Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101212

Financial Crisis
»Britain ‘More Thatcherite Now Than in the 80s’ Says Survey
»The Eurozone is in Bad Need of an Undertaker
»The Municipal Bond Pitch: “What You’re Giving Me is Pure Bulls**t”
»India Threatens US Over Diplomat’s Airport ‘Frisking’
»Is This Woman Winston Churchill’s Illegitimate Grand-Daughter?
Europe and the EU
»Austrian and Italian Police Team Up at Xmas Market
»Britain’s Top Tax Official Enjoys £6,000 Four-Night Stay at Luxury Hotel in India… To Make a 30-Minute Speech
»Florida Pastor May be Barred From the UK
»France’s Le Pen Under Fire for Muslim ‘Occupation’ Claims
»German FM Privately Opposed Turkey’s EU Bid: Wikileaks
»Guilty: Islamo-Realism as Hate Speech in Denmark
»Italy: Rome Mayor Says ‘Will Pay’ If Involved in Hirings Case
»Italy: Rome Prosecutors Probe Alleged MP ‘Transfer Market’
»Italy: Berlusconi Steels for Knife-Edge Confidence Vote
»MBDA Relies on Hi-Tech Transfer to Win Turkish Defense Deal
»Netherlands: Catholic Church Must Improve Help for Abuse Victims
»Sicilian Beach Lovers Enjoy Warm Weather
»Suicide Bomber Who Died in Stockholm Terrorist Blasts Studied at British University
»Swedes Shocked by 1st Terror Attack in 3 Decades
»The Strangest Antisemite of Them All: The Bizarre Case of Friedrich Nietzsche
»UK: 35,000 Deaths Fear in New Arctic Blizzards
»UK: Anger Over Plans to Axe Wootton Bassett Parades Honouring Britain’s War Dead
»UK: Home Secretary Set to Ban Anti-Islam Pastor Who Wanted to Burn Koran on 9/11 From Entering UK
»UK: Health Campaigners Furious as Trust Boss Asks Staff to ‘Donate’ Annual Leave to Save Money
»UK: Never Mind Rioting Yobs…
»UK: Teacher: How Can it be Right That an 11-Year-Old Boy Can Call Me a F****** Cow — and There’s Not a Thing I Can Do?
»UK: Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe Put on Diet After He Balloons to 19 Stone With Tuck Shop Binges… And Doctors Fear for His Health
»US Embassy Feared Barcelona Was an Islamist Hub
»US Proposed Setting Up Intel Hub in Spain: Wikileaks
»Wikileaks: Amazon Taken Offline in Suspected ‘Hacktivist’ Attack
»Wikileaks Cables: Sinn Féin Leaders ‘Were Aware of’ Northern Bank Heist Plans
»Wikileaks Cables: IRA Used Irish Boom to Turn ‘Respectable’
»Anger at UK’s £1bn Bill to Help Albania and Serbia Join EU
North Africa
»Egypt: Protests Over Block on Church of the Pyramids. “The Government Discriminates Against Christians”
»Egyptian State-Run Media Defames Coptic Pope
Israel and the Palestinians
»Hamas: No Negotiations on Historic Palestine
»Israel: Thousands in Tel Aviv for Human Rights Day
»Israel Frees Radical Muslim Leader
»The Unholy Alliance Between Israel’s Right and Europe’s Anti-Semites — Extreme Nationalists in Israel Have Invited Extremists in Europe and Believe They Have Tamed Them to Their Cause. By Adar Primor * Published 01:39 12.12.10
Middle East
»2022 Cup Will Promote Islamic Values: Survey
»Barca in Record Shirt Deal With Qatar Foundation
»Eye for an Eye: Iranian Man Sentenced to Have Drops of Acid Poured Onto His Face for Blinding His Lover’s Husband
»Iran Warns About Spread of Iranophobia, Islamophobia in Canada
»Iraqi Christians Plot Course for Self-Determination
»Jordan Opposition Accuses Government of Apostasy
»Turkey: Canadian’s Grave Relocated to Corner in Bodrum Cemetery
»Wikileaks Cable Sticks the Knife Into Azerbaijan’s First Lady
South Asia
»India: Systematic Attacks Against Christians in Karnataka
»Pakistan Doctor Arrested on Suspicion of Blasphemy
»Six NATO Troops Killed by Suicide Bomber in Afghanistan
»Wikileaks Cables Paint Bleak Picture of Tajikistan, Central Asia’s Poorest State
»Wikileaks Cables Show US Public-Private Conflict Over Uzbekistan
»Wikileaks Cables Name UK Banker as Middleman in Kazakh Corruption Ring
Far East
»We Are Ready for War, Warns North Korea’s Peace Commission
Australia — Pacific
»Gold Coast Bikie Gang Linked to Osama
»New Bikie Gang Called Soldiers of Islam is Gaining Momentum on the Gold Coast
»Arizona Regains Footing in Legal Battle Over Immigration Law
»EU Commissioners Say Europe Needs More Immigration
»Pictured: Archbishop of York John Sentamu and the Happy Couple Now Facing Jail Over Immigration Scam
Culture Wars
»Canada: Evangelical TV Show Pulled From the Air
»Gays in Africa Face Growing Persecution, Activists Say
»Natural Security: New Worry of Potential World Resource Wars
»Skin Was the First Organ to Evolve

Financial Crisis

Britain ‘More Thatcherite Now Than in the 80s’ Says Survey

Britain is now more Thatcherite than when Margaret Thatcher was in power, with people much less supportive of the welfare state and the redistribution of wealth than in the 1980s, according to an authoritative study of the country’s mood.

New Labour oversaw the biggest recorded shift to the right in public attitudes on those measures, despite a surge in concern about the scale of the wealth gap between rich and poor.

Sympathy towards benefit claimants has evaporated, along with support for redistributive tax and spend policies, over the past 20 years, with Labour governing during a period of significant hardening of attitudes towards the poor, the annual results of the British Social Attitudes survey reveal.

But public satisfaction with health and education improved dramatically over the same period, the study shows, leaving the researchers asking why Labour did not fight the election on its social policy record — and warning that the coalition is now risking a significant backlash against its reforms and cuts to public services that people are happy with.

Making profound reforms to the NHS or schools, when trust in politicians has reached an all-time low, risks considerable public resistance, the report concludes. The annual British Social Attitudes survey of more than 3,500 people, conducted by the National Centre for Social Research every year since 1983, this year offers a verdict on the 13 years of Labour rule.

Penny Young, chief executive of the National Centre for Social Research, said: “The survey points to a nation at political crossroads between left and right: it is perhaps little surprise that the election resulted in a coalition. On the one hand we are seeing a hardening of attitudes towards welfare reform, whilst on the other there is strong support for investment in health and education.”

It finds that the public is now less sympathetic towards benefit claimants than at the end of the Thatcher era. In 1991, 58% thought the government should spend more on benefits. By 2009 that had more than halved to 27%.

Just over half (51%) backed policies to redistribute income from rich to poor in 1989, compared with 36% now. The researchers blamed the “significant change in political rhetoric” throughout the New Labour years, with the abandonment of Clause 4, the party’s promise to redistribute wealth, and the emphasis in welfare policies on people going back to work. “This could be due to the reluctance of parties on the left to talk positively about redistribution, which has become synonymous with an ‘Old Labour’ ‘tax and spend’ approach,” the report says.

But concern about inequality in wealth has simultaneously grown, with 78% of people now saying the income gap between rich and poor is too large. The report argues that the difference between high levels of concern about that income gap and support for policies to redistribute wealth is explained by “self-interest” on the part of higher earners who do not want to lose money from their pay packets to support others and a perception of “laziness” among poorer people…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Eurozone is in Bad Need of an Undertaker

There will be no Eurobond, no increases in the EU’s €440bn (£368bn) rescue fund, and no mass purchases of Spanish and Italian bonds by the ECB. Nothing. The system is politically and constitutionally paralysed. Spain and Portugal will be left nakedly exposed before their funding crunch in January. It is entirely predictable that Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy would move so quickly to shoot down last week’s Eurobond proposal, issuing pre-emptive warning before this week’s EU summit that they will not accept “a bundling together of all Europe’s debts”. How can Germany or France agree lightly to plans that amount to an EU debt union, with a common treasury, tax system, and budget policy, the stuff of civil wars and revolutions over the ages? To do so is to dismantle the ancient nation states of Europe in all but name.

Even if Chancellor Merkel wished to take this course — and even if the Bundestag approved it — the scheme would still be torn to pieces by the German constitutional court unless legitimised by radical EU treaty changes, which would in turn take years, require referenda, and face populist revolt in half Europe. What the German people are being asked to do is to surrender fiscal sovereignty and pay open-ended transfers to Southern Europe, taking on a burden up to six times reunification with East Germany. “If we pool the debts of the countries in the south-west periphery of Europe, we are blighting our children’s future: the debt levels are astronomic,” said Hans-Werner Sinn, head of Germany IFO institute. Any attempt to prop up the status quo will cement the current account imbalances of EMU’s North and South, to the detriment of both sides. “I doubt that the current leaders of Europe fully understand the economic implications of their decisions. They are repeating the mistakes that Germany made over reunification,” he told the Handelsblatt. Transfers to the East are still running at €60bn a year two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. There has been no meaningful East-West convergence for the last 15 years…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Municipal Bond Pitch: “What You’re Giving Me is Pure Bulls**t”

Undaunted by falling municipal bond prices, rising yields, and withdrawal of funds, research reports by large brokerage firms still mollify the majority of clients and fund managers with numbers and assertions: “General obligation bonds do not default.” “The general obligation default rate is 0.01%.” “Most states are required by law to balance their budgets.” To these and other airtight arguments in the muni marketing kit, the proper articulation of doubt may be expressed as: “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.” Or, one might read “Possible Misunderstandings by Municipalities and Their Bonds.”

This précis was written in April 2010. It is a sign of the times that market-making brokerage houses and fund companies still roll out the same phrases and avuncular charm, dismissing critics, but with nothing new to add. Meredith Whitney, an Oppenheimer bank analyst (at the time), told an uncomprehending world in 2007 that banks were going bust. In September 2010, she issued a 600-page report that projected the same for mendicant states and municipalities. One expert replied that he was “somewhat skeptical about Ms. Whitney’s sensational hypothesis and [felt] that she might be trying to hit a ‘home run’ like she did with the banking crisis.”

Of course she was trying to hit a homerun! Why else would she write a 600-page report on municipal finance? That has nothing to do with her argument that California, New Jersey, Illinois and Ohio may either default or need a federal bailout in the next twelve months. (Ten months from now, since she stated the warning on September 30, 2010, via Bloomberg TV.)

It has become clear that the states and municipalities facing the greatest financial difficulties will default. This applies to their general obligations and probably many revenue projects, too. This forecast is a synthesis of observation. Those in hock cannot tie their own shoelaces. For investors who hold the municipal bonds of localities where evening news coverage from state houses and town halls could be mistaken for an episode of the Bowery Boys, there is no reason to expose your net worth as an air-raid shelter over the pathologies of American excess.


Grouping the financial statements of towns in a consolidated statement, municipalities that already leave over half their liabilities off balance sheet, sounds like a combination of Enron’s dirty dealing tucked inside an impenetrable Collateralized Debt Obligation. I may not know much about Massachusetts state house budgeting. But I know about bulls**t. And what the 40-year veteran was told is pure bulls**t.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


India Threatens US Over Diplomat’s Airport ‘Frisking’

Voicing ‘strong concerns’ over the ‘pat down’ frisking of Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar at a US airport, India on Saturday summoned US Deputy Chief of Mission Donald Lu and threatened to review privileges granted to US diplomats if such incidents are repeated.

India also asked the US to sensitise the authorities at all its airports to cultural and religious sensitivities of foreign diplomats.

Lu was summoned by Javed Ashraf, joint secretary (Americas), to his office in India’s external affairs ministry in South Block.

Shankar was subjected to the security search at the Jackson-Evers International Airport on December 4 when she was to board a flight to Washington after attending a function at the Mississippi State University.

“We made it clear it was unacceptable,” a source in the external affairs ministry said.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Shankar was singled out from a group of 30 passengers and pulled aside. Witnesses told the paper that she was chosen as she was wearing a sari, and was patted down despite her diplomatic passport.

Ashraf conveyed to the US diplomat that despite the fact that the mission has followed the state department’s guidelines for expedited clearance for ambassadors and Shankar had presented her diplomatic identity, the envoy had to undergo enhanced security checking because ‘as we have been informed she was wearing a sari’.

The US diplomat was told that India understood and respected everybody’s security procedures, but also expected that normal diplomatic privileges and courtesies are extended to ambassadors and Indian diplomats.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Is This Woman Winston Churchill’s Illegitimate Grand-Daughter?

Secret adoption in the US at the centre of allegations over a very British cover-up

It wouldn’t be their finest hour, but it might add an intriguing chapter to the history of perhaps the greatest British dynasty of the 20th century. A middle-aged woman from the American Midwest claimed this week to be Winston Churchill’s illegitimate grand-daughter.

Rhonda Noonan, a 54-year-old inhabitant of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has spent 30 years trying to track down parents who gave her up for adoption as a newborn. Her conclusion: that she was fathered by our wartime Prime Minister’s only son, Randolph.

The allegation divides historians who have examined Ms Noonan’s claims. Some believe that it has the ring of truth. Others caution that the evidence is at best circumstantial.

Both groups agree that the only way to confirm or deny her genealogy

is via a DNA test. That move is currently being blocked by the Churchill family. They will not co-operate with Ms Noonan.

She recently enlisted the services of a Hollywood PR man, Michael Sands, who worked with Randolph Churchill’s late daughter, Arabella. He hopes that publicity will force the Churchill family’s hand. If not, then Ms Noonan is at work on a memoir.

“I have spent half my life researching this, so I don’t have any doubt about who I am,” she told The Independent on Sunday. “It’s an epic story. But of course I know that it will take a lot for most people to believe it. That’s why I want this DNA test.”

Ms Noonan’s tale begins when she decided to track down the parents who had given her up for adoption in 1956. After a decade spent sparring with the state’s Department of Human Services she won a court order in 1990 forcing them to give her a copy of her birth certificate.

From this, she traced her biological mother, Irene Pruitt-Gaffard, who by then was 76 and lived in the nearby city of Purcell. But the elderly lady refused to identify Ms Noonan’s father, or discuss the circumstances under which she was conceived.

Then Ms Noonan accessed the original case notes from her adoption file, which mentioned her father had been British, and contained handwritten addendums suggesting that he was well connected and that his identity had therefore been hushed up.

About 10 years ago, Ms Noonan called former employees of the state’s adoption agency hoping for more information and received an anonymous tip identifying her father as Randolph Churchill. “It explained so much about me and the way I am. I look just like Randolph Churchill. I cock my left eyebrow just like he did.”

The eminent Englishman, had visited Tulsa around the time Ms Noonan was conceived. A correspondent for The Times, he was covering the Democratic nomination in the presidential race.

During the trip, Ms Noonan discovered, Churchill spent several nights at the officers’ bar at Tinker Airforce Base. She believes he met Irene Pruitt-Gaffard there, and a romance ensued.

Though no documents back up her theory, she has a statement signed by Polly Hunt, a now-deceased employee of the state adoption agency. She claims to have been involved in the adoption and the cover-up of her father’s identity…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Austrian and Italian Police Team Up at Xmas Market

Austrian police are cooperating with their Italian colleagues in a new pilot project.

Carabinieri Lorenzo Galli and Paolo de Biasi will join Austrian police officers on patrol at the Christmas markets of Innsbruck, Tyrol, during the next few weeks.

The Italian policemen said today (Fri) they will try to reduce communication troubles when their fellow countrymen become victims of pickpockets or struggle asking for directions.

Tyrolean officials said Galli and de Biasi will not be armed, adding that the pilot project had the potential to be expanded onto the province’s slopes or its lakes in summertime.

