Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101213

Financial Crisis
»Euro Crisis Leaves Germany Increasingly Isolated
»Government Unions vs. Taxpayers
»The Eurocracy is Nigh
»AJC Calls National Archives Report on Nazi Collaboration With Arabs, U.S. Appalling
»All Children Left Behind! U.S. Teachers Earn ‘F’
»Connecticut: Church Allows Muslims to Set Up Mosque in Basement
»Cops: Man Stabbed Stepfather to Impress Radical Muslims
»Cops: Burqa-Wearing Bank Robber Nabbed
»Crime Scene — Terror Plot Suspect Ordered Held
»Declassified Material Confirms US Protected Nazi War Criminals
»Highlights From the Ruling
»In Cables, A More Savvy Washington
»Judge Torpedoes Obamacare, Warns of ‘Unbridled Fed Police’
»Judge to Obamacare Architects: Ahem. Meet the Constitution, Power-Grabbers.
»Michael Steele Seeks Another Term as Head of Republican Party
»Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. Diplomatic Troubleshooter, Dies at 69
»Richard Holbrooke Has Died
»Steele Will Seek Another Term as Republican Nat’l Committee Chairman
»Tax-Cut Bill Passes 60-Vote Level in Senate, Enough to Advance
»The Jihad Against America is Increasing
»Standing Up for Our Armed Forces?
Europe and the EU
»Actor Kabir Bedi Alias Sandokan Knighted by Italy
»Anarchists From Argentina, Germany, Italy and Latvia Plotted the London Tuition Fees Protest Mayhem
»Another Muslim Suicide Bomber Slips Through Britain’s Security Net
»‘Coded Language’ And Yes Men: Cables of Confusion From the Heart of the Vatican
»Comment — Stockholm’s Bomb
»France: Marine Le Pen Controversy Over “Muslim Occupation”
»German Man Castrates Teenage Daughter’s 57-Year-Old Boyfriend
»‘I Never Knew My Husband Had Become a Terrorist’: Wife of British-Based Suicide Bomber Tells of Her ‘Devastation’ Over Stockholm Attack
»Iran Calls British Police ‘Violent and Inhumane’ In Handling of Student Protests
»Ireland — Germany’s Paradise Lost
»Italy: Southern Mayor’s Killer Allegedly Hiding in Colombia
»Italy: Camorra ‘Protected Drugs With Python’
»Stockholm Bomber’s Plan Failed Because Device Exploded Early
»Stockholm Bomber ‘Aimed to Kill Many People’
»Stockholm Suicide Bomb Attack: Lucky Escape for Sweden
»Sweden: Stockholm Bomber ‘Acted on Al-Qaeda’s Orders’
»Sweden Bomber ‘Friendly’ Immigrant Turned Radical
»Sweden Attack Message ‘Very Serious’: Reinfeldt
»Sweden: Suicide Bomber Was ‘Unknown’ To Säpo
»Sweden Reacts to First Ever Suicide Bomb Attack
»Sweden Suicide Bomber: Terrorist Who Dreamed of Judgment Day on Facebook
»Sweden Suicide Bombings: Luton Synonymous With Islamic Extremism and Racial Tension
»Sweden: Military Staffer Knew About Attacks: Report
»Sweden Bomber Sought Big Targets; New Threat Made
»Swedish Suicide Bomber in Fight at Luton Mosque
»The Stockholm Bomber and the Problem With Luton
»UK: Charlie Gilmour Pictured ‘Trying to Set Fire to Supreme Court’
»UK: EDL Blocks Koran Protest Pastor Terry Jones From Event
»UK: Live Baby Mice Tumble Out of Crisps Bag as Horrified Mother Takes Multipack Off Shelf at Tesco Store
»UK: Luton Has Come to Embody the Failures of Multiculturalism
»UK: Police Quiz Man, 43, After Mother and Son Are ‘Hacked to Death With Axe and Two Teenage Girls Flee’
»UK: Special Investigation: English Defence League and the Hooligans Spreading Hate on the High Street
»UK: Wikileaks Cables: Drive to Tackle Islamists Made ‘Little Progress’
»Wikileaks: Italy Hails Assange Arrest
»Kosovo’s Mood of Optimism Turns to Disillusion
North Africa
»Four Algerian Christians Convicted for Setting Up a Place of Worship Without a Permit
»Tunisa: Intense Cold Front to Hit Tomorrow
Israel and the Palestinians
»Forecast for Israeli Border: Escalated Attacks
»Punch-Up Between Troops, ‘You’re Gay’, ‘You’re Arabs’
»Thanks to International Aid, Gaza is Going to be a Well-Off Islamist Republic
Middle East
»Built by Monks, Nurtured by Pilgrims From India: Only Pre-Islamic Christian Site in Muslim Heartland Opens to Public
»Jordan Rejects Islamist Fatwa Over Afghan War
»Manouchehr Mottaki Fired From Iran Foreign Minister Job
»Suicide Bomber Kills 2 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq
»Turkey: Ankara Police Target Families With Children in Restaurant Raids
»Turkey: Christian Grave Not Wanted in Bodrum Graveyard
»Russian Islam: The Flop of Financing Terrorism
»Soller Chief Said Fiat Venture on Track to Make 500,000 Cars
South Asia
»Afghan Bombs Kill, Wound 3,800 Troops in 2010
»Bomb Rips Through Pakistani School Bus
»Embattled Indonesian Christians Seek Protection
»Life Among U.S. Enemies: Embedded With the Taliban
»Sri Lanka: Muslims and Catholics Together to Save the Life of Rizana Nafeek
»The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan: Up in the Air
»Vigilante Jihad: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front
Far East
»Vietnam: Montagnards in Prayer Beaten and Threatened by Police
Australia — Pacific
»Mosque Plans Get the Boot
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Genocide Continues as Sudan’s Indicted Leader Games World — ICC Prosecutor
»Sudan Investigates Case of Woman Seen Being Flogged on YouTube Clip
»Australia: Afghan Detainees to be Sent Home: Report
»Belgium: 25% of People on Subsistence Income Are Foreign
»Denmark: City to “Include” Rather Than “Integrate”
Culture Wars
»Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns
»Hartford: Atheists Plan Protest
»LGBT Books Vandalized With Urine in a Harvard Library
»Michelle Obama on Deciding What Kids Eat: ‘We Can’t Just Leave it Up to the Parents’
»Religion vs Freedom vs Art: Can’t They All Just Get Along?
»Spanish Researchers Want to Tag Human Embryos With Bar Codes
»Who Will Teach Tolerance to the Muslims?
»Brain Oddities: Spelling is Irrelevant to Comprehension
»Climate Distortions Were Achieved. National Weather Agencies Are the Trojan Horses
»Old and Wise: Why Do Smarter People Live Longer?
»Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons?
»Why Surgeons Dread Redheads

Financial Crisis

Euro Crisis Leaves Germany Increasingly Isolated

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is always good for a little variety whenever European leaders pose for their traditional group photo at summits. Sometimes she wears a blue blazer. At other times she is in beige. Sometimes the chancellor stands next to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, while at other times she positions herself next to Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker.

But one thing has consistently been the same recently: Merkel stands in the middle. To some extent, the protocol reflects German national policy and the chancellor’s favorite position, namely that the Germans should not be standing on the sidelines in Europe.

Merkel will position herself in the middle again at this week’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels, but this time image and reality are hardly compatible. A deep divide runs through Europe, and Merkel is more isolated than ever within the circle of the EU’s 27 heads of state and government.

The chancellor sees herself confronted with the charge that she has focused exclusively on national interests in the euro crisis. Last week, in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Juncker accused Merkel of “un-European behavior” and “simplistic thinking.”

The premier of the Grand Duchy is not alone in his criticism. Many European leaders resent Merkel for the fact that Germany has recently been less flexible and not as enthusiastic about the EU as it used to be. Germany’s understandable desire to not become Europe’s paymaster doesn’t give it the right to be its taskmaster, say critics from Lisbon to Helsinki.

Making the Markets Nervous

Ironically, Merkel and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have been everything but successful in their efforts to reform the monetary union. To save the euro, they wanted to establish a new procedure to deal with debt crises in the euro zone. But nothing will come of it. The decisions European leaders plan to make this week will have little to do with Berlin’s original plans.

There are two reasons for the Germans’ lack of success and loss of support. Merkel and Schäuble are depending too heavily on solidarity with France. They are seeking to align themselves with Germany’s most important neighbor, as they did last Friday at the German-French summit in the southwestern German city of Freiburg, while ignoring the fact that Paris mainly pursues its national interests with little regard for sensitivities east of the Rhine.

An even more serious problem is that Merkel and Schäuble often disagree. The two politicians send out very different signals in Brussels, which makes their partners — and the financial markets — nervous. Worse yet, it weakens the German negotiating position, because the chancellor and the finance minister often make themselves vulnerable to being played off against each other.

The last two Christian Democratic cabinet ministers from the era of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl hold completely different views on European unity. Merkel, a native of the former East Germany, sees the EU from a purely rational point of view. She feels that it is indispensible, because the best way to promote German economic interests in the age of globalization is within the European framework. She has no affinity for the emotional side of European unity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Government Unions vs. Taxpayers

By Governor Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota)


The rise of the labor movement in the early 20th century was a triumph for America’s working class. In an era of deep economic anxiety, unions stood up for hard-working but vulnerable families, protecting them from physical and economic exploitation.

Much has changed. The majority of union members today no longer work in construction, manufacturing or “strong back” jobs. They work for government, which, thanks to President Obama, has become the only booming “industry” left in our economy. Since January 2008 the private sector has lost nearly eight million jobs while local, state and federal governments added 590,000.

Federal employees receive an average of $123,049 annually in pay and benefits, twice the average of the private sector. And across the country, at every level of government, the pattern is the same: Unionized public employees are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt.

How did this happen? Very quietly. The rise of government unions has been like a silent coup, an inside job engineered by self-interested politicians and fueled by campaign contributions.

… The result is that certain states are now approaching default. Decades of overpromising and fiscal malpractice by state and local officials have created unfunded public employee benefit liabilities of more than $3 trillion.


The moral case for unions—protecting working families from exploitation—does not apply to public employment. Government employees today are among the most protected, well-paid employees in the country. Ironically, public-sector unions have become the exploiters, and working families once again need someone to stand up for them.

If we’re going to stop the government unions’ silent coup, conservative reformers around the country must fight this challenge head on. The choice between big government and everyday Americans isn’t a hard one.

[Return to headlines]

The Eurocracy is Nigh

The crisis has been the perfect opportunity for the EU to push forward European integration. But now that some aspects of Greek and Irish sovereignity are now controlled by Brussels, the debate about the union’s democratic deficit is on once again.

Lukasz Wójcik

Feels like déjà vu. A little country in trouble, up to its neck in debts, with an illusory prospect of recovery in the offing. But no-one wants to lend the country any money. And the leaders, come hell or high water, assure the world that everything’s hunky-dory: after all, the next elections are coming up.

Then Brussels rushes in to save the situation: after all, a defaulting state could take the whole eurozone down with it. Six months ago it was Greece, now it’s Ireland. Portugal, Spain and Italy are next in line. The past two years’ economic crisis has cruelly exposed all the shortcomings in the European project.

As long as the eurozone was still taking shape, lenders accorded similar treatment to all its members, regardless of whether under the bonnet of growth there was a laggard Citroën 2CV (Greece) or a gem of an 8-cylinder turbo (Germany). In 2008, with the advent of the crisis, lenders finally took a peek under the bonnet: it turns out European countries really don’t run on the same engine.

Greece and Ireland — pioneers in European integration

For several days the Irish obstinately reiterated what has been their slogan ever since their struggle for independence: “Ourselves Alone”. At the end of the day, that all caved in under pressure from the EU powerhouses. And so a couple of dozen billion euros in EU aid will be flying into Dublin in a few weeks’ time.

Now obviously, and quite understandably, nothing’s for free: Berlin and Paris have tied strings to their antes so they won’t be wasted. They are demanding very specific quids pro quo, as they did for Greece: e.g. corporate tax and VAT hikes, budget cuts and a civil service pay freeze. Having such a European control tower monitoring EU economic policy and charting the budgetary or fiscal course to take seems a logical and natural consequence of sharing a single currency.

And so it happens that, in spite of themselves, Greece and Ireland are becoming pioneers in European integration, albeit on the turbo track laid down by European Central Bank experts. Likewise, the Union has finally managed to free its decision-making process from the popular referenda that previously thwarted the best-laid plans of Irish officials.

Democratic deficit continues to haunt Brussels

But remote-controlled democracy does pose some problems. On the one hand, it goes without saying for a lot of us that our leaders should only be the ones we pick in an electoral process. On the other hand, however, our societies are increasingly willing to liberate the political sphere from the vice-grip of elections.

In the late 1970s, David Marquand, a British academic and former Labour MP, talked about the “democratic deficit” in the workings of the European Community. Even as he praised the Eurocrats’ efficiency in those days, he deplored shortcomings in relations between officialdom and the electorate. He warned that if Eurocrats commandeered the decision-making process, Europeans would simply reject the European institutions as an intrusive foreign body.

30 years down the road, despite all its declarations of good intentions, the democratic deficit continues to haunt Brussels. At the present point in time, it would be plucky, to say the least, to submit the whole European project to a referendum, and might even cost electoral defeat.

Union won’t need member states anymore

The result of such a consultation could vex Eurocrats, especially right now, when, under the cloak of the economic crisis, they are seizing supplementary powers hitherto reserved to democratically elected governments. The governments targeted are, of course, the weakest. And there’s a reason why, even if the Germans breached the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact for years, nobody in Brussels even considered imposing budget cuts and fiscal measures on Berlin.

The first member state resistance movements have formed. On the night of 15 November, for the first time since 1988, MEPs rejected the EU draft budget. The British and their cohorts stood up to the European Commission, refusing to even deliberate on a European tax that would enable member states to pay less into the common kitty while giving the European executive branch more autonomy.

Were such a tax to be put in place, the Union, in theory, wouldn’t need member states anymore. Worse still, if we believe with Max Weber that every steadily growing bureaucracy (in this case, Eurocracy) eventually attains to perfect autonomy, then Eurocracy will eventually get by without the citizens. That moment may not be all that far off. Unless member states themselves hand in their EU membership cards before then.

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


AJC Calls National Archives Report on Nazi Collaboration With Arabs, U.S. Appalling

NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — AJC called a new National Archives report on collaboration between the United States government and Nazi officials immediately after World War II, as well as Nazi ties to Arab leaders during and after the war, an important contribution to establishing historical truths about the most tragic period of the twentieth century.

“The real shame is that these documents, critical for understanding our government’s full role during the World War II era, were hidden for so long,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “To have absolute proof 65 years later about what the U.S. did in assisting notorious Nazi leaders like Klaus Barbie, Rudolf Mildner and others is sickening and painful.”

The documents are referenced in a new U.S. government report, “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War,” published Friday by the National Archives and reported in The New York Times today.

“The depth and intimacy of the relationship between Nazi Germany and the main Palestinian leader of the time, Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, is particularly appalling,” said Harris.

“The National Archives now has left no doubt about Husseini’s total collusion with the Nazis,” said Harris. “The documents confirm that while Nazi Germany was exterminating the Jewish people across Europe, an alliance was forged with certain Arab leaders to go after Jews in the British Mandate of Palestine, which included the historic land of Israel.”

According to the Times, the National Archives report revealed that Husseini had “energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there.”

The late PLO leader Yasser Arafat often proclaimed he was a descendant of the notorious Husseini.

The National Archives report also provides details of how several Nazi leaders, who had fled to some Arab countries, continued to channel their deep hatred of Jews.

“Whatever short-term gains our intelligence agencies had hoped to secure by giving a pass to Nazi mass murderers, letting them flee or colluding with them, stands out as a dark period in U.S. history,” said Harris. “It is to the credit of this country, however, that, late though it is, the release of these revealing documents sheds needed light on that dark period.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

All Children Left Behind! U.S. Teachers Earn ‘F’

Test results show American students ill-equipped for global economy

A global economics group has found that U.S. 15-year-olds rank 25th among peers from 34 countries in math and average in subjects such as science and reading, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, or OECD, has released the results of the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, a test the U.S. government considers one of the most comprehensive measures of international achievement.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Connecticut: Church Allows Muslims to Set Up Mosque in Basement

Unfortunately today we see another example of Western Civilization committing its slow suicide. St. Mary’s Episcopal Church which is led by Rev. Paul Briggs has opened his Church to a religion that is out to destroy all other religions. He has temporarily rented out the Church basement, and allowed it to be turned into a makeshift Mosque which is being used by dozens of Muslims. Judging by his comments we can see that he is uniformed on Islam.

“I inquired of the leadership to see if there were any objections, and no one had any objections,” Briggs said. “We were glad to welcome them.”

Christians and Muslims have mixed a bit at the church.

“We invited leadership from the mosque to address a public gathering of our congregation during Lent to tell us a little bit about Islam,” Briggs said. “I think our people enjoy understanding another religion. It helps us to understand our own faith.”

“I think it’s a crucial period in our history in the U.S. for us to be able to understand Islam and build friendships for a peaceful future,” he said.

With all the news reports on Muslims, I would think that all Church leaders would have taken the time to educate themselves on Islam. Apparently that is not the case. Reverend, did the Muslims who spoke at your Church tell you that Islam calls for your dominance or death?

Koran verse 009.029

YUSUFALI: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

Did they tell you that Islam allows kidnapping, rape, and slavery?

Koran verse 033.050

YUSUFALI: O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers; and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the prisoners of war whom Allah has assigned to thee; and daughters of thy paternal uncles and aunts, and daughters of thy maternal uncles and aunts, who migrated (from Makka) with thee; and any believing woman who dedicates her soul to the Prophet if the Prophet wishes to wed her;- this only for thee, and not for the Believers (at large); We know what We have appointed for them as to their wives and the captives whom their right hands possess;- in order that there should be no difficulty for thee. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

The Reverend speaks of peace between Christianity and Islam. But how can that be when Islam calls for perpetual war?

Volume 1, Book 8, Number 387:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.’ And if they say so, pray like our prayers, face our Qibla and slaughter as we slaughter, then their blood and property will be sacred to us and we will not interfere with them except legally and their reckoning will be with Allah.” Narrated Maimun ibn Siyah that he asked Anas bin Malik, “O Abu Hamza! What makes the life and property of a person sacred?” He replied, “Whoever says, ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’, faces our Qibla during the prayers, prays like us and eats our slaughtered animal, then he is a Muslim, and has got the same rights and obligations as other Muslims have.”

Finally Reverend, did they tell your congregation that according to the Islamic scriptures that Jesus will come back as a Muslim and destroy Christianity? How do you think that would have went over?

Book 37, Number 4310:

Narrated AbuHurayrah:

The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace_be_upon_him). He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.

Do you think that the Jesus of Christianity would have supported these actions Reverend? Of course he would not have, which means that Islam does not belong in your Church. This is besides the fact that the Muslims have disrespected you, by not telling you the whole story about Islam. Will you now do the right thing and ask them to leave?

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cops: Man Stabbed Stepfather to Impress Radical Muslims

ROARING BROOK TWP. — A young man claiming to be a Shiite Muslim stabbed his stepfather Wednesday night with a butcher’s knife, township police said.

Alex Williams, 21, of 204 Forrest Drive, stabbed his sleeping stepfather, James Williams, with a 13-inch butcher’s knife and ran from his bedroom yelling to his mother, “I had to do it … I’m a terrorist … I’m a Shiite,” according to an affidavit.

When police responded at 10:40 p.m. Wednesday they found Alex Williams lying at the top of the staircase and James Williams bleeding in his bed from a stab wound to the right side of his chest.

James Williams was transported to Community Medical Center in Scranton, according to Roaring Brook Township Police Chief Donald Hickey. A hospital spokesman would not comment on the extent of James Williams’ injuries.

Roaring Brook Township police charged Alex Williams with attempted homicide along with assault and weapons charges. He was committed to Lackawanna County Prison in lieu of $250,000 bail.

Jo Ann Williams told The Times-Tribune Thursday night, meanwhile, that her husband had been released from the hospital and hoped to return to work today.

“My husband and my whole family stand by him,” Mrs. Williams said of her son. “But he is not a terrorist.”

