealed in his underwear. The UCL inquiry concluded that “there is no evidence to suggest… that… Abdulmutallab was radicalised while a student at UCL.”

But, last January, Alan Johnson, the former Home Secretary, told Parliament that, when Abdulmutallab had been studying at UCL, he “was known to the Security Service MI5”. He was “known” to MI5 because he had been observed making contact with acknowledged purveyors of Islamist violence. Yet nothing was done. As my Buckingham University colleague professor Anthony Glees — the UK’s leading terrorism expert — has rightly concluded: “If UCL thinks that making contact with terrorists isn’t evidence of radicalisation, there is no point in trying to convince it of anything.” In fact, the intelligence services have identified no less than 39 UK higher-education institutions as being “vulnerable to violent extremism”. Some have denied that the threat is at all serious.

As much as I deplore government intervention in our universities, I’m afraid that, unless vice-chancellors take appropriate action voluntarily, they will have to be compelled to do so.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Toddler’s ‘Cold’ Was Cancer: Doctors Send Girl, 16months, Home Three Times Before Tumour is Discovered

A toddler suffering from cancer was misdiagnosed by doctors three times — and told she simply had a cold.

Ruby Tanswell, from Greater Manchester, was given nose drops and antibiotics by GPs despite refusing to eat and fighting to breathe.

It was only after her mother, Adelle Wright, insisted on taking her to hospital that she was told she had cancer — and that a tumour was covering 90 per cent of her windpipe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teen Girl Whipped by Brute Bature Bashir

A THUG WHIPPED a 15-year-old girl with a cable because he thought she was behaving badly. Nigerian Bature Bashir punched the teenager at a house in Dundee before beating her as a punishment.

Yesterday at the city’s sheriff court the Muslim student admitted assaulting the youngster.

Sheriff George Way told Bashir his attack would “not be tolerated under any religion”.

He said: “Even at a cursory reading of the Koran it is very clear that we must love children and discipline must be fair.”

Sheriff Way deferred sentence on Bashir until June and ordered him to be of good behaviour.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Theresa May Pressed to Halt Visit by Anti-Muslim US Preacher

Home secretary Theresa May is under intense pressure to ban controversial anti-Muslim preacher Terry Jones from Britain after far-right activists said he had agreed to address them at a demonstration about “the evils of Islam”.

The English Defence League said it was “proud to announce” that the US pastor, who caused outrage with plans to burn the Qur’an on this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, would be attending the event in Luton in early February. Today Jones confirmed that he would be arriving in the UK. The pastor’s website said he intended to visit the EDLs’ “biggest demonstration to date” in February. The website said: “During the protest, Dr Terry Jones will speak against the evils and destructiveness of Islam in support of the continued fight against the Islamification of England and Europe.”

Barack Obama warned in September that Jones’s planned Qur’an burnings would be a “recruitment bonanza” for al-Qaida and the US state department said it would put the country’s citizens at risk across the world.

Tonight the British anti-extremist campaign, Hope Not Hate, launched its own petition urging May to ban Jones from Britain, while MPs demanded immediate action from the home secretary. Hope Not Hate’s campaign co-ordinator, Nick Lowles, said: “Pastor Jones’s presence in Luton will be incendiary and highly dangerous. He will attract and encourage thousands of English Defence League supporters to take to the streets of Luton.

“Like the EDL, Pastor Jones indiscriminately targets all Muslims and their actions can only lead to increased tensions and racism in our communities. His appearance will rightly cause concern and fear among Muslims across the country.”

Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, said he would table an urgent parliamentary motion tomorrow demanding that the pastor be banned from coming into the country.

“We have seen how Pastor Jones, with a very small congregation in Florida, created a firestorm by urging the Qur’an to be burned,” Cruddas said. “We should not allow racial hatred to be whipped up in this manner in our country.”

The EDL announced Jones’s planned visit on its Facebook site today, saying he would attend “our biggest demo to date” and describing it as “the big one”. There are fears that copies of the Qur’an could be burnt by extremists.

The last time the EDL marched in Luton, 250 of their supporters went on the rampage through an Asian area of the town. Shop windows were smashed, cars overturned and a number of people were attacked. Thirty-five people were arrested as a result of the violence.

“The EDL march in February has the potential to be far worse. Only extremists will benefit from his visit and, as we know, extremism breeds hatred and hatred breeds violence. Pastor Jones, a preacher of hate, must be stopped from entering the UK, “ Lowles said.

The home secretary has the power to exclude or deport an individual if she thinks their presence in the UK could threaten national security, public order or the safety of citizens. She can also do so if she believes their views glorify terrorism, promote violence or encourage other serious crime.

May has been keen to show that she is tough on extremism. Five weeks after the coalition government came into power, she banned a radical preacher who claimed that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” from entering Britain. Zakir Naik had been due to give a series of lectures at arenas in Wembley Arena and Sheffield in June.

However, visitors from other countries cannot be banned just for having opinions that other people would find offensive. In the past, May has said the powers can only be used in “very serious” cases. She has already acted against the EDL, banning a march in Leicester in November.

News of Jones’s planned visit comes as the head of the police intelligence unit on domestic extremism prepares to reveal tomorrow that the EDL and related splinter groups have become his biggest concern.

DCS Adrian Tudway, the national co- ordinator for domestic extremism, told the Observer: “We look at the extreme right and left wing but currently our biggest single area of business are the various groups which call themselves defence leagues. These defence leagues can be found across England.”

The unit is monitoring a “number of individuals” connected to extreme right-wing groups, details of whom are disseminated to local police forces. Several recent EDL demonstrations have descended into violence.

At the height of the controversy over Jones’s threat to burn the Qur’an, effigies of the pastor were burnt in Afghanistan and there was widespread condemnation across the Muslim world. Jones is a Pentecostalist who bases his theology on the literal text of the Bible. He runs the Florida-based Dove World Outreach Center which says it objects to Islam because it “teaches that Jesus is not the son of God, therefore taking away the saving power of Jesus and leading people straight to Hell”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: We’re Powerless to Prevent More Violence, Police Forced to Admit

Senior politicians last night privately admitted that police do not have the capacity to prevent future outbreaks of vandalism and violence in central London.

With further student demonstrations planned after Christmas, ministers and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson have concluded the police could have done nothing more to prevent the scale of the disturbances.

But they expressed concern that protesters were able to attack a Rolls-Royce carrying the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall as they travelled through the West End…


The attack is believe to have been carried out by a breakaway group from the Westminster protest, in which some demonstrators had already tried to set light to the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square before breaking windows in Topshop in Oxford Street. “Someone, somewhere made the decision to take that route and we need to know why,” said a source close to the Mayor.

“But overall there are just too many buildings in central London to protect and I think all of us realise that the police did everything they could in very difficult circumstances.”


David Cameron used a visit to Leeds to condemn the “completely unacceptable, violent, thuggish behaviour” of the protesters. He said they behaved in an “absolutely feral way” adding: “The scenes people saw on their TV screens were completely unacceptable. I don’t think we can go on saying a small minority were there. There were quite a lot of people who were hell-bent on violence and destroying property.”


[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Pope Wanted Muslim Turkey Kept Out of EU

Vatican diplomats also lobbied against Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and wanted ‘Christian roots’ enshrined in EU constitution

The pope is responsible for the Vatican’s growing hostility towards Turkey joining the EU, previously secret cables sent from the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome claim.

In 2004 Cardinal Ratzinger, the future pope, spoke out against letting a Muslim state join, although at the time the Vatican was formally neutral on the question.

The Vatican’s acting foreign minister, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, responded by telling US diplomats that Ratzinger’s comments were his own rather than the official Vatican position.

The cable released by WikiLeaks shows that Ratzinger was the leading voice behind the Holy See’s unsuccessful drive to secure a reference to Europe’s “Christian roots” in the EU constitution. The US diplomat noted that Ratzinger “clearly understands that allowing a Muslim country into the EU would further weaken his case for Europe’s Christian foundations”.

But by 2006 Parolin was working for Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, and his tone had distinctly chilled. “Neither the pope nor the Vatican have endorsed Turkey’s EU membership per se,” he told the American charge d’affaires, “rather, the Holy See has been consistently open to accession, emphasising only that Turkey needs to fulfil the EU’s Copenhagen criteria to take its place in Europe.”

But he did not expect the demands on religious freedom to be fulfilled: “One great fear is that Turkey could enter the EU without having made the necessary advances in religious freedom. [Parolin] insisted that EU members — and the US — continue to press the [Turkish government] on these issues … He said that short of ‘open persecution’, it couldn’t get much worse for the Christian community in Turkey.”

The cables reveal the American government lobbying within Rome and Ankara for Turkish EU membership. “We hope a senior department official can visit the Holy See and encourage them to do more to push a positive message on Turkey and integration,” concluded the 2006 cable.

But by 2009, the American ambassador was briefing in advance of President Barack Obama’s visit, that “the Holy See’s position now is that as a non-EU member the Vatican has no role in promoting or vetoing Turkey’s membership. The Vatican might prefer to see Turkey develop a special relationship short of membership with the EU.”

Roman Catholicism is the only religion in the world with the status of a sovereign state, allowing the pope’s most senior clerics to sit at the top table with world leaders. The cables reveal the Vatican routinely wielding influence through diplomatic channels while sometimes denying it is doing so. The Vatican has diplomatic relations with 177 countries and has used its diplomatic status to lobby the US, United Nations and European Union in a concerted bid to impose its moral agenda through national and international parliaments.

The US charge d’affaires D Brent Hardt told Parolin, his diplomatic counterpart in Rome, of “the Holy See’s potential to influence Catholic countries to support a ban on human cloning” to which Parolin emphasised his agreement with the US position and promised to support fully UN efforts for such a ban.