In a similar cooperation project, Austrian policemen assisted their Croatian colleagues in seaside resorts visited by tens of thousands of Austrians every summer this year and in 2009.

Right-wingers have made clear they opposed the new partnership between Tyrolean and Italian police officers. Werner Königshofer of the Freedom Party (FPÖ) announced: “Austria’s police is capable handling the situation themselves. They don’t need assistance of foreign military police.”

The Austrian retail trade loses out on around one per cent of turnover in the weeks before Christmas every year due to theft. Almost 30 per cent of offenders are children and teenagers, many of them sent to steal by their parents or organised crime gangs.

Innsbruck’s Christmas markets are a popular tourist destination. People from all over the world come to the city, which is located in the heart of the Austrian Alps, to do their Christmas shopping at its markets and shops and to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

Other well known Christmas markets in Austria are Salzburg’s Christkindlmarkt and the many markets in federal capital Vienna. American news network CNN’s CNNGo portal even named the market in Salzburg as the fourth-best place to spend the festive season this year.

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

Britain’s Top Tax Official Enjoys £6,000 Four-Night Stay at Luxury Hotel in India… To Make a 30-Minute Speech

Britain’s top tax official Dave Hartnett has enjoyed a four-night stay in a luxury hotel in India — at a cost of thousands of pounds to the taxpayer — to attend a conference at which he delivered a speech lasting just half an hour.

Mr Hartnett, Permanent Secretary for Tax at Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, flew business class to Mumbai to participate in the low-key conference largely for Indian accountants and tax officials.

He was even joined on the trip by another senior executive, Melissa Tatton, who is the HMRC’s Deputy Director of Business International.


Last night a spokesman for Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs said that the trip had been carried out for business purposes and it had met the bill — which totalled £6,000 for the flights and accommodation — of both Mr Hartnett and Ms Tatton. They travelled with Virgin Atlantic to India and returned on Jet Airways.

The spokesman said: ‘Both officials went straight into important business meetings immediately on arrival and so travelled business class.’

He said the meals had been paid for by Mr Hartnett and he would not be claiming for them on expenses.

The spokesman added the costs involved in attending the conference should be set against the likely benefits of meetings with Indian tax officials and others to discuss ways to improve the collection of corporation tax from multi-national companies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Florida Pastor May be Barred From the UK

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is to consider banning the US pastor Terry Jones from travelling to Britain at the invitation of a far-right organisation to speak on “the evils and destructiveness of Islam”. Pastor Jones provoked widespread outrage earlier this year with his plan to burn a pile of Korans outside his church in Gainsville, Florida, and has been invited to address a rally of the English Defence League (EDL).

Ms May said after learning of the invitation to Luton in February that she will be “actively looking” at whether he should be allowed into the country. Any decision to deny him entry would be taken on the basis of whether it was regarded as “not conducive to public good” or on the grounds that national security was threatened. “Pastor Terry Jones has been on my radar for a few months now. This is a case that I will be actively looking at,” she said.

The pastor has said he will speak in support of the fight against “the Islamification of England and Europe” but he promised yesterday he would respect Britain’s laws and had no intention of provoking a riot.

George Readings, a spokesman for the counter-extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foundation, said the EDL’s protests had a “track record of degenerating into violence” and added: “This suggests that his presence in the UK will not be conducive to the public good.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said he should stay in the US: “The Home Secretary might be forgiven for thinking we have enough nutters of our own.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France’s Le Pen Under Fire for Muslim ‘Occupation’ Claims

The daughter of French far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was under fire Sunday for comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation. Marine Le Pen said Friday at a rally of the anti-immigrant National Front that there were “ten to fifteen” places in France where Muslims worshipped in the streets outside mosques when these were full. “For those who want to talk a lot about World War II, if it’s about occupation, then we could also talk about it (Muslim prayers in the streets), because that is occupation of territory,” she said at the gathering in Lyon. “It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of districts in which religious laws apply. It’s an occupation,” she said at the rally that was part of her bid to take the party leadership when her father steps down in January. “There are of course no tanks, there are no soldiers but it is nevertheless an occupation and it weighs heavily on local residents,” the 42-year-old noted. The comments sparked condemnation from politicians from President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party and from the opposition Socialists and the Greens. “This is the true face of the far right which has not changed in the slightest, and Marine Le Pen is just as dangerous as Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Socialist Party spokesman Benoit Hamon said Saturday. Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has several convictions for racism and anti-Semitism, shocked Europe in 2002 by coming in second in the French presidential elections. The French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) said Saturday that Marine Le Pen’s comments were “insulting towards the Muslims of France” and were an “incitement to hatred and violence against them.” On Sunday, an anti-racist group said it planned to file a civil lawsuit against her. “Comparing Muslims to an army of occupation is humiliating. To be treated like invaders, like fascists, that is just not possible,” said Mouloud Aounit, head of the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP). Paris’ Goutte d’Or district, where mosques are so full on Fridays that many believers end up praying on the streets outside, is one of the ares that Le Pen was referring to in her Lyon speech. Police in June banned a “pork sausage and wine” street party planned by extremist groups to combat what they saw as the “Islamisation” of the neighbourhood. The plan sparked outrage from politicians and anti-racism groups who said it was blatantly racist and could lead to violence on the streets. That controversy came after a government-sponsored debate on national identity spotlighted anxieties about the integration of France’s five to six million Muslims. On Sunday locals in the Goutte d’Or district said they were well used to comments like Le Pen’s. “Most Muslims feel threatened. They won’t leave us alone,” said a grocery store worker who gave his name as Hakim. “With the cold and the dirt, we’d love to have a clean hall to pray in but we don’t have the choice,” said Walid Ben, who works in a fabric shop in the area. “I understand that it bothers people (if Muslims pray in the streets) but what solution is Marine Le Pen proposing?” he asked.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

German FM Privately Opposed Turkey’s EU Bid: Wikileaks

The foreign minister, during his visit to Ankara in January, had assured the Turkish government “fair negotiations” on the country’s membership in the EU.

However, he had told US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when he visited her in Washington soon after taking office in November, last year that such a large country cannot be integrated into the EU, according to classified US diplomatic cables released by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks.

If Germany has to decide now about Turkey joining the EU, the answer is “clearly a no”, Westerwelle told Hillary. He told her that Turkey is not modern enough for a full membership in the EU.

However, this question will arise only in five or six years, he said, according to a report in the German news weekly Der Spiegel, which has been given access by WikiLeaks to a trove of over 250,000 classified US embassy cables.

Der Spiegel and four leading international newspapers have been publishing batches of the documents during the last 12 days, In his public statements, Westerwelle held the position that a full membership of Turkey in the EU is possible and he had called for a “fair treatment” of that country in the EU membership negotiations.

He was often on a collision course with his coalition partners Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU), which vehemently opposed a full membership and offered Turkey a “privileged partnership”.

If Germany closes the doors now, it will have major consequences for the country’s domestic situation, he said.

During his visit to Ankara, Westewelle had spoken of Turkey’s right for a fair negotiation and a reliable negotiations partner.

The cables speculated that this may be a tactic to encourage further reforms in that country. Negotiations between the EU and Turkey on its membership have been going on since 2005.

Westerwelle was deeply embarrassed by WikiLeaks revelations last week that his top aide was an informer to US diplomats in Berlin.

Leaked US embassy cables showed that his senior personal assistant Helmut Metzner had regularly passed on confidential information about coalition negotiations to American diplomats. Metzner, who admitted the allegations, was later sacked from his office and from the FDP.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Guilty: Islamo-Realism as Hate Speech in Denmark

When it comes to criticism of Islam, Europe’s ruling political class now goes beyond what Orwell wrote about the vilification of the Soviet system. Regarding Leftist attitudes toward those deemed “rabidly anti-Communist,” Orwell had observed the following:

The upshot is that if from time to time you express a mild distaste for slave-labor camps or one-candidate elections, you are either insane or actuated by the worst motives. In the same way when Henry Wallace is asked by a newspaper interviewer why he issues falsified versions of his speeches to the press, he replies: “So you must be one of those people who are clamoring for war with Russia.” There is the milder kind of ridicule that consists in pretending that reasoned opinion is indistinguishable from an absurd out-of-date prejudice. If you do not like Communism you are a Red-baiter.

My colleague, the journalist and historian Lars Hedegaard, President of The Free Press Society in Denmark, forwarded some introductory remarks, followed by Danish MP Jesper Langballe’s “guilty” plea for “hate speech” — more aptly Islamo-realistic speech — after Langballe was denied the right to prove his case.

Lars Hedegaard, it should be noted, is also facing criminal trial followed by a libel suit for remarks he made in December 2009. His criminal trial takes place in Frederiksberg Court on January 24, 2011.

Translation: — the web magazine of the Danish Free Press Society

§ 266b of the Danish penal code states,

“Whoever publicly or with the intent of public dissemination issues a pronouncement or other communication by which a group of persons are threatened, insulted or denigrated due to their race, skin colour, national or ethnic origin, religion or sexual orientation is liable to a fine or incarceration for up to two years.”

And here is what Jesper Langballe wrote that merited prosecution under the Danish penal code:

“Of course Lars Hedegaard should not have said that there are Muslim fathers who rape their daughters when the truth appears to be that they make due with killing their daughters (the so-called honour killings) and leave it to their uncles to rape them.”

[Lars Hedegaard’s introductory remarks]

On December 3, 2010 the municipal court in Randers, Denmark found the Danish Member of Parliament Jesper Langballe (Danish People’s Party) guilty of hate speech under Article 266b of the Danish penal code. In accordance with Danish legal precedent he was denied the opportunity to prove his allegation that honour killings and sexual abuse take place in Muslim families. Under Danish jurisprudence it is immaterial whether a statement is true or untrue. All that is needed for a conviction is that somebody feels offended. “With this article in the penal code,” commented Mr. Langballe, “I must be assumed convicted in advance. I have no intention of participateing in this circus. Therefore I confess.”

Mr. Langballe was sentenced to a fine of DKK 5,000 (approximately $1000) or ten days in jail. Here is a translation of Jesper Langballe’s full confession in court. [Jesper Langballe’s “guilty plea”]

Here at the start of my trial I wish to make a statement that will probably allow us to get home early. My message is that I confess. I plead guilty. And I wish to state my reasons.

I have already expressed my regret that the tone of the newspaper piece that has lead to me being charged was too rash and sarcastic. It did not do justice to the deeply serious issue I addressed, i.e. the terrible honour killings that take place in some Muslim families where a young girl is being murdered by her father or brother because she has fallen in love with the “wrong” man. In Denmark there is an average of approximately one honour killing per year. In Turkey there is an average of one a day according to the Turkish authorities’ statistics.

In addition I have spoken about fathers who look the other way while uncles or cousins rape their daughters. That is a well attested fact. Suffice it to refer to Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s descriptions and here in Denmark to Kristina Aamund’s touching book Mødom pa mode (Virginity in vogue) about young people in Muslim families.

That was the factual basis for the passage in my comment in Berlingske Tidende [a Copenhagen daily]. As I am not a lawyer, I had been looking forward to an opportunity to prove my words and thus to shed light over the substance of my remarks — the horrific honour killings. That was why I — as opposed to the rest of my parliamentary group — voted in favour of lifting my immunity as a parliamentarian in order that the trial might go forward.

I have since learned that according to current legal usage defendants in cases brought under Article 266b are denied the right to prove their case. With this article in the penal code I must be assumed convicted in advance. I have no intention to participate in this circus. Therefore I confess. This will also ensure agreement between the verdict I shall be handed in a few moments and the unbecoming article in the penal code according to which I am convicted.

In addition I am facing a libel suit for the statements I am tried for today. An in a libel suit I shall have the opportunity to prove my words. Article 266b’s sole criterion of culpability, however, is whether someone feels offended or insulted — not whether what I have said is true or false. This must be said to be in full accordance with the general “culture of offence” that has taken root and which is so magnificently supported by Article 266b. In certain circles is has almost become a hobby to feel offended — by caricatures in a newspaper, by criticism of religion etc. etc.

Let my finally address the accusation that I have generalised — to the effect that my remarks might be seen to encompass every Muslim. That is a meaningless interpretation. The mentioning of honour killings in my text refers to the passage that “there are Muslim fathers who …” And the words “there are” can never express a totality but must always mean a subset. Let us assume — as a counter test — that I had written the opposite: “There are no Muslim fathers [who kill their daughters].” Any reasonably knowledgeable person would recognise this as a flagrant untruth.

To sum up: In the clear light of hindsight I do not like the tone in that passage. The truth of it, however, I stand by completely. And frankly, personally I find the case itself — those gruesome murders of innocent young girls — a good deal more relevant that the question of my failing stylistic abilities.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Mayor Says ‘Will Pay’ If Involved in Hirings Case

Alleged nepotism at bus and street-cleaning companies

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said Friday he was prepared to pay the price if he was proven to have had a part in the alleged illegal hirings of scores of staff by the city bus company ATAC and street-cleaning company AMA.

“If (it is proven) that I had any responsibility I will pay,” the mayor told a press conference a day after Rome prosecutors opened a probe into the alleged cases of nepotism and abuse of office at AMA.

Ten days ago an identical investigation was opened into alleged hirings of officials’ relatives at ATAC.

Alemanno said his office was collaborating fully with the judiciary.

“The municipal authorities will seek to be more severe than the magistrates,” he said.

“Anyone who made mistakes must pay”.

Alemanno also denied the case was as big as reported in the press, which has said hundreds of hirings were involved.

“It has been blown up out of all proportion”.

“There are only 85 cases of suspect hirings; 67 of these involve politicians and 18 trade unionists”.

The mayor unveiled a committee to draft “new rules and criteria” for hirings and said it would report its findings on December 31.

On Thursday the head of Alemanno’s security detail, Giancarlo Marinelli, resigned after the Italian press reported that his son had been hired by ATAC and his daughter by AMA.

The press has dubbed the case ‘Parentopoli’ or ‘Relativesville’ after the Tangentopoli (Bribesville) scandal that toppled Italy’s old political guard in the early 1990s.

ATAC and AMA executives have denied wrongdoing and said they would be the injured parties in any illegal hirings. Rome is currently struggling to cut an accumulated debt of some 10 billion euros.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Prosecutors Probe Alleged MP ‘Transfer Market’

Allegations before confidence vote crucial to govt’s survival

(ANSA) — Rome, December 10 — Prosecutors in Rome opened a probe on Friday into allegations there have been attempts to bribe MPs to change political allegiance before a confidence vote Tuesday in the Lower House that could bring down the government.

The probe was opened after Antonio Di Pietro, the leader of the Italy of Values (IDV) party that is part of the centre-left opposition, presented a complaint to prosecutors over the so-called MPs ‘transfer market’. Two MPs recently left the IDV and on Tuesday look set to give their backing to Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government, which is in danger of collapse after losing the support of a group of lawmakers loyal to House Speaker Gianfranco Fini.

“I felt it my duty to inform the Rome prosecutor’s office of the very serious things that are happening in parliament,” Di Pietro told ANSA on Friday.

“I put into the prosecutor’s hands the evaluation of whether this is a political scandal or whether these are criminally significant actions,” added the former magistrate who was at the centre of the Tangentopoli probes that brought down Italy’s old political establishment in the early 1990s.

“In my opinion these are serious, criminally significant acts involving parliamentarians and this should never occur in a civilized country”.

The government denied the allegations, which have also been reported in the Italian media.

“There is no trade (in MPs),” said Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna.

“There are parliamentarians who do not agree with the actions of their party and who are naturally free to choose who to be with”. Di Pietro was not the only party leader to suggest Italian politicians were being bribed to change sides.

Fini, who split from the People of Freedom (PdL) party he co-founded with Berlusconi to form his own Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party earlier this year, said on Friday that “the transfer market starts now”.