“He has mental illness. He’s been in and out of hospitals for three years,” Mrs. Williams said in a telephone interview. “I feel that one day, as a mother, he will fully recover, with the proper medical treatment.”

Two incidents reported

Earlier Wednesday, Roaring Brook Township police Chief Donald Hickey and a Covington Township police officer had responded to the Williams residence for a verbal domestic dispute between Alex Williams and his grandmother, according to Chief Hickey. Police left the scene and no charges were filed.

After the stabbing, Mrs. Williams told police that her son had been institutionalized in Baltimore after running away from home last week, according to the affidavit.

Officers found the butcher’s knife on the bed next to James Williams, seized it, and took Alex Williams to the station for interrogation.

Islamic ties unclear

On the way to the police station, Alex Williams allegedly told an officer, “Now I am going to get $2 million from al-Qaida for stabbing a white man.”

After hearing his rights read to him, Alex provided a statement and told police “I have no remorse for it. Write that down, because I don’t want to get beat up in jail,” according to the affidavit.

Police said Mrs. Williams notified officers Wednesday night that Alex had met with a Muslim man earlier that day, but did not know what their encounter regarded.

According to the police affidavit, Mrs. Williams also told officers that before the stabbing, she had knelt down to peer through a gap between the floor and the door to her son’s bedroom to see what he was doing.

Mrs. Williams saw her son kneeling and “praying to Allah” while a “CD of Muslim chant music” played in the background, according to the affidavit.

In her conversation with Times-Shamrock newspapers, Mrs. Williams said Alex had shown interest in various faiths, but doubted whether he had become seriously committed to Islam.

“He seems to explore different religions quite frequently,” she said. “Last week he was Jewish.”

Shia and Sunni are branches of Islam. Alex allegedly said he was a Shiite.

Al-Qaida is a radical Sunni terrorist organization.

Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola said his office would not be investigating Williams’ statements about his ties to terrorists organizations based on his mental state.

“I don’t know how much credence you could put in that,” Jarbola said of Williams’ statements. “The guy is obviously dealing with some severe mental illness … Although if we do get evidence to the contrary we will be looking into that.”

Special Agent J.J. Klaver of the FBI’s Philadelphia office would not comment on whether or not the bureau’s Scranton office would investigate Williams’ statements.

Mrs. Williams, meanwhile, said she and her family would stand by Alex.

“I don’t believe in my heart that my son is a criminal. He has severe mental health issues,” she said.

“We love him and we’re totally supporting him.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Cops: Burqa-Wearing Bank Robber Nabbed

Woman Charged In Del. Jobs Suspected In Pa., N.J.

[Video at link]

Delaware police say they’ve arrested a woman who robbed two banks while wearing a burqa.

LaShawnda Jones is charged with robbery, conspiracy and wearing a disguise during a felony.

Police say she robbed two TD Bank branches in October, one in Bear and one in Wilmington.

Police say she’s also wanted for robberies at TD Banks in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Crime Scene — Terror Plot Suspect Ordered Held

A Baltimore man accused of plotting to blow up a military recruiting station was “grinning from ear-to-ear” and said “Allah Akbar” as he prepared to detonate what he thought was a powerful bomb, federal prosecutors said in court Monday.

Antonio Martinez, 21, who recently converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Hussain, was determined to kill members of the military who he saw as a threat to Muslims, and he also tried to recruit others to participate, prosecutors said. Ultimately, the FBI learned of Martinez’s intentions through an informant, joined the plot and supplied him with a fake car bomb that he tried to detonate.

But defense attorney Joseph Balter said in court Monday that his client was “incapable” of carrying out an attack on his own and was caught in a “government sting operation.

“They induced him to be involved in an act that was clearly the design of the government, Balter said.

Arguments made at a detention hearing Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore are a preview of what is to come as courts consider the FBI’s increasing use of undercover agents who monitor extremists, pose as co-conspirators and sometimes even provide the means to carry out an attack.

The FBI’s tactic has been criticized by some Muslims, who accuse government agents of trying to entrap members of their community. Legal experts say the tactic can be effective in securing more serious charges, and that if the accused intended to carry out an attack and wasn’t persuaded by the government it is not entrapment.

Federal prosecutors said it was Martinez’s idea to target the recruiting center and that he brought up the idea of using a bomb. They said he was given several opportunities to back out of the plan, but he chose to press forward.

Martinez even planned to video the explosion after he detonated the bomb from a site within eyeshot of the Catonsville recruiting station, prosecutors said.

“We are not criminals,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Manuelian said Martinez said into the video. “We are mujahideen.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, Magistrate Judge Susan K. Gauvey ordered Martinez held pending trial.

Gauvey said Martinez would be a danger if released and his alleged conduct was “erratic and irrational.”

But she also said that the defense would pursue i’s argument that the FBI had entrapped Martinez but that it was “an issue for another day.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Declassified Material Confirms US Protected Nazi War Criminals

A report reveals fresh details on how US intelligence officers protected a number of Nazi war criminals after World War II. Facing the Cold War, the US became less interested in punishing Nazi criminals as early as 1946.

Newly declassified material from the CIA and the US military confirm that after World War II Allied intelligence officers protected former Nazis and war criminals if they proved useful and cooperative.

“Undoubtedly, the onset of the Cold War gave American intelligence organizations new functions, new priorities, and new foes. Settling scores with Germans or German collaborators seemed less pressing; in some cases, it even appeared counterproductive,” said the report, which was published Friday by the US National Archives.

“Despite variations, these specific cases do show a pattern: the issue of capturing and punishing war criminals became less important over time.”

The report, titled “Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, US Intelligence and the Cold War,” draws on information classified until 2005 and made available under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, an effort by Washington to shed more a critical light on its own secrets.

The report looks into a number of former SS and Gestapo members who escaped justice with the US either knowingly tolerating their escape or even helping them to flee.

Auschwitz aide protected from extradition

Rudolf Mildner, for instance, was initially arrested in an operation searching for Nazis might lead an underground Nazi resistance.

US authorities knew Mildner had long been a Gestapo member but never pressed him for details on the Gestapo’s crimes against Jews or any other groups. Held and questioned in Vienna, US officials found him to be “very reliable and cooperative.”

A closer look into his past, however, revealed that he had ordered the execution of between 500 and 600 Poles at the Auschwitz death camp. Confronted with the accusations, Mildner confessed and is quoted in the report as having tried to rationalize his actions claiming that “to preserve order and prevent sabotage, the Germans in Poland and Silesia had to do that too.”

Later, countries including Britain and Poland requested Mildner’s extradition. But according to the report, “tracking and punishing war criminals were not high among the Army’s priorities in late 1946.”

US authorities are believed to have protected him from extradition and even facilitated his escape later to South America, which became a haven for many former Nazi war criminals fleeing from justice.

Hitler’s plans for post-war Palestine

The newly declassified material also sheds light on Nazi Germany’s plans in the Middle East, where the Nazi leadership established close ties with the grand mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini.

Husseini received substantial financial and logistical support from Nazi Germany with an eye on using him to control Palestine once Germany would have defeated Britain in the Middle East. Husseini and Berlin where united mostly by regarding Jews as their common enemy.

The newly declassified CIA and Army files establish that the Allies knew enough about Husseini’s wartime activities to consider him a war criminal. Fearing prosecution, he fled to Switzerland, where the country’s authorities handed him over the French.

The British government was against Husseini being put on trial as it feared political unrest in Palestine. He went on to live in Syria and Lebanon and always rejected allegations of having had ties with Nazi Germany. He claimed he visited Berlin only to avoid arrest by the British.

Ex-Nazis employed by Western spy agencies

Earlier this year, Germany declassified material from former East German Stasi files that detailed how the West German intelligence service drew on having former Nazis and war criminals in its rank and file. The new post-war West German secret service was set up with the help of the Allies.

As the Soviet bloc was the West’s common enemy after 1945, several historians have said Allied authorities widely accepted that former Nazis could escape justice if their skills proved useful on the new fronts of the Cold War.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Highlights From the Ruling

A federal district judge on Monday sided with the state of Virginia in its challenge to the health law, saying Congress exceeded its “constitutional boundaries” when it required most Americans to carry health insurance or pay a fine.

Judge Henry E. Hudson of the Eastern District of Virginia said the provision in the bill, known as the individual mandate, “would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.” Below, highlights from his 42-page ruling. (See the full document.)

* * *

“A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme. The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”

* * *

“[S]everal operative elements are commonly challenged in Commerce Clause decisions. First, to survive a constitutional challenge, the subject matter must be economic in nature and affect interstate commerce, and second, it must involve activity. … In her argument, the Secretary [of the Department of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius] urges an expansive interpretation of the concept of activity. She posits that every individual in the United States will require health care at some point in their lifetime, if not today, perhaps even next week or next year… This broad definition of the economic activity subject to congressional regulation lacks logical limitation and is unsupported by Commerce Clause jurisprudence.”

* * *

“At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

In Cables, A More Savvy Washington

WikiLeaks’s avalanche of diplomatic revelations has been widely portrayed as evidence of waning American power, retreating U.S. influence, and a no-we-can’t foreign policy. A former C.I.A. case officer, getting in his licks, spoke of “damage to American credibility that is incalculable.”

But after a few weeks of getting accustomed to the torrent, there’s a case to be made that the disclosures’ most significant effect is removing a part of the discrepancy between what the United States really sees, hears and thinks of the world — now increasingly apparent via WikiLeaks — and the soft-edged presentation often made of the country’s ongoing confrontations by President Barack Obama’s White House.

Iran and its drive toward nukes? The president still seeks engagement with the mullahs. Yet it has become public knowledge that Arab leaders, among them the Saudi guardians of Mecca, Islam’s holiest place, dismiss the chances for success of negotiations and have called on the United States to strike Tehran’s nuclear development sites.

America’s clients on the Gulf certainly don’t command policy in Washington. But their leaked opinions would make it easier now for a president who has never made a major Iran policy speech to talk pointedly on the issue — with the knowledge that a sharpening of the U.S. position on the “unacceptable” nature of Iranian nuclear arms would be harder to characterize as an assault on Islam.

Russia? The White House likes to consider the president’s “reset” with Russia a diplomatic triumph. Yet, at the same time, WikiLeaks’s disclosures about the United States’ vision of Russia (notably Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates saying, “Russian democracy has disappeared, and the government is an oligarchy run by the security services”) deaden the idea there is some kind of basic Washington-Moscow strategic compatibility, and that it will lead to decisive Russian assistance in halting the Iranian nuclear drive.

Instead, leaked cables report an Élysée Palace official telling an American diplomat — in contrast to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s public embrace of the Russians — that Russia seeks to “remodel” the post-Cold War map, let the West sink into the “Afghanistan swamp,” and do nothing to change the status quo in Iran.

Strikingly, the WikiLeaks documents show that concerning Russia, the administration has caught on, at least in part.

They demonstrate how, in pressing NATO to create contingency plans for the defense of its three Baltic members against a Russian attack, the Americans essentially modified the reset to reflect a lower degree of confidence in Moscow than contained in official Brussels incantation.

But not publicly. U.S. embassies, according to the leaked cables, were told to keep the contingency plan secret so as to avoid “unnecessary NATO-Russia tensions.”

On balance, does all of this suggest a greater degree of tough-mindedness in the Obama administration than some of its critics give it credit for?

Dmitri A. Medvedev, the Russian president, seems to accept the notion. “These leaks are revealing,” he said. “They show the full measure of cynicism behind the assessment and judgments which prevail in the foreign policy of various nations — in this case the United States.”

Some of the illusions of earlier White House rhetoric have plain disappeared. More realpolitik, the tone of the leaks might suggest, is closer at hand.

After all, it was only three weeks after Mr. Obama’s Cairo speech reaching out to Islam in June 2009 that the president’s former national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, in a conversation reported by Bob Woodward, defined the fight against international terrorism this way:

“It’s certainly a clash of civilizations. It’s a clash of religions. It’s a clash of almost how to live.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Judge Torpedoes Obamacare, Warns of ‘Unbridled Fed Police’

Lawsuit decision called ‘decisive and significant victory for America’

A federal judge today ruled that Obamacare’s individual mandate, the core of the president’s plan nationalizing health-care decision-making for all, is unconstitutional.

And the implications are even worse than just the dispute over health care and its costs, according to the ruling from U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson.

“A thorough survey of pertinent constitutional case law has yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, notwithstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme,” the judge said.

And he warned, ‘The unchecked expansion of congressional power to the limits suggested by the Minimum Essential Coverage Provision would invite unbridled exercise of federal police powers.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Judge to Obamacare Architects: Ahem. Meet the Constitution, Power-Grabbers.

By Michelle Malkin

The story of the day: Virginia judge strikes down a key piece of the Dems’ government health care takeover — the individual mandate.

Hey, remember when conservatives objected to the Obamacare federal individual mandate on constitutional grounds and the liberal establishment laughed?

Who’s laughing now?


Sen. DeMint’s statement: “Today’s decision makes it clear that President Obama and Democrats overreached and violated the Constitution in their rush to pass a federal takeover of our health care system. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli made a compelling case that Obamacare violated the constitutional rights of Americans by forcing them into a government program against their will. The Constitution neither grants Congress nor the President the power to compel every American to buy government-approved health insurance. The unconstitutional individual mandate is the centerpiece of the health care takeover and today’s ruling should signal the beginning of the end for Obamacare. Congress must listen to the American people and fully repeal Obamacare immediately. Then we can move to real solutions that make health care more affordable and increase choices that keep patients in control over their own care.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute signed onto an amicus brief in the Virginia case. CEI’s general counsel Sam Kazman and counsel Hans Bader react:

Kazman: “Judge Hudson’s ruling is a welcome reaffirmation of the Constitution’s limits on the federal government. Those limits are totally at odds with the Obama Administration’s attempt, in its individual mandate provision, to transform a person’s decision not to buy health insurance into an activity subject to Congress’s power over interstate commerce…

Bader:…Refusal to buy health insurance is not economic activity but rather inactivity…This so-called ‘individual mandate’…exceeds Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. As the Congressional Budget Office noted in 1994, ‘A mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance would be an unprecedented form of federal action. The government has never required people to buy any good or service as a condition of lawful residence in the United States.’“


The full text of Judge Hudson’s opinion in a pdf:

[NOTE: Virginia’s Attorney General (an elective position in the Commonwealth),Ken Cuccinelli, has been and will be a leading player in the fight against ObamaCare on Constitutional grounds. Keep an eye on his rising electoral star]

[Return to headlines]

Michael Steele Seeks Another Term as Head of Republican Party

Michael Steele announced Monday that he would seek a second term as head of the Republican National Committee, despite criticism about both his leadership and fund-raising abilities. His decision sets off a scramble for the position, with at least six top Republicans having taken steps to run for party chairman.

[Return to headlines]

Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. Diplomatic Troubleshooter, Dies at 69

Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2009 and a diplomatic troubleshooter in Asia, Europe and the Middle East who worked for every Democratic president since the late 1960s, died on Monday night at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., an administration official said. He was 69 and lived in Manhattan.

[Return to headlines]

Richard Holbrooke Has Died

by Jake Tapper

Richard Holbrooke, the US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, has died.

On Friday, Holbrooke was rushed to the hospital with a torn aorta. He went through more than 20 hours of surgery. Earlier this evening, speaking at the US State Department, President Obama sang Holbrooke’s praises and called him “a tough son of a gun.”

A senior administration official tells ABC News Obama called Holbrooke’s widow to express his condolences. The president Monday night was with senior staff at a dinner in the East Room. The official says the president shared the news with those present and toasted Holbrooke’s life as a diplomat, calling him “a public servant in the truest sense.”

Holbrooke, 69, was a former ambassador to the United Nations and served as chief negotiator at the Dayton Peace Accords, which ended the war in Bosnia.

[Return to headlines]

Steele Will Seek Another Term as Republican Nat’l Committee Chairman

By Jim Geraghty

This morning, Michael Steele was not expected to seek another term as chairman of the RNC. Late this afternoon, RNC members are now saying they have been informed that he will indeed seek another term. The official decision is expected in a conference call this evening.


Steele didn’t show up for a recent debate for aspiring RNC Chairs. Now that we know Steele wants another term, that decision seems odd; twenty RNC members were in attendance, and they heard Mike Duncan, Ann Wagner, Gentry Collins,and Saul Anuzis spend an hour and a half discussing the RNC’s under-performance for the past two years. The committee’s debt is $15 million, an embarrassment for a party that wants to establish its image as a force for fiscal responsibility. Wouldn’t Steele want the chance to offer a counter-argument? Or do he and his allies consider the 20 or so RNC members affiliated with the Conservative Steering Committee to be a lost cause?

I suspect that if the RNC Chairman were a popularly elected position, Steele would lose handily. He will have a great challenge in this bid for another term, but he did already get 91 members to vote for him…


[NOTE: Steele is emblematic of what most conservatives think is wrong with the GOP machine. Look for individual contributions to the National Committee to continue to fall]

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Tax-Cut Bill Passes 60-Vote Level in Senate, Enough to Advance

The Senate on Monday advanced the tax-cut package agreed to between President Obama and Congressional Republicans, virtually assuring that the Senate will approve the bill on Tuesday and send it to the House where Democrats are threatening to make changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.

The vote in the Senate was not finished, but shortly after 4 p.m. the tally showed more than 60 senators agreeing to end debate, cut off any filibuster and move to a vote on passage.

The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, had agreed to keep the vote open far longer than usual to allow lawmakers returning to Washington from the West Coast to make it back to the Capitol.

The vote was 61 to 7, with six Democrats and Senator Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent, in opposition.

[Return to headlines]

The Jihad Against America is Increasing

In a November commentary, Dr. Walid Phares, a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and author of “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America”, noted that “Throughout the summer and fall, U.S. authorities witnessed a significant rise in jihadist activity, using increasingly sophisticated operational strategies.”

“According to open-source reports, between 2001 and 2008, U.S. agencies stopped one or two terror attempts a year. However, from 2009 until today, the government has been uncovering one or two cases a month, a troubling growth in jihadist activities.”

It should be lost on no one that the increase coincides with the advent of the Obama administration and his absurd claims that America is not a Christian nation or that Muslims played any role in its history other than as Barbary pirates.

Largely unreported, on a weekly basis throughout the Middle East and elsewhere, Islam’s holy warriors continue to kill Muslims and Christians. In the West, they have perpetrated terrorist attacks in London, Madrid, and on 9/11 in New York.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Standing Up for Our Armed Forces?

The Conservatives most recent mailbox flyer, titled Standing Up for Our Armed Forces, certainly raises questions Canadians should be aware of. The untendered purchase of the F-35 stealth fighter, for example, particularly at such excessive cost, appears questionable after comparing the proposed fighters combat characteristics to other next generation fighters.

The Sukhoi 47 Berkut can fly and fight at over 61k feet, yet the F-35’s maximum is listed as under 50k. How effective can Canadian pilots be in joint operations with our allies when the Eurofighter, F22 and F-18 Super Hornet all operate at heights beyond the proposed aircraft’s reach? The speed discrepancies are even more discerning. The F-35, at 1200 MPH, will be left in the proverbial dust. Not only will Canadian pilots not be able to keep up with our allies, they will not be able to escape potential enemies possessing the strategic advantages of height and speed.

Is there a better aircraft, one that would suit Canada’s territorial needs then F-35? When one includes the extraordinary costs, the untested nature of the platform… As a veteran, I think we should provide a platform inclusive of characteristics favourable to our pilot’s survival, speed and height being of key importance.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Actor Kabir Bedi Alias Sandokan Knighted by Italy

‘Italy has made me what I am today’ Indian actor says

(ANSA) — Mumbai, December 10 — Indian actor Kabir Bedi, longtime interpreter of the beloved Emilio Salgari character of Sandokan the pirate on Italians’ TV screens, has been decorated with the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic. “I’ve received many marks of recognition in my life,” a visibly moved Bedi said in Mumbai Thursday night. “But this one is particularly important to me because it’s being given by Italy, a country to which I am eternally indebted for it has made me what I am today.” To the notes of the unforgettable song that was the soundtrack to the highly popular 1976 RAI television series, Italy’s ambassador to India, Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte, pinned the coveted ribbon and cross to Bedi’s black kurta.