On other global issues such as climate change, the Vatican sought to use its moral authority as leverage, while refusing itself to sign formal treaties, such as the Copenhagen accord, that require reporting commitments.

At a meeting in January this year Dr Paolo Conversi, the pope’s representative on climate change at the Vatican’s secretariat of state, told an American diplomat that the Vatican would “encourage other countries discreetly to associate themselves with the accord as opportunities arise”.

The Americans noted that Conversi’s offer to support the US, even if discreetly, was significant because the Vatican was often reluctant to appear to compromise its independence and moral authority by associating itself with particular lobbying efforts.

“Even more important than the Vatican’s lobbying assistance, however, is the influence the pope’s guidance can have on public opinion in countries with large Catholic majorities and beyond.”

The cables also reveal that the Vatican planned to use Poland as a trojan horse to spread Catholic family values through the structures of the European Union in Brussels…

           — Hat tip: LB[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks ‘Rape’ Victims Had Hidden Agendas … and I’ve Seen the Proof Says Assange Lawyer

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer says he has seen secret police documents that prove the whistleblower is innocent of rape claims made against him by two women in Stockholm.

Björn Hurtig, who is representing Mr Assange in Sweden, said the papers, which form part of the official Swedish investigation, reveal both women had ‘hidden agendas’ and lied about being coerced into having sex with Mr Assange, 39.

The freedom of information crusader is being held in Wandsworth jail in London while fighting extradition to face the accusations, which his defenders say are part of a plot to stop him releasing more embarrassing information on his website about governments worldwide.

Australian Mr Assange met both women at a seminar in Stockholm last August. After having intercourse with each, at different times, he faced sex charges — which he strenuously denies — that were withdrawn and then reinstated.

Mr Hurtig said in an exclusive interview from his Stockholm office: ‘From what I have read, it is clear that the women are lying and that they had an agenda when they went to the police, which had nothing to do with a crime having taken place.

‘It was, I believe, more about jealousy and disappointment on their part. I can prove that at least one of them had very big expectations for something to happen with Julian.’

He has asked for Swedish prosecutors’ permission to disclose more ‘sensational’ information.

‘If I am able to reveal what I know, everyone will realise this is all a charade,’ he said. ‘If I could tell the British courts, I suspect it would make extradition a moot point.

‘But at the moment I’m bound by the rules of the Swedish legal system, which say that the information can only be used as evidence in this country. For me to do otherwise would lead to me being disbarred.’

Mr Hurtig, a top sex-crime defence lawyer, is ready to fly to London and present the evidence when Mr Assange appears in court this week — if he is given the all-clear.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Croatia: Former Police Official Arrested for War Crimes

Zagreb, 10 Dec. (AKI) — Croatian police on Friday arrested former assistant police minister, Tomislav Mercep, who is suspected of being involved in crimes against Serb civilians during the 1991-1995 war that followed the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

Mercep, 58, is being investigated for crimes in the capital Zagreb and in Pakracka Poljana in central Croatia which were allegedly committed by units under his command, police said.

Croatian media have reported that Mercep set up a detention camps for Serbs in Zagreb fair grounds and in Pakracka Poljana, where at least forty Serb civilians were killed.

“The basic suspicion has been confirmed that crimes were committed in the period from the beginning of October to the end of December 1991 in Zagreb and Pakracka Poljana,” the police said in a statement.

One of the most publicised crimes was the killing of Serb family of Milan Zec, his wife and a 12-year old daughter in the centre of Zagreb.

Three of Mercep’s subordinates had pleaded guilty to the killings, but were freed due to “procedural errors”.

Mercep has denied the accusations, and as he was led by the police from his apartment in Zagreb, he told journalists his arrest was an “act of stupidity”.

When the crimes were committed, Mercep was assistant police minister in the government of late president Franjo Tudjman, who led the country to independence.

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

Serbia: Nobel Prize Boycott Splits Politicians and Public

Belgrade, 9 Dec. (AKI) — Serbian government’s decision to boycott the ceremonies in Oslo, awarding Nobel peace prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiao Bo, has deeply divided politicians and the public on Thursday.

Foreign minister Vuk Jeremic told Belgrade television B92 the decision “wasn’t made lightly and perhaps doesn’t leave the best feeling in the stomach”. But he said it was made after careful deliberations “in the best interest of the country”.

“China is a proven friend of Serbia and in the most difficult moments she offered us unconditional help,” Jeremic said.

He referred to the fact that, apart from Russia, China was the only permanent member of the United Nations Security Council that opposed Kosovo’s independence, declared by majority Albanians in February 2008.

China, Russia and seventeen other countries will boycott Friday’s ceremonies in Oslo. But Belgrade’s decision was received with shock by the European Union in Brussels, whose 22 members recognised Kosovo independence, because Serbia has set EU membership as its primary goal.

Several non-governmental organisations and members of president Boris Tadic’s ruling coalition have protested, saying the decision will harm Serbia’s aspirations to join the EU.

“I don’t expect that this will deal a fatal blow to our European future.” Jeremic said, responding to criticism. “It would indeed be terrifying if such a move by a country which is in difficult situation like we are, were to halt the process of European integration,” he added.

Serbian media speculated that Tadic was against the boycott, because he himself “comes from a dissident family”, dating back to the communist era. While Tadic issued no comment, his spokeswoman Jasmina Stojanov told media that he wasn’t consulted on the issue.

Some opposition politicians said the decision couldn’t have been made without Tadic’s knowledge, because he is known “to hold all the strings of power in his hand”.

Prime minister Mirko Cvetkovic, hand picked by Tadic, further added to the confusion, by saying that the boycott decision was made as a “tactical move” to strengthen Serbia’s bid to join the EU.

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

North Africa

‘Coptic Blood is Not Cheap’ Says Egyptian Coptic Pope

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — During his weekly sermon on Wednesday November 8 at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, Coptic Pope Shenouda III said “Coptic Blood is not Cheap,” referring to the Coptic young men killed after security forces opened fire on them on November 24. In response to a query from a Copt in the audience as to what was the church doing for the 157 Copts detained and charged in connection with the incident of St. Mary and St. Michel’s Church in Talbiya, the Pope said “We are doing our best in this matter.”

The 87-year-old pontiff verbally expressed his anger at the authorities in connection with the escalating assaults against the Copts, which many view as a sign of a wide rift between the Pope and the government. He had previously denounced what he described as the “excessive use of force against Coptic protesters” on November 24, adding “Power should be used to serve the people, not for violence. Violence only generates counter-violence.”

Pope Shenouda also criticized state security in connection with the incident of el-Nowahed in Abu-Tesht on November 15, in which 22 Coptic homes were torched by Muslims and no charges have been levied against any of the Muslim perpetrators, who have been identified. “Where are the Security Forces and where are the compensations for those poor people,” said the Pope, “If they won’t then we will” (AINA 11-17-2010)

The latest attack on the Copts took place on November 24, when Security forces clashed with Coptic protesters at several locations, after authorities halted construction of St. Mary and St. Michel’s Church, in Talbia, Omrania district, preparing for its demolition. The authorities claimed that the building was licensed as a community center , while the church insists the permit has been changed by the Governor of Giza. It was reported that secretary to the Governor of Giza visited the congregation on November 23rd and congratulated them on the new church (AINA 11-27-2010).

All persons arrested in the clash with state security, including minors, have been charged with premeditated attempted murder of police officers, illegal possession of weapons and explosives without a license, blocking public roads, destruction of public property for terrorism purposes, congregation in violation of the law, and rioting. Such charges carry sentences of 15 years imprisonment.

Lawyer Adel Mikhail said that because the defendants were charged with possession of explosives, cases will be brought before a State Security Court.

Defense Lawyers had submitted an appeal to the Primary Giza Court on December 6, requesting the detainees’ release, denying the existence of any justification for their detention. This was turned down and detainment of the detainees was renewed for a further 15 days, pending investigations.

“The accusations made against the detainees are not consistent with the facts. None of the prosecution records proved in any case signs of Molotov cocktails the presence of weapons,” said lawyer Adel Mikhail, “These charges are based on hearsay.”

On December 9, the Misdemeanor Appeals Court has turned down the release appeal for the Coptic defendants. and upheld the primary Court’s decision of December 6.

Adel Mikhail said that the judge listened to the lawyers for over two and half hours, and if it was up to him, he would have released, the defendants. “I understood as a defense lawyer that our appeal was rebuffed due to top level instructions and a pre-agreed plan for the case,” he said in an interview with Coptic activist Mariam Ragey.

“Most detainees were either going to school or university or as volunteers or paid workers in the building of the church, when they were arrested by the police.” adding “prosecution knows that those defendants did not commit those crimes.”

Human rights organizations inside and outside Egypt decried the unjust handling by State Security of the incident, especially the use of live ammunition on protesters. International Christian Concern called for the release of the detained Coptic children.

On November 8, fourteen Egyptian Human rights organizations, headed by the Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination, issued a statement criticizing the interference of state security in the investigations of the detainees, the deliberate medical neglect suffered by the injured defendants, and “to put an end to this security authorities farce, in which the accused are treated like prisoners, depriving them of the rights and guarantees which must not be compromised.” The statement decried the crude treatment by security forces and the public persecution of the defense team

A number of rallies are to be staged next week in Europe , Canada, Australia and the US, against the Church incident, decrying the barbaric attack on Copts with live ammunition and demanding the release of those arrested, “who as usual, are taken as “hostages” by the authorities as a means to humiliate and blackmail the Coptic community,” said the US-based Coptic Solidarity advocacy .