PdL spokesman Daniele Capezzone said those comments were an insult to Italy’s MPs, and a particularly serious one given his institutional role.

“Gianfranco Fini has offended the MPs who, as House Speaker, he should represent,” Capezzone said.

“The House Speaker has not been impartial for months, but now he has gone on to insinuations against MPs”. Pier Luigi Bersani, the leader of the Democratic Party, also expressed concern about the case though.

“All I know about the acquisitions campaign is what I’ve read in the newspapers,” said the head of the biggest centre-left opposition group.

“But if one goes to an MP to convince them not only in political terms, but also in economic ones, is that just a scandal or is it the crime of corruption too?”. Widely read Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana went as far as to say the case was worse than the widespread corruption uncovered by Tangentopoli.

“The newspapers are full of details about the rates (to buy MPs), which make the kickbacks of Tangentopoli look like small beer,” read a piece in the magazine which is sold in Italian churches every Sunday.

“It is even worse to openly do now what was done then in secret”.

The government does not appear to have enough votes in the House to win the confidence vote unless it lures back FLI MPs or recruits lawmakers from other parties.

If the government loses, Berlusconi will be obliged to quit and the premier has repeatedly said elections should be called if that happens.

But Fini and Pier Ferdinando Casini, the leader of the centrist Catholic UDC party, want Berlusconi to resign before the vote to make way for the formation of a so-called government of ‘national responsibility’, although they have given mixed signals about whether Berlusconi or someone else should lead it.

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

The centre-left opposition are in favour of something similar, although definitely not with Berlusconi at the helm.

Prosecutors in Rome had already opened a probe into media reports of a Senator ‘transfer market’, although the government’s majority is safe in the Upper House.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Berlusconi Steels for Knife-Edge Confidence Vote

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi faces a knife-edge confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday that could either trigger his downfall or see the resilient Italian leader bounce back once again.

Berlusconi says he is confident of winning a majority of votes despite the defection of speaker of parliament Gianfranco Fini and around 40 lawmakers from the ruling coalition earlier this year, which has led to the vote.

But his opponents from the right and the left say they have the upper hand.

The contest is so tight that even President Giorgio Napolitano — who is expected to play an important role in any political deal-making after the vote — said “a crystal ball” would be needed to predict its outcome.

Italian newspapers have been filled in recent days with reports of attempts by Berlusconi allies to “buy” votes by offering consultancy contracts to wavering deputies and there have been some defections to the Berlusconi camp.

Prosecutors have opened an inquiry into allegations of vote-buying.

The 74-year-old media tycoon burst onto Italy’s corruption-ridden political scene with an election win in 1994 and has gone on to win two other votes in 2001 and 2008 and serve the longest term as prime minister in post-war Italy.

He has become a figure of ridicule on the international stage — famous for his gaffes, off-color jokes and sexual escapades — but is still seen as a powerful player in Italy and supporters say it is too early to write him off.

“I will secure the vote of confidence,” Berlusconi said in a message to supporters on Saturday, even as tens of thousands of protesters from the main opposition Democratic Party marched in Rome to demand a change of government.

Opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani told the crowd: “The record of these last years is disastrous. Our country had not improved at all. We have been left behind by the strong countries of Europe.”

The government’s current mandate only runs out in 2013.

Political showdown

Fini’s political movement, Future and Freedom for Italy, has said it expects there will be 317 votes against Berlusconi in the 630-seat lower house of parliament. The ruling coalition has said it can get 316 votes.

“The showdown between Berlusconi and Fini is in its final act. Whoever loses risks bowing out of the political scene,” L’Espresso news weekly said.

Antonio Di Pietro, a former anti-corruption judge and one of Berlusconi’s fiercest critics, has said the confidence vote will be “a resurrection of democracy, of dignity and ethics in parliament and in the institutions.”

But a scathing editorial in Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi’s family, said earlier the rebellion against the premier “has not succeeded.”

Berlusconi is expected to give a key speech about the political crisis in the upper house of parliament, the Senate, early Monday.

The confidence votes will then be held in the Senate and in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, on Tuesday.

Berlusconi and his allies are said to have a strong majority in the upper house and the attention is mostly on the vote in the lower house.

The government already won a confidence vote on Sept. 29 when Fini and his allies voted in favor despite having announced a break with the coalition.

Their stance against the government has since hardened, with Fini calling on Berlusconi to resign last month and then pulling four ministers loyal to him out of the government when Berlusconi did not step down.

The political instability in a major eurozone economy has so far had little effect on financial markets used to Italian government turbulence, but Berlusconi has argued that further trouble could undermine Italy.

Many analysts say that, whatever the outcome of the vote, Italy could be headed for early parliamentary elections next year since even if Berlusconi wins the confidence vote his majority would likely be razor-thin.

A poll on Saturday showed that Berlusconi’s party and its ally, the Northern League party, would draw 39.6 percent of the vote in any future election.

The Democratic Party and its main partner, Di Pietro’s Italy of Values, would garner 31.2 percent between them.

Fini’s Future and Freedom for Italy would win 6.9 percent.

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

MBDA Relies on Hi-Tech Transfer to Win Turkish Defense Deal

Competing with rivals from the United States, Russia and China for Turkey’s multibillion-dollar national air defense system contract, the mainly Italian-French missile maker Eurosam, maker of the SAMP/T, wants to jointly develop and manufacture the defensive weapon system with Turkish companies

Representatives of European missile maker Eurosam said they are relying on the consortium’s ability to offer high technology transfer rates and a joint development capability with Ankara to win a major Turkish air defense contract.

“There is a genuine and sincere friendship between Italy and Turkey. We are offering a great rate of technology transfer, we can jointly design systems, we can develop systems and we can jointly export them,” said Michele Lastella, head of communications at the Italy branch of MBDA, an Italian member company of the Eurosam consortium, during a briefing in Rome late last week.

“We are ready to meet the customer’s requirements at the most advanced level. If the others cannot do this, it is not our matter,” said Sergio Cavicchi, vice president and exports and sales director at MBDA.

Turkey is currently considering bids for the construction of a number of additions to its national defense cache. Many analysts suggest the United States and European bids for the contract have the highest chances of winning the contract, while Russian and Chinese alternatives are lagging mainly because of their products’ non-compliance with NATO systems.

Among bids being considered by the Turkish defense procurement agency are the Eurosam developed Aster 30 SAMP/T, a land-based air defense system effective against high-speed threats such as tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, combat aircraft and unmanned combat vehicles.

Eurosam is competing with the U.S. Raytheon and Lockheed Martin partnership’s Patriot Advanced Capability-3, or PAC-3; Russia’s Rosoboronexport who are touting their S300, and; China’s Precision Machinery Export-Import Corp’s offer of its HQ-9. Turkey is expected to pick the winner of the multibillion-dollar contract late next year.


“We are wondering to what degree the Russian and Chinese options could be integrated into the NATO system,” said Giovanni Uccella, Turkey representative of Finmeccanica, one of the parent companies of MBDA, at a briefing in Rome.

“When it comes to technology transfer, our pledges don’t stay as words, but come true,” Antonio Perfetti, president of Eurosam and general manager of MBDA Italy, said at a recent briefing in Sabaudia, Italy.

Eurosam’s SAMP/T is the most cutting-edge long-range and medium-altitude air and ballistic missile defense systems in the world. It was successfully tested against an incoming ballistic missile in France in October. The Italian and French armies have started using the SAMP/T and the system’s naval version is being used by Italy, France and Britain.

“The [most cutting-edge system] should be selected,” Uccella said, adding that the PAC-3 has been around for many years.

Eurosam is a joint venture between MBDA, Europe’s largest missile maker, and French electronic company Thales. Finmeccanica owns 25 percent of MBDA, while EADS, the European giant, and Britain’s BAE Systems each own 37.5 percent.

Government lobbying

The U.S. and European contenders are also stepping up competition at the government level in an effort to win the large-scale Turkish contract.

According to the recent release of highly classified U.S. diplomatic correspondences by WikiLeaks, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates strongly lobbied on behalf of the U.S. bid at meetings with Turkish counterparts. “Nothing can compete with the PAC-3 when it comes to capabilities,” Gates was quoted as saying in a secret cable sent to Washington on Feb. 16. 2010, by then U.S. ambassador to Ankara James Jeffrey.

Brigadier Gen. Francesco Diella, commander of Italy’s Air Defense Artillery Command in Sabaudia, said his unit was content with the performance of the SAMP/T system. “We will be able to counter the menaces of the future with this system. Delivered last year, the systems will gain full effectiveness and efficiency in 2011,” he told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

The SAMP/T is mobile, has all-azimuth defense, a short reaction time, simultaneous multiple engagement capability, anti-aircraft and anti-missile capabilities and has full autonomy and interoperability with other NATO systems, said Angelo Scozzari, a top engineer with MBDA.

A typical SAMP/T battery includes a command and control vehicle, an Arabel X-band multi-function radar and up to six launch vehicles, each with eight missiles and a store of reload missiles. The system fires Aster 30 interceptor missiles to a range of 120 kilometers.

Eurosam has signed a framework cooperation agreement with Turkish military electronics group Aselsam, missile manufacturer Roketsan, systems integrator Ayesas, software builder Havelsan and vehicle manufacturer BMC to develop new missile technology.

The Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, Turkey’s defense procurement agency, is retaining 50 percent of the work share in Turkey’s national air defense system program for Turkish groups. The framework agreements explain the role the five Turkish companies would play in the project in the event Eurosam wins the contract.

MBDA officials voiced willingness to jointly manufacture Otomat and Marte anti-ship missiles with Turkey.

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

Netherlands: Catholic Church Must Improve Help for Abuse Victims

The Catholic church in the Netherlands is falling short in its duty towards the victims of sexual abuse and should come up with a collective compensation scheme, according to a government commission investigating the scandal.

The commission, under the leadership of CDA parliamentarian Wim Deetman, says the church’s complaints office Hulp en Recht needs far-reaching improvements to its treatment of complaints.

Transparency and standards of service must be improved and any compensation should be open to everyone, no matter how long ago the abuse took place, the commission says.


The Deetman commission has had almost 2,000 complaints about physical and sexual abuse within the church. Of these five anonymous complaints have been sent to the public prosecution department to assess the likelihood of successful legal action.

In a statement, the Catholic bishops association again apologised for the abuse. ‘But apologies are not enough,’ the statement said.

The church will now study the recommendations and advice given by the commission.

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

Sicilian Beach Lovers Enjoy Warm Weather

Some revive tans, others take dips

(ANSA) — Catania, December 8 — Sicilians hit the beaches Wednesday as unusually warm weather marked the Immaculate Conception holiday break.

With the mercury climbing as high as 27 degrees Celsius, beaches from Palermo to Siracusa, Agrigento and Catania were packed with families enjoying a day out in the sun.

Many people were happy to revive summer tans and some hardy souls braved the icy waters around the southern Italian island.

A traditional December 8 mass dive into the sea at the San Giovanni Li Cuti beach outside Catania was much less of a challenge than usual.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber Who Died in Stockholm Terrorist Blasts Studied at British University

A suicide bomber who died in a terrorist bomb attack which rocked Stockholm city centre, is believed to be a graduate from a British university.

A Facebook page thought to belong to the 29-year-old indicated that he studied sports therapy at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton. He graduated in 2004.

The man, named locally as Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, had also posted numerous videos relating to the Iraq war, the war in Chechnya and the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

The Iraqi-born bomber first set his car on fire and then walked 200 metres before the explosives, believed to be in a backpack strapped to his body, detonated.

Just minutes before, he had sent out an email to the police and a news agency warning of deadly reprisals for having Swedish soldiers in Afghanistan.

He was the registered owner of the car that blew up and was reported to have worked on the street corner on which he died, carrying a sign advertising a local fish-and-chip restaurant.

His favourite pages on Facebook included ‘Yawm al-Qiyaamah’, the Islamic ‘Day of Ressurection’. The page’s signature image features London’s Tower Bridge being engulfed in flames and floods. .

Looking for love: Suspected bomber Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly used Muslim dating sit (left) in his search for a second wife

The man is also thought to have been active on Muslim contact sites, where he claimed to be looking for a second wife.

In one message on the site, he says that he was born in Iraq and moved to Sweden in 1992. He said he had two daughters, one aged three and one under the age of two. He said he wanted to marry again and that his first wife had agreed to this.

‘In the future, am looking for to move to an arabic [sic] country and settle down there,’ he wrote.

Investigators will be certain to investigate the man’s connections with Luton, a town which has featured in numerous terror investigations in the past.

A leaked British intelligence report from 2008 identified Luton as being home to one of the main concentrations of Islamic extremists in the country.

The men behind the 27/7 bombings of London’s public transport system in 2005 gathered in the town before heading into the British capital. The leader of the gang, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was in regular contact with a man in Luton known as ‘Q’, who was funneling money and equipment to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Police currently believe his bomb may have detonated too early. They are keen to trace a man who was seen speaking to the suspect just minutes before his backpack exploded.

Officially, police said that they did not know the identity of the bomber.

But a source told the newspaper Expressen. that they were ‘95 percent certain” that the car owner and the suicide bomber were the same person. They have linked the blasts and are investigating them as ‘crimes of terror.’

Swedish Radio claim that police are searching the suspected terrorist’s apartment in Tranas.

Shoppers were lucky to escape a ‘catastrophe’ according to Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt .

He wrote on Twitter: ‘Most worrying attempt at terrorist attack. Failed — but could have been truly catastrophic.’

Two people were slightly injured when the car — packed with gas cannisters — exploded at 4.50pm on Saturday.

The second blast was about 200 metres (650 feet) away. A man thought to be the bomber was found injured on the ground and later pronounced dead.

A bag filled with nails was found near the body, according to Swedish news agency SVT. Witnesses said he had a large wound to his stomach as if something had exploded there.

Gabriel Gabiro, who heard the second blast from inside a watch store across the street, 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. Then there was smoke and gun powder coming in. I saw some people crying.’

The local news agency TT received an e-mail in Arabic and Swedish saying ‘the time has come to take action.’

The suspected suicide car bomber lies under a blanket while a police forensic officer removes debris from the around the body

The e-mail referred to Sweden’s silence surrounding cartoonist Lars Vilk’s drawing of Muhammad as a dog and its soldiers in Afghanistan.

It warned: ‘ Our acts will speak for themselves. Now your children, daughters and sisters shall die like our brothers and sisters and children are dying.’

Punitive actions would continue ‘as long as you do not stop your war against Islam, your degradation of the Prophet and your stupid support for the pig Vilks.’

Vilks has been the object of death threats and at least one plot to kill him.

The message concluded by urging ‘mujahideen,’ or Islamic fighters, to rise up in Sweden and in Europe, the news agency said.

TT said a similar warning had been sent to the Swedish Security Service SAPO.

Police have linked the explosions and confirmed they were investigating them as ‘crimes of terror.’

Sweden has 500 soldiers serving with NATO’s International Security Assistance force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, but their mandate only runs to January 1, 2011, and would need to be renewed by parliament for them to stay on.

On October 1, Sweden’s intelligence agency Saepo said it had raised the alert level for attacks from low to elevated, putting it at three on an alert scale of five.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Swedes Shocked by 1st Terror Attack in 3 Decades

No one died except for the suspected bomber, but two explosions in Sweden’s capital tore at the fabric of this tolerant and open nation — a society that hadn’t seen a terrorist attack in more than three decades.

Two people were wounded in central Stockholm on Saturday in what appeared to be the first suicide bombing in the history of Sweden, which has been spared the major terrorist strikes seen in several other European countries.

A car exploded in the middle of the seasonal shopping frenzy, shooting flames and causing several smaller blasts as people ran screaming from the scene. The blast that killed the alleged bomber came moments later further a few blocks away from the car explosion on a busy pedestrian street.

Experts said the alleged bomber probably didn’t succeed in detonating all the explosives and could have caused much greater damage.