Bedi played the character of Sandokan in hundreds of series and films in Italy, India and the US.

“This is a sign of our appreciation of a man of exceptional magnetism, who unquestionably played a significant role as a bridge between Italian and Indian culture,” the ambassador said.

Indian media widely commented on Bedi’s knighting, which was formally proposed by the office of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and conferred by the office of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano.

Bedi’s long career began in Bollywood, where he has played in at least 60 films. His international breakthrough came when he was cast as the famous pirate in the television series on state broadcaster RAI.

Before an audience that included leading lights from Indian cinema and the arts as well as Italian representatives, Bedi recalled how the Sandokan series bewitched an entire generation in the 1970s. “I can assure you that when city streets all over Italy were suddenly deserted and Fiat assembly lines stopped, it meant Sandokan was on the air,” Bedi said.

The actor recalled the 1974 audition before a RAI crew in Mumbai which changed his life.

“They said I might do as Sandokan,” Bedi told ANSA. “But that I would have to get myself to an audition in Rome before a final decision could be made.” Bedi decided to try his luck, and flew to Italy at his own expense.

“They cast me immediately, put me in a hotel and gave me the royal treatment,” Bedi said. The actor thanked a long list of friends and former colleagues, beginning with director Sergio Sollima, who gave Bedi his Italian starring role, as well as the RAI producers who took on what was an expensive project at the time.

Bedi also thanked “the many French and Italian friends” he made on the Sandokan set, among them Philippe Leroy, who played the pirate’s best friend Yanez De Gomera, Carole Andre’, who played Sandokan’s love interest, Lady Marianna Guillonk, and film critic Tullio Kezich, who died in 2009.

His one regret, the actor said, was his typecasting as Sandokan, which “has branded me like the hand of fate, making it impossible for me to play other kinds of characters abroad.” Aside from a short stint in Dynasty, Bedi had walk-on parts in US soaps including the Bold and the Beautiful and played the evil Gobinda in Octopussy, opposite Roger Moore’s James Bond.

“I even thought of changing my name once I saw how my friend Krishn Bhanji’s life changed when he started calling himself Ben Kingsley,” the actor confided.

“But it was only for a moment, because I realized I love my family, my name and my country too much.” The highly popular Sandokan saga was originally written by 19th-century Italian author Emilio Salgari. It told the adventures of a courageous Indian pirate fighting for his birthright against British colonial rule.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Anarchists From Argentina, Germany, Italy and Latvia Plotted the London Tuition Fees Protest Mayhem

Anarchists from as far away as South America plotted to provoke violence and chaos at the student fees protests that rocked London.

As fury over the tuition fees rise swept social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, militants from Italy, Germany, Spain and Latvia made plans to travel to Britain.

Others came from Argentina to carry out planned attacks on the Treasury and Palace of Westminster alongside rampaging students and schoolchildren.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Another Muslim Suicide Bomber Slips Through Britain’s Security Net

The suicide bomb attack in the Sweden at the weekend provides yet another unwelcome reminder of how Britain has become a safe-haven for would-be suicide bombers. By all accounts Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, the main suspect in the suicide attack that injured two people in Stockholm, spent several years studying at Luton, a town which was recently identified by British security agencies as being a major recruiting ground for Islamist extremists. And yet the suicide bomber appears to have travelled freely to the Middle East for training in jihad before flying to Stockholm to carry out his mission. You will remember that there were riots in Luton when Islamist fanatics staged a demonstration denouncing all those brave British soldiers who have lost their lives or suffered serious injury fighting for their country in Afghanistan. What did the police do? They arrested the outraged white citizens of the town that tried to silence the Muslim demonstrators. When is the government going to wake up to the fact that we have a really serious problem on our hands here? In the video he made before carrying out his mission Abdaly claimed that an Islamic state had already been established in Europe. “We are a reality. I don’t want to say more about this. Our actions will speak for themselves,” he declared. While I personally doubt that the Islamic Crescent is about to replace the Union Jack, there is little doubt that it is the ultimate objective of the Islamist extremists who appear to be able to be operate within our shores with totaly impunity. And the sooner the government wakes up to the reality of this alarming agenda, the better.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Coded Language’ And Yes Men: Cables of Confusion From the Heart of the Vatican

US diplomats seem bemused with the hierarchical structures and the lack of sophistication within the Vatican. Not only do most Catholic Church leaders lack an e-mail account, only a few “are aware of imminent decisions.”

A month after the German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in the Sistine Chapel, on April 19, 2005, the US Embassy to the Vatican sent a cable to the State Department in Washington providing its first readings on what the United States and the world at large should expect from the new head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Pope Benedict XVI had been one of the closest associates of his predecessor, Pope John Paul II. According to America’s local Vatican watchers, it was “unthinkable” that he would at all deviate from the former’s strict stances regarding ethical issues, such as abortion, euthanasia, contraception, cloning or homosexuality.

The profile drawn up by the embassy noted that the new pope had no political experience and that, owing to his age, he couldn’t afford the luxury of acquiring it. But US diplomats in the Vatican could not complain about being underemployed. During the last 10 years, they’ve sent a total of 729 cables back to the State Department.

Sometimes, they merely tried to explain to the State Department how the Vatican functioned — and in reports that depict a very curious world, indeed. According to a dispatch from 2009, although the church was “highly hierarchical,” it was also chaotic. Likewise, it was usually the case that “only a handful of experts are aware of imminent decisions” and they normally just acquiesce to whatever their boss decides. If fact, the report continued, hardly anyone ever dared to criticize the pope or to deliver bad news to him. It was rare to find independent-minded advisers, they wrote.

Communication in ‘Coded Language’

The Vatican’s innermost circle is almost exclusively made up of Italian men in their 70s. The Americans wryly note that “most of the top ranks of the Vatican … do not understand modern media and new information technologies,” and that “many officials do not even have official email accounts.” They also note how the Cardinal Secretary of State, the name given to the Holy See’s equivalent of a prime minister, doesn’t even speak English and was also considered a “yes man.”

Those closest to the pope communicate among themselves “in ‘coded’ language that no-one outside their tight circles can decipher.” The American diplomats joke, for example, about how the Israeli ambassador recently received a message from the Vatican that reportedly included something positive about his country. But since the message was written in such impenetrable language, the ambassador “missed it, even when told it was there.”

Washington also seems to be particularly interested in the Roman Curia, the administrative apparatus of the Vatican, and its policies toward the Asia states it is currently at loggerheads with, including North Korea, Burma, Vietnam and, in particular, China. In a cable classified “secret” from Dec. 7, 2009, the embassy provides a detailed report on the activities of Caritas Internationalis, the confederation of Catholic aid organizations under Vatican control, in countries such as China, North Korea and Burma.

Working Quietly in China and North Korea

The regimes in these countries tolerate the work of Caritas within their borders, at least periodically, because they need the assistance. Even in North Korea, the organization quietly carries on with its charity work, which includes administering two Vatican-financed hospitals.

The US Embassy devoted a whole series of reports to the Vatican’s relationship with China. Relations are reportedly very sensitive because there are two Catholic churches competing with each other in the People’s Republic. On the one hand, there is the “patriotic” church supported by the communist regime. And, on the other, there is the underground church that is still loyal to Rome and is now tolerated by Beijing following years of persecution.

According to a senior Caritas official, the organization works with both churches. The Chinese government is aware of this, the official added, but the authorities still just “look the other way” whenever Caritas workers cooperate with members of the underground church…

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

Comment — Stockholm’s Bomb

With Saturday’s suicide bombing in Stockholm, a western country has again been attacked by one of its own citizens possessed by a perverted view of Islam.

It would be wrong to see this tragic event as a loss of innocence for Sweden. Suicide bombings are new in Europe and unprecedented in Sweden; political violence is not. In the past 25 years this nation has seen the assassinations of a prime minister and a foreign minister, and other home-grown violence totally unrelated to immigration from Muslim countries.

Since Sweden is a less of a paradise than is sometimes thought, this bombing, repulsive as it is, should not come as a shock. Jihadist assassination and terror plots had already been uncovered across Scandinavia. Swedish police had raised the country’s security alert level two months ago. As an open society fully integrated into the western world, the country is as vulnerable to attack from aggressive jihadism as other countries.

The healthy attitude to this vulnerability is paradoxical and hard to achieve. An open society must remedy its exposure without losing its openness in the process. This requires a tolerance for risk that is reduced, though never eliminated. Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt rightly praised Swedes’ desire for a society where “people may believe in different gods or no god at all”.

In a now familiar pattern, the suspected bomber was a well-integrated Swede of Middle Eastern birth. His radicalisation took place in a European metropolis, not a dictatorial backwater. Terrorism emanates not from the plight of the marginalised poor but from the twisted sense of justice of people in the grip of aggressive ideologies, who are set on bringing down the social order. That is a pathology neither new nor alien to Europe.

Europe will face down this danger too, if it remembers the truths it holds dear. Responses to attacks aimed at the liberal democratic order must not themselves undermine the west’s way of life. Since violent jihadism crosses borders both intellectually and logistically, so must the defences against it — most urgently in intelligence sharing. And the threat will not be defeated by governments, but by the firmness of conviction with which individual citizens, of all worldviews, agree to live together.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: Marine Le Pen Controversy Over “Muslim Occupation”

The left-wing paper Libération has a grotesque portrait of Marine Le Pen, the daughter of the far right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen. It shows her head stuck to her father’s — as if they are Siamese twins. Marine Le Pen is campaigning to take over from her father as number one of the “Front National” — the National Front — in January. She has caused outrage for her statement comparing Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques in France to the Nazi occupation of the country during the Second World War. The paper’s editorial by Laurent Joffrin says the “Front National” has changed — it is more dangerous than before. It says that while Marine Le Pen in the past sought to distance herself from her father’s brand of extremism she is now aligning herself with him and other nationalist parties in Europe.

The hard left paper L’Humanité says her statement is poison, grabbing headlines with one sentence associating Muslims and the Nazi occupation. The paper argues many commentators were assuming she would be an “enlightened monarch” compared to her father but that’s not the case with this statement. It says the French press will bear a responsibility if it lets her provocative remark become a theme for political debate.

The main tabloid here — France Soir — says Marine Le Pen could be a nightmare for Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP. Will she be more popular than her father? the paper asks.

Le Figaro says Marine Le Pen is addressing the core National Front electorate with her statement. It cites a recent survey giving her 17 per cent support. And reminds everyone that Jean-Marie Le Pen’s influence on her is huge. He talked about politics at breakfast, lunch and dinner when she was a child. The Le Pen dining room table was the home of French far-right.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

German Man Castrates Teenage Daughter’s 57-Year-Old Boyfriend

An enraged father who disapproved of his daughter’s older boyfriend went to his home and castrated him with a bread knife.

Helmut Seifert, 47, an ethnic German originally from Russia, was enraged when he heard his 17-year-old daughter was having a relationship with Phillip Genscher, 57.

He went to police in the town of Bielefeld where he lives but officers said they were powerless to intervene.

“The man then recruited two work colleagues at his factory and then went to the house of the victim,” said police.

“The man was forced to remove his trousers and, fully conscious, he was castrated. The severed testicles were taken away by the perpetrator.”

The man was close to bleeding to death but managed to call police. His life was saved but he remains a eunuch for life.

Seifert pleaded guilty and will be on trial for attempted murder next year. But he has remained silent on who his accomplices were.

He told police: “I received a phone call anonymously that my daughter was involved with a guy 40 years older than her. You said you couldn’t stop him — so I did.

“I saw it as my duty as a father.”

           — Hat tip: Bobbo[Return to headlines]

‘I Never Knew My Husband Had Become a Terrorist’: Wife of British-Based Suicide Bomber Tells of Her ‘Devastation’ Over Stockholm Attack

The wife of suicide bomber who was radicalised in Britain before carrying out a suicide bombing on a busy street in Sweden today spoke of her ‘devastation’.

Iraqi-born Taimour Abdulwahab Al-Abdaly, 28, blew up his car, then himself, in the capital Stockholm.

And today it emerged he was thrown out of a Luton mosque three years ago for being too radical.

A Swedish prosecutor said it was likely that Abdulwahab was wearing a bomb belt and was possibly on his way to a department store or train station when the explosive detonated by accident.

Abdulwahab spent much of the last decade in Luton — long known as a hotbed of terrorism — where he studied for a degree and continued living there with his wife Mona Thwany and three young children.

Mrs Thwany — who runs her own beauty business Amira Make-up and Hair — said she had no clue about her husband’s intentions.

Asked if she had been aware of the plot she told the Evening Standard: ‘No, of course not. I really don’t want to talk right now. I am very devastated and upset.’

Sources at the Luton Islamic Centre today said Abdulwahab’s views were deemed so extreme that he was asked to leave after he began giving sermons three years ago.

Qadeer Baksh, chairman of the Luton Islamic Centre, said he tried to reason with al-Abdaly but to no avail.

‘It was the general public, worshippers, that brought it to the committee’s attention that there was someone in here teaching something that is alien to Islam — extremist views,’ he said.

‘So I went and I faced him. I challenged his thoughts and his ideas and we got into a theological debate.

‘I felt he was playing a game with me, just so he gets access to these worshippers. So, basically, I confronted him in front of the whole community and I brought up every single one of the doubts that he had been spreading and that he was debating with me.’

Police were searching a property in the town today as part of the probe into the suicide attack.

The Bedfordshire town has a Muslim population of 20,000 and has been linked with a string of high-profile extremists.

Last year Muslim protesters disrupted a homecoming march of soldiers returning from Afghanistan.

It has also emerged Abdulwahab — who had lived in the UK for 10 years — visited radical Islamic websites and Facebook groups including one which offers advice on preparing for Judgement Day.

Another website he visited — Yawm Al-Qiyaamah — shows pictures of Tower Bridge engulfed by flames and has more than 8,000 followers.

His Facebook page features an Islamic flag being raised over a world in flames. On the page, he says he is a member of the group Islamic Caliphate State, which seeks to establish Islamic rule worldwide and adds: ‘I’m a Muslim and I’m proud.’

Police were investigating Abdulwahab’s British connections last night. Neighbours in Luton suggested that his wife, who herself has fundamentalist views, and their children are still living there.

Metropolitan Police officers started examining a house last night, after a warrant was issued under the Terrorism Act 2000.

A terraced property in the Bedfordshire town was cordoned off today, with officers seen going in and out.

Neighbour Noreen Hussain, 30, said the person who lived at the house at the centre of police activity was a family man.

Although she did not know him by name, she said: ‘We just said hello every so often. He had two girls and one boy, and the boy was born this year.

‘He loved his kids so much. He used to play with them all the time in the garden on the trampoline.’

The involvement of a student from a British university in yet another terrorist incident will raise fresh questions about admissions to UK universities, and the radicalisation of Muslim students when studying in this country.

It is less than a year ago that a worldwide alert was sparked when former University College London student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian, was arrested on suspicion of trying to blow up an aeroplane with explosives hidden in his underpants.

The latest bomber moved to Sweden with his family from Iraq when he was 11. He came to Britain in 2001 to study sports therapy at the University of Luton, now the University of Bedfordshire.

He moved back to Sweden more recently and is believed to have separated from his wife, but they have not divorced.

Terror came to usually peaceful Stockholm on Saturday afternoon, minutes after Abdulwahab — who was due to celebrate his 29th birthday today — sent a warning of an impending attack to a Swedish news agency and police.

The warning referred to the presence of 500 Swedish troops among the Allies in Afghanistan and caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed drawn three years ago by Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks.

The warning email contained messages to the bomber’s family, one asking that his children were told ‘Daddy loves them’.

Immediately after the email arrived, Abdulwahab’s car burst into flames on a busy street in the city centre, with a series of explosions following from gas canisters stashed inside the vehicle.

Around ten minutes later Abdulwahab shouted in Arabic before detonating a pipe bomb which killed him and wounded two passers-by.

Tragedy was only narrowly avoided, as police are understood to have found five more bombs on Abdulwahab’s corpse which did not go off. He also wore a rucksack full of nails.

It was speculated that the car bomb was designed to attract police and crowds, who would have been killed in their scores if all the suicide bombs had gone off.

At a taxi office opposite the Luton flat where Abdulwahab is understood to have lived with his wife, employee Imran Khan, 31, said: ‘We used to see him all the time. He lived across the road with his wife, a chubby lady who wore a full veil that covered everything apart from her eyes.

‘He was really quiet and she wouldn’t say anything. I haven’t seen him here for a while but she’s still around with their two little kids.’…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iran Calls British Police ‘Violent and Inhumane’ In Handling of Student Protests

Iran inspired international incredulity today by calling British police ‘violent and inhumane’ over their handing of the student protests in London.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the British ambassador to Tehran to protest against the supposed brutality.

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, ‘The violent and inhumane handling by British police of peaceful student demonstrations and also the ambassador’s interference in Iran’s state matters were the reasons for his summoning by the ministry.’

British Ambassador Simon Gass accused Iranian authorities of depriving the nation of ‘their fundamental freedoms’ on the embassy’s website on December 9.

Iran has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks over its detention of a woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.

Its claim comes on the same day that a coalition of international celebrities including Robert De Niro, and Sting united to publish an open letter to Iran calling for the release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

She has spent the subsequent five years in in prison and, according to the letter, has received the 99 lashes.

The document calls on Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to release her along with her son and lawyer, who are also imprisoned.

Her sentence of death by stoning was suspended earlier this year but she still faces possible execution by hanging for complicity in the murder of her husband.

The man who was convicted for the murder is now free.

The European Union has called her sentence ‘barbaric’, the Vatican pleaded for clemency and Brazil, which has tried to intervene in Iran’s stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme, has offered Ms Ashtiani asylum.

However, there is a more direct comparison to be made between the handling of the student protests in London and police behaviour in Iran.

In June 2009 there were open protests in the streets of Tehran following the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in an election opposition politicians said was rigged…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Ireland — Germany’s Paradise Lost

07 December 2010 Der Spiegel Hamburg

Ireland, the poor, pure island, was a place Germans longed for, at least ever since Heinrich Böll. Till the country succumbed to turbo-capitalism, dealing another body blow to the euro and dashing the German dream of a better world, laments Der Spiegel.

Markus Feldenkirchen

It’s a good thing Heinrich Böll isn’t around anymore to see the debacle. Had he known present-day Ireland, Böll would probably never have fallen in love with it — the way he once fell for that endearing island with its four million inhabitants, that idyll of poverty and of a more humane world. And it was that endearing Ireland, of all places, that drew turbo-capitalism to its shores — only to find itself in over its head. Böll would have been utterly at a loss.

“Europe’s social order was already taking other forms here,” he wrote in the 1950s on the ferry to Dublin. He was enthralled by the Irish passengers around him, and waxed hyperbolic: “Not only was poverty no longer a ‘disgrace’, it was neither an honour nor a disgrace: it was — as a factor of social self-awareness — as irrelevant as wealth; the creases had lost their cutting edge.”

A people as yet unspoiled by affluence

That passage was later included in his famous Irisches Tagebuch (Irish Diary), which describes a society that is virtuous and modest, frugal and somehow happy; a country which, in spite of famine and mass exodus and the severity of the Catholic Church, had preserved its humanity.

Back then in the mid-’50s, he thought of the Irish Diary as presenting an alternative to crude post-war Germany, to the economic miracle with its new tin gods: consumption, growth, capital. Böll, the good man from Cologne, and Ireland, the good island up north, were a good fit in those halcyon days. Böll’s island was poor then, but not broke. Now it’s the other way round.

An old German dream is going up in smoke as the Irish financial bubble bursts. No other nation was as smitten with the island as the Germans. In the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s Böll was followed to Ireland by a host of his compatriots who had pinned their dreams to the island — at least the ones who didn’t go for Goa or Ibiza. Ireland seemed purer and more forthright than their native land: Irish fields were still lush, with no conglomerates in sight, and the people as yet unspoiled by affluence. The place just couldn’t be better, the Germans thought, as they sang the praises of backwardness.

Middle Ages were firmly entrenched

They turned a deaf ear of denial when the Irish themselves bewailed their poverty. The dream of a different life had to be defended — even, if need be, against reality. To this day Germans remain the biggest contingent of faithful tourists to Ireland.