“2010 is a bloody year for the Copts, starting with the Christmas Eve Massacre on January 6 when six Coptic youth were killed when Islamists opened fire on worshipers as they left the prayer service,” said activist Mark Ebeid, “and now comes the Massacre of Omraniya. The only difference is that in the first, three Islamists shot the Copts, but in Omraniya, the mighty State Security did the shooting themselves on the unarmed Copts.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Court Listens to Witnesses of Muslim Brotherhood International Organization Case

The Giza Criminal Court heard witnesses today in the ‘Muslim Brotherhood International Organization case.’ The MB members are on trial for money laundering and financing MB activities.

The Giza Criminal Court heard witnesses today in the-so-called ‘Muslim Brotherhood International Organization case,’ in which charges were pressed against five Muslim Brotherhood (MB) members for money laundering and financing MB activities.

The court cross-examined the only defendant present in the courtroom, Osmama Soliman, a medical doctor and owner of a money exchange company. The other four defendants, Ashraf Mohamed, Wagdy Ghoneim, Awad ElQerany and Ibrahim Mounir, are being tried in absentia.

The first witness heard today was Hisham Zein of State Security. Zein alleged that prior to Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009 several MB activists organized more than one conference in Britain, where they claimed to be raising funds for Gaza. However, Zein testified, some of the money was sent to Egypt by the accused Ibrahim Mounir.

Mounir, according to the witness, invested the money in a partnership project with a Syrian businessman and profits were sent to a second accused, Osama Soliman, who in turn invested the money in MB activities in Egypt.

The witness also stated that the money laundering unit at the central bank notified that Osama Soliman had received a transfer amount of EU2.7 million, which investigations later showed were sent from abroad and were going to be used for MB activities.

When the witness was asked whether he had recorded proof of these claims, he replied that he did not.

Soliman attended court today on a wheelchair as he had recently suffered a heart attack. The attack had kept him at hospital for the past three months, postponing the trial several times.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Shark Attack Victim: ‘I Thought it Was a Dolphin, Then it Sank Its Teeth Into Me, Biting Again and Again’

The next moment, her nightmare began. Olga’s outstretched left hand touched something solid with a rough skin as it dived underneath her.

‘At first I thought it was a dolphin, but then I felt a sharp pain as it came up, sank its teeth into my arm and began to wag me around,’ she recounted yesterday from a hospital bed in Cairo.

‘It tried to pull me down with it into the sea, and I saw the huge jaws of a shark and a sharp fin beside me. The shark let me go for a second and I swam away. But it came back for more, biting me again and again from behind.

‘If I had not had my flippers on, it would have taken off both my legs.’ As it was, by the time Olga made it to the jetty, to be hauled to safety by other holidaymakers, she was terribly injured.

The white tip shark chasing her through the water had taken a chunk of the top of her left thigh and buttock. Her hand and arm were missing, and her blood had turned the sea red.

Olga had become another victim of the extraordinary spate of shark attacks at one of the world’s favourite resorts, Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh, where 1,000 kinds of exotic fish swim through 150 types of spectacular corals.

In the space of ten days, sharks have mauled four tourists — one of them 48-year-old Olga — and killed a fifth, who was attacked just hours after the Egyptian authorities said the water was safe.

The attacks have turned a once idyllic spot — the holiday destination of thousands upon thousands of Britons each year — into a terrifying place where the sea is now out of bounds. Today, only the brave or the foolish dare put their toes into the sparkling water.

This week I stepped onto the yellow-sand beach at Garden Bay, where the fifth shark victim — a German woman aged 70 — was mauled to death just six days ago.

Astonishingly, though hotels tell tourists that bathing is banned, there were people braving the water’s edge.

I watched as beach guards tried to persuade a small boy with his father to stop splashing his bucket in the water. I heard them beg a rotund Russian lady to get out of the sea, where she lay kicking her legs in the surf as the waves washed over her.

But there is little mention of sharks from the authorities. Instead, a softly-softly approach to the horror engulfing the resort has been ordered by an Egyptian government which is terrified of losing the tourists who bring billions of dollars to the country each year.

In ‘Sharm’ this week, there were few signs on the beach warning of sharks.

Yet in Garden Bay, there are still traces of blood on the jetty where Renate Sieffert from Markdorf, Germany, was pulled from the sea mortally wounded last Sunday in a scene of unimaginable horror that was played out while her long-time partner, Rudi, looked on from the beach, screaming and crying.

Yesterday, Dr George Burgess, a leading American shark expert called in by the Egyptian government to assess the danger to tourists, looked out over Garden Bay and predicted that it would not be the last shark attack in the Red Sea coast resort.

‘It is not a matter of if it happens, but when,’ he said. ‘If you put as many people in the water as there have been here, you are going to have more attacks.’

The bearded marine biologist, who has been called in to monitor shark attacks all over the world, believes it was a lethal combination of many events that led to the tragedies at ‘Sharm’ and which have done irreparable damage to the reputation of the 30 miles of coastline around it.

He says sharks in the area are hungry because tuna — their dinner of choice — are being over-fished in the Red Sea.

Add to this the fact that greedy boat operators are suspected of secretly throwing dead chickens overboard to attract sharks, so they can make more money by taking tourists out to see, and even swim with, the sharks.

Tellingly, the five attacks have all happened in the early afternoon — which suggests that sharks have grown used to being fed from boats at that time of day.

This horror story is all a far cry from the Sharm El Sheikh of 25 years ago. In the early Eighties, when ownership of this part of the Red Sea and Sinai Desert was returned to Egypt after long-running territory disputes with neighbouring Israel, it was a sleepy fishing town known only to experienced divers, who flocked there because of the wonderful underwater sea life.

Today, luxury hotels line every spare inch of the beaches, and, before the fatal shark attack, the sea was dotted with pleasure craft and diving boats.

Immediately after the attack, swimming, snorkelling and diving — except for extremely experienced divers — were banned by the Egyptian authorities over the entire 30 miles of the coastline while Dr Burgess prepares his report.

But such are the financial pressures on the authorities here to maintain the tourist trade, they are desperate to get people back into the sea as soon as possible.

Yesterday, they announced that a few beaches, far from the scenes of the recent attacks, would reopen.

Meanwhile, the tourists here idle away their time in the swimming pools and beachfront restaurants. Or they enjoy the gaudily-lit promenades lined with hundreds of restaurants, including a McDonalds, the Hard Rock Café and a KFC takeaway in the resort’s main bay of naama, close to Sharm El Sheikh old town.

On the Naama seafront, the scantily clad tourists walk beside scores of divers’ bars and tourist offices which, in the normal course of events, would be offering day trips for snorkellers.

Above the restaurants are the rooftop nightclubs, with neon signs flashing ‘Welcome’ and ‘Happy Xmas’ in English and Russian. Thousands of Russians, Ukrainians and Poles now travel here to escape their bitter winters at home.

But behind the façade of fun in the sun, one thought is on everyone’s minds: that the sharks will drive the tourists away (the Egyptian government makes £7.3 billion a year from foreign tourism, much of it the Red ).

Lucca, who runs a busy tourist shop at Naama Bay, told me everyone is worried about the future: ‘no one wants to talk about it. We are told by our bosses to say the beaches and seas will be back to normal soon, and the attacks were by freak sharks who came swimming from Australia.’

What is becoming clearer by the day is that shark activity has been going on for longer than many are prepared to admit.

Egyptian divers have warned of attacks, but were ignored by the authorities. This week, the ‘sightings’ board at the Red Sea Diving College clearly stated that white tip sharks have been spotted in the sea off Sharm as long as three months ago.

The white tips, believed by Dr Burgess to be responsible for at least three of the five shark attacks, are the ‘lone wolves’ of the underwater world.

Unlike the faster and smaller Mako shark, a species which may have attacked the other two tourists, the white tip will travel huge distances at a slow pace to find food, and once they find it they will stay put — particularly if that food is the flesh of mammals.

It was a white tip that attacked Olga when she was enjoying her swim at naama. The bay she was in was called, with dreadful irony, Shark’s Bay.

She is being treated in Cairo’s nasser Institute Hospital, where she was flown from the Red Sea with her daughter, 21-year-old Elena, by her side.

At the moment, Olga is too ill to fly back to Moscow. What remained of her left arm has been surgically amputated, and she has received emergency plastic surgery on her thigh and buttock.

After her mother talked weakly from her hospital bed, her body swathed in white bandages, Elena gave a graphic and terrifying description of the injuries caused by the shark.

She said: ‘My mother can only lie on her tummy because there is only a hole instead of a left buttock. Inside the hole you can see the base of her spinal cord.’

The surgeons have tidied up the left arm which was bitten off by the shark. They have taken skin from her hip to try to cover the wound on her left buttock, but she still needs a second operation to cover it properly.

‘It is impossible to move her around with such a large hole in her body. I told her we should go back to Moscow to a hospital there. She said she would try to stand up and walk a bit. But she lifted herself up and fell back, nearly unconscious from the pain.’

How the mother and daughter must regret their decision to take a last dip before lunch as they sunbathed near their hotel in Shark’s Bay. As Elena recalls emotionally: ‘We were only 30 feet away from the jetty, and could easily see the other people on the beach.

‘My mother suddenly disappeared under the water, and I saw the shark swirling her down. When she came up again, the shark let go and she shouted “Spasite! Akula!” or “Help me! Shark!” If she had not swum fast with her flippers, she would have lost her legs as it chased her to the jetty.’

Needless to say, Elena is angry about what happened. She blames the Egyptian authorities for failing to warn tourists about the dangers lurking in the beautiful Red Sea.

She is not alone in her fury.

This week, another Russian victim, marine captain Yevgeniy Trishkin, 54, returned home to Moscow with his left arm missing above the elbow and his other hand mauled after a shark attacked him while he swam near Naama Bay.