While police haven’t confirmed Saturday’s attack was motivated by Islamist views, an audio file sent to Swedish news agency TT shortly before the blast referred to jihad, Sweden’s military presence in Afghanistan and a cartoon by a Swedish artist that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as a dog, enraging many Muslims.

It hasn’t been verified that the speaker is the person who set off the explosive, but police have said they are investigating that possibility.

“Now the Islamic state has been created. We now exist here in Europe and in Sweden. We are a reality,” the voice said in the file, submitted to The Associated Press by TT. “I don’t want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Strangest Antisemite of Them All: The Bizarre Case of Friedrich Nietzsche

By Barry Rubin

No serious thinker has done more harm to the Jewish people than Friedrich Nietzsche, whose writings were an important inspiration for Adolph Hitler and Nazism. Yet far from being an antisemite, Nietzsche was one of the most pro-Jewish German writers of his time. How can this paradox be explained and does it have any lessons for the present day?

Nietzsche was the son and grandson of Protestant ministers. He became an academic expert on ancient Greece yet his poor health forced him to resign his professorship at a young age. He spent most of the rest of his life on a pension, traveling from spa to resort town trying to avoid the extremes of weather that gave him such physical discomfort.

A massively productive and self-consciously iconoclastic writer, Nietzsche never attained a large readership in his lifetime though his fame did grow. His life and works are too complex to summarize here but one constant feature of his worldview was his friendliness, even admiration, toward Jews.

The growing antisemitism in Germany during the 1870s and 1880s disgusted him. He derided the hatred of Jews by his friend, the composer Richard Wagner, with whom he eventually broke; ridiculed it on the part of his publisher; and tried to block his sister’s marriage to an antisemitic agitator. Nietzsche had several Jewish friends including one of his greatest admirers, the famous Danish literary critic George Brandes. After a stimulating conversation with another Jewish friend, Helen Zimmern, he noted, “It is fantastic to what extent this race now has the ‘intellectuality’ of Europe in its hands.”

His biographer, his biographer Curtis Cate, accurately calls Nietzche an “anti-antisemite.”

Moreover, though he is mainly remembered for his concept of the “superman” and the “blond beast,” Nietzsche was an anti-militarist. He hated the German monarchy and loved France (at that time Germany’s main enemy), Switzerland, and Italy, where he spent most of his adult life. Far from believing in the superiority of the “Aryans,” he liked to imagine he had Polish ancestry.

To give a sense of Nietzsche’s world view—though these extreme expressions came from 1888 as he began to descend into madness—Nietzsche urged all of the other countries in Europe to unite against Germany, called on Jews to help him in his campaign against Christianity, and said he would like to kill all the German antisemites.

There is no doubt that if he had lived to see Nazism he would have been appalled and been outspoken in his enmity, though his sister became an enthusiastic Nazi, whose funeral in 1934 was attended by Hitler himself. Nietzsche’s works became official Nazi doctrine and the dictator ordered that a monument be built to him.

How then did this pro-Jewish philosopher become an inspiration for the murderers of 86 percent of Europe’s Jews?

The immediate answer is his hatred of Christianity and belief that a post-Christian, secular morality must be developed. In this regard, he was part of the post-Darwin reaction to the cracking of religious certainty. As a believer in what Brandes called “aristocratic radicalism” and having a horror of democracy, Nietzsche, in the words of Cate, contrasted “the positive ‘breeding’ of aristocracies to the negative ‘taming,’ ‘castration,’ and emasculation of the strong by insidious ‘underdogs.’“ Or in Nietzsche’s own words:

“Christianity, growing from Jewish roots and comprehensible only as a product of this soil, represents a reaction against the morality of breeding, of race, of privilege-it is the anti-Aryan religion par excellence.”

In his book, Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche penned what became the core of Nazi philosophy and the death knell for European Jewry:

“All that has been done on earth against ‘the nobles,’ the ‘mighty, the ‘overlords,’…is as nothing compared to what the Jews did against them: the Jews, that priestly people who were only able to obtain satisfaction against their enemies and conquerors through a radical revaluation of the latter’s values, that is, by an act of the most spiritual revenge….It was the Jews who…dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation…saying ‘the wretched alone are the good ones, the poor, the helpless, the lowly….You who are powerful and noble are to all eternity the evil ones….”

This was however, in contrast to what the Nazis made out of it later and the Islamists do today. He didn’t accuse the Jews of doing anything on their own—no conspiracy of the elders of Zion— but merely the “invention” of Christianity. What should be stressed here is that his diatribe against Jews was a small, isolated part of his writing that did not carry over into his life or thinking otherwise.

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

UK: 35,000 Deaths Fear in New Arctic Blizzards

DEATH rates are set to soar “scandalously” this winter as a new Arctic blast batters Britain with temperatures on a par with Siberia.

Experts predict a dramatic increase in cold-related fatalities as we suffer the bitterest winter in a century, causing 12 deaths every hour.

Britons face spiralling energy bills while the death toll this winter could reach 35,000.

There are also fears some mail may not reach its destination by Christmas Day because of the freeze.

Forecasters said temperatures could plummet to record lows in the run-up to Christmas, putting tens of thousands of vulnerable people at risk.

Charities warned of pensioners suffering “Dickensian” conditions, resorting to riding on buses or huddling in shopping centres just to keep warm.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Anger Over Plans to Axe Wootton Bassett Parades Honouring Britain’s War Dead

Military memorial parades through Wootton Bassett could be stopped because of the closure of an RAF base, it was revealed today.

Residents of the Wiltshire town have lined the streets to pay their respects to Britain’s war dead as they are flown home from Iraq and Afghanistan for the last years.

But because RAF Lyneham — the base where bodies are flown to — is set to close the parades could be stopped.

Paying their respects: Mourners watch as the bodies of seven British soldiers and marines are taken through Wootton Bassett in June

A new route is being considered by the Ministry of Defence — which may be a ‘discreet’ one along main roads.

When the base closes bodies could instead be flown into RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and driven 19 miles along the A40 to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

Currently the hearses are taken 50 miles to Oxford after being driven through the streets of the Wiltshire town for the town’s residents to pay their respects.

Wootton Bassett lies between RAF Lyneham and the M4 motorway and is on the route taken by corteges as bodies are transported to the Armed Forces department of pathology at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

The mother of Private Jeff Doherty, who died in Afghanistan two years ago, hit out at the news.

Joyce told The People: ‘The day Jeff was brought home through Wootton Bassett will live long in my memory.

‘Seeing the people there lining the streets was strangely comforting and that tribute from the public is the least any one of our war heroes deserves.

Grief: The family of Rifleman Martin Kinggett wait for the hearses carrying the coffins of four fallen servicemen in the Wiltshire town in March

‘If that were to stop it would be a huge shame and I truly believe the British people would be deeply saddened.’

The 20-year-old soldier was killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan on June 2008 while on foot patrol with the 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

The parades have been held since 2007 when bodies were driven through Wootton Bassett for the first time.

Police close off the main road through the town to traffic, church bells ring out and crowds gather as the coffins, draped in a Union Jack, are driven through.

There have been calls for the town to be re-named Royal Wootton Bassett because of the success of the parades.

On a visit to the town last year Prince Charles praised the people for honouring the troops.

He said: ‘This country owes these brave men and women a great debt of gratitude which is why it’s wonderful to see the people of Wootton Bassett honour that debt time after time. Your actions have come to symbolise our nation’s grief.’

A spokesman for the MoD said the future of the parades was still under consideration…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Home Secretary Set to Ban Anti-Islam Pastor Who Wanted to Burn Koran on 9/11 From Entering UK

The Home Secretary Theresa May may ban the U.S. pastor who threatened to burn the Koran on the 9/11 anniversary from visiting Britain, she said today.

Terry Jones is hoping to attend an English Defence League rally in February next year so he can speak out against Islamic extremism.

But despite insisting today that he is not anti-Muslim, Home Secretary Theresa May said she was looking into banning the 58-year-old from entering the country.

‘Of course the Home Secretary has the right to exclude people who are not conducive to public good or on national security grounds, she told Sky News’ Sunday Live.

‘Pastor Terry Jones has been on my radar for a few months now.

‘It wasn’t clear that he was definitely coming to the UK but if it is now clear that he’s definitely coming to the UK, then of course this is a case that I will be actively looking at.’

The EDL, a far-right movement who have held demonstrations across the country, have invited the Florida-based pastor to their rally on February 5 next year in Luton, Bedfordshire.

The event is being billed as ‘our biggest ever’ by the controversial organisation.

A statement on Jones’ 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.’

The pastor said that he will be speaking about religious integration.

‘We have no problem with Muslims — we have freedom of speech and religion — Muslims who want to make our country their country, obey our laws and constitution,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.

‘We have a problem with them, which I believe you all have also, when they go on the street… and they call for the death of the UK, for the death of Israel, for the death of America. They call for Sharia law.

‘They say they are going to turn Buckingham Palace into a mosque and the Queen must convert to Islam or leave the country.’

But Jones admitted he knows little about the EDL.

He added: ‘It’s only what I know through conversations with them that my office has had and then of course the different material in the internet that they have put out.

‘I would describe them as a group who, I believe, in their words they want England to stay English.’

Anti-extremist group Hope not Hate said that Jones should be banned from the U.K.

Director Nick Lowles said: ‘Pastor Jones should not be allowed to set foot in the United Kingdom. Only extremists will benefit from his visit and, as we know, extremism breeds hatred and hatred breeds violence.

‘It is yet another example of how the EDL exists only to sow the seeds of intimidation and division.

‘Hope not Hate is launching a petition to call for Jones to be banned from the UK.’

Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: ‘Terry Jones is coming here to whip up Islamophobia and racism.

‘We intend on calling a mass demonstration where everyone can oppose the growth of racism and fascism in this country.’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We do not routinely comment on individual cases.’

Home Secretary Theresa May has the power to deport or exclude a person deemed to threaten people’s safety, national security or public order.

Jones gained notoriety around the world when he called for an international ‘burn a Koran’ day on the anniversary of 9/11.

An effigy of him was burnt in Afghanistan and the protest was eventually called off.

His planned stunt drew opposition from across the world. President Barack Obama appealed to him on television, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates called him personally.

The pastor is the head of the small Dove Outreach Church in Gainesville, Florida, which has less than 40 members.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Health Campaigners Furious as Trust Boss Asks Staff to ‘Donate’ Annual Leave to Save Money

An NHS boss has sparked fury after suggesting staff could ‘donate’ part of their annual leave under a drive to save £30 million.

Samantha Jones, Chief Executive of the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, said in a staff bulletin that employees could play their part in helping to save the money in the current financial year.

She wrote: ‘A number of you have said that you would be willing to sacrifice some of your annual leave allowance and come to work instead.

‘It might seem obvious, but each and every single day off in the organisation costs the Trust money. This is particularly true if a member of bank or agency staff has to be hired to cover for your post.

The memo will cause extra anger because Ms Jones awarded herself a 46.5 per cent pay rise, from £107,500 to £157,5000, in 2008.

And the trust’s medical director, Dr Jonathan Kwan, is 360th on the public sector rich list, earning an annual salary of £190,000.

She added: ‘I fully support this idea, and in fact I have decided to work on one of my annual leave days. If everybody agreed to work just one annual leave day, it would make a significant contribution in helping to achieve our goal.’

Ms Jones added that in many NHS trusts, staff were agreeing to reduce their contracted hours between now and the end of the financial year, for an appropriate reduction in pay…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Never Mind Rioting Yobs…

The real enemy will soon be roaming your street, giggling and blank-eyed… set free by this bumptious idiot of a Tory

by Peter Hitchens

The parasites and bawling wreckers who invaded London on Thursday did David Cameron a favour. They helped to draw our eyes and minds away from a much more frightening event. This was the Government’s surrender to lawlessness and disorder, bumptiously trumpeted by Kenneth Clarke last week.

Luckily for Mr Cameron and for Mr Clarke, sympathetic media and a series of other events swiftly buried Mr Clarke’s Green Paper.

When its effects are felt over the coming years, few will realise that their intolerable, besieged, vandalised lives, their smashed front doors and violated homes, their drug-ruined children, their distraught and bloodied family members weeping powerlessly for justice and not getting it, are the direct consequences of Mr Cameron and his deliberate decision to stop even trying to protect the public.

This year this country reached a moment of decision. It has been coming for some years. The amount of crime and disorder, caused mainly by the deliberate destruction of the married family and the abolition of fatherhood, is now enormous.

Up till now, it has mainly affected the poor, though I am not sure this will continue to be the case.

Past governments have tried to cope with this in many ways. Recently they have sought to pretend it isn’t happening by fiddling the figures. But this cannot conceal the fact that the prisons are getting fuller and fuller of bad people, even in spite of letting as many of them out as quickly as possible.

Mr Clarke’s solution is to stop sending large numbers of bad people to prison at all, and to use so-called community punishments instead, even though their feeble uselessness is proven by a recent report from Policy Exchange. Currently such punishments often go uncompleted, and frequently involve such stern retribution as working in charity shops. The reoffending rate is appalling.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Teacher: How Can it be Right That an 11-Year-Old Boy Can Call Me a F****** Cow — and There’s Not a Thing I Can Do?

Dear Mr Gove,

When I heard the proposals for your latest White Paper, even a cynical, hard-bitten old teacher like me gave a feeble cheer because I thought finally here was one educational reform I could really applaud. I am referring to your plan to revive languages in the English Baccalaureate.

I am biased of course; as a languages teacher, my enthusiasm for my subject allowed me to hope that it might go some way to redressing the past decade’s shocking decline in language teaching. That was the inevitable consequence of the batty decision to make languages non-compulsory. Any fool could have predicted the result.

The decline is by no means restricted to languages. Last week, a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that one in five British 15-year-olds failed to meet its minimum requirements in maths and reading.

Britain fell from 17th to 25th for reading and from 24th to 28th for maths in the study of 65 developed nations — our pupils are now behind those from Estonia, Lichtenstein and Slovenia. Education here is described as ‘stagnant at best’.

[…] Do you know the worst thing, Mr Gove? I was not shocked to be sworn at by an 11-year-old boy. It’s not shocking because it happens frequently in my school. Britain’s schools were this week ranked below Estonia’s (file photo)

And there is absolutely nothing I, nor my headteacher, nor even you, Mr Gove, can do about it. Because you and those who came before you have taken away any sanctions we once had. Because those children and their parents have all the rights and none of the responsibilities. Because an 11-year-old can swear at me, but if I tried to physically remove him from my room against his will, I would be accused of assault and suspended. How can you think that is right?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe Put on Diet After He Balloons to 19 Stone With Tuck Shop Binges… And Doctors Fear for His Health

Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, has been put on an enforced diet — by medical staff worried that the brutal serial killer may be in danger because of his weight.

He is just one of a number of Britain’s most notorious murderers who have been placed on rigid feeding regimes because of fears that their health may be damaged by obesity.

They also include ‘Angel of Death’ nurse Beverly Allitt and Robert Napper, the multiple murderer and serial rapist who killed Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common.

All are patients at specialist secure psychiatric hospitals. Their weight has ballooned after years of gorging on hot meals and purchases from tuck shops in the institutions.


Sutcliffe, 64, who murdered 13 women and attacked a number of others in the Seventies and early Eighties, has already been given his own personal trainer at Broadmoor Hospital, Berkshire, after doctors last year ordered him to lose four stone from his 19-stone bulk when he was diagnosed as diabetic.

A dietician was brought in to replace his favourite snacks of burgers, chips, pasta, chocolate and biscuits with salads, cereals and fruit.

In the new regime, patients in the secure units are discouraged from second helpings, and are offered fruit instead of calorific puddings.

Doctors say patients have lost weight and more are taking exercise since the changes were introduced. Medical staff took action after they realised some patients were cooking huge fry-ups for themselves.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Embassy Feared Barcelona Was an Islamist Hub

A trio of cables released by WikiLeaks on Saturday, said the United States had developed plans for a counterterrorism, anti-crime and intelligence center at its consulate in Barcelona.