“Europe’s social order” has again taken on “other forms” in Ireland — albeit very different from those Böll once raved about. For weeks now the island has kept the continent on tenterhooks, shaking up the euro and, with it, the very foundations of the Community. How could Europe’s sleepiest country morph in no time into this gambling den, this paradise for property sharks, investment bankers and other assorted financial parasites?

Till the late ‘80s, the Middle Ages were firmly entrenched in Ireland, their last foothold, far from the rest of the enlightened continent. For decades the Catholic church had held out in its Celtic fortress against the siege of modernity. But in the early ‘90s, after the Iron Curtain collapsed and globalisation set in, even the church in Ireland had to acquiesce in the changing of the guard.

Modern Ireland had something of a brothel about it

Catholicism gave way to capitalism. In a topsy-turvy world, it provided a new lodestar to go by. And it wasn’t long before consumption, greed and the culture of efficiency had completed their crusade in Ireland. In the late 1980s, the government slashed corporate taxes to 10%, which worked like a magnet to draw entrepreneurs from all over the world.

Many foreign banks set up conduits in Ireland to offload the riskiest business from their home accounts. To cut those companies maximum slack, hardly anyone — and certainly not the state — came round to check in on the Dublin Docklands. And all of a sudden, chaste Ireland had something of a brothel about it: a place you go to do the dirty things you wouldn’t dare do at home.

Still, the new growth seemed a blessing for the country. The island was now positively humming, and on top it all, billions in subsidies from the EU nurtured the illusion that hard times were gone for good. And so the EU poor house turned into one of the priciest places in Europe basically overnight…

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

Italy: Southern Mayor’s Killer Allegedly Hiding in Colombia

Salerno, 29 Nov. (AKI) — The alleged killer of southern Italian mayor Angelo Vassallo is a suspected mafia extortionist and drugs trafficker believed to be hiding in the Columbian city of Medellin, Naples daily Il Mattino reported on Monday. Vassallo’s bullet ridden body was found slumped in his car in the seaside town of Pollica in Italy’s Campania region on 6 September. Investigators immediately suspected the Naples mafia over his murder.

Vassallo’s 30-year-old assassin is believed to be sheltering with friends in Medellin, Columbia’s second largest city. Allegedly linked to a Salerno-based Naples mafia or Camorra clan, he fears individuals who ordered Vassallo’s killing are hunting him down to prevent him turning from state’s evidence should he be captured.

He was reportedly stabbed in August at a discoteque in the southern coastal resort of Camerota, near Pollica, after he robbed two drugs dealers in the port of Acciaroli, a few kilometres up the coast.

A prominent environmental campaigner, Vassello owned a local fishing business with his brother. Nicknamed the “fisherman-mayor” he had also been reported to police for alleged extortion and embezzlement.

Vassallo fought coastal pollution and illegal building in his municipality, located in Italy’s picturesque Cilento area of southern Campania.

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

Italy: Camorra ‘Protected Drugs With Python’

Police had to get past animal to plant bugs

(ANSA) — Rome, December 6 — A drug ring in the Neapolitan Camorra mafia used a large white python to protect their cocaine stash, police said Monday. Officers had to get past the animal to install bugs that helped them arrest the gang in Caserta north of Naples.

Police said the mobsters got “huge” quantities of cocaine on the Naples market and gave it to clients who came down from Arezzo in Tuscany, Pordenone in Friuli and other parts of Italy.

The users consumed the drugs in the gang’s hide-out, police said, announcing the arrest of 25 people.

It was the second case of a python found guarding drugs this year.

In August Rome police came face to face with a a hissing and famished albino python coiled around a stash of cocaine and had to fend it off by feeding it a whole chicken.

The Camorra is known for using wild animals to impress potential allies or scare victims.

In September 2009 police caught a Naples crime boss with a large crocodile he was said to have frightened extortion victims with if they showed any reluctance to pay up.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stockholm Bomber’s Plan Failed Because Device Exploded Early

The father-of-three was armed with three bombs, and may have been in the process of selecting a target — such as a department store or railway station — when one of them partially exploded, setting fire to his car. Sweden’s chief prosecutor, Tomas Lindstrand, said he had no doubt Abdulwahab was intent on killing “as many people as possible” and probably had accomplices. He said: “He had a bomb belt on him, he had a backpack with a bomb and he was carrying an object that has been compared to a pressure cooker. If it had all blown up at the same time, it would have been very powerful.

“Where he was headed … we don’t know. It is likely that something happened, that he made some kind of mistake that led to part of the bombs he was carrying went off and caused his death. “This was during Christmas shopping in central Stockholm and he was extremely well-equipped when it came to bomb material … It is not much of a stretch to say he was going to a place with as many people as possible.” After Abdulwahab’s white Audi, which was packed with gas canisters, caught fire in a shopping street in Stockholm, he ran away and blew himself up 300 yards away 15 minutes later, injuring two bystanders. Investigators believe the fact that his rucksack bomb was not used at all, and his failure to detonate his suicide belt in a crowded area, suggests that he died before he had reached his intended target. Mr Lindstrand said: “He was well-equipped with bomb material, so I guess it isn’t a too daring guess to say he was on his way to a place where there were as many people as possible, maybe the central station, maybe Ahlens (a large department store).” He added that the investigation must “assume he worked with several people”, either in Sweden or abroad, who would have taught him bomb-making.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Stockholm Bomber ‘Aimed to Kill Many People’

A man who blew himself up in Stockholm was carrying three explosive devices and intended to kill as many people as possible, prosecutors say.

Chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said police were “98% sure” that the man was Iraq-born Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly.

Abdaly, 28, is believed to have died minutes after setting off a car bomb on Saturday. Two other people were hurt.

Seven US FBI bomb experts are heading to Stockholm to help the investigation, Sweden’s intelligence agency said.

Although Abdaly was a Swedish citizen who had been living in the UK.

British police have been searching a house in Luton, north of London, where Abdaly lived…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Stockholm Suicide Bomb Attack: Lucky Escape for Sweden

Sweden has had a narrow escape. If last weekend’s suicide bomber’s plan had worked, his multiple explosives would have caused mass murder amongst Christmas shoppers in Stockholm.

Swedish investigators have concluded that the Iraqi-born bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, had three devices and was probably aiming for maximum casualties.

In the event, he triggered two explosions — a car bomb and one on his body — but he was the only one to be killed.

Pointing to the fact that the second device went off in a relatively quiet street, Sweden’s chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said it had probably gone off prematurely.

“He had a belt, he had a rucksack and he was carrying something and all these three things were bombs. And probably he did something by mistake.

“And it’s a qualified guess, I think, that he aimed to explode these bombs where there were many people gathered,” he said.

Attack preparation Abdaly appears to have been unknown to the authorities in Sweden. He emigrated there from the Middle East in 1992 then moved to Britain in 2001.

He does not seem to have been flagged up in Britain as being of any particular concern, despite being effectively evicted in 2007 from the Luton Islamic Centre by his fellow worshippers who challenged his violent, extremist views.

But no-one reported him to the police and no-one in authority, it seems, detected his extremism from his postings on the social networking site Facebook.

Despite the fact that he was the only one to be killed by it, his attack would have taken careful preparation and planning.

It is similar to other failed attempts by jihadists to kill citizens in London’s Haymarket and in the US.

In a farewell message Abdaly boasted of going to the Middle East “for jihad”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Stockholm Bomber ‘Acted on Al-Qaeda’s Orders’

(AKI) — Iraqi citizen Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, who apparently blew himself up on a busy shopping street in the Swedish capital Stockholm at the weekend, was acting under direct orders from Al-Qaeda’s leadership, according to several jihadist websites close to the terror network.

Al-Abdaly, 29, was linked to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. In his last will and testament disseminated shortly before he allegedly detonated his explosives on Saturday, he said: “The Islamic State of Iraq has kept its promise,” referring to the Al-Qaeda affiliated group.

Al-Abdaly was the only victim of Saturday’s attack, during which he allegedly first set a white Audi car alight and then detonated explosives in his backpack, 200 metres away from the car.

If confirmed as a suicide bombing, the attack would be the first of its kind in Sweden.

A few minutes before the explosion, an audio message in Swedish and Arabic was delivered to a news agency and to police, demanding Sweden withdraw its 500 troops from Afghanistan. The message also deplored the 2007 publication in a local Swedish newspaper of a satirical cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by Swedish artist Lars Villks.

The Islamic State of Iraq in 2007 first vowed to carry out terrrorist attacks in Europe after the publication of Vilks’ cartoon.

Vilks has been forced to live under police protection receiving several death threats, including a statement by the Islamic State of Iraq which has offered up to 150,000 dollars for his assassination.

The group has claimed a string of deadly attacks in Iraq, including one in June on the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad’s highly fortified Green Zone which killed 18 people and injured 55 others.

British police were on Monday searching a house in Luton, north of London in connection with Saturday’s attack. Al-Abdaly studied in the UK, at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton.

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

Sweden Bomber ‘Friendly’ Immigrant Turned Radical

The man suspected of being the suicide bomber behind two Stockholm bombings on Saturday was described on Monday as an ordinary friendly young immigrant to Sweden who drastically changed after moving to the UK to study.

Sweden’s top prosecutor “confirmed 98 percent” that “the man who blew himself up” in a busy pedestrian quarter of the Swedish capital following a car explosion, was Taymour Abdel Wahab.

The Al-Qaeda-linked website Shumukh al-Islam on Sunday had named him as the bomber. Media reports said that Wahab, who was born in Iraq but became a Swedish citizen in 1992, staged the attack on the eve of his 29th birthday.

He had lived in Britain for a number of years, prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand said, adding that his wife and three children still lived there.

Reports in Britain said his wife is called Umm Amira, known as Mona, and runs a company called Amira Makeup and Hair, which offers services including bridal make-up and hair styling.

When he was about 10, Wahab and his family reportedly fled war-torn Iraq to settle in Tranås, population 18,000, some 200 kilometres south of Stockholm.

“From Tranås to Jihad,” said Monday’s Expressen tabloid, which published a full-page photo of a young, smiling Wahab wearing a typical Swedish high school graduation cap.

It said Wahab had grown up in “a light red house” in Tranås with his mother, father and two sisters, adding that the family had no problems adjusting to life in Sweden.

“He was just like any other young man. He loved life, he had lots of friends and was out and partied just like anyone else,” acquaintance and Tranås resident Jean Jalabian told Expressen.

“He drank alcohol and had girlfriends. It’s really strange that he would do something like that,” Jalabian said.

Meanwhile, rival tabloid Aftonbladet described “the terrorist from Tranås” as a family-oriented basketball player with a lot of friends beneath a smiling school picture of him.

A former teacher told Aftonbladet the young man spoke excellent Swedish and was “an honest, friendly person with many friends.”

However, Abdel Wahab drastically changed when he left Sweden in 2001 to complete a bachelor’s degree in sports physiotherapy at the University of Luton — now the University of Bedfordshre, from which he graduated in 2004.

Wahab became interested in radical Islam in the town just north of London, where he met his wife, reportedly the same age as him and also a Swedish citizen.

“He got to know an Egyptian imman at the mosque in Luton,” a friend of the family told Expressen, adding that during his time there “he became another person. It’s hard to say how. He changed and became more restrictive.”

When he returned to Sweden in 2005, he had a beard, cut contact with his old friends and led a withdrawn life. He never settled back into Swedish life and went back to Britain, only sporadically visiting his family in Tranås.

Aftonbladet said he showed his new opinions online, posting radical religious view on the war on Iraq and calling for a boycott of Denmark on his Facebook page in Arabic.

His status updates were often prayers and he had uploaded videos with Islamist messages to his page, the tabloid said.

He was also searching for a new wife “who accepts Allah’s religion and who is not against me having another wife” on a Muslim contact website, Expressen wrote.

In November, he bought the car which he blew up on Saturday, slightly injuring two people, investigators said, after returning to Sweden a few weeks before.

In a threat he sent Swedish news agency TT and intelligence agency Säpo, Abdel Wahab asked his family for forgiveness for lying to them.

“I never went to the Middle East to work or make money. “I went there for jihad. It wouldn’t have been possible to tell you who I really was. It wasn’t very easy to live the last four years with the secret of being…as you call it, a terrorist,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Attack Message ‘Very Serious’: Reinfeldt

Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt believes that everyone should take “very seriously” the message urging more people to commit acts of violence in the audio file that news agency TT received on Saturday.

Shortly after TT received the message, two blasts rocked central Stockholm, spreading panic among dozens of holiday shoppers in the vicinity, in what Swedish intelligence officials have labeled a act of terrorism.

“We will naturally take it very seriously. However, it is too early to say whether it was an isolated single actor or if there are links,” Reinfeldt said on Monday, noting that it was clear from the beginning that the crime was serious and could have ended far worse.

“The important thing now is that we gather more facts and let the justice system uncover the aim and see if there are additional links. There are still many answers that we are missing and it is important to be patient now and not jump to conclusions,” he said.

Reinfeldt also received a number of questions about Carl Bildt’s tweets on his Twitter account in which Sweden’s foreign minister referred to the blasts as “terrorist attack” before investigators had done so.

“It is I who inform on the government’s behalf. Then there’s social media for passing along individual comments. It has its value, but it is a different thing,” he said.

Bildt spoke about a terrorist attack long before the police or the prime minister did.

“Obviously I knew what I tweeted about,” Bildt said in response to the question asking what he knew when he wrote his short Twitter message.

Bildt has been criticized for his message, but defended his actions.

“It is the week’s pseudo-debate with a big P,” said Bildt while on his way to a foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

The Riksdag’s defence committee chairman Håkan Juholt has criticised Reinfeldt for the delay in informing the Swedish people about the attack.

In his defence, Reinfeldt replied, “It is important not to play party politics about this. It brings up a number of questions that we do not yet have answers for and for me, it was important to not go out in a situation where there were no legal decisions.”

He added, “To then make statements could have instead led to increased uncertainty, speculation and casting of suspicion. I wanted to wait for the prosecution to make a decision on an investigation into terrorist crimes.”

“I am convinced that if we went about it the other way and I went out and commented without identification and no reaction from the police and the prosecutors, many would have had objections,” said Reinfeldt.

Johan Hirschfeldt is the chairman of the emergency commission set up after the tsunami of Christmas 2004 in southeast Asia.

He declined to comment on the appropriateness of the first information about the terrorist bomber coming from a twittering foreign minister, followed by a 12-hour delay before the prime minister held a press conference.

“I am satisfied with referring to what we wrote in the report,” he told TT while indicating the exact pages in the report published by the commission on how the Swedish government reacted to the disaster.

The report warned that the development of new media and the public’s own new channels of information can result in the risk of the gap between the official picture and the citizens’ own “becoming very large very quickly.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Suicide Bomber Was ‘Unknown’ To Säpo

Swedish intelligence officials on Monday said they are “98 percent” certain about the identity of the man who blew himself in central Stockholm on Saturday, adding he appeared to have three separate bombs.

According to chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand, the suspected suicide bomber was “completely unknown” to Swedish intelligence officials prior to Saturday’s blasts.

He added that evidence gathered so far suggests the man acted on his own, but that the investigation into possible ties continues.

“As it looks now, he was alone in carrying out the act. But experience tells us that there are usually more people involved,” said Lindstrand.

While the suspect, identified in media reports and by an Islamist website as 29-year-old Taymour Abdel Wahab, is “98 percent identified,” Lindstrand stopped short of making an official identification pending DNA analysis or an identification of the body by next of kin.

He added that while officials know the man was born in 1981 and gained Swedish citizenship in 1992, they remain uncertain of his country of birth, saying only it was “in the Middle East.”

Lindstrand also confirmed that Abdel Wahab owned the car which exploded on the corner of Drottninggatan and Olof Palmesgatan, injuring two people.

“Yes, it can be tied to him,” said Lindstrand, adding that the suspect had bought the car in November of this year.

The prosecutor described Abdel Wahab as “well equipped” with explosives, including a bomb belt and a backpack nail bomb.

“Where he was going, we don’t know,” said Lindstrand, but added it was plausible to speculate he was heading “someplace with lots of people.”

“Maybe [Stockholm] central station. Maybe Åhléns [department store].”

The prosecutor confirmed as well that the threatening email received by the Swedish Security Agency (Säpo) and Swedish news agency TT just before the bombs exploded was sent by Abdel Wahab, explaining that it was sent from a “mobile phone or a mobile broadband device” from within Stockholm.

Shortly before the blast, Säpo and the TT news agency received an email containing audio files in Swedish, Arabic, and English which criticised Sweden for its military presence in Afghanistan and its acceptance of Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who sparked a backlash in the Muslim world in 2007 by portraying the prophet Mohammed as a dog in a cartoon.

The message warned that “now your children, daughters and sisters die like our brothers’ and sisters’ children die.”

Speaking at Monday’s press conference, Anders Thornberg from Swedish security service Säpo said his colleagues are “working around the clock” to process tips from the public as well as information gleaned from interviews and other sources.

He added as well that “there is no reason to worry” that another attack on Swedish soil is imminent.

“When it comes to our threat assessment, we review things hour to hour. For the present, we will continue with the elevated threat level,” he said, referring to the threat level in place since October.

Earlier in the day, the Expressen newspaper reported that Swedish intelligence officials suspected Abdel Wahab planned to set off bombs at three different locations in central Stockholm.

The backpack found near his body and filled with nails and screws was to be detonated remotely, the newspaper reported.

The final bomb was a belt made up of 12 gas canisters which officials believe was attached to Wahab’s stomach.

One theory being examined by investigators is that he was heading toward Stockholm’s central train station and the Åhléns department store to set off two other blasts besides the car bomb, but that one of the explosive devices detonated ahead of schedule.

“In all likelihood, something happened or he made some mistake so that some of the explosives detonated,” Lindstrand told reporters.

According to Expressen, the explosion that killed Wahab at the intersection of Bryggaregatan and Drottninggatan was caused by one of the 12 gas canisters attached to a belt around his body. The remaining canisters failed to detonate, however.

A mobile telephone was also found near the scene of the blast which killed Wahab, leading intelligence officials to believe the three bombs were somehow connected and could have been detonated remotely.

Thornberg also labeled as a “rumour” a report from TT on Sunday night that a Swedish Armed Forces employee had warned an acquaintance hours before the twin blasts to “avoid Drottninggatan.”

“We have no idea about that. There is nothing that points to it [being true] other than what is in the media,” he told reporters, adding that officials continue to investigate the report.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Reacts to First Ever Suicide Bomb Attack

However, it is now coming to terms with evidence that the country is the target of international terrorism for the first time. It has been more than 30 years since foreign terrorism infiltrated the country. Saturday’s bombings were were described as an attack on the Swedish culture and way of life by the Swedish media. “Openness under attack,” appeared on the editorial page of Aftonbladet while Expressen said “fear shall not win.”

The daily Dagens Nyheter described Saturday’s events as “an attack on us all.” “Blind terror has reached Sweden. For the first time in our country, we, ordinary and defenseless citizens, are the targets of kamikaze bombers”, the daily Svenska Dagbladet said. The weekend attacks came shortly after Saepo, the Swedish Security Service, raised the security alert level on October 1 from low to elevated, the third level of a five-level scale. On Sunday, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt described the bombings as “unwanted and unacceptable.” Sweden is an “open society” where people from different backgrounds live side by side. Though Sweden has never had such an attack before, the Security Police have acted over the years to stop people travelling from Sweden to conflict zones, particularly Somalia. In 2007 the late chief of the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, called for reprisals against Sweden over cartoons by artist Lars Vilks. Baghdadi also offered cash for killing the cartoonist and named Swedish companies such as Ericsson, Ikea and Volvo as potential targets to harm Sweden’s economy. The country also has around 500 troops stationed in Afghanistan. A Home Office spokesman said: “We remain in close contact with the Swedish authorities. It would be inappropriate to comment on their ongoing investigation at this time.” Prime Minister David Cameron had talks with his Swedish counterpart Frederick Reinfeldt over the weekend about the blast. Mr Cameron’s spokesman said: “Certainly there have been discussions (with Mr Reinfeldt) over the weekend and clearly he has been briefed and brought up to date by the Home Secretary and others.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden Suicide Bomber: Terrorist Who Dreamed of Judgment Day on Facebook

Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly was also a regular user of the social networking site Facebook. He was searching online for a second bride when he killed himself. The Iraqi-born father of two described himself as a Sunni Muslim who hoped any potential wife would be a “strong believer” striving for “jannah” — paradise.