‘I was attacked on the third day of my holiday. I was swimming within the area marked safe for swimming, and snorkelling by buoys near the jetty. Children and women, they all splash there.

‘At the end of the pontoon there was a sharp depth increase and the colour of the sea gets a much darker blue, almost black. I swam into this, and by the time I saw the shark it was too late.

‘It came from the deep and was the same dark black colour as the sea.

‘It bit, and started chewing my left arm. I hit it with my right arm while it continued to eat the left away.

I hit its nose several times, and for a second it opened up its jaws, but only to bite my other hand. It was a huge creature. The people on the jetty heard my cries and came to rescue me just as I was losing consciousness. They dragged me out of the water.’

He added: ‘There was not a single warning sign on my beach, although I was not the first to be attacked by a shark. The authorities just didn’t want to make it public. They did not have nets around the bathing and snorkelling beaches, and now I think they should put them up.’

So what does the future hold for this the most popular resort of the Red Sea?

When the sharks struck the first four tourists on November 30 and December 1, the Egyptian authorities closed the beaches.

They went hunting for the culprits and came back with two supposed ‘man eaters’ (both of which were found to contain no human remains) which they displayed to the world’s media, declaring the problem to be over.

A local conservation expert said that there were ‘only’ one or two shark attacks in the Red Sea area annually. The last one involved the death of a young French woman called Katherine in June last year when she was attacked while snorkelling off Sharm.

With a flourish, they then reopened up the beaches. Three days later Renate Sieffert was dead.

The Egyptian authorities were forced to call in George Burgess, the Mr Big of the shark world, from Florida, where shark feeding is strictly prohibited. The beaches were closed again — although some have now been reopened.

Yesterday morning there was another shark alert in Garden Bay, where Renate was killed, when tourists on the beach thought they saw a dark shadow and a fin in the sea.

Dr Burgess was called to the scene in a sturdy white observation boat, but nothing was found. It may just have been a false alarm caused by jangling nerves.

One thing is certain, however. As Dr Burgess says himself as he searches for the trigger that turned the Red Sea’s sharks into human killers: ‘The sea is a wilderness, just like a jungle. It can never be made entirely safe for humans, in Sharm el-Sheikh or any other resort. We can only try to reduce the odds.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Terrorism: Can You Really Stop a Bomber by Asking, ‘Are You Terrorist?’

The security checks at Ben Gurion, Israel’s main international airport near Tel Aviv, are intense. But they are surprisingly discreet. There are no groups of armed police patrolling through the concourses (though if necessary, of course, they will appear very rapidly).

The new intrusive body scanners that reveal naked bodies beneath clothing — recently introduced in America amid passenger resentment — are not in use. Instead, Ben Gurion’s critical line of defence consists of polite, highly trained agents, most of them women. Fluent in several languages, they will speak to every passenger while they wait to drop their luggage or check in.

‘We operate on the principle that it’s much more effective to detect the would-be terrorist than try to find his bomb,’ says a senior Israeli official.

‘The 9/11 hijackers killed 3,000 people without real weapons or explosives. To be safe, you have to be able to stop the person who has hostile intentions. That’s how our system works.’

The Israelis call this method ‘behaviour pattern analysis’, and it starts beyond the airport: the passenger who pays cash for a one-way ticket at an airline office will be more likely to attract attention than someone who uses a credit card to purchase a return over the internet.

Armed police at Heathrow Terminal 4

Its first physical layer lies more than a mile from the terminal: a checkpoint for every vehicle on the only airport access road. I’ve passed through Ben Gurion many times, and once I was stopped and had my baggage searched there — apparently because I wasn’t in a taxi, but in a somewhat ancient private car being driven by an Arab friend.

But the system’s most crucial element is those polite young agents — the ‘selectors’. In most cases, their questions won’t take long, and those who pass their examination will soon be en route to their gate.

Sometimes, however, the selectors’ suspicions will be aroused: perhaps by a traveller who seems unaccountably nervous, or by someone who says he came to Israel for the sightseeing, but can’t recall what he saw. That passenger will then face more probing questions from selectors while his baggage is thoroughly searched. If he still can’t provide satisfactory answers, he will be detained in a private room and interrogated by seasoned investigators.

Ben Gurion’s system is costly and labour-intensive. Last month, I waited more than hour queuing to see a selector; and while Ben Gurion handles about 11 million passengers per year, to introduce it at Heathrow, which has six times as much traffic, would bring the place to a halt.

On the other hand, it works. The last attack at Ben Gurion — the juiciest airport terrorist target in the world — took place in 1972, and that was in the arrivals area, when three members of the Japanese Red Army armed with grenades and machine guns killed 24 after getting off a flight from Rome. No plane leaving Ben Gurion has ever been hijacked or blown up.

Until very recently, Ben Gurion’s ‘find the terrorist, not the bomb’ approach has required human beings to operate it. But now, using machines that at first sight seem straight from science fiction, it can be automated — and in the process, greatly speeded up.

At the end of last month, Live was given exclusive access to the Israeli companies that are developing this technology. They have the potential to revolutionise airport security worldwide, not just for passengers, but for freight. And that, after October’s discovery at East Midlands airport of explosives packed in a toner cartridge flown from Yemen, is also a pressing need…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Did U.S. Peace Process Diplomacy Fail; What Happens Next?

By Barry Rubin

I think this lead from Jackson Diehl’s Washington Post article says it all:

“The latest collapse of the Middle East peace process has underlined a reality that the Obama administration has resisted since it took office—that neither the current Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority shares its passion for moving quickly toward a two-state settlement. And it has left President Obama with a tough choice: quietly shift one of his prized foreign policy priorities to a back burner — or launch a risky redoubling of U.S. efforts.”

Since I’ve been trying to explain this for about ten years it’s gratifying to see others getting the point. It’s pretty remarkable that only after two years has the Obama Administration perhaps begun to get the first point: peace is not in the cards. One might also hope that it won’t take ten years to understand that the reason for this situation is that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t want peace.

Diehl understands that also. While criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not offering enough, he adds:

“[Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud] Abbas has resisted negotiating with Netanyahu ever since he took office early last year, saying he doesn’t believe the right-wing Israeli leader will ever offer serious peace terms. But Abbas also turned down a far-reaching offer from Netanyahu’s predecessor….By now it should be obvious: at age 75, he prefers ruling a quiet West Bank to going down in history as the Palestinian leader who granted final recognition to a Jewish state.”

Diehl also says something that should have been obvious for years but one rarely hears in the mainstream debate:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Iranian Man to be Blinded as Punishment

Iran’s supreme court has upheld a sentence of blinding with acid for a man who blinded his lover’s husband, under the Islamic “eye-for-an-eye” justice code, a government daily said.

The convict, named only as Mojtaba, 25, threw acid in the face of Alireza, 25, a taxi-driver in Iran’s clerical hub city of Qom, after an “illicit affair” with the victim’s wife, Mojdeh, also 25, said the newspaper Iran.

The supreme court has upheld a lower court ruling that Mojtaba be blinded with drops of acid, in line with Islamic justice, which allows for “qisas,’ or eye-for-an-eye retribution, in cases of violent crime, it said.

Qom prosecutor Mostafa Barzegar Ganji said the victim had used his right to qisas. “We have asked for forensic specialists to oversee the blinding of the convict,” he said, quoted in Iran.

Several acid attacks have been reported in Iran.

In February 2009, Majid Movahedi was sentenced to be blinded in both eyes for having hurled acid in the face of a university classmate, Ameneh Bahrami, who refused a marriage proposal.

There has been no reported confirmation that the sentence was carried out.

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

Notes From an Undeclared Cold War

By Jonathan Spyer

The diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks earlier this week confirm that the key strategic process taking place in the Middle East is the push for regional dominance by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The documents show that the Iranian nuclear program is only the most worrisome element of a broader effort, as there is additional evidence of Iranian involvement and interference in political processes across the region.

The method depicted and discussed is familiar: Local Islamist proxies are located, organized and exploited (the creation of “mini-Hizbullahs” in Saudi King Abdullah’s memorable words used in one of the cables), and influence is accumulated through the combination of ground-level brute force and Machiavellian maneuver.

The documents reveal that this Iranian effort is uppermost on the minds of the rulers of the Arab states that Iran is targeting. They suggest that the stronger Arab states are organizing political and intelligence warfare of their own to combat the Iranian effort. They also strongly indicate the absence of a corresponding sense of urgency among US administration officials.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in a meeting with Sen. John Kerry, says that “Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism is well-known, but I cannot say it publicly. It would create a dangerous situation.”

His intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, in a meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, is more explicit regarding Egyptian efforts to counter Iranian subversion.

Suleiman noted that Iran is “very active” in Egypt and that it is granting $25 million per month to Hamas.

Suleiman asserts that Iran has tried to transfer payments to the Kassam Brigades in Gaza, which Egypt has prevented.

He also notes Egypt’s apprehending of what he describes as a large “Hizbullah cell” on its soil (the 49-man cell apprehended by the Egyptian authorities in April 2009), and reports Iranian efforts to recruit among Sinai Beduin.

Suleiman tells Mullen that Egypt has begun a “confrontation with Hizbullah and Iran.” He mentions that his service has begun to recruit agents in Syria and Iraq, and says that Egypt has sent a clear message to Iran that if it continues to interfere in Egypt, Egypt will interfere with Iran. Iran, Suleiman concludes, must “pay the price” for its actions and not be allowed to interfere in regional affairs.

Saudi officials quoted sound no less concerned than the Egyptians, but their remarks are notably less robust and more anxious.

In a meeting with White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan, for example, King Abdullah describes a conversation he had with with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, on the issue of Iran’s “interference in Arab affairs.” Abdullah challenges Mottaki on Iranian meddling in Palestinian politics and support for Hamas.