A cable obtained by the Spanish newspaper El Pais showed that Spanish authorities had identified the capital city of Catalonia as having “a large Muslim population susceptible to jihadist recruitment.”

The cable, from October 2007, proposes action in light of this information, following increased surveillance after the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The document claims that many of the city’s large number of immigrants from North Africa and Southeast Asia felt marginalized.

The revelations in El Pais came from cables sent to WikiLeaks “Spanish authorities tell us they fear the threat from these atomized immigrant communities prone to radicalism, but they have very little intelligence on or ability to penetrate these groups,” the cable from the US embassy in Madrid added.

A US diplomatic cable from 2005, said, “Spain is both a significant target of Islamic terrorist groups and a major logistical hub for Islamic extremist groups operating across the globe.”

Catalonia was also identified as a region that attracted drug traffickers and money launderers, as well as being a home to organized crime.

“The Spanish political class is gradually waking up to the amorphous threat represented by the nexus of terrorism, crime, and drug trafficking, and would likely look favorably on our proposal,” the cable said. It is not known if the center was ever set up.

US embassy spokesman Jeff Galvin told the Associated Press only say that the US and Spain enjoy “excellent cooperation” in counterterrorism investigations.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Proposed Setting Up Intel Hub in Spain: Wikileaks

The cable, dated Oct. 2, 2007, said U.S. and Spanish authorities had identified Catalonia as having a “large Muslim Population Susceptible to Jihadist Recruitment” following increased surveillance after the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 people.

“Specifically, we propose that our Consulate General in Barcelona become the platform for a multi-agency, jointly-coordinated counterterrorism, anti-crime, and intelligence center,” said the cable, classified secret and apparently authored by then-Ambassador Eduardo Aguirre.

The goal was “combating the target-rich environment of terrorist and criminal activities centered in the region,” which has a “presence of over 1 million Muslims,” the cable says.

In March 2004, a total of 191 people were killed and more than 1,800 wounded in bombing attacks on Madrid commuter trains. Islamic militants claimed responsibility.

One U.S. cable, dated 2005, sets the scene, saying that “Spain is both a significant target of Islamic terrorist groups and a major logistical hub for Islamic extremist groups operating across the globe.”

The 2007 cable says Spain “is a past and current al-Qaida target” and a critical player in U.S.-EU counterterrorism efforts.

It says Barcelona has a large Muslim population “susceptible to jihadist recruitment” and adds that “Spanish and U.S. authorities have identified Catalonia as a major Mediterranean center of radical Islamist activity.”

According to the cable, heavy immigration — both legal and illegal — from North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria) and Southeast Asia (Pakistan and Bangladesh) had made the region “a magnet for terrorist recruiters.”

The plans for the proposed center say 13 agents would be strategically situated to monitor quickly who and what was passing through the area from places such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and the south of France.

“The threat in Catalonia is clear,” the cable says, categorizing Barcelona as a “crossroads of worrisome activities” and a natural meeting place and transit point of people and goods moving to and through the region from all countries bordering the western Mediterranean.

It is not clear whether the center was ever created, and the U.S. Embassy in Madrid declined to comment about that Saturday.

Embassy spokesman Jeff Galvin would only say that the U.S. and Spain enjoy “excellent cooperation” in counterterrorism investigations.

This view is echoed in an October 2006 U.S. cable, which says that Spain “has made great strides in disrupting terrorist cells and frustrating would-be terrorist plots” and that the U.S. was pleased with Spain’s counterterrorism cooperation.

Last month, 11 men — nine of Pakistani nationality or origin — went on trial in Barcelona for allegedly plotting to stage suicide attacks in that city on orders from the Pakistan Taliban.

Police foiled the alleged plan with a series of raids in January 2008 after a member of the cell designated to blow himself up got cold feet and alerted authorities, a Spanish prosecutor said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Amazon Taken Offline in Suspected ‘Hacktivist’ Attack

Users were unable to access and the French, German and Italian versions of the site were also experiencing problems. The UK site began operating again after about half an hour. Anonymous, a group of online hacktivists who support the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, has claimed responsibility for a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in the past week.

The attacks have disrupted the websites of companies including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal by bombarding them with millions of visits in revenge for withdrawing WikiLeaks’ services. A message on a Twitter account used by the activists, Anonops, tonight read: “We cant confirm anything because we’ll lose our accounts again. Be alert and you will realize.” The message was deleted minutes later. An earlier post which quoted Abraham Lincoln read: “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Several accounts attributed to Anonymous and its campaign, dubbed Operation Payback, have been suspended over the attacks…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: Sinn Féin Leaders ‘Were Aware of’ Northern Bank Heist Plans

Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness held lengthy negotiations with the former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern to save the Northern Ireland peace process in the full knowledge that the IRA was planning to carry out the biggest bank robbery in its history, according to leaked US cables passed to WikiLeaks.

Ahern, who was instrumental in drawing up the 1998 Good Friday agreement, judged that the two Sinn Féin leaders were aware of plans for the £26.5m Northern Bank robbery in 2004 because they were members of the “IRA military command” with a deep knowledge of its operations.

The US cables also reveal that:

  • The Irish government believed Britain had a “valuable source of information” at a senior level in the republican movement.
  • Adams argued that the IRA would have to be “taken out of the equation” during negotiations which led the organisation to declare a formal end to its armed campaign in July 2005.

The revelations are published as Adams seeks to broaden Sinn Féin’s appeal in the Irish Republic. The Sinn Féin president is abandoning his Westminster seat to stand in the forthcoming general election amid hopes of a breakthrough as voters register anger with Ireland’s mainstream political parties after the country was forced to apply to the EU and IMF for a bailout.

Ahern’s concerns about Sinn Féin and the IRA are highlighted in cables which describe a challenging period in the peace process as London and Dublin sought to restore the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. Unionist suspicions about the intentions of the republican movement were fuelled when the IRA robbed the headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004.

In a cable on 4 February 2005, two months after the robbery, the US ambassador to Dublin, James Kenny, reported that a senior Irish government official told the embassy of the taoiseach’s concerns about Adams and McGuinness. The cable claimed the official in the department of justice told the ambassador “that the GOI [government of Ireland] does have ‘rock solid evidence’ that Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness are members of the IRA military command and for that reason, the taoiseach is certain they would have known in advance of the robbery”.

In another cable on 1 June 2005, six months after the robbery, Kenny reported that Ahern had raised his concerns with Mitchell Reiss, the US envoy to Ireland. The cable says: “The taoiseach … believes Sinn Féin leaders were aware of plans to rob the Northern Bank even as they negotiated with him last fall. Publicly, he has been unprecedentedly critical of Sinn Féin and, until recently, greatly reduced private contacts as well.”

The cables indicate that in private Ahern and officials used language which was slightly blunter, though consistent, with the public pronouncements of the former taoiseach, who told the Irish parliament, the Dáil, he believed Sinn Féin had negotiated in bad faith. Ahern told the Dáil on 2 February of a meeting with police chiefs on both sides of the Irish border. “They believe that a number of operations which took place during 2004, not just the Northern Bank robbery, were the work of the Provisional IRA and would have had the sanction of the army council and be known to the political leadership.”

Sir Hugh Orde, the former chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland who met Ahern, accused the IRA of carrying out the robbery. In what was then the largest cash robbery ever carried out in the UK, a group of armed men held the families of two bank officials hostage while the officials were forced to hand over sacks filled with millions of pounds in cash to terrorists at the bank.

Nobody has been convicted of any offence in relation to the actual robbery. Ted Cunningham, a Cork-based financial adviser, was found guilty last year of laundering more than £3m connected with the robbery.Adams has consistently denied being a member of the IRA. McGuinness has admitted being a member in the 1970s.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “There is not a shred of evidence that has ever linked the IRA to the Northern Bank robbery. The theories put forward by the British at the time regarding republican involvement were disproved in court. No link has ever been made, other than by opponents of Sinn Féin, that the IRA was involved. All the republicans arrested in connection with the Northern Bank robbery were released without charge.”

The cables also suggest:…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables: IRA Used Irish Boom to Turn ‘Respectable’

The IRA used the Celtic Tiger economic boom in the Irish Republic to diversify into “more sophisticated business enterprises” by buying up properties in London, Dublin and Spanish resorts, according to leaked US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

A senior Irish police officer told the American embassy in Dublin that the IRA used the booming Irish economy to move on from 1970s-style racketeering as it turned to “apparently respectable businessmen” to raise funds.

The cables also show that the growth of the Celtic Tiger was so admired in Washington that the US treasury secretary travelled to Dublin in 2004 to discover the “secrets” of Ireland’s success.

The IRA’s changing business practices are revealed in a cable by Jonathan Benton, the then deputy chief of mission at the American embassy in Dublin, which reported on meetings with senior Irish police officers and senior officials from the department of justice.

Benton wrote that a senior Garda, whose identity is being protected by the Guardian, “commented that IRA money was constantly moving, flowing from diversified sources into wide-ranging investments”.

The cable added: “While the IRA had been proficient in smuggling, robbery, and racketeering since the 1970s, the Celtic Tiger economic boom of the 1990s had prompted the IRA to diversify into more sophisticated business enterprises.

IRA investments now included real estate ventures in Dublin, London, and Spanish resort areas, handled by apparently respectable businessmen.”

The cable said the new funds were being used to support Sinn Féin. “Irish officials, more generally, remain concerned that IRA funds acquired through sophisticated investments are seeping into resources available for Sinn Féin’s political activities in the Republic of Ireland.”

Sinn Féin described the claims as “complete nonsense”. “Sinn Féin is the only party [in the Irish Republic] to publish its accounts before legislation was passed requiring others to do that,” a spokesperson said.

James Kenny, the US ambassador to Ireland at the time, also reported that Washington was so impressed by the growth of the Irish economy that the then US treasury secretary, John Snow, visited Ireland. A cable, sent on 24 November 2004, may make painful reading on both sides of the Atlantic after the Irish Republic agreed an €85bn bailout with the EU and the IMF last month…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Anger at UK’s £1bn Bill to Help Albania and Serbia Join EU

BRUSSELS bureaucrats are pouring billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash into helping countries such as Turkey and Albania join the European Union, it emerged yesterday. Around £8.3billion has been allocated to an EU “accession” fund that provides financial assistance for nations wanting to join. And the cash — including around £1.1billion from Britain — is being handed out even to countries with little hope of joining the EU in the foreseeable future.

Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia are among the nations attempting to join the EU in a new accession wave that are benefiting from money designed to bring their economies and infrastructure closer to European standards. But investigators claim many of the schemes receiving cash are riddled with irregularities and suspected fraud. Turkey, with a predominantly Muslim population of 78 million, is getting £3.2billion from the EU between 2007 and 2013. The cash has been handed out despite EU leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying Turkey is not yet ready for EU membership. Albania will receive £320million over five years despite there being no current negotiations on the poverty-stricken state joining the EU. Bosnia and Herzegovina is to receive £363million despite not even applying to join the EU. UK Independence Party MEP William Dartmouth said: “British families facing difficult financial times and possible job losses will be dismayed to discover that we are being forced to give money to countries like Albania and Serbia. It must seem like a bad joke with them as the butt. “The EU is a corrupt organisation that has not had its accounts signed off for the past 16 years. So to see it hand over billions of euros to countries such as Serbia and Albania to fight corruption is frankly ludicrous. “Has it not crossed their minds that the money they are giving to eradicate corruption in the police and judiciary is falling straight into the hands of those who are responsible for the corruption in the first place? “Not a day goes by without the British public realising just how profligate with our money the EU is. But this surely must be the final straw. “Giving money to Turkey, Serbia and Albania among others so they can join this already bloated union is a step too far.” He added: “It is a bitter pill to swallow for British families facing a period of austerity.” Mats Persson, of the think-tank Open Europe, said the EU risked “sending billions of pounds into a black hole”. But one European Commission official said: “Turkey is a candidate and we are obliged to implement the financial assistance despite the political reality. “We see this as an investment, as the reforms in the recipient countries will benefit the EU indirectly.” Yvette Cooper will ignite a fresh political storm over Europe today by accusing David Cameron of turning his back on Brussels. In her first major speech as shadow foreign secretary, the Labour frontbencher will accuse the Prime Minister of having a “shrivelled vision of Britain’s role in the world” and of “appeasing Eurosceptics at home”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Protests Over Block on Church of the Pyramids. “The Government Discriminates Against Christians”

168 Copts are still in jail (including 20 children) arrested during the demonstration on November 24 against the block on construction of the church opposed by radical Muslims. Appeal to Mubarak to punish those who authorized the use of weapons.

blocked construction of the church near the Pyramids. During the demonstration on November 24 security forces opened fire on the unarmed crowd that surrounded the headquarters of the governor of Giza, killing three people. A child of four was killed, suffocated by tear gas. Several dozen people were injured as a result of the brutality of police repression, among them 38 children.

Security forces arrested 168 Copts, who are still detained, among them there are 20 minors under 18 years of age who are confined in juvenile detention center in Al Marg. A request for their release has also come from International Christian Concern (ICC), an organization based in the United States that monitors the situation of Christians in the world. On 4 December, the Egyptian head of the Union for Human Rights, Naguib Ghobrial, organized a demonstration outside the High Court of Egypt which was attended by both Christians and Muslims to demand the release of prisoners, particularly minors, and that charges be brought against the governor of Giza and the Head of Security who authorized the use of live bullets against the demonstrators on November 24. Aidan Clay, direttore regionale per il Medio Oriente per Icc, ha detto: “Mentre la maggior parte degli attacchi contro i copti sono commessi da gruppi di musulmani, l’attacco sui manifestanti disarmati è stato il primo, a memoria recente, autorizzato da una branca del governo e compiuto da forze di sicurezza egiziane. La persecuzione anti-cristiana in Egitto sta raggiungendo un nuovo livello, dal momento che i copti non sono solo discriminati, ma sono presi a bersaglio e uccisi dal governo. Chiediamo al presidente Mubarak di agire immediatamente per perseguire chi ha autorizzato l’attacco e liberare i manifestanti detenuti, in particolare i ragazzi. Se non fa così, sarà chiaro che il regime di Mubarak e i tribunali egiziani autorizzano e incoraggiano la violenza contro i cristiani”.

Aidan Clay, regional director for the Middle East for ICC, said: “While most attacks against Egypt’s Coptic Christians are committed by Muslim mob violence, the Talbiya attack on unarmed protestors was the first incident in recent memory authorized by branches of the Egyptian government and carried out by Egyptian security forces. Anti-Christian persecution in Egypt is reaching a new level, as Copts are no longer merely discriminated against, but are in fact being targeted and murdered by the government. We urge President Hosni Mubarak to take immediate action by bringing those who authorized this attack to justice and by releasing those who have been arrested unjustly, especially the children. If action is not taken, it will be clear to all that Mubarak’s regime and Egyptian courts condone, and even support, government induced violence upon Christians”.

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

Egyptian State-Run Media Defames Coptic Pope

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — A recently published column in the state-run daily al-Ahram newspaper carried an unprecedented attack on Egypt’s patriarch, Pope Pope Shenouda III, the Coptic Church, and the Copts in general. The column entitled “2010 Copts,” by Abdel-Nasser Salama, an obscure journalist, appeared on December 6; it accused Pope Shenouda of having instigated sectarian tension in Egypt ever since he became Pope in 1971, by introducing into the Egyptian society “terms such as sectarianism, sectarian strife, citizenship and the resort to foreign powers for support.”

Salama accused Pope Shenouda of giving a speech in 1973 to the congregation in Alexandria in which he said, according to Salama, “the number of Christians in Egypt will be at par with the number of Muslims by the year 2000, according to the plan the church is implementing, described in the speech.” In addition Salama claimed that the Pope allegedly called for “expelling the ‘Muslim invaders’ from Egypt”.