Among the sites he was interested in on Facebook was Yawm al-Qiyaamah, which means Resurrection Day; The Day of Judgment. The image used to illustrate the site, which has more than 8,000 followers, is an inferno engulfing Tower Bridge as a tidal wave swamps one side. The first quote used by the group is: “This life is but a transitory to the Hereafter. “So let us know what the Hereafter can do to us and what we can strive to reach it, Inshallah [God willing].” It contains several postings, quoting from the Koran, with reference to non-believers warning of “an imminent punishment”. In another post, the Yawm al-Qiyaamah site describes the danger of the office Christmas party. “Do not make any second thought — avoid participating in their blasphemy such as Christmas party or New Year party, be it in words or in deeds.” Abdulwahab also read postings by groups with Arabic titles, including “Mainstream Salafi Jihadi”, which follows a Saudi Sunni doctrine. Although it is adopted by peaceful Saudi Arabians, it is also pursued by militant factions. Mainstream Salafi Jihadi has called for the release of Abu Muhammad Masem al-Maqdisi, often described as the spiritual mentor for the Jordanian terrorist Abu Muasab al-Zarqawi, believed to be the first al-Qaeda leader in Iraq. Abdulwahab also joined Facebook groups entitled Islamic caliphate state and Zero Campaign 1432, which focuses on the corruption of women in the West. His search for suitable women took him to the Islamic dating site where he applied for a second wife. He wrote: “I want to get married again, and would like to have a BIG family. “My wife agreed to this. I am looking for a practising Muslim, Sunni, [who] loves children and wants to please Allah before me.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden Suicide Bombings: Luton Synonymous With Islamic Extremism and Racial Tension

Two years ago a leaked British intelligence report identified the town as being home to one of the main concentrations of extremists in the country. It has a long and troubled history. In 2004 two of the most notorious terrorist cells in British history met at the Toddington service station just north of Luton. The leaders of the fertiliser bombers, who were plotting a campaign to rival September 11 terror attacks, and the July 7 bombers met on at least two occasions, watched by MI5.

The middle man, Mohammed Quayam Khan, was on the surface of model of respectability. He worked as a taxi driver and at a café in the centre of Luton and lived with his children in the Bury Park district, a largely Muslim area. At the same time, however, he was allegedly liaising with al-Qaeda and helped them to set up a training camp in Pakistan. He has never been arrested. The July 7 bombers, based in West Yorkshire, met in Luton on the day of the attacks in 2005, abandoning their cars at the station to catch the train south. Many Muslims in Luton have long recognised the problem they have with extremism…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Military Staffer Knew About Attacks: Report

A Swedish Armed Forces (Försvarsmakten) employee warned an acquaintance to stay clear of an area in central Stockholm on Saturday where, several hours later, two explosions went off in what is being called a terrorist attack.

“If you can, avoid Drottninggatan today. A lot can happen there…just so you know,” the message said, according to the TT news agency.

Armed Forces spokesperson Jonas Svensson told TT on Sunday he was unaware of the message.

“I haven’t heard about this at all. Now I’m going to check out the information,” he told TT when confronted with the news.

Later the Swedish military said it was now “preparing how the issue will be dealt with”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sweden Bomber Sought Big Targets; New Threat Made

STOCKHOLM — A Middle Eastern man killed in a blast in Stockholm was wearing a bomb belt and ready to attack a train station or department store when the device went off prematurely, Sweden’s chief prosecutor said on Monday.

Police were all but certain the attacker was Taymour Abdulwahab, who emigrated to Sweden in 1992 but mostly lived in Britain with his wife and two children.

A militant who first identified Abdulwahab in an online message that included his photograph on Sunday issued a new statement on Monday warning of more such attacks if Western troops did not withdraw from Afghanistan.

“The battle of Stockholm is the start of a new era in our jihad, when Europe will become the arena for our battles,” the Arabic-language message said, according to a translation by Flashpoint Partners, a U.S.-based service that tracks publications by militant groups.

The message, also monitored by another Islamist militant monitoring service, the Site Intelligence Group, added: “Those who insist on not heeding our demands must expect our attacks, which will reach the heart of Europe.”

There was no way of independently confirming that the speaker had links to Abdulwahab but intelligence services were expected to study it for clues about ties to a militant network. If he was, such a group could be plotting other bombings.

Interviews with people who knew him painted a portrait of a bubbly, fun-loving man who became increasingly radical in his views in Britain, and fell out with a local mosque there in 2007 over his extreme political opinions.

The attack, the first of its kind in Sweden, has heightened fears about attacks in Europe during the Christmas holidays.

The incident began when a car containing gas cylinders blew up in a shopping area in central Stockholm on Saturday. Minutes later a blast nearby killed the bomber and hurt two people.

“He was wearing a bomb belt and was carrying a backpack with a bomb,” chief prosecutor Tomas Lindstrand told reporters.

“He was also carrying an object that looks something like a pressure cooker. If it had all exploded at the same time, it could have caused very serious damage,” he said.

“It is not a very wild guess that he was headed to some place where there were as many people as possible, perhaps the central station, perhaps Ahlens (a department store).”


Lindstrand said the man was almost certainly Abdulwahab, who has been widely named in media, and that he assumed there had been accomplices, as the attack was well planned.

Justice Minister Beatrice Ask said the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation had sent seven bomb experts to help in the enquiry, the TT news agency said.

Lindstrand said Abdulwahab came from a Middle Eastern country, although it was unclear which. An entry by Abdulwahab on a Muslim dating website gave his birthplace as Iraq.

The Swedish immigration service said he had come to Sweden in 1992 and got citizenship six years later.

He studied at a university in the southern English town of Luton and graduated in sports therapy in 2004.

Luton is home to a large Muslim community, and was the place where the suicide bombers behind a deadly July 2005 attack on London’s transport system met to begin their operation.

Police searched the house in Luton where Abdulwahab lived with his wife and children. Swedish officials said he had traveled periodically to a home in the town of Tranas, 200 km (120 miles) southwest of Stockholm, which was also searched.

“He has some relatives in Sweden and he also, what I know, has another life in England,” Swedish Security Police Director of Operations Anders Thornberg told Reuters Television.

Shortly before the blasts, the Swedish news agency TT received a threatening email with an attached sound recording criticizing Sweden’s deployment of troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, as well as caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad by a Swedish artist that angered Muslims in 2007.

“Stop Fawning”

“To all Muslims in Sweden I say: stop fawning and humiliating yourselves, for a life of humiliation is far from Islam. Help your brothers and sisters and do not fear anything or anyone, only the God you worship,” the email said.

Swedish newspapers had video clips of the blast that killed Abdulwahab and the immediate aftermath.

In one, on the website of Aftonbladet, people go up to the man and pull off a blanket and sheet that have been placed over him. “He is alive, he is alive,” says a woman, before being urged to move away because of other bomb parts lying nearby.

Farasat Latif, secretary of the Luton Islamic Center Mosque, said Abdulwahab had worshipped there in 2007.

“He was very friendly, bubbly initially, and people liked him. But he came to the attention of our committee for preaching extremist ideas,” Latif told Reuters. When confronted, Abdulwahab stormed out and was not seen again at the mosque.

In his home town in Sweden, residents also described an outwardly fun-loving person. “He was very handsome and outgoing. No one would dream he could do something like this,” said one woman who knew him in his teens. “I am absolutely devastated.”

Swedish officials said Abdulwahab had never come to their attention before.

Though Sweden has never had such an attack, the Security Police have acted over the years to stop people traveling from Sweden to conflict zones, particularly Somalia.

A court on Friday jailed two men linked to the al Shabaab militants for 4 years for conspiracy to commit a terrorist act.

(Additional reporting by Isabel Coles in Luton, Stefano Ambrogi in London, Mia Shanley in Tranas, Ilze Filks and Johann Sennero in Stockholm; Editing by Jon Hemming)

as of 12/14/2010 7:36 AM

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Swedish Suicide Bomber in Fight at Luton Mosque

THE SUICIDE bomber who struck in Stockholm on Saturday stormed out of a British mosque where he worshipped after being confronted over his extremism, it has emerged.

Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly (29), who set off a car bomb in the Swedish capital before killing himself with a second device strapped to his body, attended the Luton Islamic centre, where the mosque’s leaders expressed concern about his views.

Abdaly was a student at the University of Bedfordshire in Luton between 2001 and 2004 and continued to live in the town after graduating.

Qadeer Baksh, the chairman of Luton Islamic centre, said Abdaly showed up at the mosque during Ramadan in 2006 or 2007 and made an instant impression with his “very bubbly character”. However they soon clashed over his views.

“We were challenging his philosophical attitude to jihad,” said Mr Baksh. “He got so angry that he left. He was just supporting and propagating these incorrect foundations [of Islam], so I stepped in.”

He said Abdaly believed scholars of Islam were “in the pocket of the government” and proposed a “physical jihad”.

Mr Baksh said he thought he had talked Abdaly round to a more moderate position but the Iraqi-born Swede then came back with more arguments.

“I had no idea it would escalate to where it escalated,” said Mr Baksh. “I thought that when he stormed off he was just angry at me. I heard afterwards that he was criticising the mosque in general and me in particular at the university. He said we were working for the British government and that we were in the pocket of Saudi Arabia.”

Despite the clashes, Mr Baksh said it was not for him to report Abdaly to the police or security services. “It’s the police’s job, the intelligence service’s job to follow these people up, not ours,” he said.

“You can’t just inform on any Muslim having extreme views. In the past many Muslims have had extreme views but have become good balance Muslims..”

Police continued to search a terraced house in Luton yesterday as part of the investigation. Abdaly’s wife and three children reportedly live in Luton, where neighbours said they last saw him 21/2 weeks ago.

Police obtained access to the property yesterday with a warrant issued under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000. British officials have confirmed the bomber’s identity and Swedish police say they are 98 per cent certain Abdaly was the culprit.

Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that the country’s security service believed the bomb went off accidentally and that Abdaly had planned to detonate three devices, including one at the main railway station and another at a large department store. It said he had planned to blow up his car but also had 12 pipe bombs strapped to his body and a bomb in a rucksack.

Abdaly has been hailed as a martyr on the Islamist website al- Hanin. A photomontage on the site suggests he was a member of an al-Qaeda-linked organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq.

In 2007, the group’s leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, called for reprisals in Sweden for the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad by the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. In an e-mail apparently written by Abdaly and sent to Swedish news agency TT shortly before the explosions, he condemned Sweden’s “stupid support for the pig Vilks”.

Abdaly’s father was quoted by Expressen as saying he had lost contact with his son. “He did not say where he was going,” he told the newspaper. “The whole family is in shock and wants to find out what happened.”

Tahir Hussain, a taxi driver who lives near to the Luton house being searched, said he used to exchange greetings with Abdaly.

“He had only been here about a year. I used to chat to him a bit: say good morning, good afternoon. He seemed like a very nice person. I never thought he’d be like this.” — (Guardian service)

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Stockholm Bomber and the Problem With Luton

A rather plaintive question on the local council’s website asks: “What is Luton in Harmony?” The official response is that it is a campaign to foster “civic pride” and so improve community cohesion in the Bedfordshire town. But after the events of the past weekend, it seems that the true answer is proving more elusive than ever. Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, a suicide bomber who blew himself up in Sweden, is thought to have been radicalised while studying and living in Luton, together with his wife and three children, one of whom is called Osama. Meanwhile, Pastor Terry Jones, an American preacher who has threatened to burn the Koran, is planning to visit the town early next year to address a rally held by the English Defence League, the anti-Islamist protest group that was formed there. Although there may appear to be no direct link between the two events, in the eyes of many they provide more evidence that Luton, just 35 miles from London and home to a vibrant Asian population, is a hotbed of extremism and is segregated by race and religion. For beleaguered Lutonians it is yet another blow to the reputation of a place whose other claims to fame include an ailing car industry, a faded football club and an MP notorious for her expenses claims, and which has also been home in recent years to a letter-bomber and a drug addict who stabbed to death a policeman.

Religious leaders say their first thought was “here we go again” as the latest negative stories emerged, but insist they do not “reflect the reality of the town”. Peter Adams, of Churches Together, says: “We know that while we can’t deny that there are issues, and they provoke extremism in some, the majority of people just want to get on with their lives. This is not what Luton is all about, by any means.” Some residents were quick to blame the media for the negative perception of Luton during a local radio phone-in titled “Does Luton scare you?” Yet it cannot be denied that the town has featured in a significant proportion of British terrorism plots over the past decade. Just a month after the September 11 attacks, two young men from Luton were killed in a retaliatory bombing raid by US forces in Kabul. Afzal Munir and Aftab Manzoor, both 25, were reported to have been members of al-Muhajiroun, the now-banned British Islamist group which has long recruited in Luton, and had travelled to Afghanistan to take part in “jihad” alongside the Taliban. One of the key members of the so-called fertiliser bomb plot gang, who discussed blowing up the Ministry of Sound nightclub or Bluewater shopping centre, also came from Luton…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Charlie Gilmour Pictured ‘Trying to Set Fire to Supreme Court’

The Pink Floyd guitarist’s son seen swinging on the Union Flag at the Cenotaph was arrested yesterday on suspicion of criminal damage and violent disorder.

Charlie Gilmour, 21, who is the adopted son of musician David Gilmour, caused national outrage when he grabbed the Union flag during the tuition fees riots in London last Thursday.

Fresh pictures have now emerged of him piling newspapers outside the Supreme Court and attempting to set fire to them with a lighter.

At this point, a policeman intervened to kick the impromptu bonfire apart.

Gilmour was also pictured clutching a rock for use as potential ammunition against the police and allegedly boasted of ‘taking so many batons’ during the violent clashes.

The Cambridge University history student was also in the mob that surrounded Prince Charles and Camilla’ car.

As these exclusive pictures show, Charlie Gilmour seemed prepared for violence as mayhem erupted during the protest over university tuition fees.

The 21-year-old grabbed the stone from roadworks in Whitehall. With a scarf wrapped around his face in an unsuccessful attempt to hide his identity, he tossed the rock menacingly.

In another possible sign of sinister intent, he wore latex gloves during the demonstration.

There was speculation last night that he might have been trying to avoid leaving incriminating fingerprints.

Another theory was that the gloves were there to ensure no paint got on his hands.

Unlike impoverished students campaigning peacefully against the fees rise, Gilmour is unlikely to face money troubles since his adoptive father is estimated to be worth £78million. Yesterday Mr Gilmour said he had ‘no comment’ about the behaviour of his son.

Mr Gilmour attended £9,000-a-term Lancing College in West Sussex.

He was adopted by the Pink Floyd star after the protester’s mother, author and journalist Polly Samson, separated from his father, the poet Heathcote Williams.

On Friday his mother posted a message on her Twitter account saying: ‘I am as ashamed of him as he is of himself.’

Miss Samson married David Gilmour in 1994 and they have homes in London and Hove in Sussex. The musician ranks 861st on The Sunday Times Rich List.

Charlie Gilmour has admitted being close to the car carrying the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall when it was ambushed by paint-throwing demonstrators in Regent Street.

At 8.10pm, less than an hour after the attack on the Royal limousine, he was filmed by the BBC outside Topshop in Oxford Street, half-hiding a woman’s lace-up boot under his coat.

The shoe looks suspiciously similar to boots sold for £85 a pair in the store.

The boot was attached to some sort of pole, possibly a limb from a shop-window mannequin.

A few minutes earlier there had been reports of the West End store being ransacked by protesters.

Yesterday he was arrested at his home in Billingshurst, Sussex, on suspicion of criminal damage and violent disorder. He was taken to a police station where he was also arrested on suspicion of theft.

Last night he remained in custody.

On Friday, Mr Gilmour apologised for his behaviour at the Cenotaph, describing it as an isolated ‘moment of idiocy’.

But last night his actions throughout the day of protest came under closer scrutiny as the extent of his involvement became clear.

He first came to the attention of a Mail on Sunday reporter covering the demonstration when he was seen carrying a book of poetry in Parliament Square.

He gave his name as Rafael Lefevre but when we spoke to him the following day he admitted this was a pseudonym he used ‘when dealing with the Press’.

Accompanied by a friend called Ruthven, he joined the main demonstration in Parliament Square.

Holding a red and black flag in one hand and the volume of verse in the other, he clambered on to the reinforced barrier protecting Parliament and began reciting Byron and Keats to the riot police lined up on the other side.

A female officer shouted to him: ‘Get down or you will be arrested.’ However, he disappeared from view as violence erupted.

Asked the following day if he was the man filmed by the BBC shortly after the Royal car was attacked, Mr Gilmour said: ‘Yes, I was close by. It was getting really heavy and that’s when I thought, “I’ve got to go.” ‘

Referring to the Cenotaph incident, he said: ‘I’ve got myself in a terrible scandal. I’m absolutely devastated by what I’ve done.

‘I saw this flag hanging up there. It was a great big flag. It turned out that it was hanging on a very sacred monument.

‘I was rightly told off by the other protesters. I am extremely respectful of the soldiers who gave their lives. I was just caught up in the excitement of the moment.’

When told he had been seen with the boot and pole, he said: ‘Oh s***, I’ve got to go. There’s someone at the door.’

Friends have claimed he may have taken the hallucinatory drug LSD during the protest.

There is a moving reference to the Cenotaph in the Pink Floyd song Southampton Dock, and David Gilmour’s former bandmate Roger Waters lost his father in the Second World War and has written extensively about his loss throughout his career.

This is the 35th arrest over Thursday’s protests. Police have released photos of 14 other people they want to question.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Blocks Koran Protest Pastor Terry Jones From Event

Terry Jones, who threatened to burn copies of the Koran earlier this year, was invited to speak at an English Defence League (EDL) rally in Luton.

The home secretary was considering banning Mr Jones from entering the UK.

But a spokesman for the EDL confirmed the invitation to Mr Jones had been withdrawn because of his critical views on homosexuality and race.

Mr Jones told the BBC that he had not heard “from them personally” and that the EDL “had bowed to pressure from the government… and people within their own organisation”.

He added he planned to come to the UK next year anyway.

“We will probably come to London sometime in February and organise something in London,” he said.

“We will probably announce our plans sometime this week.”

The EDL had said on its Facebook page that the rally in Luton on 5 February would be “our biggest to date”.

It said Mr Jones would be joining the event to “speak out against the evils of Islam”.


But speaking on BBC Radio Derby, Guraming Singh from the EDL, said Mr Jones had approached them several times wanting to speak at an event.

He said: “A few of us have been debating the question of whether we bring him or not and after doing some research and seeing what his personal opinions are on racism and homosexuality, we are not allowing him to speak at our demonstration.

“He is not the right candidate for us.

“Although the English Defence League are sincere to what he has to say about Islam, we do not agree with some of his manifesto such as some of his issues with homosexuality and some of his issues with race.

“The EDL is anti-homophobic and we are a non-racism organisation.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said she had the power to exclude an individual from coming to the UK if she considered they were not conducive to the public good or threatened national security.

Following her comments, Mr Jones told the BBC he planned to speak against “radical element of Islam”, not “all Islam”.

He also said any ban on him coming to the UK would be “incorrect and unfair”, and “unconstitutional” in the US.

Unite Against Fascism said it would be holding an anti-racism demonstration to coincide with the EDL rally, and the anti-extremist group Hope Not Hate is urging the home secretary to act.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Live Baby Mice Tumble Out of Crisps Bag as Horrified Mother Takes Multipack Off Shelf at Tesco Store

A stunned mother has described her shock at seeing live baby mice tumble out of a packet of crisps she had just picked up in a Tesco store.

Liz Wray said she saw half a dozen mice drop from multipacks of crisps in the supermarket in Aston, Birmingham, where the rodents appeared to have been nesting.

‘They were repulsive and made me feel revolting,’ said the health visitor. ‘There were half a dozen of them crawling out of different holes in the crisps and we couldn’t believe our eyes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Luton Has Come to Embody the Failures of Multiculturalism

Pastor Terry Jones and Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly: two men espousing vile extremism that distorted their respective religions, two men who have both this week been linked to Luton. The hate-spreading preacher and the Stockholm bomber join a dismayingly lengthy roll call of extremists to have associations with Luton.