“These are Muslims,” he quotes Mottaki as responding.

“No, Arabs,” countered Abdullah, before adding, “You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters.”

The exchange ends with Abdullah giving the Iranians a year to improve matters, otherwise “it will be the end.”

In the discussion, Brennan responds by noting that the US is reviewing its Iran policy, and observing that the US and Saudi Arabia have a “lot of work to do in the Middle East together.” He then seeks to change the subject.

On two subsequent occasions, Abdullah tries unsuccessfully to return the focus to Iran…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Obama and Arab Imperialism

Have you ever asked yourself why Barack Hussein Obama began his presidency by shocking America with his grandiose trip of apology and appeasement to “the Muslim world”? Did you ever ask yourselves where on earth he derived the notion that America is ‘one of the largest Muslim countries in the world’? How in the world did he come up with the notion that Islam has been part of America since its foundation?

Have you wondered why President Obama refused to say a word on behalf of millions of Iranians flooding the streets of their major cities in the summer of 2009 as they voiced their opposition to the illegitimate mullahcracy that has been enslaving Iranian people for more than three decades? Or why Obama allowed his National Security advisor John Brennan to henceforth refer to Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for millennia “Al Quds” — the Arabic Muslim name for the city? “Such a signal from an American Arab working in the White House could not be accidental, and instead comes off as a clear sign of an Arab tilt, a slight not lost on the Israelis. Underlining the anti-Israeli spin, the President just completed a trip to Indonesia, another visit to another major Muslim capital. Obama has yet to visit Israel.”

Do you recall how Obama snubbed Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minster of Israel, at the White House during his visit? And how he is funding Hamas openly via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department — sending hundreds of millions of our tax-dollars to our sworn enemies, Islamist terrorists who are dedicated upon the destruction of Israel, a goal that Obama is brazenly fostering, despite what he reads from his duo of Teleprompters?

In the Washington Post’s editorial “Mr. Mubarak vs. Mr. Obama,” the paper clearly reveals Obama’s weakness vis-à-vis Arab imperialism.

“He should end the State Department’s practice of allowing Egypt to exercise a veto over which civil society groups receive U.S. aid, and he should encourage Congress to link military funds to human rights, as it has for several democracies that are U.S. allies. Most of all, Mr. Obama should make it clear that he will not be dismissed or pushed around by Arab strongmen. If Mr. Mubarak gets away with it, others will be quick to follow his example.”

Now, Obama has mandated the United States Navy that the Persian Gulf shall no longer be referred to as such (which is how it has been defined for thousands of years), but from now on must be named the “Arabian Gulf?”

It is highly illogical and grossly irresponsible for the Obama administration to arbitrarily order our men and women in the Department of U.S. Navy to use the name “Arabian Gulf” in place of its historical name, the Persian Gulf. This is completely in contradiction with Obama’s Persian New Year Message to the Iranian people more than a year ago in which he called Iran “a great civilization.”

One wonders what motivated this blatant action by the Obama Administration — perhaps a simple arrogant exercise of power or capitulation to the financial rewards offered by recently created Sheikdoms and Arab-lords in the Persian Gulf region who aim to further their world standing at the expense of others. In 1974, in an interview with the late shah of Iran, Mike Wallace asked his majesty why the Arabs call it the Arabian Gulf; here is an excellent response by his majesty, regarding this issue.

Appeasing the Arab countries (the same Arab countries who brought down the world Trade Center in New York City) will neither change the historical name of Jerusalem nor the body of water called the Persian Gulf. It is one thing for the Obama administration to depict the map of the world as is and another thing to manipulate it. It is one thing for any business to market its product and it is another thing to peddle something it does not own…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Media Fall for Obama Muslim Joke

When a US satirist joked that President Barack Obama will admit to Congress that he is Muslim in his latest compromise with Republicans, Saudi media took it seriously. On Friday the online version of Al-Hayat newspaper and the prominent news website both reported straightforwardly humourist Andy Borowitz’s column that began: “In his latest effort to find common ground with Republicans in Congress, President Barack Obama said today that he was willing to agree that he is a Muslim. “In agreeing that he is a Muslim, Mr. Obama is sending a clear signal that he is trying to find consensus,” Borowitz said in the column posted on the Huffington Post and The Borowitz Report websites this week.

Both Al-Hayat, one of the Middle East’s most influential newspapers, and Sabq, believed to be controlled by the Saudi interior ministry, apparently missed the joke. “Obama doesn’t mind coming out as a Muslim if that will satisfy the Republicans,” the Al-Hayat headline said. “Obama: ‘I’m ready to announce that I am a Muslim,’“ led Sabq. Both repeated Borowitz’s “quote” of Obama saying:” My place of birth has been, and will always be, negotiable.”

“White House sources indicated today that the president might be willing to meet the GOP (Grand Old Party — the Republicans) halfway on his birthplace and say that he was born in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Borowitz joked, Despite Obama repeatedly saying he is Christian, because his native-Kenyan father was born a Muslim, and because his middle name is Hussein, many Muslims and even some US Republicans suspect he is secretly Muslim.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


This Exists: Vladimir Putin Sings Fats Domino’s “Blueberry Hill”

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin not only wants to conquer the elements of mother nature, free speech, and democracy, he also fancies himself as a singer.

What’s next for the Russian bear?

[Video at URL]


[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Russia ‘Was Tracking Killers of Alexander Litvinenko But UK Warned it Off’

Russia was tracking the assassins of dissident spy Alexander Litvinenko before he was poisoned but was warned off by Britain, which said the situation was “under control”, according to claims made in a leaked US diplomatic cable.

The secret memo, recording a 2006 meeting between an ex-CIA bureau chief and a former KGB officer, is set to reignite the diplomatic row surrounding Litvinenko’s unsolved murder that year, which many espionage experts have linked directly to the Kremlin.

The latest WikiLeaks release comes after relations between Moscow and London soured as a result of Britain’s decision to expel a Russian parliamentary researcher suspected of being a spy.

The memo, written by staff at the US embassy in Paris, records “an amicable 7 December dinner meeting with ambassador-at-large Henry Crumpton [and] Russian special presidential representative Anatoliy Safonov”, two weeks after Litvinenko’s death from polonium poisoning had triggered an international hunt for his killers.

During the dinner, Crumpton, who ran the CIA’s Afghanistan operations before becoming the US ambassador for counter-terrorism, and Safonov, an ex-KGB colonel-general, discussed ways the two countries could work together to tackle terrorism. The memo records that “Safonov opened the meeting by expressing his appreciation for US/Russian co-operative efforts thus far. He cited the recent events in London — specifically the murder of a former Russian spy by exposure to radioactive agents — as evidence of how great the threat remained and how much more there was to do on the co-operative front.”

The memo contains an observation from US embassy officials that Safonov’s comments suggested Russia “was not involved in the killing, although Safonov did not offer any further explanation”.

Later the memo records that Safonov claimed that “Russian authorities in London had known about and followed individuals moving radioactive substances into the city but were told by the British that they were under control before the poisoning took place”.

The claim will be rejected in many quarters as a clumsy attempt by Moscow to deflect accusations that its agents were involved in the assassination.

Russia says it had nothing to do with the murder, but espionage experts claim the killing would not have been possible without Kremlin backing. Shortly before he died, Litvinenko said he had met two former KGB agents, Dmitry Kovtun and Andrei Lugovoi, on the day he fell ill. Both men deny wrongdoing, but Britain has made a formal request for Lugovoi’s extradition following a recommendation by the director of public prosecutions.

New evidence linking Russia with the death of Litvinenko was recently produced by his widow, Marina, who procured documents allegedly showing the FSB security service seized a container of polonium in the weeks before the poisoning. Moscow disputes the claims…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Newlywed Swedish Man Kidnapped in Pakistan

A Swedish businessman has been kidnapped in Pakistan after travelling to the country to get married, newspaper Expressen reported on its website on Saturday.

The 25-year-old disappeared after a walk in the city of Quetta on November 7th, the report said. One day later, the man’s brother received a call from the kidnappers, who demanded a ransom for his release.

“He has now been sold to another criminal group. They are demanding a ransom of 5 million rupees (401,840 kronor, $58,205),” local police chief Ahmed Abidnotkhani told Expressen on Saturday.

Sweden’s foreign ministry has confirmed to news agency TT that a Swede has been kidnapped in Pakistan and that the Swedish embassy in Islamabad is in contact with local authorities.

Last Thursday, Swedish Ambassador to Pakistan Ulrika Sundberg met with Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the report said, adding that the foreign ministry declined to comment on what was said at the meeting.

“We are in contact with local authorities,” Sara Brandt-Hansen of the foreign ministry’s press service told Expressen on Saturday.

Attempts by the foreign ministry to free the man so far have been unsuccessful, the report said.

Quetta is the capital of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province. It is close to the Afghanistan border and a known al-Qaeda stronghold and haven for the terrorist organisation’s leaders. Several UN employees and journalists have been kidnapped or killed in the city.

It is also only 60 kilometres south of the epicentre of a magnitude 6.4 earthquake that took place in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latin America

In Mexico, A Legal Breakdown Invites Brutal Justice

Mexico has a long history of rough justice carried out by citizens, but it has traditionally occurred in isolated villages, in the mountains or jungles, often among Mexico’s indigenous peoples. Today, vigilante groups appear to be at work even in major cities.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Sweden to Stop Asylum Expulsions to Greece

Sweden’s refusal of entry of asylum seekers from Greece violates the alien act, the country’s migration court of appeal has ruled, ordering an end to Swedish expulsions and forcing the review of asylum applications in Sweden instead.

The UN has also noted the “squalid overcrowded facilities” and inhumane conditions for refugees in Greece.