The Chief editor of Coptic Newspaper Watani, Youssef Sidhom, wrote an editorial on December 12, blaming al-Ahram’s editorial executives of allowing an article with such offensive and undocumented material to be published. “The column cited ‘information which it claimed was historical fact and which ‘proved’ that Copts have been for decades acting in a treacherous manner against their homeland.” Sidhom added that “it takes no effort to determine that the so-called ‘information’ is entirely groundless; its only base is in the writer’s imagination.”

“The issue this time is highly sensitive,” said Dr. Gabraeel in an interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm. “It’s not a writer accusing the Copts of something; it’s the official newspaper of the state launching an attack on the church’s spiritual leader, Pope Shenouda III, who is a symbol for millions of Copts in and outs Egypt.”

Dr. Naguib Gabraeel, who is head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization (EUHRO), filed a complaint on December 8 with the General Persecution Office, accusing al-Ahram of defaming Pope Shenouda III. The complaint included libel, false reporting, undermining social security and inciting sectarian unrest.

Salama said Copts are being “pampered” and “coddled” by the state, referring to the Incident of St. Mary and St.Michel Church in Omraniya on November 24 and the ensuing Coptic protests against halting their church construction, and the precedent of security forces opening fire on Coptic protesters, resulting in 4 Coptic fatalities, 79 injured and 157 Coptic detainees including women, teens and children as young as 11-years-old.

Several writers touched on the point of the state’s pampering and coddling of Copts and whether this was consistent with the different massacres of Copts such as el-Kosheh and the Christmas Eve Massacre in Nag Hammadi in 2010 (AINA 1-7-2010), the frequent torching of Copts’ homes, looting of their property, displacement from their villages, abductions and forced Islamization of the minor girls and lack of freedom for worship.

Salama accused church officials of planning and staging the demonstrations in Omrania by bringing over youth from Upper Egypt for this purpose, and of aiming their aggression at police officers who were allegedly injured.

“How did our clergy plan these demonstrations when the Governor of Giza’s secretary visited the premises and told the congregation on November 23 that the church permit has been changed,” said Yacoub, “and congratulated them on the new church. This was on the evening of the surprise attack on them by security forces” (video).

“The large amount of Molotov cocktails seized from the protesters, raises the question about the presence of weapons in churches,” Mr. Salama wrote. The accusation of the Coptic church stockpiling weapons was claimed by Islamist Dr. El-Awa on September 15, during an interview of Al-Jezeera TV Channel (AINA 9-22-2010).

Attorney Adel Mikhail, defense lawyer, confirmed that according to police reports, “ no trace of Molotov cocktails whatsoever was found on the 157 detained demonstrators or any kind of weapons seized from them.” He said that the detainees said that they never took part in the protestes but were picked up at ramdom and arrested by the police.

Mr. Salama said that the stance adopted by Pope Shenouda of non-condemnationn of the Copts involved in the recent attack “is quiet surprising and confirms that matters ought to be firmly resolved.”

Pope Shenouda III, denounced what he described as the “excessive use of force against Coptic protesters”, and announced that the Copts will not forget the blood of those who died during the church incident on November 24, adding “Power should be used to serve the people, not for violence. Violence only generates counter-violence.”

During his weekly sermon on Wednesday December 8, the pope vowed that the church will do its best to bring justice to the victims even if it meant going to court, adding that “Coptic blood is not cheap” (AINA 12-11-2010).

Al-Ahram Editor in Chief Osama Saraya’s apologized to Pope Shenouda on a front-page editorial on December 8 and the Church accepted his apologies and said it will not take legal action against the paper.

Copts were not satisfied , however, with this apology, viewing that Saraya highlighted the good qualities of Pope Shenouda, but did not refer to the other claims in the article. “On the contrary Saraya protected Salama by finding excuses for him,” said Yacoub.

It was reported on December 11, that the Chairman of al-Ahram has stopped Abdel Nasser Salama from writing his column every Monday.

The majority of Coptic observers believe that this defamatory article would not have seen the light of day had it not been instigated by the State Security authorities. “What Salama has written was not a random article,” said Dr. Gabraeel “The words reflect the government’s policy of not only marginalizing the Copts, but of also degrading them.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Hamas: No Negotiations on Historic Palestine

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, DECEMBER 10 — On the 23rd anniversary of the founding of Hamas, a leader of the organisation, Mahmud a-Zahar, has repeated that “historic Palestine,” — namely the territories between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea — cannot be the subject of any negotiations. The news was reported by Palestinian news agency Maan. “The Israeli occupation will end, it has no future among us,” exclaimed a-Zahar during a heated demonstration during which an Israeli flag was burned. “Humanism is a sacred value for us like that of our land, which is not subject to elections, referenda, compromises or sales.” A-Zahar then asked President Mahmoud Abbas to allow the resumption of the armed struggle to the bitter end in the West Bank against Israel and urged Al Fatah to unite its forces with Hamas’ to build “a united front” to obtain — together with the armies of the Arab countries — the liberation of historic Palestine.

In the meantime, Israeli military sources have shown concern over the increase in incidents on the border with Gaza and the Israeli Neghev. In particular, a recent attack against an Israeli armoured vehicle (which resulted in no victims) has led to the belief that Hamas is in possession of new, highly sophisticated anti-tank rockets. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel: Thousands in Tel Aviv for Human Rights Day

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 10 — A parade of several thousand Israelis and foreign (mainly African) workers has marched without incident through the streets of central Tel Aviv to mark World Human Rights Day. At the end of the parade, in which 120 organisations took part, a rally is planned in Rabin Square by the novelist Sami Michael, who has spent years fighting for the respect of human rights, both in Israel and in the Palestinian Territories.

Among the signs held up by protesters were “Solidarity against fascism”, “No to occupation” and “Stop racial incitement”, the latter presumably a reference to the stance of hundreds of nationalist Rabbis, who have recently said that they are against the sale and renting of flats to the Arab minority in Israel.

In the centre of Tel Aviv, also as part of World Human Rights Day, a nationalist group organised a separate demonstration in support of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. To avoid incidents, the police made efforts to avoid the two marches coming into contact.

In the afternoon, other demonstrations in support of the Palestinian population will take place in the West Bank, near the Israeli security barrier. The main event will be in Bilin, the Palestinian village that has become famous for its dogged struggle against the West Bank barrier, which severely affects agricultural production in the area.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel Frees Radical Muslim Leader

Israeli prison authorities on Sunday released a radical Muslim leader after serving a five-month term for assaulting a policeman.

Hundreds of people greeted Sheik Raed Salah as he was freed from prison in this central Israeli town. The sheik is known for his hardline stance against the Jewish state. He lives in central Israel and leads a Muslim movement that has thousands of followers in the country.

Salah was imprisoned for assaulting a police officer and leading a violent demonstration near Jerusalem’s Old City. He was protesting Israeli renovation work near the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and Muslims as the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“I do not regret a single second in prison,” Salah told the crowd of mostly middle-aged men who crowded to shake his hand, hug him and kiss him reverentially on the cheeks. “Nothing is more righteous than the cause of Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem.”

The crowd responded with its own cheers, “We’ll sacrifice ourself for Al-Aqsa, Oh Raed!”

Salah has had repeated run-ins with Israeli authorities. He was imprisoned previously for funneling money to the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Arabs are around one-fifth of Israel’s population of more than 7.6 million. They are citizens but have suffered decades of discrimination. In recent years, some have slowly migrated to hardline groups including Salah’s Northern Islamic Movement.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Unholy Alliance Between Israel’s Right and Europe’s Anti-Semites — Extreme Nationalists in Israel Have Invited Extremists in Europe and Believe They Have Tamed Them to Their Cause. By Adar Primor * Published 01:39 12.12.10

Oy Europe! Its official arm, brave and mighty, was extended to us in the form of the dozens of firefighters and firefighting aircraft dispatched to battle the Carmel blaze. Its other arm — the outcast, disobedient one — came to ignite fires whose damages cannot be predicted. These took the form of the very unholy alliance between figures on Israel’s right and extreme nationalists and even anti-Semites in Europe that is gaining momentum in the Holy Land.

The first of the pyromaniacs, the Dutch MP Geert Wilders — almost a permanent guest in Israel — was invited by MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union ) to persuade us that Jordan is Palestine. In 2008, Wilders made headlines when his film “Fitna” drew a connection between the Koran and Islamic terror. He often compares the Koran to “Mein Kampf” and calls for taxing Muslim garments, “which pollute the Dutch landscape.” During his visit here, he voiced innumerable pearls of wisdom such as “Without Judea and Samaria, Israel cannot protect Jerusalem.”

Another European expert in starting fires is the Belgian politician Filip Dewinter, who was invited to attend another conference held here as well, this one initiated by former Yisrael Beiteinu MK Eliezer Cohen. Annoyed that Eldad had “stolen” Wilders from under his nose, Cohen brought to his own convention on Islamophobia a roster of racists who made the Dutch populist look like an innocent lamb.

Dewinter is a leader of Vlaams Belang party, a successor to the Flemish National Movement, many of whose members collaborated with the Nazis. Among its current members are a number of Holocaust deniers. Dewinter himself moved about in anti-Semitic circles and has ties to European extremist and neo-Nazi parties. In 1988, he paid his respects to the tens of thousands of Nazi soldiers buried in Belgium, and in 2001, he opened a speech with an oath used by the SS.

The honor of lighting the torch goes to the brightest jewel in this racist crown — Heinz-Christian Strache, leader of Austria’s Freedom Party. If Jorg Haider was “Hitler’s spiritual grandson,” then Strache is his extremely illegitimate great-grandson. His grandfather was in the Waffen-SS, and his father served in the Wehrmacht. As a university student, Strache belonged to an extremist organization from which Jews were banned, hung out with neo-Nazis and participated in paramilitary exercises with them. Commentators in Austria say that Strache is trying to copy Haider but that he is less sophisticated and ultimately more extreme than his role model. (A selection of Strache’s brilliant comments were published in his interview with Haaretz in March. )

The organizers of these visits believe they have tamed this bunch of extremists they brought over from Europe, who after trading in their Jewish demon-enemy for the Muslim criminal-immigrant model are now singing in unison that Samaria is Jewish ground. Soon they’ll be sprouting beards and wearing kippot. But they have not genuinely cast off their spiritual DNA, and in any event, they aren’t looking for anything except for Jewish absolution that will bring them closer to political power.

Joining the list of those who have brought shame onto this country for hosting these characters are the Ashkelon Academic College, which gave them a platform; MK Nissim Zeev (Shas ), who received them in the Knesset; Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara (Likud ), who expressed his delight at meeting “lovers of Israel, whom we must strengthen,”; and the Israel Air Force, which tainted its reputation by permitting Cohen, a veteran of the force, to give this gang an exclusive tour of an F-15 squadron.

The Austrian press reported this week that the whitewashing undergone by Strache here in our Land of Milk and Honey could well pave his way to the chancellor’s office. And, as they say: “To the glory of the State of Israel.”

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

2022 Cup Will Promote Islamic Values: Survey

Many people in Qatar and abroad believe that the FIFA World Cup 2022 would provide a rare opportunity to introduce Arab and Islamic values and traditions to the rest of the world.

More than 80 percent of respondents to an online survey conducted by Al Sharq felt that Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup would promote Arab and Islamic cultures.

Sixteen percent of respondents did not agree with this view while three percent preferred not to respond.

The mega event will help Qatar introduce the authentic traditions and norms of Islam blurred by negative media publicity, say several intellectuals and scholars.

“We should tell people all over the world in a way that they understand that Islam has renounced violence,” said Ahmed Al Bueinein, a Doha-based Islamic scholar.

Qatari intellectuals can play a key role during 2022 FIFA Cup in promoting the native culture and tradition in a creative manner. The Peninsula

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Barca in Record Shirt Deal With Qatar Foundation

The Qatar Foundation, founded by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, in 1995, has projects focusing on education, scientific research and community development. It is also engaged in several corporate joint ventures.

Last week the Gulf state was chosen by soccer’s governing body FIFA to host the World Cup in 2022, when it will become the first Arab country to stage the finals, and Barca coach Pep Guardiola was one of the ambassadors for the bid.

The club are one of the few in world soccer not to have a corporate logo on their first-team shirts, instead displaying the name of the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, for which they pay the organization 1.5 million euros a year.

Under the agreement announced on Friday, marketing experts will seek to find a way for both logos to be displayed, although if that was not possible the UNICEF name would be moved to another part of the shirt, a club spokesman said.

“With this accord, Barca becomes the undisputed brand leader in world football, far ahead of international rivals,” Javier Faus, a club vice president, told a news conference.

The agreement also includes a commitment for Barca to play one friendly per season, not necessarily in Qatar, and the Qatar Foundation will take part in joint projects with UNICEF and the club’s own foundation.

A study by consulting firm Sport+Markt published in October showed new deals for English Premier League clubs Manchester United and Liverpool, with insurance brokerage and bank Standard Chartered respectively, were the two most valuable contracts in 2010/11 at 23.6 million euros each.

Real Madrid’s 23-million-euro deal with Internet bookmaker bwin was the next biggest.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Eye for an Eye: Iranian Man Sentenced to Have Drops of Acid Poured Onto His Face for Blinding His Lover’s Husband

An Iranian man who blinded his lover’s husband is to suffer a similar fate in a tit-for-tat sentencing — by having acid poured into his eye.

Iran’s Islamic code allows for ‘an eye-for-an-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth’ retribution — known as ‘qisas’ — in cases of violent crime.

The convict, named only as Mojtaba, threw acid in the face of his rival Alireza, a taxi driver, after an illicit affair with the victim’s wife, Mojdeh.

All three are 25 and live in Qom, Iran’s clerical nerve centre 60 miles south of the capital, Tehran.

The grotesque penalty was passed by a lower court and upheld by Iran’s supreme court, a government daily, Iran, reported this weekend.

The 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 added.

Extreme punishments can be waived if the victim chooses to accept ‘blood money’ in reparation, and ‘eye for eye’ punishments are rarely carried out.

Similarly in capital cases, there have been several instances in Iran and Saudi Arabia where a convicted murderer’s life has been spared at the eleventh hour when their victim’s family has shown mercy.

Qisas sentences infuriate local reformists and are invariably branded as an ‘abhorrent’ form of ‘judicial torture’ by international human rights groups….

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran Warns About Spread of Iranophobia, Islamophobia in Canada

Iran Warns about Spread of Iranophobia, Islamophobia in Canada TEHRAN (FNA)- The Iranian Foreign Ministry in a statement warned the country’s nationals about rising waves of Iranophobia and Islamophobia in Canada, and stressed that the Canadian police are either unwilling or incapable of investigating crimes against Iranian nationals.

“Anti-Islam moves and Iranophobia have remarkably grown in Canada and at times affected the behavior of the government and non-government authorities,” the statement said on Sunday.

The statement further pointed to the different cases of detention and expulsion of Iranian nationals by the Canadian government under different pretexts, and reminded that the Canadian government authorities have in many cases barred the Iranian nationals from the right of access to fair court trials.


[DF — if is islamophobia wasn’t funny enough, we now have iranophobia — lmao ]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Christians Plot Course for Self-Determination

Coalition proposes formation of province on Nineveh plains

Christians in Iraq, who trace their faith to the biblically recorded Pentecost and who have refused to be dislodged in the face of Islamic attacks and Mongol hordes over the centuries, are hammering out a course for future worship, and it includes a plan for a Christian province.

Delegates from Iraq’s 16 predominantly Christian political parties and groups have hammered out an agreement to form the province on the Nineveh plains in Northern Iraq.

Delegates gathered in the Kurdish provincial capital city of Erbil and unanimously voted to petition the Iraqi government to approve the request for a self-governing Christian territory in the land Iraqi Christians say was the first predominantly Christian nation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jordan Opposition Accuses Government of Apostasy

Jordan’s powerful Islamic opposition has accused the government of apostasy for assisting the U.S. in Afghanistan.