I grew up in the town and most of my family still live there, and hence I return often. When I was growing up Luton was a town that inspired laughter — we blamed Lorraine Chase for that — but today it inspires fear: it has come to embody the failure of multiculturalism and community relations. Luton was not only where the 7/7 bombers set off from, but also where the far-right English Defence League was born. For a town to be associated with one extremist group may be considered a misfortune but to be associated with two looks like carelessness.

So what has gone wrong in my home town? There are no simple answers but I would cite three main factors: education, economics and representation. There are schools — and streets — in Luton that are ominously monocultural: the school I attended as a young boy was multicultural, that same school is now 96% Asian. Living in such bubbles — white or Muslim — can breed ignorance which can then spill over into intolerance.

There are some measures being adopted to try to meet this challenge. A new project has been set up to pair Luton primary schools with other schools with the aim of trying to get the kids mixing. It is too early yet to know what impact this will have but the very fact the project has been established confirms the scale of the problem.

The other key issue facing schools in Luton is one of capacity. Gavin Shuker, the new Labour MP, described it to me as “a ticking time bomb. We’ve seen 11 school rebuilds cancelled and the only schools likely to make up the shortfall are faith schools.”

The second factor is economics. Luton is a working-class town where for decades the largest employer was the Vauxhall car factory. That was where my father worked and it was where Shuker’s father and grandfather worked. “In Vauxhall you would get workers from different communities all together,” Shuker said, “and that had a positive impact on community cohesion — but it’s not there any more.”

Vauxhall was the glue that held the town together and it’s with its demise it has come unstuck.

Today the average workplace salary is £24,585 — below the national average — and those earning the best wages in the town tend not to live in Luton. Given such issues around poverty it is easy for persuasive extremists to win support by claiming that others are being offered preferential treatment or that the reasons for poverty are related to race and religion…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Quiz Man, 43, After Mother and Son Are ‘Hacked to Death With Axe and Two Teenage Girls Flee’

A mother and her son were murdered in an axe attack in their home in the early hours of today.

The woman’s 19-year-old daughter was badly hurt in the assault but her 13-year-old sister was unharmed. However she is ‘severely traumatised’, police said.

Both girls managed to get out of the house during the attack and flee before raising the alarm.

A 43-year-old man was arrested at an address in Swindon, Wiltshire, a few hours later.

Detectives and forensic investigators found a ‘horrific’ scene when they arrived at the end-of-terrace home this morning.

A shocked neighbour of the victims, who did not want to be named, said: ‘All we’ve heard is there’s been a murder and an axe was involved.

Detective Chief Inspector Pete Vigurs, from the force’s major crime unit, said it was not believed to be a random attack and the victims knew their killer.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Special Investigation: English Defence League and the Hooligans Spreading Hate on the High Street

They call themselves ‘patriots’ and wear masks emblazoned with the red cross of the Knights Templar.

But behind the inflammatory propaganda and war paint of the English Defence League (EDL) — the far-Right ‘anti-Islamic extremism’ group that is fast becoming an even more pernicious influence than the BNP — we find such men as Jeff Marsh.

Like all the other EDL ‘patriots’, Marsh — or ‘Marshy’ as he prefers to be known — insists he is not racist. And he is absolutely true to his word in one respect: he was happy to stab or stamp on anyone, black or white, during his career as a football hooligan. ‘Marshy’ wasn’t bothered about colour; violence was the thing. To him, ‘it was better than sex’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Wikileaks Cables: Drive to Tackle Islamists Made ‘Little Progress’

Britain made “little progress” in reaching out to Muslim communities despite investing “considerable time and resources” after the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, US diplomats concluded in cables passed to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

A powerful critique of the government’s efforts to engage with British Muslims, outlined in a cable published as police investigate the UK connections of the Stockholm suicide bomber, shows the US embassy in London concluded that both sides often appeared far apart.

“Since 7/7, HMG has invested considerable time and resources in engaging the British Muslim community,” a diplomat at the US embassy in London wrote in August 2006 after the failed liquid bomb plot to blow up transatlantic airliners. “The current tensions demonstrate just how little progress has been made.”

US fears that Britain was struggling to deal with extremism, outlined a year after the 7/7 bombings, are highlighted as police continued to search a house in Luton as part of an investigation into Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly.

The Iraqi-born Swede, who set off a car bomb in the Swedish capital on Saturday night before killing himself with a second bomb strapped to his body, was believed to live in the house while studying for a BSc in sports therapy at the University of Bedfordshire. He graduated in 2004 and lived in Luton for a decade.

Muslim leaders in Luton spoke today of how Abdaly, 28, stormed out of a local mosque when they confronted him over his extremist views. Farasat Latif, secretary of the Luton Islamic Centre, said Abdaly was popular when he attended the mosque for a couple of months in 2006-07, though there were concerns about his violent views.

“One day during morning prayers in the month of Ramadan — there were about 100 people there — the chairman of the mosque stood up and exposed him, warning against terrorism, suicide bombings and so on,” Latif said. “He knew it was directed at him. He stormed out of the mosque and was never seen again.”

The challenge of confronting extremists is highlighted in US embassy cables which warned of British Somalis returning to the UK after indulging in “jihadi tourism”. In a cable on 2 December 2009, a diplomat at the US embassy in Nairobi wrote: “There is believed to be a certain amount of so-called ‘jihadi tourism’ to southern Somalia by UK citizens of Somali ethnicity. The threat from Somalia is compounded by the fact that within East Africa there is a lack of local government recognition of the terrorist threat.”

The cable, which reported on a meeting between US and UK counter-terrorism officials in Addis Ababa last October, also found:..

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wikileaks: Italy Hails Assange Arrest

‘High time’ says Frattini

(ANSA) — Rome, December 7 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Tuesday welcomed the arrest in London of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on a Swedish warrant for alleged rape and sexual assault.

“It was high time, fortunately the international ring successfully closed in on him,” Frattini said of Assange, whose anti-secrecy website sparked a diplomatic firestorm last week by releasing a trove of secret United States cables.

“Assange has harmed international diplomatic relations and I hope he is questioned and tried as laid down in the law,” Frattini said.

Just before the WikiLeaks storm broke Frattini said it would be a “9/11 for international diplomacy”.

He later accused the Australian-born hacker and free-speech advocate of “trying to destroy the world”.

In Italy the leaked cables have stirred polemics over descriptions of Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s abilities, lifestyle and standing as well as his close ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Assange was brought before a London court Monday on charges stemming from complaints from two women in Sweden.

If the court rules the warrant is legally valid he could be extradited to Sweden but the process might take months.

In the meantime WikiLeaks said the arrest, which it called an attack on freedom of speech, would not stop it blowing the whistle whenever it obtained secret material.

Assange, who was refused bail, denies the charges.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Kosovo’s Mood of Optimism Turns to Disillusion

For the first time since its declaration of independence in 2008, Kosovo is on Sunday holding parliamentary elections.

According to the Swiss ambassador in Pristina, Lukas Beglinger, the country remains to a large extent dependent on foreign support.

Lukas Beglinger: The spirit of optimism in 2008 has given way to widespread disenchantment because the hopes that came with the declaration of independence, which in some cases were unrealistic, have only partly been fulfilled. In particular, the economic and social situation are precarious.

The population is mostly aware that the first national elections in independent Kosovo are an important political signal for the future of the young country.

L.B.: As we expected, Kosovo’s independence has had no significant impact on migration, either in one direction or another.

Switzerland’s major reconstruction aid after the war in Kosovo enabled the return of tens of thousands of Kosovan refugees. The vast majority of the Kosovan diaspora in Switzerland prefer to remain in our country. The number of those returning to Kosovo, several hundred each year, has remained stable in recent years.

There would need to be a radical improvement in the economic and social conditions in Kosovo to increase the willingness to return by the Kosovan diaspora and that has not happened yet.

The main reason why people come to Switzerland is that they want to join their relatives. Young people in Kosovo are still very likely to contemplate leaving because of the lack of economic and social prospects. And Switzerland, with its significant Kosovan disapora, is one of the countries that is favoured. Despite that, there is no appreciable increase in emigration to our country.

The Swiss ambassador in Kosovo, Lukas Beglinger (Keystone)

L.B.: It is first and foremost the job of Kosovo’s institutions and the people to be responsible for the rule of law, to fight corruption and promote the development of the economy and society.

As an important partner of Kosovo, Switzerland consciously puts a focus in its reconstruction aid on the following problem areas — reform of the penal and real estate systems, business done by lawyers, the training of authorities responsible for migration, police and civil services, vocational training, the modernisation of agriculture, employment schemes as well as water and electricity supply.

In addition Switzerland participates in the European Union’s Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (Eulex) and is working to conclude an investment protection accord with the country.

L.B.: Switzerland is considered in many cases a role model and stands for much of what Kosovan society would like to achieve.

Our support of infrastructure has produced concrete results, for example in the form of houses that have been rebuilt, access to clean drinking water for about 300,000 people and a sure supply of electricity in the provincial town of Gjilan.

Just as important are the fruits of our efforts in the so-called “software” sectors. About 4,000 vocational school students receive practice-orientated training, and local authorities do their jobs with improved skills.

We also promote the peaceful coexistence of different ethnic groups through appropriate legislation, political decentralisation and project work. We’re supporting the planned 2011 census in Kosovo and helping to finance an internet platform to mobilise the diaspora to foster the development of Kosovo.

L.B.: Kosovo is facing huge domestic and foreign policy challenges — for example, the development of a functioning rule of law that benefits all the country’s citizens and communities. Another is the establishment of a competitive economy that provides enough jobs for its growing population…

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

North Africa

Four Algerian Christians Convicted for Setting Up a Place of Worship Without a Permit

A Protestant clergyman and three of his parishioners were convicted on the basis of a controversial 2006 law that requires a permit to set up a place of worship. This is the first time the law is enforced; some believe it violates Algeria’s constitution.

Algiers (AsiaNews) — Four Algerian Muslim converts to Christians were convicted for setting up an illegal place of worship in Kabylia, a region in the eastern part of the country. This is the first conviction of its kind in Algeria. Although it was suspended, the sentence ranges from two to three months in prison.

Three of the men—Abdenour Raid, Nacer Mokrani and Idir Haoudj—got two months. The fourth man, Rev Mahmoud Yahou, was sentenced to three months in jail and a 1,000-dinar fine (US$ 125) for illegally sheltering a foreigner.

The trial was held in Larbaa Nath Irathen, in Tizi Ouzou province. The Prosecutor had asked for a year for each of the accused, who range between 35 and 45 in age.

In Algeria, a 2006 law requires that anyone who wants to set up a place of worship, whether for Muslims or non-Muslims, must obtain a permit, indicating the name of the place of worship as well as that of the preacher.

The four men were convicted of opening a Protestant church without a proper licence issued by the authority. However, Rev Yahou told French daily La Croix on 10 December that the accusation is absurd. “I have being welcoming foreign guests since 2003. They have all entered Algeria with a visa because I signed the accommodation certificate for them”.

According to some observers, this trial against Algeria’s Christian minority reflects a crackdown undertaken by Algerian government since February 2006 against non-Muslim religions. Since the 1990s, the country has been targeted by Islamic extremists.

Under the 2006 law, places of worship need a permit. “Undermining” Muslims’ faith and “inciting” them to convert are crimes (although no definition of them is given).

According to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (in power since 1999 and now on his third mandate), the 2006 law respects the Algerian constitution. Many observers disagree since it creates a grey area that allows the government and the police to move against religious minorities, despite the constitutional protection of religious freedom.

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

Tunisa: Intense Cold Front to Hit Tomorrow

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, DECEMBER 13 — A “wave of ice-cold weather”, as press agency TAP wrote, is expected to arrive in Tunisia overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday and will bring about “a significant decline in temperatures across the country on Wednesday and Thursday”. The low temperatures will be below zero degrees at altitudes above 500 meters, and 3 degrees in the other regions. The highs will range between 8 and 10 degrees, with peak temperatures of 4 degrees at higher altitudes. Rain and light snow is expected. These conditions will continue until Saturday, writes TAP. This type of weather is quite rare in Tunisia, since the average temperature in Tunis in December is a low of 7.2 degrees and 15.7 as a high. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Forecast for Israeli Border: Escalated Attacks

Israel has specific information indicating terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip or along the border with Egypt will escalate attacks against the Jewish state this week, particularly tomorrow as Hamas celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its founding, according to Israeli security officials.

A senior Egyptian intelligence official said his country is also on high alert, with the particular threat coming from al-Qaida-linked groups in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian Sinai neighbors Gaza.

Egypt is concerned Gaza is becoming one of three or four main regions in the world that is a sanctuary to al-Qaida, the Egyptian official said, adding, “We see in the Gaza Strip a huge base of al-Qaida elements.”

‘Peace partner’ funding ‘al-Qaida’

WND previously reported Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization has been providing financial support to al-Qaida allies in the Gaza Strip, including some of the most radical Islamist organizations in the territory, according to information obtained by WND.

Fatah, considered moderate by U.S. and Israeli policy, has been backing the al-Qaida allies in a bid to destabilize the rival Hamas’ leadership in Gaza. Hamas violently seized control of Gaza from Fatah in 2007, after Abbas unilaterally dismantled the democratically elected Hamas-led PA.

The last two years has evidenced a marked rise in the boldness of radical Islamist organizations in Gaza, particularly three groups: Jihadiya Salafiya (the Jihad of Ancestors), Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) and the Islamist Doghmosh clan.

The Doghmoshes lead Jaish al-Islam but also act independently as a clan. They achieved notoriety for the March 2007 abduction of BBC reporter Alan Johnston.

Jihadiya Salafiya in 2009 announced it established an armed wing, which it called the Damascus Soldiers, brandishing weapons in a public display in Gaza. All three Islamist organizations — Salafiya, Jaish and the Doghmosh clan — evidenced nfusions of weapons and have been openly challenging Hamas, according to Palestinian security sources in Gaza.

Unlike other radical Islamic organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which have demonstrated pragmatism in some aspects of political life while still holding an Islamist worldview, the three Gazan Islamist organizations in question believe in a strict interpretation of the Quran and that only the Quran can dictate how to act.

The three groups are openly identified with al-Qaida ideologically; they believe jihad is the primary way to spread Islam around the world, including jihad against secular Muslim states.

Hamas has in the past worked with the al-Qaida-allied groups in Gaza. It took credit along with Jaish al-Islam for the kidnapping in June 2006 of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

But Jihadiya Salifiya and Jaish al-Islam have been regularly publishing pamphlets labeling Hamas as “non-Muslim” since the terror group ran in 2006 democratic elections, which the Islamist organizations see as an expression of Western values. Also, al-Qaida leaders themselves have released audio tapes blasting Hamas for participating in elections and in the democratic process.

Hamas has several times engaged in heavy fire clashes with the Islamist organizations in Gaza.

According to informed security officials, some top members of Fatah have been funneling large quantities of cash to Jihadiya Salafiya, Jaish al-Islam and the Doghmoshes in a bid to build up the Islamist groups at the expense of Hamas.

The security officials said there was no official decision within Fatah to bolster the Islamist radicals, but that top Fatah officials were acting independently.

A previous perusal by WND of official Fatah websites, including Fatah news websites, found a strange phenomenon — Fatah was publishing the anti-Hamas pamphlets of the three Islamist organizations in question and also provided the al-Qaida-linked groups a platform to espouse their ideology. Fatah news websites have traditionally been more secularly oriented and have stayed away from promoting al-Qaida.

A senior source in Hamas’ Interior Ministry previously told WND that Hamas arrested a number of Fatah members in Gaza suspected of serving as links between the Islamist radicals and Fatah officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The Hamas source said Hamas’ Interior Ministry is contemplating the formation of an intelligence apparatus specifically to deal with the purported threat of Fatah backing al-Qaida-linked groups in Gaza.

Israeli security officials, previously speaking to WND, blasted Fatah for supporting radical Islamists.

“They are playing a dangerous, stupid game,” one top Israeli security official commented. “If they succeed in winning back Gaza, Fatah will have to contend with an al-Qaida territory.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Punch-Up Between Troops, ‘You’re Gay’, ‘You’re Arabs’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 8 — A recent slanging match between Israeli service personnel in which the words “gay” and “Arabs” were traded as insults turned into an out-and-out punch-up with knives being drawn and rifle butt blows to the head. The event was condemned today, not without a degree of embarrassment by the website of newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

The fray was sparked off by a small group of bullying young reservists who — in the middle of a military base — accused some of their fellow conscripts of being “gay” as they had recently agreed to forming part of a combat unit containing women soldiers. Words turned into deeds with punches being thrown until somebody grabbed hole of their service issue rifle and felled an opponent with a blow to the temple. As the victim fell to the ground unconscious, a shot was fired, but missed its target.

The reservists — who were outnumbered — managed to make their opponents back off by pointing their rifles directly at them, while one of the conscripts snapped: “But what do you think we are, Arabs?”. The incident was defined as undisciplined by a spokesperson and it is now the subject of an inquiry by the a military tribunal which is to be set up on the basis of martial law. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Thanks to International Aid, Gaza is Going to be a Well-Off Islamist Republic

By Barry Rubin

The Gaza Strip is doing really well economically and the Hamas regime seems set to go on forever. It’s raking in the aid money but every dollar and every project is shaped to ensure that Hamas remains in power, can return to violence in future and…wreck everything again.

“There are a slew of products here, and beautiful restaurants. Is this the Gaza we have been hearing about?” asked a Sudanese official arriving there, as quoted by the Palestinian news agency Maan. “Where is the siege? I don’t see it in Gaza. I wish Sudan’s residents could live under the conditions of the Gazan siege.”

So far there is not much building going on but just a lot of talk. The ground is being cleared for construction but building materials are lacking. The biggest single project right now is for water treatment under European guidance.

If Hamas were a normal government getting a rebuilding effort going would be great. By normal government I mean even a normal dictatorship. Such a regime would say:

We’re raising living standards, we’re increasing our popularity. Why should we be so foolish as to go to war against a stronger neighbor and see all of this destroyed again?

But, of course, Hamas is not a normal ruling group. It believes that the Creator of the Universe is on its side and wants it to fight. Hamas revels in martyrdom. It thinks total victory and the killing of all Israeli Jews is achievable. And it knows that the rest of the world won’t let it be fully defeated and thrown out of power no matter how many rockets, martyrs, and terrorist groups it sends into Israel.

As a dictatorial regime intending to control everything and stay in power forever, Hamas is locking the Gaza population into its patronage system, a sort of Islamist welfare state, so that people wouldn’t dare break with their rulers.

The main projected project: is building 25,000 new housing units in the northern Gaza Strip, just west of Beit Lahiya. Here’s how a business magazine explains it:

“The neighborhood…will be named after the residence of the 72 virgins waiting in paradise. The al-Buraq neighborhood, named after the horse Prophet Muhammad rode from Mecca to the al-Aqsa Mosque, will be built on the lands of Gush Katif. The Andalus neighborhood is aimed at reminding the Muslims of their days of glory in Spain.”

Let’s stop a minute and consider those names and what a reporter wouldn’t even notice here:…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Built by Monks, Nurtured by Pilgrims From India: Only Pre-Islamic Christian Site in Muslim Heartland Opens to Public

A 1,400-year-old monastery in the United Arab Emirates that is the only pre-Islamic Christian site in the region has opened to the public.

The site at Sir Bani Yas island in Abu Dhabi dates back to around 600AD. It was built by a community of 30 to 40 monks and is understood to have been established by pilgrims travelling from India.

The remains, which also include a church, chapel and tower, were unearthed in 1992 during an archaeological study. Excavations will continue as visitors come to the site with the first being allowed access on Saturday.

Project director Dr Joseph Elders told UAE-based newspaper The National: ‘Opening the site to visitors marks an exciting tourism development for the island as we seek to discover and share more about the past lives and human stories that have played their part in creating its fascinating history.’

‘Twenty years ago, we had no idea that Christians came this far south and east in the Arabian Gulf.

‘This shows that Christianity had penetrated far further than we thought before… We don’t have many monasteries from this period.’

Christianity spread through the Gulf between the years 50 and 350, with the monastery’s inhabitants probably being members of the Nestorian Church.