As a result, the court has deemed the treatment of asylum seekers in Greece as unacceptable and has halted Sweden from sending back refugees who first set foot in the EU there.

The actual case facing the Swedish court concerns a family of three who will now have their asylum applications examined in Sweden instead. Since the court’s decision is a precedent, it means that asylum seekers who find themselves in Sweden and have a transfer decision to Greece cannot be sent there.

“However, that does not mean they get a residence permit, only that it should be examined here in Sweden instead,” Catharina Lindqvist, a judge at the court, told news agency TT.

Transferring asylum seekers to Greece is incompatible with the alien act and could constitute a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, the court stated in a ruling on Friday.

According to the court, the conditions that asylum seekers in Greece face are unacceptable.

The court’s criticisms did not mince words. In many cases, it was not even possible for asylum seekers in Greece to submit an application for asylum. If an asylum seeker succeeded in submitting an application, it was highly uncertain that the trial would be legally reliable.

“There is a great risk that their applications are not examined if they apply there,” said Lindqvist.

The court also pointed out the grim conditions that are in place for those who come to Greece.

“We have established that the reception is very poor. They do not have housing or food and can be forced to live in parks. This results in a number of sanitary difficulties,” said Lindqvist.

The asylum system and reception in Greece have further deteriorated as the country’s debt crisis has become increasingly acute. The UN, the courts, humanitarian agencies have also slammed the reception the refugees receive in Greece.

“The asylum process as such in Greece does not live up to the standard that one is entitled to expect of a country that has an obligation to comply with EU regulations,” the court said, calling the treatment “inhumane.”

In October, UN special rapporteur Manfred Nowak called conditions for migrants in Greece too “inhumane” because of “squalid overcrowded facilities,” a poorly trained police force and a sharp increase in the number of migrants.

The European Commission has threatened several times to take Greece before the European Court of Human Rights. The court is currently reviewing several migration matters relating to Greece.

It is estimated that Greece faces about 50,000 untested asylum cases. Out of over 30,000 asylum applications in Greece last year, only 36 individuals were granted refugee status, while 128 had protected status.

In early November, the Swedish National Migration Board (Migrationverket) halted all transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin Regulation with the expectation that the court would put its foot down.

Under the European Union’s much-criticised Dublin II regulation, illegal immigrants must be sent back to the country where they entered the EU.

About 75 percent of more than 40,000 people caught illegally entering the EU in the first half of this year did so through Greece.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

CAIR’s Hate Crime Campaign Thoroughly Consistent With Policy of Advancing Shari’a

We have on numerous occasions noted on these pages an ongoing campaign by the Council on American Islamic Relations [CAIR] to define “hate crimes” in a manner consistent with making this society subservient to Islamic law, Shari’a.

Hardly a day passes were we don’t find at least one, usually ridiculous, assertion by CAIR [in the form of an email alert] that an American Muslim has suffered an indignity attributable to anti-Muslim bigotry.

Today for example we find the case of a sign outside an Arkansas restaurant specializing in pork dishes, making the statement “No Muslims Inside.”

“AMERICAN MUSLIM NEWS BRIEFS…VIDEO: ALA. SIGN SAYS RESTAURANT SAFE BECAUSE ‘NO MUSLIMS INSIDE’“ Of course, even interpreting the verbiage in the most pejorative manner, the sign doesn’t come close to violating any federal anti-discrimination statute…but that is not the point of CAIR’s exercise in this matter.

CAIR’s purpose here is two-fold

1. To spread the provably fraudulent assertion that Islamophobia is omnipresent and that America is a cauldron of anti-Muslim bigotry. 2. To force the American legal system to define anything which even inferentially connotes disapproval or criticism of Islam and its “final prophet” Mohammed as a hate crime. This sets a process in motion which in the end results in the feds enforcing the blasphemy concept central to the Qur’an and Shari’a.

Seen dispassionately, this is clearly a back-door method of violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment by making law enforcement dependent upon a religious test. Should this philosophy take hold, it would in effect elevate Eric Holder to the position of America’s Grand Mufti, the ultimate enforcer of Shari’a in the nation.

The same MO is operative in efforts by CAIR and other Islamist organizations to force private employers [via legal action] to agree to outlandish accommodations in order to accommodate Muslim workers’ desire to pray 5 times a day. Similarly it would criminalize the banning of religious garb while on the job. This would result in, for example, the feds forcing employers to allow their Muslima saleswomen to make sales calls wearing a burqa — regardless of how negatively it might impact the sales transaction. It would also allow Shari’a concepts to trump extant law in family matters, inheritance, marriage, divorce, child custody and the like — hence the current fight in Oklahoma to ban Shari’a from creeping into its legal system.

What has to be realized is that this process [one of the central goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West] does not happen in a vacuum, it is actively promoted by CAIR, ISNA, MPAC and their brethren in hopes of eventually toppling constitutional government. So the next time you see an activist Muslim on television going on about rampant Islamophobia and how employers are discriminating against Muslima’s who insist on wearing hijab to work, see it for what it is, a naked attempt to elevate Shari’a and subvert the Western legal tradition.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Canada: Grinch U — Where the Academics Stole Christmas

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — but not at Ryerson. The Grinch’s alma mater.

The university has released a guide to the holiday season, as a public service.

“In a country as multicultural as Canada, the months of November, December and January are filled with cultural festivals and celebrations,” says the release. It lists the biggies. Hmmm, let’s see…

Hanukkah, Jewish Festival of Lights. St. Nicholas Day, celebrated by European cultures. Las Posadas, Mexican celebration of the nativity.

Epiphany, Christian celebration of the visit of the three wise men. Lohri, harvest festival of Punjab. Pongal, Hindu festival marking the start of the sun’s move north.

Wow. Lots going on.

They left out National Cookie Day and International Ninja Day. But otherwise, I can’t think of anything…oh, hang on a jiff, there is one, something about…it’s on the tip of my tongue, yes, yes, starts with ‘c’…I’ve got it… CHRISTMAS!

You know. Mistletoe. Bing Crosby. Santa. Away in a manger. Dashing through the snow…

Does Ryerson have something against Christmas?

Faculty experts have issued a dozen detailed tip packages, via the school’s public affairs office.

They cover everything from watching your waist (baked tortilla chips with low-fat bean dip) to avoiding flu (touch elbows instead of hugging) to how to suck up to the boss at the party.

You mean the Christmas party? No, the “holiday party.”

In fact, through page after page of advice, it’s as if the word Christmas has been edited out. I can find it just three times: Use paper snowflakes on wire as a “great alternative for those who cannot afford or choose not to have the traditional Christmas tree.” Have an eco-friendly “green

Christmas.” And take advantage of “post-Christmas sales.”

Otherwise, it’s holiday this, holiday that, festive this, seasonal that.

And hang onto your antlers, Blitzen. There’s not one (1) mention of Santa Claus, though a single “Yule” did get past the censors.

There is, however, Celebrating The Holidays, the Culturally Sensitive Way.

“Do not apologize for your special festivals,” writes community services professor and dean Dr. Usha George.

“We live in a truly multicultural society which is enriched by the addition of cultural symbolisms from diverse groups.”

That’s for sure. And I like it. Variety makes the world go around.

But delete Christmas? C’mon, Ryerson. It’s not a dirty word…

           — Hat tip: Ed[Return to headlines]

College Told to Halt Islam-Induced Speech Limits

A community college in Oregon that abruptly and without explanation canceled a “What is Islam” class it already had approved following complaints from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terror financing trial, is being warned its actions violate the U.S. Constitution and the class should be reinstated.

“While CAIR is free to exercise its freedom of speech to criticize viewpoints with which it disagrees, [Lane Community College] is not free to breach a contract and censor viewpoints in the name of ‘sensitivity’ or political correctness,” said a newly released letter from the American Center for Law and Justice.

“For a biased and questionable group such as CAIR to willfully try to interfere with a contract and attempt to stifle First Amendment rights of any potential opposition is to be entirely expected. However, for a state institution to follow suit is not!” said the letter signed by CeCe Heil, senior counsel for the ACLJ.

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The letter set a deadline of Dec. 15 for assurances to be issued by the school that the course will be reinstated and Barry Sommer will be allowed to teach or “we will discuss with our client his right to pursue litigation in federal court to seek a remedy for the violation of his rights.”

WND contacted the office of Mary Spilde, president at Lane in Eugene, Ore., for comment, but did not receive a response.

The ACLJ’s letter said Sommer had proposed the course, it had been approved, and in fact was being advertised by the college and Sommer, at the college’s recommendation, when CAIR intervened.

That organization, in a statement from its Washington state chapter, called for LCC to replace Sommer because statements Sommer had made “were offensive to Muslims.”

The result of the pressure from the activists was that Lane canceled the class and pulled it from the school’s website, without explanation.

“LCC’s stated commitment to tolerance and diversity is completely jeopardized when it censors an approved non-credit course at the mere behest of one biased and questionable organization,” the letter said. “Students who believe that they would disagree with the viewpoints expressed in the course are free to avoid taking the course … or to take the course and express their own viewpoints during class discussion, but there is absolutely no legitimate justification for shutting the course down because someone disagrees with an opposing viewpoint,” Heil wrote.

Not only did the school breach a contract with Sommer, it violated his free speech, the letter charged.

“LCC’s decision to cancel Mr. Sommer’s course due to CAIR’s unfounded and biased criticism of Mr. Sommer flies in the face of the First Amendment’s protection of academic freedom,” the letter said. “LCC has trampled upon academic freedom in an attempt to quell controversy.