The religious edict by the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not binding, but it highlights the tension with the conservative group, which boycotted last month’s parliamentary election.

Jordan says it has only 300 peacekeepers in Afghanistan. But a bombing attack that killed a Jordanian double agent in Afghanistan’s eastern province last January revealed the presence of its intelligence officers there.

Sunday’s edict said that Islam bars Muslims from fighting against fellow Muslims and the government had “abandoned Islam” because it was helping non-Muslims.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Canadian’s Grave Relocated to Corner in Bodrum Cemetery

The remains of a retired Canadian diplomat have been relocated to another corner in the Bodrum cemetery, following a local family’s complaints. Wife of the late diplomat Hans Himmelbach is deeply unhappy about the incident and says her efforts to stop the relocation was futile

The remains of retired Canadian diplomat Hans Himmelbach have been relocated to a remote corner in the Bodrum cemetery where he was buried, because a prominent local family was uncomfortable with his proximity to the graves of their loved ones.

“I cannot digest that my husband’s grave was moved to a corner because the neighborhood cemetery owners didn’t want him. This behavior doesn’t suit my country or the people of my country. This implementation is backward, I’ve lost my sleep,” said his wife Ilknur Kummul Himmelbach, a previous national sports woman and a Turkish record holder.

The 61 year-old Hans Himmelbach settled in Torba with his wife in 2004. He died Oct. 20. Once permission was granted, his casket was delivered to the Torba cemetery accompanied by Muslim and Christian rituals at his wife’s request. The participants from both religions thought the ceremony contributed to the atmosphere of tolerance.

Nevertheless, Ilknur Himmelbach was shocked one day when municipal workers said the Dayioglu family, one of Bodrum’s leading families, requested the relocation of Himmelbach’s remains because his grave was next to their relatives’.

Objecting to the relocation of her husband’s remains, Ilknur Himmelbach applied to the Bodrum Municipality five times for an intervention. Her efforts were futile, though, and her husband’s grave was moved 20 meters and now lacks a proper gravestone.

“If they told me this incident was going to happen 30 years ago, I wouldn’t have believed them. My husband doesn’t deserve this. He moved to Turkey to make me happy,” said Ilknur Himmelbach.

The Republican People’s Party, or CHP, member Dursun Göktepe and previous neighborhood head of Torba Turgut Kavcar gave their condolences to Ilknur Himmelbach. “As Bodrum people, we are very unfair concerning this issue. This shame will hurt us. In order to alleviate the pain of Himmelbach’s wife, I will put this on the agenda of municipal assembly and do whatever is required,” said Göktepe.

The mayor of Bodrum from the Democratic Party, or DP, Mehmet Kocadon said he didn’t know the man’s remains were forcibly relocated. “I didn’t receive a remark saying that the location of the cemetery was moved forcefully. Regarding the issue, two families negotiated and took a mutual decision. If something happened due to misunderstanding, I also feel very regretful,” said Kocadon.

Saying that they particularly wanted to relocate Himmelbach’s grave, the businessman Sinan Dayioglu said although people from different beliefs are in the same cemetery, they should be in separate areas.

“They put Himmelback’s grave next to my mother Sükriye Saman and my cousin Burak Dayioglu. In the world, people having different beliefs are separated with walls or wires, even though they are in the same cemetery. This is for the respect of worship and belief,” said Dayioglu.

“We objected because we weren’t comfortable performing Muslim prayers right next to a Christian grave. We weren’t trying to hurt anybody,” said Dayioglu.

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


Wikileaks Cable Sticks the Knife Into Azerbaijan’s First Lady

The first lady of Azerbaijan has problems showing a “full range of facial expression” following “substantial cosmetic surgery, (done) presumably overseas,” US diplomats say witheringly in US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.

In some of the cattiest comments to emerge from the leaked state department cables so far, diplomats shove the scalpel into Mehriban Aliyeva, the wife of Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev. The cable written in January examines Aliyeva’s family, the influential Pashayevs, describing them as one of oil-rich state’s “most powerful families”.

Under the headline “A First Lady, Too, in Fashion”, Aliyeva is dubbed more “fashion-conscious and daring” than the “average woman in majority-Muslim Azerbaijan”. As well as substantial foreign cosmetic surgery, the first lady “wears dresses that would be considered provocative even in the Western world,” it says.

“On television, in photos, and in person, she appears unable to show a full range of facial expression,” it adds. The cable describes how in September 2008 Aliyeva and her two daughters hosted “second lady Lynne Cheney” — the wife of former US vice-president Dick Cheney. With exquisite bitchiness it recalls: “Prior to the Second Lady’s arrival, while the three ladies were waiting for Mrs Cheney’s car, one Secret Service agent asked ‘which one of those is the mother?’ Emboffs (embassy officials) and White House staff studied the three for several moments, and then Emboff said, ‘Well, logically the mother would probably stand in the middle.’“

The same cable talks disparagingly of Azerbaijan’s political elite. “Observers in Baku often note that today’s Azerbaijan is run in a manner similar to the feudalism found in Europe during the Middle Ages: a handful of well-connected families control certain geographic areas, as well as certain sectors of the economy.” These families “collude, using government mechanisms” to keep out foreign competitors, it asserts.

Despite being an MP, the president’s wife appears “poorly informed about political issues”, US diplomats tell Washington. Her family’s vast business interests, meanwhile, include several banks, an insurance company, construction, travel, and — so far — Azerbaijan’s only Bentley dealership. Her collection of contemporary art forms the basis of Baku’s new museum of modern art, the cable adds.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Systematic Attacks Against Christians in Karnataka

Hindu extremists threaten and attack Christians, even within the churches. Then they have them arrested by the police with false accusations of proselytism. Sajan George: we need the intervention of the authorities, the anti-conversion laws-are been considered in Karnataka to attack Christians.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — More attacks against Christians in Karnataka. On December 5 groups of Hindu extremists have made four different attacks against Protestant Christians.

The first took place against the Gipsy Prayer Hall in Bangalore in the Kenger Upanagara slum. Here, the extremists attacked a church while during Sunday service, terrorizing and threatening about 50 participants. The district of Shimoga was the scene of two other incidents. The Hindu extremists beat up and dragged four Christians out of their churches, and then had them arrested by police on false charges of proselytism.

The fourth incident targeted the Christians of the Pentecostal Church of Jyothinagar (Bangalore). A group of 40 extremists surrounded the building during services, throwing stones and shouting anti-Christian slogans.

Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said: “The four attacks on the same day in Karnataka is reflective of the insecurity of the vulnerable minority Christian community and more importantly this is an indication of the climate of fear ,f persecution and harassment and terror in which Christians must practice their faith in this Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-governed state”. “The Bajrang Dal activists continue to attack, beat and threaten the Christians. This is a real challenge to our secular democracy. The situation could become worse if the authorities do not intervene. “

“The allegations of proselytizing of the Sangh Parivar [Hindu extremists] against Christians are baseless and false”. “The law of Karnataka on freedom of religion aims to avoid forced conversions, but it is often manipulated and used to criminalize conversions in general and is used by Hindu extremists with the complicity of local police to attack Christians.”

“The sad thing — says Sajan — is that such laws were passed not only in PBJ led states, but also in states led by the Congress Party [PC]. For example, the Himachal Anti-Conversion Law was approved during the government of Pc. “

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

Pakistan Doctor Arrested on Suspicion of Blasphemy

Pakistani authorities have arrested a doctor on suspicion of violating the country’s contentious blasphemy law by throwing away a business card of a man who shared the name of Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, police said Sunday. The blasphemy law has been widely criticized by human rights groups following the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death last month for insulting Islam. Critics say the law should be amended or repealed because it is often used to settle grudges, persecute minorities and fan religious extremism. Naushad Valiyani, a Muslim doctor in the southern city of Hyderabad, was arrested Friday after a complaint was lodged with police alleging his actions had insulted the Prophet Muhammad, said regional police chief Mushtaq Shah. The case began Friday when Muhammad Faizan, a pharmaceutical company representative, visited Valiyani’s clinic and handed out his business card. He said when the doctor threw the card away, Faizan went to police and filed a complaint that noted his name was the same as the prophet’s. Shah said police were investigating whether Valiyani should be charged with blasphemy. Dozens of Pakistanis are sentenced to death each year under the blasphemy law, though most cases are thrown out by higher courts and no executions have been carried out. The law, however, is unlikely to be repealed because the government’s ruling party — largely secular — relies on the support of Islamist groups. Islamist political parties have recently demonstrated in support of the law and the sentence against Bibi. One hard-line cleric said if the government did not execute Bibi, his mosque would pay anyone who killed her $5,800. The family of Bibi — a mother of five — insists she was falsely accused over a personal dispute. There have been appeals from around the globe — including one from Pope Benedict XVI — to pardon her. But the government has said it is first waiting for a court ruling on her appeal. Pakistan’s minister for minority affairs has said the law is being examined to prevent widespread abuse.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Six NATO Troops Killed by Suicide Bomber in Afghanistan

A suicide attacker detonated a minibus packed with explosives near the gates of a military base in southern Afghanistan today, killing six Nato troops and two Afghan soldiers, officials said.

The attack took place in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, where the U.S. poured in troops this summer as part of a surge of forces to try to oust the Taliban from its southern strongholds.

Gen. Abdul Hamid, the Afghan army chief for the province, said the attacker drove a minibus up to the entrance of the base this morning just as vehicles were preparing to move out on a patrol.

‘They were leaving the compound and at that moment, the minibus attacked and they hit right at the entrance of the base,’ Hamid said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the insurgent group was retaliating for all the attacks launched on them in the area in recent months.

Nato declined to identify the nationalities of the six fatalities, although most Nato troops in the south of the country are American.

More than 670 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, well above the 502 killed in 2009.

Today’s attack was the second incident in two weeks to kill so many service personnel. On November 29, an Afghan policeman turned his gun on his American trainers in the east, killing six of them before he was gunned down. The Taliban claimed that they had sent him to join the police as a sleeper agent.

On November 14, five U.S. soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack on their unit in eastern Afghanistan.

Is it the end of the road for Wootton Bassett repatriation parades? In a separate incident this weekend, Nato said a Taliban leader was killed and a key member of another militant group was captured in the east.

The Taliban leader was involved in weapons smuggling and attacks in eastern Wardak province. Nato identified him only by his first name, Fedahi.

Nato said two men threatened coalition troops as they entered a compound on Saturday night where they had heard Fedahi was staying. They shot and killed both men, one of whom was later identified as Fedahi, the statement said. It said no civilians were harmed in the operation.

In another raid in eastern Khost province on Saturday night, Nato and Afghan troops captured a leader of the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based Taliban faction closely tied to Al Qaeda.

Coalition troops picked up the insurgent in a compound in Terayzai district, Nato said, adding that the detainee has conducted bomb attacks and ambushes against Afghan and coalition troops.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables Paint Bleak Picture of Tajikistan, Central Asia’s Poorest State

Tajikistan is losing the battle against the flow of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan and is characterised by “cronyism and corruption” emanating from the president downwards.

A series of leaked US diplomatic dispatches released by WikiLeaks paint a bleak picture of Central Asia’s poorest state. They note that it suffers from “earthquakes, floods, droughts, locusts and extreme weather” and is situated next to “obstructive Uzbekistan”, “unstable Afghanistan” and the “rough, remote” Pamir mountains next to western China.

But Tajikistan’s worst obstacle is the country’s venal president Emomali Rahmon, diplomats say. A secret cable dated 16 February 2010, from the US embassy in Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, describes how Rahmon runs the ex-Soviet republic’s economy for his own personal profit: “From the president down to the policeman on the street, government is characterized by cronyism and corruption.”

“Rahmon and his family control the country’s major businesses, including the largest bank, and they play hardball to protect their business interests, no matter the cost to the economy writ large. As one foreign ambassador summed up, President Rahmon prefers to control 90% of a ten-dollar pie, rather than 30% of a hundred-dollar pie.”

Tajikistan’s sole industrial exports are aluminium and hydroelectricity. But most of the revenues from the “technically state-owned Tajik Aluminium Company (Talco) end up in a secretive offshore company controlled by the president,” the cable states, adding dolefully: “The state budget sees little of the income.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables Show US Public-Private Conflict Over Uzbekistan

The post-Soviet state of Uzbekistan is a nightmarish world of “rampant corruption”, organised crime, forced labour in the cotton fields, and torture, according to the leaked cables.

But the secret dispatches released by WikiLeaks reveal that the US tries to keep President Islam Karimov sweet because he allows a crucial US military supply line to run into Afghanistan, known as the northern distribution network (NDN).

Many dispatches focus on the behaviour of Karimov’s glamorous and highly controversial daughter Gulnara, who is bluntly described by them as “the single most hated person in the country”.

She allegedly bullied her way into gaining a slice of virtually every lucrative business in the central Asian state and is viewed, they say, as a “robber baron”. Granted diplomatic status by her father, Gulnara allegedly lives much of the time in Geneva, where her holding company, Zeromax, was registered at the time, or in Spain.

She also sings pop songs, designs jewellery and is listed as a professor at Tashkent’s University of World Economy and Diplomacy.

The British ambassador in Tashkent, Rupert Joy, was criticised by human rights groups in October when he helped boost Gulnara’s image by appearing with her on a fashion show platform.

But the US secret cables go some way towards explaining western ambivalence. They detail how the dictatorial president recently flew into a rage because the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, presented a Women of Courage award in Washington to a newly released Uzbek human rights campaigner, Mutabar Tadjibayeva.

Karimov’s displeasure was conveyed in “icy tones”, which alarmed the embassy: “We have a number of important issues on the table right now, including the Afghanistan transit (NDN) framework.”

On 18 March 2009, the US ambassador, Richard Norland, submitted to a personal tongue-lashing from Karimov with an “implicit threat to suspend transit of cargo for US forces in Afghanistan via the Northern Distribution Network”.

Norland claimed to have calmed Karimov down on that occasion, but warned Washington: “Clearly, pressuring him (especially publicly) could cost us transit.”

Gulnara, wryly dubbed the “first daughter” by the diplomats, appeared on the embassy radar in 2004.

Describing trips to sample Tashkent’s raucous nightlife, diplomats said she had been spotted at 3am joining her younger sister Lola in a booth surrounded by four large bodyguards.

Lola had arrived in a Porsche Cayenne four-wheel drive — “one of a kind for Tashkent” — and danced all evening with her “thuggish-looking boyfriend” in a club she appeared to own. It served large quantities of imported hard alcohol, the diplomats noted, “which is against the law”.

Dispatches over the next five years chronicle Gulnara’s extraordinary rise, allegedly making local businesses offers they could not refuse.

US businessmen claimed, for example, that after they rejected Gulnara’s offer to take a share in their Skytel mobile phone firm, “the company’s frequency has been jammed by an Uzbek government agency”.

Gulnara acquired interests in the crude oil contracts of Zeromax in “a deal with [a] local mafia boss”, the embassy said. She also got hold of shares in the Coca-Cola bottling franchise after it was subjected to a tax investigation, they claimed.

“Most Uzbeks see Karimova as a greedy, power-hungry individual who uses her father to crush business people or anyone else who stands in her way … She remains the single most hated person in the country.”

Neil Livingstone, a Washington businessman closely involved with Zeromax, denied to the Guardian that Gulnara had interests in the company, which has recently had its assets seized in Uzbekistan, following unfavourable publicity alleging corruption by the Karimov family.

He said: “Had we had the relationship with the government or the daughter that was rumoured … we would not now be in serious financial straits. I have never met the president’s daughter or even spoken to her.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks Cables Name UK Banker as Middleman in Kazakh Corruption Ring

A British tycoon is identified by US diplomats as the man at the centre of one of America’s worst recent corruption scandals, in which large bribes were allegedly handed over in the ex-Soviet state of Kazakhstan.