Dr Elders continued: ‘The small Sir Bani Yas Island settlement continued to operate even after the spread of Islam throughout the Gulf. That is a testament to the open-mindedness of the time.

‘That the monastery continued for at least a century after the arrival of Islam shows that tolerance of the Muslims quite close to their heartland.’

‘We know that there are stories of everyone living in harmony.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jordan Rejects Islamist Fatwa Over Afghan War

The Jordanian government said on Monday that a fatwa issued by the Islamist opposition barring Muslims from assisting US and NATO troops in Afghanistan was “offensive.” “The government rejects the fatwa because it is offensive to the significant armed forces’ role in providing medical and humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and helping preserve their country’s security and stability,” Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi said in a statement. “Jordan is proud of its armed forces and security apparatuses as well as their roles in Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip or any other place in the Arab and Muslim worlds.” The powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF) said in the non-binding religious edict on Sunday that “sending troops to help NATO and America in Afghanistan or any other country is forbidden.” “Muslims are not allowed to support non-Muslims in their aggression against other Muslims. Afghanistan is a Muslim country,” added the IAF, the political arm of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood. But Safadi, who is also government spokesman, insisted that Jordan “will continue to assist all brothers, including the Afghan people, in facing challenges. “Nobody is allowed to offend Jordan by making irresponsible remarks and positions that seek to tarnish its role and the role of its armed forces,” he said. “Jordan will do whatever it takes to protect itself and protect Jordanians and their safety and security.” Jordan, a key US ally, has acknowledged it had a counter-terrorism role in Afghanistan after the death in a January suicide bombing of a senior intelligence officer who was also a member of the royal family. His death, along with seven US Central Intelligence Agency personnel, spotlighted for the first time Jordan’s role in the international coalition in the war-hit country.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Manouchehr Mottaki Fired From Iran Foreign Minister Job

Iran’s president has fired Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in part of a perceived power struggle in Tehran.

Initial reports gave no reason for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision.

There had been no indication that Mr Mottaki, a key figure in Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the West, was about to lose his job.

Mr Ahmadinejad has appointed the country’s top nuclear official, Ali Akbar Salehi, to replace Mr Mottaki in a caretaker capacity.

“I appreciate your diligence and services as the foreign minister,” said Mr Ahmadinejad in a letter to Mr Mottaki, Mehr news agency reported.

Mr Mottaki, who is currently in Senegal on an official visit, was appointed foreign minister in 2005.

UN sanctions

Analysts say Mr Mottaki’s dismissal may be part of a political power play between conservatives and liberals in Iran.

There has been mutual distrust between the president and Mr Mottaki since the 2005 election that brought Mr Ahmadinejad to power: Mr Mottaki was the campaign manager for one of Mr Ahmadinejad’s rivals, Ali Larijani.

Mr Mottaki and Mr Larijani are often described as part of a pragmatic conservative bloc that believes the president’s inflammatory speeches and radical agenda have made Iran more vulnerable.

Relations worsened when Mr Ahmadinejad’s plans for presidential envoys stationed abroad were vetoed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei over the foreign ministry’s concerns it would create a parallel diplomatic service.

Mr Mottaki had faced criticism in Iran over the international pressure on the country to halt its nuclear enrichment programme.

A fourth round of UN Security Council sanctions was imposed in June.

But recently concluded talks in Geneva ended with an agreement to hold more talks in Istanbul next month.

Iran insists it wants only atomic energy but a number of Western countries suspect it of trying to build nuclear weapons.

A well-known figure inside Iran, Mr Salehi led the early response to the fatal attacks in Tehran two weeks ago on two prominent nuclear scientists.

Mr Salehi now gets to take his enthusiastic support of Iran’s nuclear ambitions on to a wider stage, analysts say.

Talks ‘must continue’

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Iran to continue negotiations over its nuclear programme, saying the dismissal should not cause “an interruption or a delay in the talks”.

“The talks have started and they must continue, whatever the political make-up may be,” AFP news agency quoted Mr Westerwelle as saying ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

Germany has been involved in the Geneva talks along with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, UK, China, France and Russia.

Neither Mr Mottaki nor Mr Salehi was part of the Iranian negotiating team in Switzerland, which was headed by the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.

A career diplomat, the 57-year-old speaks fluent English, Turkish and Urdu, and gained a postgraduate degree in international relations from Tehran University in 1991.

His departure from the foreign ministry rids President Ahmadinejad of a critic at close quarters, analysts say, but the move may yet cause problems in a parliament that is increasingly unhappy with its presidency.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber Kills 2 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq

An Iraqi official says a suicide bomber has killed two Shiite pilgrims north of Baghdad during an important religious ritual for the Muslim sect.

Mohammed Maarouf, the mayor of Balad Ruz town in the northern Diyala province, says the bomber detonated an explosives belt during a body check and killed the policeman searching him and a woman standing nearby. Thirteen people were injured, Maarouf said.

Diyala police spokesman, Maj. Ghalib al-Karkhi, confirmed the death toll.

The ritual, known as Ashoura, marks the anniversary of the 7th century death of Imam Hussein. His death in a battle sealed Islam’s historic Sunni-Shiite split.

The ancient divide has provided the backdrop for Iraq’s sectarian bloodshed after the 2003 U.S.-led war.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Ankara Police Target Families With Children in Restaurant Raids

Police in Ankara have raided several restaurants selling alcohol beverages and filed incident reports about families dining in the establishments with their children, media reports said Sunday.

The head of the Ankara Bar, Metin Feyzioglu, said he was nearly detained himself after he had gone to a local restaurant.

“I went to a decent restaurant on Çayyolu Park Avenue. All the tables were full of families. It was around 8:30 p.m. Four or five people in plain clothes entered and approached tables with children. They gathered IDs,” Feyzioglu said, daily Milliyet reported.

“All the cradles of filth, the places selling women are shuttered and it is now time to save children in family restaurants from their own families in the restaurant,” Feyzioglu said sarcastically. He accused police of creating pressure on people with different lifestyles.

The police then began to write reports on the children. Citing a regulation from 1930, police told Feyzioglu that children can only enter restaurants with their families if the restaurant’s license to sell alcoholic beverages is from the Tourism Ministry. If the restaurant’s license is from the municipality, children cannot enter even if they are with their families, police said.

The Ankara police chief, talking to daily Hürriyet, said he had warned his colleagues against the raid.

“Unfortunately we have had this kind of incident. We all go to these kinds of restaurants and sit with our kids,” Police Chief Zeki Çatalkaya said, adding that although preventing the abuse of children through police checks was lawful, it was not the force’s priority to check the kinds of places that are publicly known and attract families.

“Although it is lawful, I do not approve of my officers going there,” he said, adding that he rejected criticism that police were aiming to put pressure on the locations. “Neither I nor my organization have any aim of deterring families from frequenting those kind of places.”

Several restaurants on Çayyolu Park Avenue have complained about similar practices. “Police have been coming to check whether children are present once a week. They came [Friday] too. It is forbidden to have children here. Children want to celebrate their birthdays here, but it is not possible,” said Halil Yavuz, the owner of Mozzoy Café.

Ahmet Yorganci, the manager of Escape, said they had been subjected to frequent pressure. “The police always come. They want IDs and do background checks on children although they are with their families. We had a similar case on Friday too. Six police came and brought those who did not have their IDs to the police station. They fined them 60 [Turkish] Liras.”

The manager of Taps Brewery, on the other hand, said they did not allow children below the age of 18 to enter the bar. “A crowded group of police came in for the first time on Friday. They asked for IDs and background checks,” said Metin Tunç. “I do not feel any pressure.”

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

Turkey: Christian Grave Not Wanted in Bodrum Graveyard

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 10 — “Graveyard shame” is the title with which Hurriyet daily newspaper gives today extensive front-page coverage to reports that a retired foreign diplomat who passed away in the resort of Bodrum was buried outside the graveyard for Muslims. Hans Himmelbachi a Canadian diplomat of German origin, moved to Bodrum after his retirement in 2004. He passed away on October 20, and in line with his will, he was buried in Bodrum. However, last week Himmelbach’s widow was shocked to learn that she had to move the grave of her husband because owners of neighbor graves didn’t want a Christian buried near their loved ones. The grave of the retired diplomat has been moved to an unused part of the graveyard, Hurriyet wrote. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Russian Islam: The Flop of Financing Terrorism

In 20 years Russia has been flooded with funds from abroad to spread terrorism in the Federation. But the money was diverted to villas and luxury cars. The view of an expert.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Over the past 20 years, billions of dollars sent from abroad for the radicalization of Islam in Russia have been squandered. This is according to one of the most famous Russian sociologists and experts in Islam, Roman Silantyev in a recent article on the Journalist Against Terror website.

“Thank God, more than 90% of funds allocated for the spread of wahhabism among the Muslims of Russia have been used for other purposes. Instead of hundreds of centres for training terrorists and their accomplices, the establishment of newspapers and websites, that money was used to build resorts and villas, luxury apartments and to buy cars”, writes Silantyev, also a former Executive Secretary Interreligious Council of Russia.

Considering the wide dissemination in the country of “aggressive Islamic sects — notes sociologist — we can only imagine what would have happened if the Russian partner of al-Qaeda had not been a spendthrift.”

The article cites information from Russian intelligence, according to which 60 Islamic extremist organizations, about 100 companies and 10 foreign commercial banks have financed the terrorist groups in the Federation. Among the organizations mentioned, Al-Haramain, Islamic Relief, Taiba, Al-IGAS, Assembly of Muslim Youth, Revival of Islamic Heritage, Social Reform Society, Qatar Charitable Society.

“The exact amount allocated to these groups is not known — says the expert -. But the approximate volume of investments of terror can be estimated at around 10 billion dollars since 1990. Thousands of people have received money to establish control of the Russian Muslim elite, to penetrate the highest levels of power and form an influential lobby with the aim of bringing extremism to the faith communities in some regions, alienate the population from the idea of nationhood and establish large-scale anti-government activities and proselytizing among the citizens of Islamic faith”.

“Comparing the volume of funds transferred to the number of mosques or Islamic centres that have been opened — says Silantyev — we can safely say that most of that money is not used for the intended purpose.” This can be explained “not only by the ingenuity of the foreign ‘philanthropists’ , but also by the presence of different mediators for the delivery of the funds who have duped the donors.”

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

Soller Chief Said Fiat Venture on Track to Make 500,000 Cars

Moscow, 6 Dec. (AKI) — Russian car maker Sollers’ chief executive officer Vadim Shvetsov confirmed the company’s venture with Fiat will eventually produce 500,000 vehicles a year.

The 50-50 partnership, funded by Russian development bank VEB, will make 300,000 vehicles a year in the fist stage of production, later increasing that to 500,000 , Shvetsov told reporters in Khabarovsk on the Chinese border on Monday.

Fiat and Sollers in February created a 2.4 billion-euro joint venture in Russia saying forecasting production of up to half-a-million cars a year by 2016.

The partnership is supported by a 1.2 billion- euro loan backed by the Russian government, with the carmakers contributing technology and production capacity, the companies

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

South Asia

Afghan Bombs Kill, Wound 3,800 Troops in 2010

How dangerous have the Taliban’s crude, cheap homemade bombs become? One awful measure came Sunday, when they drove a van full of explosives into a military base in southern Afghanistan, killing six U.S. soldiers. Another is this: The jury-rigged bombs have killed and wounded about a thousand more allied troops this year than in 2009.

Later this week, the White House will release its assessment of the war’s fortunes. And while Defense Secretary Gates said last week that the 2010 troop surge “reversed” the Taliban’s momentum, it hasn’t rolled back the insurgents’ ability to wreak havoc with improvised explosives.

They’ve been building bombs at a far faster clip, and even if they’ve not been able to kill people with them as efficiently as they used to, they’re killing and maiming more people with them. Nearly as many Afghan civilians have died this year from the bombs as last year — a big, flashing warning sign for the war. If this is reversing Taliban momentum, it would be scary to see what their unbroken momentum would look like.

Danger Room acquired these and other figures from the Pentagon’s bomb squad, known as JIEDDO, which provided us with stats on improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan from 2005 to this November.

The figures don’t distinguish between U.S. and allied troops. But they provide perhaps the most comprehensive public look to date into how deadly Afghanistan’s fertilizer-based bombs are. They killed two-thirds of the approximately 2050 U.S. and allied troops who’ve died in action in Afghanistan in the past five years.

The most recent casualty figures are especially striking. With a month left to go in 2010, improvised explosive devices have killed 413 NATO troops and wounded 3,400, for a total of 3,813 casualties. That’s about 1,000 more dead and wounded — an increase of over a third — than the toll from last year, when bombs took 2,785 allied victims. The bombs have killed and maimed 2,484 Afghan soldiers and cops so far this year, 32 more than in 2009.

The bombs’ toll on Afghan troops and civilians have been far more severe.

JIEDDO’s figures show that improvised explosive devices have killed 4,208 Afghan civilians since 2005, with nearly a quarter of those — 1,065 — dying this year. If current rates of civilian casualties hold, there will be as many civilian deaths from the bombs as last year, when 1,119 Afghans died. That’s not a positive sign for a war strategy predicated on protecting Afghans from harm.

From the perspective of troops tasked with stopping the bombs, the jump in bomb “events” — those that cause harm and those that don’t — has been huge. In 2005, there were 465 bombs reported by the military, a figure that’s risen every subsequent year. Last year, that grew to 8,894 events, before spiking at 13,481 with a month to go this year. That’s a growth of more than 50 percent in just one year.

But the bombs’ lethality has decreased. In 2008, 4,061 insurgent bombs killed and wounded 5,059 NATO and Afghan troops and civilians — about 12.5 casualties for every 10 bombs. And for each of the previous three years, there had been more casualties than bombs. But that flipped last year, when 8,894 bombs killed or wounded only 8,611 people. So far this year, the bombs’ effectiveness rate has been even worse, causing 9,488 victims despite more 13,000 bombs, or about seven casualties for every 10 bombs.

That indicates that JIEDDO has a point when it told Danger Room on Wednesday that homemade bombs have recently gotten less potent. The provided statistics don’t allow for an apples-to-apples comparison of the bomb squad’s claim that the bombs have only been about 20 percent effective in the latter half of 2010.

But it’s possible to draw some related conclusions. In November 2010, NATO bomb squads detected 933 bombs early, out of 1,507 attacks, for a successful detection rate of 61 percent. JIEDDO figures show 52 percent of this year’s 13,481 bombs were detected early. In 2009, that rate was just under 51 percent. The year before, it was 49 percent…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Bomb Rips Through Pakistani School Bus

A bomb struck a Pakistani school bus on Monday, killing a mechanic and wounding two children as they were being dropped home after class in the northwestern city of Peshawar, police said. It was the fifth bombing in Pakistan since last Monday as the nuclear-armed country steps up security for the holy month of Muharram, which typically sees a rise in sectarian tensions and attacks on Shiite Muslim religious parades. The explosion ripped through the congested Bhana Marri area on the outskirts of Peshawar, a city that runs into Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt that Washington brands the most dangerous region in the world and an Al-Qaeda hub. Police said initially that the bus driver was killed, but later identified the dead man as a mechanic whose workshop was nearby. The driver was among up to four people treated for injuries after the attack. “My house was nearby and I was standing up to get down when there was a deafening explosion. I saw a fireball and heard the explosion. I didn’t know what happened after that,” said nine-year-old Imam Gulzar. The fourth-grader spoke to AFP at Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, where she was being treated for minor injuries. The windows of the bus from the Islamia Model School — a fee-paying English-language school — were punched out in the blast, the vehicle blackened by fire and a nearby shop damaged in the blast, said an AFP reporter. Driver Gohar Ali said there were only two girls left on the bus because all the others had already been taken home. “While I was en route to drop off the last two, there was a blast on my right-hand side. I heard it and then passed out. I don’t know what happened after that,” he said. City police chief Liaquat Ali Khan told AFP that a motor mechanic was killed and two children wounded in the blast. Administration official Siraj Ahmad said the bomb was a crudely made device similar to those used to deadly effect by Taliban militants against US troops in neighbouring Afghanistan and government troops in northwest Pakistan. “It was a roadside explosion caused by an IED (improvised explosive device). The school bus was very close by, that’s why it damaged the bus,” Ahmad said. “The bomb was planted (on the roadside) but we’re investigating what the real target was, because police also patrol this area,” police official Mohammad Ijaz Khan told reporters. Around 4,000 people have died in suicide and bomb attacks across Pakistan since government forces raided an extremist mosque in Islamabad in 2007. The attacks have been blamed on terror networks linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. On Monday, gunmen also shot dead two Pakistani police brothers in the northwestern district of Charsadda, the second double shooting in two days. Pakistan has stepped up security across the country, and the northwest in particular, for Muharram, which began last week. The first month of the Islamic year usually sees tensions rise between Pakistan’s majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslim communities.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Embattled Indonesian Christians Seek Protection

Indonesian Christians appealed to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for protection on Monday after Muslim vigilante groups, backed by police, surrounded their homes and forced them to leave. More than 100 members of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) were forced to evacuate seven houses in Rancaekek Wetan village outside Jakarta on Sunday as Muslims staged angry protests over unauthorised religious services. The Christians say they have been forced to hold services inside their homes because the local government has repeatedly knocked back and ignored requests to approve a church or authorise another venue for their place of worship. The protesters included members of violent Islamist vigilante groups that have close ties to the security forces in the Muslim-majority country. “The situation was quite tense yesterday. If we didn’t ask them (the Christians) to leave, there would have been bad consequences. We tried to avoid any destruction or physical attacks,” local police chief Hendro Pandowo said. “They don’t have any permit to use the houses as places of worship. We can’t arrest (the Muslims) as they got a permit to hold the protest.” He added: “If the place was legally designated as a church, we’d provide security protection. Otherwise, we can’t do much as it’s against the law.” HKBP Reverend Hutagalung said the Christians would continue to worship in their houses and urged Yudhoyono to uphold religious freedoms enshrined in the country’s constitution. “We’ll continue to worship there whatever the consequences,” he told AFP. “We want President Yudhoyono to give us a guarantee that we’ll be able to practise our faith freely without any intimidation from other groups.” Sunday’s incident is the latest in a series of confrontations between Protestants and Muslims in the Bandung and Bekasi areas near Jakarta in recent months, including the stabbing and beating up of church leaders. The unresolved tensions — and Yudhoyono’s failure to rein in violent extremist groups — have undermined the country’s reputation for tolerance, which US President Barack Obama held up as “Indonesia?s example to the world” during a visit in October. Police last week said they were on alert for terrorist attacks against Christians over the Christmas period. The warning came after a crude homemade bomb exploded without causing any harm at a church near Solo in central Java on Tuesday and another unexploded device was found at a church in the same area a week earlier. Although the constitution gives an equal footing to six state religions including Protestantism, laws make it difficult for faiths other than Islam to establish houses of worship. Rights groups say religious intolerance is on the rise in Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim majority, citing the persecution of the minority Muslim Ahmadiyah sect and the torching and damaging of churches. “Hard-line groups, it seems, have been given free rein to take the law into their own hands,” the Jakarta Globe English-language daily complained in an editorial, warning that religious conflicts risked getting “out of hand”.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Life Among U.S. Enemies: Embedded With the Taliban