“It is not ‘insensitive’ to discuss the interplay between the teachings of the Quran, the geo-political impact that Islam has across the globe, and the ongoing threat of terrorism posed by various Muslim groups,” the letter said. “Canceling Mr. Sommer’s course due to CAIR’s complaint conflicts with the longstanding tradition at public colleges, commanded by the First Amendment, of protecting academic freedom in order to prevent an orthodoxy — often fueled by the political correctness of the day — from being imposed upon college instructors and students. LCC should right this wrong by reinstating the course and allow interested students to register and draw their own conclusions.”

“This is a textbook case of a public college improperly firing an instructor in response to public pressure,” said Heil. “The school had approved the course and our client’s request to teach it. Only after CAIR got involved did the school react — caving to political pressure and intimidation — firing our client and cancelling the course. The school clearly violated the First Amendment free speech rights of our client. It’s disappointing that a community college that should uphold an environment of academic freedom along with diversity and acceptance has failed to do so in this case. We’re demanding that the school rehire our client and reinstate the class he had been scheduled to teach. If corrective action is not taken, we’re prepared to take legal action to protect the rights of our client.”

Sommer previously reported the trouble began after he started interviews with media about the course.

“I did the interview [with a local television station] and evidently within a few hours of when the interview was broadcast, CAIR got wind of it and issued the press release,” Sommer said. “In response they [the college] cancelled my class with no explanation.”

CAIR was cited as unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism funding trial in 2008.

Also, the FBI has discontinued working with the organization over its history and agenda.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Merry Christmas — Classic Canadian Words

Okay, you’re reading this at your desk, or in line at Loblaws. Turn to the nearest human. Christian, muslim, jewish, atheist, Habs fan, it matters not.

Now utter those two classic Canadian words. No, not “oops, sorry.”

I mean “merry Christmas.” Throw in a “ho-ho-ho,” if you’re in the mood.

Feels good, eh? Liberating.

Most folks will say “merry Christmas” back. They might even smile.

If it’s a Ryerson official, though, brace for a scowl or a slap upside the head.

As I told you Wednesday, the university’s public guide to the holidays makes virtually no mention of Christmas.

The dirty word is even missing from a list of festivities being celebrated in this multi-cult metropolis.

There’s a dozen pages of tips on holiday parties, holiday trees, holiday gifts, holiday cards, holiday cheer, holiday dinners, holiday greetings, Doug Holyday, Billie Holiday, Roy Halladay.

(Ed. note: Don’t get silly, Strobel, or you’re working the holidays.)

Okay, boss, but it is silly. Are they ashamed of Christmas?

And Santa? Not a mention. A non-disclosure Claus?

Well, you mess with Christmas, you mess with Sun readers. And with such radio hosts as John Oakley, Charles Adler, Ryan Doyle and Tarek Fatah, who had me on about this.

“Merry Christmas, Mike,” said Fatah. “Happy Islamic New Year,” I replied.

See? If politically correct officials would just leave us alone, we’d get along fine. Christmas would regain its rightful place in this country — with a healthy respect for other festivities.

“I say share cultures, learn from others and enjoy your own, but STOP hiding our Christmas!” reader Ed Hunt writes from Burlington. “What’s next, our flag?”

They’ll have to tear it from my cold, dead hands, Ed.

“It’s weird that every other holiday is acceptable to talk about, but not Christmas,” says Gary Townsend, a forestry man in Prince George, B.C. “I have a whole lot of head shaking going on.”

Don’t hurt your neck, Gary. We need those Christmas trees…

           — Hat tip: Ed[Return to headlines]

Payout for Anti-Gay Preacher Over Arrest: Landmark Ruling in Christian’s Battle for Free Speech

Police have been ordered to pay compensation to a Christian street preacher who was hauled off in handcuffs for saying that gays will go to hell.

A judge condemned the arrest of Anthony Rollins, who quoted the King James Bible on the subject of the ‘effeminate’ as he preached in Birmingham.

Mr Rollins was handcuffed and then held in a cell for nearly four hours after a passer-by dialled 999 and complained that his language was ‘hugely offensive’.

The ruling — which ended with West Midlands police ordered to pay more than £4,000 in damages to the 45-year-old preacher — appears to set a new landmark in the battle between the gay lobby and Christians who want to say in public that homosexual sex is wrong.

It comes as Christian leaders, notably former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, have been complaining against the use of equality law to force Christians to act against their consciences.

Judge Lance Ashworth QC said at Birmingham county court that police who made the arrest acted ‘as a matter of routine’.

‘This was not done in any way maliciously, spitefully or arrogantly. It was done unthinkingly’.

Mr Rollins has been speaking on the city’s streets as a member of a Christian mission for 12 years. In June 2008 he was handing out leaflets in the city centre and quoting passages from the King James Bible — the Authorised Version which reaches its 400th anniversary next year — that refer to homosexuality.

One of these was from 1 Corinthians condemning the ‘unrighteous’, including fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, and ‘abusers of themselves with mankind’.

Effeminate, Mr Rollins explained to his listeners, meant homosexuals. He also quoted the Book of Revelation to the effect that ‘the abominable shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone’.

Mr Rollins said yesterday: ‘The judgment is excellent news. But I didn’t do this for the compensation. I did it for freedom of speech.

‘It was one man who called the police. A van came up with its lights flashing. The officers didn’t even ask me for my version of events.’

He added: ‘I wonder if they would have arrested the Bishop of Birmingham if he had been preaching on the street? Would they have handcuffed him and dragged him off as if he was a common criminal?’

Judge Ashworth’s ruling was dismissive of evidence given by the onlooker who called police and who said he had been offended by the preaching.

He said of John Edwards: ‘I was not impressed by him as a witness. He struck me as a man full of his own self-importance who in the witness box relished the attention and greatly embellished his evidence.’

The ruling was praised by the Christian Institute, the think tank which backed Mr Rollins’s court claim. Spokesman Mike Judge said: ‘Street preachers may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are part of our Christian heritage.

‘Most people just walk on by and ignore it. The police have no business arresting Christians for quoting the Bible.’

The case is a notable victory for the Christian argument following a series of court reverses in recent years.

Street preacher Harry Hammond was convicted and fined in 2001 for holding a sign saying ‘Stop Homosexuality’ and an appeal on freedom of speech grounds failed.

In a key case earlier this year, judges said a relationship counsellor had no right to refuse sex therapy to gays and that Christians had no right to special protection from the law.

A test case on the right of Christian bed and breakfast owners to refuse rooms to gay couples is expected shortly.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

When it Comes to Religious Hate Crime, The Jews Are the Chosen People.

For all of the propaganda and fabrication of incidents conducted here in the United States by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R.) who continue their campaign to paint the Muslim community as victims, the statistics tell a far different story. According to the latest FBI Hate Crime Statistics, of crimes committed due to religious bias:

  • 71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
  • 8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias
  • 3.7 percent were victims because of an anti-Catholic bias.
  • 2.7 percent were victims because of an ant-Protestant bias.

Yesterday Joel Weinberger a school teacher and father of four from Brooklyn gave testimony concerning the vicious and unprovoked attack he suffered at the hands of two teenagers on Thanksgiving Day. The New York Post reports: “They hit me in the eye, and my glasses fell down and I lost consciousness,” Joel Weinberger, 26 testified in Brooklyn Family Court, regarding the alleged attack on Harrison Avenue and Wallabout Street in South Williamsburg.

Two NYPD detectives later testified that the teens confessed attacking Weinberger for “fun.”

Weinberger said that when he regained consciousness shortly after, the teens ripped off his religious hat, jacket and yamulke and began taunting him yelling, “Jew, Jew.” NYPD Detective Nicole Carter testified that one of the teens said they targeted Weinberger because “It was something fun to do” adding that Jews “don’t hit back.” The two teenage boys have also been charged with two other such anti-Jewish attacks in the South Williamsburg area.

According to The Jewish Week: Police in Williamsburg arrested two teens who were apprehended by the volunteer Shomrim Patrol following a violent attack Monday night, the second such attack in two weeks.

Moshe Guttman, 44, was attacked in the same area where Joel Weinberger was brutally assaulted on Thanksgiving Day, near Beer Ha Torah yeshiva on Wallabout Street and Harrison Avenue around 11 p.m. as he was leaving a Chanukah party. The attackers fled after Guttman started screaming and the Shomrim caught the suspects as they ran. The Brooklyn attacks on their own are deplorable acts of unprovoked violence, but they are merely a small part of a growing trend. There is an underbelly of anti-Jewish hatred bubbling beneath the surface of American life which only reveals itself in cowardly attacks against targets who “don’t hit back.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


How to Settle, Once and for All, The Whole “What’s a Planet?” Debate

Defining things is a natural impulse, but it often doesn’t fit the natural world.

When I was a kid, I knew exactly what a planet was: It was something big and round, and it orbited the sun. There were nine such beasts in the celestial menagerie. We knew Pluto was a misfit—smallish, distant, and orbiting on a weird elliptical path—but we had no doubt it was part of the family. The other planets certainly fit my description, and all was well.

I didn’t even consider Ceres, one of the solar system’s oddballs. But if I had, I’m sure I would have thought, “Ceres is an asteroid! It’s the largest one, sure, and maybe it’s even round, but it’s just the biggest of a bunch of rubble out there between Mars and Jupiter. A planet it ain’t.” As for objects past Pluto? There were no such things! Done and done.

Ah, the naïveté of youth. As an adult and as a scientist, I now see that the situation is far more complicated. Trying to rope the universe with our own definitions is like trying to put a spherical peg in a cubical hole. Why bother?

“This whole word planet is just magical,” says Mike Brown, a planetary astronomer at Caltech. “It is the one word that people understand about the solar system, and the solar system is the largest local geography that most people know. So this word really is special. It matters that we get it right.”