Robert Kissin, a UK banker and commodity trader, is alleged to be the key middleman who handled a $4m (£2.5m) secret payment.

According to leaked US diplomatic dispatches released by WikiLeaks, the cash was moved through a Barclays bank account set up in London on behalf of an offshore shell company registered in the Isle of Man, where true ownerships are easier to conceal.

The money was designed to help Texas oil services company Baker Hughes make corrupt payments to Kazakh state oil chiefs in return for a lucrative $219m contract, according to the company’s subsequent admissions.

After being found out, Baker Hughes eventually paid a total of $44m in penalties to the US authorities, following charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. At the time, in April 2007, it represented the highest-ever such penalty obtained in Washington by the department of justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and marked the beginning of a major US crackdown on overseas bribery.

Speaking at his London office at Lewis & Peat Oil and Gas, Kissin told the Guardian: “I was employed by Baker Hughes. I was involved, but that’s it — it’s an old story. There are a number of inaccuracies in this account but I’m not going to go into it.”

The published plea agreements at the time referred to a “British connection”, under which payments were made through the London financial system and the Isle of Man offshore entity. But Kissin’s name was withheld.

Baker Hughes’s local manager at the time was another Briton. He was named as Roy Fearnley, originally from Huddersfield. He arranged for an agent or go-between to be hired, according to the company’s confessions.

The SEC said at the time: “Baker Hughes retained the agent principally at the urging of Fearnley … Fearnley told his bosses that the ‘agent for Kazakhoil’ told him that unless the agent was retained, Baker Hughes could ‘say goodbye to this and future business’.”

The US authorities described the unidentified British agent at the time as a co-conspirator.

Shortly before the court settlement was announced, company executives privately explained to the US ambassador in Kazakhstan that the British agent hired by them in September 2000 was “the son of Lord Kissin” according to a confidential cable on 11 April 2007.

Kissin, 63, is the son of the late east-west commodity trader and Labour donor Harry Kissin, who was controversially made a peer by prime minister Harold Wilson in 1974. He was one of the circle of Wilson acquaintances with eastern European links who were spied on by MI5 without result during Wilson’s premiership, according to MI5’s official history.

Kissin followed in his father’s commodity trading footsteps…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

We Are Ready for War, Warns North Korea’s Peace Commission

North Korea warned yesterday that it was ready for an all-out war.

The news came as it sent its top diplomat to Russia amid efforts to defuse tensions over its deadly artillery attack on neighbouring South Korea.

The North’s official news agency said foreign minister Pak Ui Chun had left for Russia but declined to give details.

On Friday, Pak accused South Korea and the US of pursuing a policy of confrontation and said that North Korea needed its nuclear programme to fend them off.

The country’s National Peace Committee added yesterday: ‘The army and our people are ready for both an escalated war and an all-out war.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Gold Coast Bikie Gang Linked to Osama

POLICE have discovered pictures of Osama bin Laden at a Gold Coast home linked to a worrying new bikie gang called Soldiers of Islam, whose members include former Iraqi soldiers.

Photos of the fugitive Al Qa’ida leader were found recently at the home of a gang member during a criminal investigation.

Soldiers of Islam, also known as Sons of Islam, is believed to be an offshoot of outlaw bikie gang the Bandidos, which has a clubhouse at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.

Sources say the gang, comprising young Muslim men who sport “SOI” tattoos, has sprung up on the Glitter Strip relatively recently.

While only small in membership, the gang is coming under increasing attention from police investigating bikie links to crimes involving drugs, guns and violence.

“They are relatively new on the Gold Coast scene but seem to be involving themselves in some scary things,” a source said.

“They are associated with the Bandidos. Some of the members are ex-Iraqi soldiers with weapons training, so it’s quite a worry.”

The Courier-Mail understands that apart from the Bin Laden photos, police did not find any terrorism-related material at the Soldiers of Islam member’s house.

Middle Eastern gangs, while active in Sydney, have only recently been making their presence felt in Queensland and particularly on the Gold Coast.

Police have identified bikies from Sydney as being involved in the drive-by shooting murder of Gold Coast father-of-two Omega Ruston outside McDonald’s at Burleigh Heads on Australia Day 2008. The case remains unsolved.

One of the Coast’s most notorious bikies is Lebanese-born Yassar Bakir, who joined the high-profile Finks gang several years ago.

Bakir was last month convicted of importing GBL, a chemical used to make the powerful drug “fantasy”, and was jailed for six years.

The trial heard Bakir used violence and threats to force another man to import the drug into Australia from China.

Bakir was also charged with the attempted murder of a former professional rugby player, cage fighter and Japanese Yakuza bodyguard, who was pumped with bullets on the Southport Spit in 2006. However, the charges were dropped after the victim failed to show up to court to testify.

Another Finks bikie of Middle Eastern descent, Richard Savage, received a suspended sentence in 2007 after admitting to a violent rampage at Gold Coast Hospital because of delays in his wife getting haemorrhoid surgery.

The court heard Savage told terrified nurses he was “the king of the Gold Coast” and threatened to get 30 Finks to “trash the hospital until his wife was operated on”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

New Bikie Gang Called Soldiers of Islam is Gaining Momentum on the Gold Coast

POLICE have discovered pictures of Osama bin Laden at a Gold Coast home linked to a worrying new bikie gang called Soldiers of Islam, whose members include former Iraqi soldiers.

Photos of the fugitive Al Qa’ida leader were found recently at the home of a gang member during a criminal investigation.

Soldiers of Islam, also known as Sons of Islam, is believed to be an offshoot of outlaw bikie gang the Bandidos, which has a clubhouse at Mermaid Beach on the Gold Coast.

Sources say the gang, comprising young Muslim men who sport “SOI” tattoos, has sprung up on the Glitter Strip relatively recently.

While only small in membership, the gang is coming under increasing attention from police investigating bikie links to crimes involving drugs, guns and violence.

“They are relatively new on the Gold Coast scene but seem to be involving themselves in some scary things,” a source said.

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End of sidebar. Return to start of sidebar.

“They are associated with the Bandidos. Some of the members are ex-Iraqi soldiers with weapons training, so it’s quite a worry.”

The Courier-Mail understands that apart from the Bin Laden photos, police did not find any terrorism-related material at the Soldiers of Islam member’s house.

Middle Eastern gangs, while active in Sydney, have only recently been making their presence felt in Queensland and particularly on the Gold Coast.

Police have identified bikies from Sydney as being involved in the drive-by shooting murder of Gold Coast father-of-two Omega Ruston outside McDonald’s at Burleigh Heads on Australia Day 2008. The case remains unsolved.

One of the Coast’s most notorious bikies is Lebanese-born Yassar Bakir, who joined the high-profile Finks gang several years ago.

Bakir was last month convicted of importing GBL, a chemical used to make the powerful drug “fantasy”, and was jailed for six years.

The trial heard Bakir used violence and threats to force another man to import the drug into Australia from China.

Bakir was also charged with the attempted murder of a former professional rugby player, cage fighter and Japanese Yakuza bodyguard, who was pumped with bullets on the Southport Spit in 2006. However, the charges were dropped after the victim failed to show up to court to testify.

Another Finks bikie of Middle Eastern descent, Richard Savage, received a suspended sentence in 2007 after admitting to a violent rampage at Gold Coast Hospital because of delays in his wife getting haemorrhoid surgery.

The court heard Savage told terrified nurses he was “the king of the Gold Coast” and threatened to get 30 Finks to “trash the hospital until his wife was operated on”.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]


Arizona Regains Footing in Legal Battle Over Immigration Law

Arizona regained its footing in court Friday when a federal judge dismissed parts of the U.S. Justice Department’s challenge to the state’s new immigration law and rejected several claims made by Hispanic activists and Phoenix police officers.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton’s ruling on Friday struck down the federal government’s challenge to the portion of the law that prohibits the transport of illegal immigrants.

It also rejected a challenge from Phoenix police officers and an advocacy group called Chicanos Por La Causa who argued that the cops could be sued for racial profiling if they enforced the law or lose their jobs if they didn’t.

Bolton agreed with Arizona that they had no valid claim of immediate harm.

Bolton also dismissed a lawsuit from the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders who were seeking an injunction preventing authorities from enforcing the law because the group argued federal law pre-empts state regulation of national borders.


Bolton on Friday denied Brewer’s request to dismiss challenges to the law’s most controversial sections.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU Commissioners Say Europe Needs More Immigration

Europe needs more immigration if it wishes to remain globally competitive, say two members of the European Commission.

In an article penned by European Commissioners Cecilia Malmström and László Andor, the authors state that there are skills shortages in many sectors of the European job market, including science, health, agriculture, engineering, and tourism — This is desptie the fact that the EU continues to experience high unemployment rates

“These deficits will increase and spread rapidly to other sectors because of the EU’s severe demographic challenges,” the authors state.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Pictured: Archbishop of York John Sentamu and the Happy Couple Now Facing Jail Over Immigration Scam

Newly betrothed, the happy couple pose outside church alongside the vicar who married them, John Sentamu.

But behind the scene of bliss is an extraordinary tale of immigration deception which ended with Dr Sentamu, now the Archbishop of York, giving evidence against the couple.

Samuel Bisaso and Rebecca Muwonge are currently facing jail after being found guilty of an elaborate attempt to stay in the country which involved a subsequent second bogus wedding using a false identity.

The picture of their first, genuine, wedding proved to be the crucial piece of evidence in the trial.

The picture shows the day Dr Sentamu, then a vicar in a South London parish, married Mr Bisaso and Miss Muwonge in 1996.

Six years later, he ordained Mr Bisaso as a clergyman in the Church of Uganda, and he went on to be a chaplain in the Church of England.

But Dr Sentamu could not have known that the Rev Bisaso — the son of one of Dr Sentamu’s former colleagues in the Church of Uganda — had remarried his wife two years after the original ceremony, when she had hijacked the identity of her 18-year-old niece, Proscovia Kasozi, a British citizen.

The fake identity allowed Bisaso and his wife, both 44, to acquire British passports illegally.

Dr Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England after the Archbishop of Canterbury, was called to give evidence during the two-week trial of the couple at Hove Crown Court, East Sussex.

Well renowned: The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu gave evidence against the Bisaso couple achieved British passports illegally

He told the jury he had been a colleague of Bisaso’s father, George, in Uganda. In 1996, he conducted Bisaso’s first marriage at Holy Trinity Church in Tulse Hill, South London — Dr Sentamu’s last placement as a vicar before becoming Bishop of Stepney later that year. In 2005 he became Archbishop of York.

Bisaso arrived in the UK in the early 1990s and studied theology at the University of Gloucestershire between 1996 and 1999.

He later became a chaplain for the Mission to Seafarers church charity in Immingham, near Grimsby.

Bisaso and his wife, who have three children aged between two and nine, were arrested last year after a year-long investigation by the UK Border Agency…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Canada: Evangelical TV Show Pulled From the Air

Christian broadcaster Crossroads Television System (CTS) has been found in violation of broadcasting codes for statements made by evangelical television personality and minister Charles McVety that implied there was a “malevolent, insidious and conspiratorial purpose” to the activities of homosexuals.

Rev. McVety said he was told Thursday by CTS that his show, Word TV, would be temporarily pulled from the air. “My good name has been impugned by this report.”

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a self-regulated industry watchdog, said that Rev. McVety disparaged gays in episodes that ran between July 2009 and February 2010 when commenting on Toronto’s massive gay pride parade and a revised Ontario sex curriculum for grade schools.


The broadcasting council said Rev. McVety derided the city for advertising Toronto as a “sex tourism destination … with full opportunity for sex with hot boys.”

(Tourism Toronto ran online ads that called Toronto “as gay as it gets” in 2008 and another online advertisement that said, “On any given day, hot boys and hot girls fill Church Street with energy, passion and opportunity.”)

Rev. McVety was also censured for his strong comments about a proposed 2010 change to Ontario’s sex curriculum that presented homosexuality in a more accepting light. The policy was eventually withdrawn when it attracted controversy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gays in Africa Face Growing Persecution, Activists Say

Persecution of gays is intensifying across Africa, fueled by fundamentalist preachers, intolerant governments and homophobic politicians. Gay people have been denied access to health care, detained, tortured and even killed, human rights activists and witnesses say.

The growing tide of homophobia comes at a time when gays in Africa are expressing themselves more openly, prompting greater media attention and debates about homosexuality. The rapid growth of Islam and evangelical forms of Christianity, both espousing conservative views on family values and marriage, have persuaded many Africans that homosexuality should not be tolerated in their societies.

“It has never been harder for gays and lesbians on the continent,” said Monica Mbaru, Africa coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, based in Cape Town. “Homophobia is on the rise.”

Fearing for their lives, many activists are in hiding or have fled their countries.

In Uganda, a bill introduced in parliament last year would impose the death penalty for repeated same-sex relations and life imprisonment for other homosexual acts. Local newspapers are outing gays, potentially inciting the public to attack them, activists say.

A day after a newspaper article said that gays should be hanged, Sheila Hope Mugisha became a target. As the prominent gay rights activist neared her home, she said, boys from the neighborhood threw stones at the gate and chanted, “You are a homo.” Mugisha ran inside and locked the door. She didn’t leave for several days.

“Here, homosexuality is like you have killed someone,” she said.

American gay activists have sent money to help the community here. Western governments — including aid donors — have vocally criticized the bill and denounced the treatment of gays.

That has angered conservative pastors here, many of whom are influenced by American anti-gay Christian groups and politicians who say that African values are under attack by Western attitudes. They say their goal is to change the sexual behavior of gays, not to physically harm them.

“In Uganda, we look at homosexuality as an abomination. It is not normal,” said Nsaba Butoro, Uganda’s minister on ethics and integrity and a vocal supporter of the bill. “You are talking about a clash of cultures. The question is: Which culture is superior, the African one or the Western one?”

‘Unnatural acts’

More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalizing homosexuality. In May, a judge in Malawi imposed a maximum prison sentence of 14 years with hard labor on a gay couple convicted of “unnatural acts” for holding an engagement ceremony. Malawi’s president pardoned the couple after international condemnation, particularly from Britain, Malawi’s largest donor.

Gays have also been attacked this year in Zimbabwe, and in Senegal their graves have been desecrated. Gays in Cameroon have been attacked by police and targeted in the media. In Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh has vowed to expel gays from the country and urged citizens not to rent homes to them.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Natural Security: New Worry of Potential World Resource Wars

Scientists have been warning for years that the inevitable peak in oil production could lead to serious skirmishes or even the next world war. There is disagreement over whether peak oil has already occurred or, if not, then how far into the future the finite supply will no longer be enough to supply soaring demand. Likewise, potential shortages of food and lack of potable water have long been cited as resource problems that could lead to war. Even the landscape-changing effects of global warming have been cited as potential sources of major conflict.

Meanwhile, defense and security experts have recently begun wrapping their brains around a host of such resource issues that are causes for concern in a developing field of thought called “natural security,” according to an article today (Dec. 12) in The New York Times. Natural resources have been fought over before, of course — gold and oil come to mind, and even land itself.

But as the world population soars, and demand for resources both plentiful and rare grows, natural security is expected to begin shaping national security policy. Recently, China cut off supplies to Japan of “rare earth minerals” — hard-to-find and hard-to-mine elements with obscure names like europium that are vital to manufacturing cell phones, TV displays, electric car batteries and other high tech devices [See Jeremy Hsu’s piece on the importances of rare earths.] China later cut off the supply of rare earths to the United States. The events raised eyebrows of U.S. officials, who fear China’s stocks of rare earths and its well-developed ability to mine them are vital to fulfilling our own needs.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Skin Was the First Organ to Evolve

IN THE evolution of organs, skin came first. The discovery that even sponges have a proto-skin shows that the separation of insides from outsides in multicellular animals was key to their evolution.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]