The word matters a lot to scientists, too, as Brown can well attest. He’s the man who recently stirred up a hornet’s nest by finding lots of new objects orbiting in the outer reaches of the solar system, one of which—Eris—is around 1,400 miles wide, about the same size as Pluto. Are these things planets? At the same time, other astronomers have been discovering Jupiter-mass or smaller bodies circling nearby stars. Are these things planets? The answer turns out to have a lot of implications for our understanding of how our solar system formed, how Earth evolved, and where to look for life elsewhere in the universe.

OK. Maybe we should bother…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Lord Monckton: Abdication of the West at COP16 Cancun, Mexico

It is democracy, that will perish from the Earth unless this burgeoning nonsense is stopped.

I usually add some gentle humor when I report. Not today. Read this and weep. Notwithstanding the carefully-orchestrated propaganda to the effect that nothing much will be decided at the UN climate conference here in Cancun, the decisions to be made here this week signal nothing less than the abdication of the West. The governing class in what was once proudly known as the Free World is silently, casually letting go of liberty, prosperity, and even democracy itself. No one in the mainstream media will tell you this, not so much because they do not see as because they do not bl**dy care.

The 33-page Note (FCCC/AWGLCA/2010/CRP.2) by the Chairman of the “Ad-Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Co-operative Action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change”, entitled Possible elements of the outcome, reveals all. Or, rather, it reveals nothing, unless one understands what the complex, obscure jargon means. All UNFCCC documents at the Cancun conference, specifically including Possible elements of the outcome, are drafted with what is called “transparent impenetrability”. The intention is that the documents should not be understood, but that later we shall be told they were in the public domain all the time, so what are we complaining about?

Since the Chairman’s note is very long, I shall summarize the main points:


Western countries will jointly provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to an unnamed new UN Fund. To keep this sum up with GDP growth, the West may commit itself to pay 1.5% of GDP to the UN each year. That is more than twice the 0.7% of GDP that the UN has recommended the West to pay in foreign aid for the past half century. Several hundred of the provisions in the Chairman’s note will impose huge financial costs on the nations of the West. The world-government Secretariat:

In all but name, the UN Convention’s Secretariat will become a world government directly controlling hundreds of global, supranational, regional, national and sub-national bureaucracies. It will receive the vast sum of taxpayers’ money ostensibly paid by the West to the Third World for adaptation to the supposed adverse consequences of imagined (and imaginary) “global warming”.


Hundreds of new interlocking bureaucracies answerable to the world-government Secretariat will vastly extend its power and reach. In an explicit mirroring of the European Union’s method of enforcing the will of its unelected Kommissars on the groaning peoples of that benighted continent, the civil servants of nation states will come to see themselves as servants of the greater empire of the Secretariat, carrying out its ukases and diktats whatever the will of the nation states’ governments. Many of the new bureaucracies are disguised as “capacity-building in developing countries”. This has nothing to do with growing the economies or industries of poorer nations. It turns out to mean the installation of hundreds of bureaucratic offices answerable to the Secretariat in numerous countries around the world. Who pays? You do, gentle taxpayer. Babylon, Byzantium, the later Ottoman Empire, the formidable bureaucracy of Nazi Germany, the vast empire of 27,000 paper-shufflers at the European Union: add all of these together and multiply by 100 and you still do not reach the sheer size, cost, power and reach of these new subsidiaries of the Secretariat.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Streetlight Effect

Researchers tend to look for answers where the looking is good, rather than where the answers are likely to be hiding.

A bolt of excitement ran through the field of cardiology in the early 1980s when anti-arrhythmia drugs burst onto the scene. Researchers knew that heart-attack victims with steady heartbeats had the best odds of survival, so a medication that could tamp down irregularities seemed like a no-brainer. The drugs became the standard of care for heart-attack patients and were soon smoothing out heartbeats in intensive care wards across the United States.

But in the early 1990s, cardiologists realized that the drugs were also doing something else: killing about 56,000 heart-attack patients a year. Yes, hearts were beating more regularly on the drugs than off, but their owners were, on average, one-third as likely to pull through. Cardiologists had been so focused on immediately measurable arrhythmias that they had overlooked the longer-term but far more important variable of death.

The fundamental error here is summed up in an old joke scientists love to tell. Late at night, a police officer finds a drunk man crawling around on his hands and knees under a streetlight. The drunk man tells the officer he’s looking for his wallet. When the officer asks if he’s sure this is where he dropped the wallet, the man replies that he thinks he more likely dropped it across the street. Then why are you looking over here? the befuddled officer asks. Because the light’s better here, explains the drunk man.

That fellow is in good company. Many, and possibly most, scientists spend their careers looking for answers where the light is better rather than where the truth is more likely to lie. They don’t always have much choice. It is often extremely difficult or even impossible to cleanly measure what is really important, so scientists instead cleanly measure what they can, hoping it turns out to be relevant. After all, we expect scientists to quantify their observations precisely. As Lord Kelvin put it more than a century ago, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swine Flu Redux

The swine flu virus that swept the world last year causing a global health emergency has returned to claim the lives of 10 adults in the UK in the past six weeks.

The 10 deaths were in younger adults under 65 and associated with H1N1 swine flu. Most had underlying conditions but “a small proportion” were healthy before being struck down by the virus, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).


[Return to headlines]

Swine Flu and Vigilance

The fear among flu experts is that the novel H1N1 influenza virus that caused the 2009 pandemic, the first of the 21st century, could mutate. We got off lightly last year when swine flu turned out to be a pussy cat not a tiger


Last year’s pandemic was the first for 40 years and emerged from Mexico after virus strains in pigs and humans combined to create a new H1N1 influenza virus.

H1N1 swine flu has now become the dominant seasonal virus, driving out the previous seasonal H3N2 virus, and is likely to remain so, recurring each year, for years to come. The expectation now is that the virus will change slightly each year in a process known as “antigenic drift” to infect a new generation. In response, flu experts will gather annually to agree a modified vaccine to protect against the new strain — and any others that may be circulating — until the next major mutation occurs, an antigenic “shift”, triggering a new pandemic…


[Return to headlines]

The United (Muslim) Nations?

The United Nations wants to criminalize religious heresy, provided that those making the claim are Islamists.

Later this month, the United Nations General Assembly will vote on the nonbinding Defamation of Religions Resolution, which would give international sanction to the type of religious persecution commonplace in Muslim-majority countries. Superficially, the resolution contains feel-good human rights language routinely churned out by the U.N. The intent of this resolution, however, is to give sanction to repressive mechanisms that primarily Muslim countries use to stifle critiques of their state-sanctioned sects. This lends international legitimacy to criminal penalties against people who exercise their freedom of worship.

The resolution has been pushed in various forms for over a decade, largely by the 57 states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. These countries have Shariah-based legal systems that boast the most stringent requirements for public worship and the harshest penalties for not adhering to the official religious orthodoxy. Islam is the only religion expressly mentioned in the resolution.

The proposed language discusses the Sept. 11, 2001 jihadist attacks on America, not to condemn them but to call attention to “the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities” that allegedly took place afterwards, which was part of a purported “intensification of the overall campaign of defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.” It claims, “Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism and, in this regard, regrets the laws or administrative measures specifically designed to control and monitor Muslim minorities.”

The U.N. resolution makes no mention of laws prevalent in Muslim countries that impose the death penalty on those who convert to Christianity. It calls on the U.N. to “report on all manifestations of defamation of religions, and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia,” but its sponsors are silent about virulent anti-Semitism their countries promote in schools and mass media.

The resolution acknowledges “everyone has the right to hold opinions without interference and the right to freedom of expression.” But it immediately waters down these rights by maintaining that exercising them “carries with it special duties and responsibilities” and thus may be “subject to limitations” to preserve “respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and general welfare.” This elastic clause gives theocracies virtually unlimited means to restrict religious and other liberties in the name of the very public they are oppressing.

The Defamation of Religions Resolution is toxic to Western principles. The resolution seeks to defend the rights of certain religions rather than those of the often oppressed people. That doesn’t make sense. What an imam might charge is defamation worthy of criminal prosecution, another might call a legitimate critique of a repressive religious doctrine.

Officials from Muslim countries go to a lot of trouble to stifle any criticism or reasoned discussion of their religion. There’s one policy they usually shun but might want to try: more openness.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Two Black Georgia Democrats Bolt Party for GOP

Two African-American Democrats on Thursday announced that they were joining the Republican Party.

Hall County Commissioner Ashley Bell and former state executive committee member Andre Walker said the Democratic Party had grown too liberal and they are finding a new home with the Republicans.


Bell was introduced as a Republican at a news conference Thursday at party headquarters.

“My district is pretty Republican as it is,” Bell told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “My wife and I have been thinking about this for six months.”

He said they are both conservative “and the Democratic Party has been our home. The party had conservatives and liberals both in the party. [But] this election showed us the liberal wing of the Democratic Party is very, very strong. If your’e a conservative, it became more difficult to be in the Democratic Party.”


Walker, who runs the political blog Georgia Unfiltered, resigned from the Democratic Party’s state executive committee. Walker was a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and is a former president of College Democrats of Georgia.

“Since the first Democratic lawmaker bolted to the Republican Party, left-leaning activists have mocked and ridiculed those individuals as being self-serving people only looking for ways to remain in office,” Walker told the AJC. “But I’m not an elected official. I don’t hold public office. I’m not trying to protect my seat. I don’t have a seat to protect. I’m just a regular citizen with a healthy interest in the political process, and I’m joining the GOP because of ideology.”

Walker, who has been increasingly critical of the Democratic Party in recent weeks, said he looks “forward to convincing other people who look like me that it’s okay to vote Republican and support Republican candidates. It’s time for the black vote to be competitive again.”

[Return to headlines]