Rarely seen by outsiders, the daily life of a regional Taliban commander named Dawran and his militant fighters is dominated by extremes: love and war, attack and retreat, life and death. For nine days in October 2009, Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal was behind the lines with the Taliban, embedded as no Western filmmaker before him. And he was there to witness firsthand the jarring juxtapositions in Dawran’s life, at turns — directing an attack against U.S. forces in Afghanistan’s treacherous mountains — then hours later at home, a father playing with his children. To capture these intimate and unprecedented images, Refsdal risked his life to embed with Dawran and his fighters in Kunar Province — the northeastern region where al Qaeda is active and Osama bin Laden was once rumored to be hiding. Q&A: Kidnapped by the Taliban Refsdal said he doesn’t know the number of militants under Dawran’s command, but included in their ranks is another of Dawran’s sons — a boy 12 or 13 years old. The son carries a machine gun nearly as large as he is, Refsdal said. “For Dawran … it’s not something bad to send your … son out to fight,” he told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, because Dawran believes that “… his son will come to heaven when and if he dies in this war.” There are many different groups that make up the Taliban, and they are fighting for many different reasons. Dawran says he and his men joined the Taliban to drive out foreign forces from his district. “We fight for our freedom, our religion, our honor and we fight for our land,” Dawran tells Refsdal. Commanding his forces from a house built of stone and clay, he says he relies on contributions to fund his operation. Firm casualty figures for both sides in the decade-long war are hard to come by. It’s not known how many Taliban forces have been killed fighting U.S.-led coalition forces. According to the Pentagon, more than 2,200 coalition troops have died in Afghanistan since U.S. forces invaded in response to the 9/11 attacks. More than 1,400 Americans are among those coalition deaths. As he urges his fighters to battle, Dawran questions coalition motives. “For what purpose are they fighting us?” asks Dawran. “Are they oppressed? Have they been treated unfair? Are they living in a dictatorship?” Oppression is an accusation critics have aimed at the Taliban for decades. They rule their lives by an extremely strict interpretation of Islam. In places under their control, women shroud their faces and bodies in burqas and girls are forbidden to attend school. “There is nothing that Islam does not have the solution for,” Abdul Rahman, a local Taliban judge, explains to Refsdal. “If a person cuts off another person’s hand, then according to Islamic law, you have the right to retaliate and cut his hand off. It’s the same with the ears, the teeth the eyes and the nose.” The Taliban government ruled Afghanistan — and gave safe harbor to al Qaeda terrorist training camps — from the mid-1990s until 2001. Leaders refused to extradite bin Laden, prompting the U.S. invasion which toppled the Taliban government and made way for national elections. A decade later, Dawran’s fighters march through Kunar’s difficult terrain with heavy firearms and bandoliers of ammunition slung across their shoulders. Some wear traditional Afghan clothing and others dress in camouflage military fatigues as they trudge across canyons dotted with rocks, small trees and scrubby vegetation. As Refsdal films, Dawran directs an attack on U.S. troops, coordinating the operation by hand-held radio from a mountain perch overlooking a valley road hundreds of feet below. Eighty holy warriors are participating in this assault, Dawran says. They’ve taken positions in eight different places in groups of ten men each. “Attack, attack, with the help of God!” Dawran shouts into his radio. “You hit the vehicle, you hit it!” But did the fighters damage a vehicle or kill coalition forces as they thought? The answer seems to be no. Apparently, the attack wasn’t even worthy of a report. CNN contacted coalition headquarters. A U.S. press officer searched through 1,800 reports from October 2009 and said, “To be clear: we have no reports of any Taliban attacks in that area during the timeframe given.” As the attack ends, the sound of gunfire echoes across the valley, a plume of smoke rising in the distance. “Taliban are like most Muslim insurgents,” said Refsdal. “When they have spare time, they read the Quran. They don’t train. From what I could see from the firing they were not very accurate.” He acknowledges that he expects criticism for being embedded with fighters trying to ambush coalition forces. “I understand that this is very emotional for people — especially people in the armed forces,” Refsdal told Cooper. “I’m a journalist, I just film what happened.” The war has become “routine” for this band of Taliban fighters, said Refsdal. “They do an ambush and then spend the rest of the day sitting around gossiping on the radio. They sit, they drink a lot of tea and they have some games they are playing.” One of the games is a simple rock throwing contest. Standing in a relatively flat clearing, the men square off to see who can throw heavy rocks the farthest. Most use a two-handed thrust-from-the-chest technique. In the end, the commander wins. “This is everyday life,” Refsdal told Cooper. “This is the Taliban.” One day, Refsdal notices Dawran is nervous about a suspicious plane flying over the Taliban fighter’s hideout. The commander orders Refsdal to remain inside. Later, Refsdal hears gunfire. Dawran knocks at the door telling Refsdal to get out immediately. “Leave your things,” the commander says. “Run.” “We found an old abandoned shed and we slept there during the night” as the gunfire continued, said Refsdal. By daybreak Refsdal is told that a dozen people — including Dawran’s top lieutenant — had been killed in a Special Forces raid. Refsdal finds Dawran “crying like a kid” over his lost men. Later, Dawran flees with his family, fearing for his life. Refsdal knows that the images he captured will be surprising to many — and disturbing to some. But he feels confident that the images are authentic, not an attempt at propaganda. If the Taliban wanted to create propaganda, they would demonstrate a show of strength — not their softer side, he said. “Showing them[selves] as humans, they don’t understand any purpose of that.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Muslims and Catholics Together to Save the Life of Rizana Nafeek

The girl has been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, accused of murdering an infant, son of the woman that Rizana worked for. In three mosques meetings were organized to pray and sign the “Save Rizana” petition. The signatures will be sent to the king of Saudi Arabia, hoping he will grant clemency for the girl. Since 2007, Fr. Sigamony, national director of Caritas Sri Lanka, has been working for the release of Rizana.

Colombo (AsiaNews) — In Sri Lanka Muslims and Catholics are mobilizing together to save the life of Rizana Nafeek, the Muslim maid sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia for the alleged murder of a newborn. Yesterday, three mosques in the district of Galle in southern Sri Lanka, hosted prayers in for the girl, and organized a petition to be sent to King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, asking him to grant a pardon and save the life of the young Sinhalese woman.

Fr. George Sigamony, national director of Caritas Sri Lanka, has been working for the release of Rizana since 2007. Since the beginning of this case, he has appealed to all Catholics to pray for the salvation of the girl.

In Galle on 10 December last — the World Day for Human Rights — the imams of three other mosques have shown their solidarity by dedicating a few minutes of the noon prayer for Rizana. They also signed the petition to be sent to the Saudi king. On the same day, many Catholics went to the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Jael (Gampaha District) for the weekly novena and signed the “Save Rizana” petition.

A statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission (Ahcr), released today, said that “A campaign entitled” Save Rizana “, organized by Janasansadaya and Ahcr was launched in Galle 10 December 2010, the World Day for Human Rights “. According to that statement, more than 1,500 people participated in this campaign.

The Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has officially asked for a pardon for Rizana, according to an announcement released by the presidential secretariat.

Rizana Nafeek has been locked in a Saudi prison since 2005. The Sinhalese girl, originally from a poor family in the village of Mutur (the eastern district of Trincomalee), had arrived in Saudi Arabia at just 17 years — with a false passport — to work as a maid. If the sentence is confirmed by the king, she could be executed at any time.

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

The Relentless Rise of Islamic Militants in Pakistan: Up in the Air

Zahid Hussain paints a harrowing picture of the country as an almost anarchic state as military operations, peace deals and negotiations fail to prevent attacks on civilian, government and military targets. The Scorpion’s Tail also looks at developments in the United States-Pakistan relationship and the “strategic depth” mantra that has been a part of Pakistan’s policy on Afghanistan for years but without any major insights. The book could have been a more thrilling read if certain moments that are mentioned in passing had been described in greater detail. There are a few exciting incidents one wishes Hussain had expanded on, such as meeting Jalaluddin Haqqani in 1989. The other incident, which Hussain describes as “shocking”, is when he attended a gathering hosted by Malakand division commissioner Syed Mohammad Javed in April 2009, “which was apparently a celebration of Taliban takeover in the region”. Hussain witnesses regional government officials meeting senior Taliban commanders, including Faqir Mohammad, at the event and writes, “The presence of one of the most wanted militant leaders at the official residence of a top regional bureaucrat when thousands of army soldiers were engaged in bloody war against his men in Bajaur was astonishing.” However, The Scorpion’s Tail seems to have followed the pattern of ‘cram all major events into one book and publish it’ that have been a signature of several books, such as Imtiaz Gul’s The Al Qaeda Connection, that have been published recently about militant groups in Pakistan. They serve as a handy reference for those unacquainted with Google, but provide little depth and analysis. For a reporter of Hussain’s stature, it is surprising that the details of his reportage and on-the-ground analysis are largely missing from his book. The Scorpion’s Tail reads like an expanded timeline of major terrorist attacks and military operations in Pakistan in the past few years. Everything from the Swat operation to the Lal Masjid saga to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the attack on the Pakistan Army’s headquarters makes an appearance. An in-depth look at any of the attacks Hussain has reported on and mentioned in the book would have sufficed for a reader who is interested in and follows developments in the region, and would have made The Scorpion’s Tail a must-read.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Vigilante Jihad: Inside Indonesia’s Islamic Defenders Front

It is forever dark in the core of Jembatan Besi, one of Jakarta’s most crowded slums. Even at high noon, only a narrow band of sunlight glows above a five-story canyon formed by closely built cement dwellings.

To slip into the narrowest walkways — crevices, really — locals must twist their bodies and shimmy sideways. Fluorescent lamps, slung from extension cords, light their path.

Still, according to the neighborhood holy man, it used to be worse. The crowding and poverty was once compounded by wickedness.

After the three-decade reign of strongman Gen. Suharto came to an end 12 years ago, society went wild with freedom, said Tubagus Muhammed Siddiq, 53, a white-robed Islamic scholar and Jembatan Besi native.

Throughout the island of Java, he said, prostitution, gambling and boozing crept from the shadows and into the streets. Inept police did nothing, he said.

“My neighborhood was one of the worst. Three straight blocks of gambling and drinking.” Siddiq said. “We had no choice. We were forced to jihad.”

With other fundamentalists around the city, Siddiq co-founded a vigilante network called the “Islamic Defenders Front.” Their legions of young, Muslim males torched brothels, ordered drinkers off the corners and beat back resisters with wooden rods.

Today, the Islamic Defenders Front is much more than a glorified neighborhood watch. They have positioned themselves as Indonesia’s moral police — a self-proclaimed, 15-million strong “pressure group” — sworn to rid Indonesia of sin.

“Society is diseased. Diseased with a social infection that violates Shariah,” Siddiq said in reference to Islamic law.

Indonesia is the world’s most-populous Muslim-majority nation, considered a leading light of moderate Islam by U.S. President Barack Obama, who spent four years in Jakarta as a child. Under its young democracy, the country has enjoyed more modernity, more transparency and a rising middle class.

But that same newfound freedom has tested it’s religious pluralism, which many Indonesians say is their country’s greatest strength.

“After evening prayers, they’d keep sweeping the city until dawn. It was a sort of dark justice.” — Jajang Jahroni, Islamic scholar

Freedom has allowed a hardline minority to seize the soapbox and harness the fury of Muslims distressed by rapid modernization. Their rank-and-file are young, low-income Muslim males compelled by the romance of jihad. The tolerant brand of Indonesian Islam extolled by the West is, in their eyes, simply more tolerant of evil.

Their targets? Nightclubs. Churches. Liberal Muslims. Embassies of foreign nations considered hostile to Islam.

In the last six months alone, the Islamic Defenders Front has successfully rallied to imprison the editor of Indonesia’s very tame version of Playboy Magazine, stabbed a Christian pastor nearly to death and raided Asia’s largest gay film festival in Jakarta.

The well-publicized mob attacks, led by hooded men shouting Arabic battle cries and glaring through ragged eyeholes, have become routine in Jakarta.

“We fear for Indonesia’s future,” Siddiq said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

Vietnam: Montagnards in Prayer Beaten and Threatened by Police

Hundreds of police attacked hundreds of Catholics of the Degar ethnic group. 22 were wounded; many fled into the forest and are now being hunted. Inhabitants were ordered not to speak of the episode.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) — The toll from an attack by hundreds of police on a group of about one hundred ethnic Degar Vietnamese Catholics gathered in prayer is 22 wounded. There are about one million Vietnamese ethnic Degar, mostly Christians. Catholics are about 200 thousand.

According to reports by the Montagnard Foundation, the attack took place on November 11 in the village of Ploi Kret Krot, in Gia Lai province, bordering Cambodia, where similar events had already occurred twice in the villages of Ploi Kuk Kong and Ploi Kuk Dak.

In the latest attack, the faithful had gathered in prayer in the open air, when police officers ordered to disperse. On replying that they were not committing any crime, the police attacked them, beating men, women and children with sticks, even electric batons, and seizing their crosses, images of the Virgin and other religious objects. Some people fled into the forest.

Among the 22 injured, nine were unconscious. A man, A Bom, 50, has been left crippled The officials have also threatened to arrest residents if they had reported the incident to the foreign media.

Those who fled are still hidden, while the police hunts them down, patrolling the village and forcing residents to stay indoors.

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

Australia — Pacific

Mosque Plans Get the Boot

Mosque plans scuttled thanks to protests in Worongary

A couple of Gold Coast sites are being considered for a planned mosque after Worongary locals said they didn’t want it.

Council received hundreds of objections from concerned residents and finally voted no on Friday. A majority were worried that the site wouldn’t be large enough and that such a development would cause traffic congestion.

Carrara and Mudgeeraba will now be considered as possible alternatives. That would mean the land would need to be bought by the Islamic Multicultural Association.

Negotiations have dragged on for three years now.

For more on this story visit the Gold Coast Bulletin.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Genocide Continues as Sudan’s Indicted Leader Games World — ICC Prosecutor

“The Government of Sudan is not cooperating with the Court and has conducted no national proceedings against those responsible for the crimes committed,” Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told the Security Council.

He noted that in just the last six months, hundreds of civilians in the Darfur region were killed and hundreds of thousands forcibly displaced, while more than 2 million people suffer a subtle form of genocide — genocide by rape and fear.

“President al-Bashir, in accordance with the chamber’s findings, issued the criminal orders to attack civilians and destroy their communities. Logically, President al-Bashir does not want to investigate those who are following his orders. President al-Bashir is using his promises of justice to manipulate the international community and cover up the crimes.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Sudan Investigates Case of Woman Seen Being Flogged on YouTube Clip

Footage sparks international condemnation as police laugh and joke as they administer whipping to screaming woman

Sudan’s judiciary has launched an investigation into the public flogging of a woman after footage of her being whipped by laughing policemen was posted to the internet.

The YouTube video shows an unidentified woman in a long black dress and a headscarf being ordered to sit down in a parking lot (Warning: Video contains graphic images of violence some may find disturbing).

A uniformed policeman proceeds to whip her all over her body as she screams in pain. A second officer laughs when he realises he is being filmed, before joining in the punishment, which lasts a minute and a half.

Flogging is relatively common is northern Sudan, where sharia law is often enforced arbitrarily. But the cruel, nonchalant behaviour of the security forces amid the distress of the victim in this case caused a stir in the country and the diaspora, and even attracted condemnation in some pro-government newspapers.

Initially Sudan’s deputy police chief, Adel Al-Agib, tried to downplay the incident, saying that the footage was circulated in order to damage the image of the country, according to the Sudan Tribune newspaper.

But the judicial authority, which oversees the legal system, released a statement yesterday saying it had launched an official inquiry to see if the punishment had been administered improperly.

“The investigation was started immediately after the images of the young woman, being punished under Articles 154 and 155 of the 1991 Sudanese penal code, appeared on the internet,” the judiciary said in a statement, according to state media.

These articles allow up to 100 lashes for adultery and running a brothel, in addition to a jail sentence. In this case the woman’s alleged crime is not known, although comments on social media sites suggest it could have been the wearing of trousers, which has in the past been judged to violate a law governing “indecent or immoral dress”.

In the subtitles on the clip, a policeman can be heard telling the women that her punishment is 53 lashes, and that she will be jailed for two years if she does not submit to the flogging. Another voice says the woman should comply because “we want to go [home]”.

During her ordeal, which was witnessed by numerous passers-by, the victim shouts repeatedly for her mother and grabs one the whips of one of the policeman in a vain attempt to stop the beating. The case follows the well-publicised trial last year of Lubna Hussein, a UN worker who was arrested with a dozen other women for wearing trousers at a party in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

While most of the women accepted the punishment of 10 lashes, she refused, challenging the verdict in court. Ultimately found guilty, she was given a fine rather than being whipped.

Though less frequently, men have also fallen foul of the laws on dress. Last week a Khartoum court convicted seven men of indecency for wearing make-up. The defendants, all amateur models appearing at the “Sudanese Next Top Model fashion show”, were fined 200 Sudanese pounds (£54) each.

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


Australia: Afghan Detainees to be Sent Home: Report

Australia and Afghanistan have reportedly reached an historic agreement that is set to see hundreds of failed Afghan asylum seekers returned to Kabul.

Described as a coup for the federal government, it is understood the agreement could be signed within weeks, The Australian says.

Figures issued to a Senate committee by ASIO stated that 330 asylum seekers were currently in detention awaiting security clearances.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Belgium: 25% of People on Subsistence Income Are Foreign

A report in Saturday’s edition of the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’ reveals that around one in four people claiming subsistence income benefit are foreign nationals. Subsistence income benefit is paid out by the local social services departments to those with no other form of income.

Anyone over 18 years of age that has an address in Belgium and is living here legally is entitled to claim.

The subsistence income benefit is set at 493.54 euros a month for those married or living together and 740.32 euros a month for a person living alone.

In January 2008 22,120 non-Belgians were claiming subsistence income benefit.

By January of this year, this had risen to 24,925 or around 25% of the 100,000 claimants.

The figures were made public after the Flemish nationalist MP Sarah Smeyers tabled a question on the issue to the Federal Social Integration Minister Philippe Courard (Francophone socialist).

Ms Smeyers believes that the increase in the number of foreign claimants is entirely due to the rise in the number of EU citizens on subsistence income benefit.

Most of the new claimants from the EU are Rom Gypsies from Slovakia and Bulgaria.

“The show us that there are claimants from countries both in and outside the EU.”

“In most cities there are a lot of claimants from outside the EU.”

“However, in Ghent, we see that the number of claimants from within the EU is increasing.”

“This is probably due to the big influx of Romanians and Bulgarians into the city.”

“Many of these are Rom Gypsies.”

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

Denmark: City to “Include” Rather Than “Integrate”

City Council to stop using the word “integration”

Future immigrants and their descendants living in Copenhagen will be “included” in Danish society after the City Council announced plans to change its immigration vocabulary, reports Urban newspaper.

The change from the current term “integration” forms part of the council’s new policy towards immigrants.

“We need to include everyone on our city,” said Klaus Bondam, deputy mayor for employment and integration. “We have lots of young people doing really well in schools and universities. They often feel pigeonholed by the word ‘integration’, which has become highly problematic of late.”

“Inclusion” is a much more tolerant and diverse word, he said.

A majority of city councilors have expressed support for the inclusion policy, which would which come into effect in 2011and be valid through 2014.

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

Culture Wars

Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns

If you look at the values and the historical record, you will see that the Founding Fathers never intended guns to go unregulated, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer contended Sunday.

Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Breyer said history stands with the dissenters in the court’s decision to overturn a Washington, D.C., handgun ban in the 2008 case “D.C. v. Heller.”

Breyer wrote the dissent and was joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He said historians would side with him in the case because they have concluded that Founding Father James Madison was more worried that the Constitution may not be ratified than he was about granting individuals the right to bear arms.

Madison “was worried about opponents who would think Congress would call up state militias and nationalize them. ‘That can’t happen,’ said Madison,” said Breyer, adding that historians characterize Madison’s priority as, “I’ve got to get this document ratified.”

Therefore, Madison included the Second Amendment to appease the states, Breyer said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hartford: Atheists Plan Protest

An atheist organization is planning to make a silent protest tonight against the city council’s practice of opening its meetings with a short prayer service.

Several atheists plan to remain seated and silent when the audience is requested to stand for the usual prayer, said Dennis Paul Himes, president of Connecticut Valley Atheists. Himes said the protest is also sponsored by the national organization American Atheists.

Himes is president of the Connecticut group and state director of the national group.

“We are performing this action in reaction to the recent controversy over the proposed Muslim prayer before the council,” Himes said in a statement.

“One thing which was apparently forgotten during that controversy is the fact that any sort of prayer at a government meeting is both a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution and unfair discrimination against the thousands of Hartford residents who do not believe in any gods. There is an attitude much too prevalent in Connecticut that if all religions are covered by a policy then no one is left out. We will be there to remind the council that that is not true.”

The city council called off a plan in September, near the time of the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, to allow local imams to lead the opening prayer service. After the plans were announced, city hall was inundated with angry phone calls and e-mail protesting the idea.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

LGBT Books Vandalized With Urine in a Harvard Library

Approximately 40 books dealing with LGBT issues were vandalized with what appeared to be urine in Lamont Library on November 24, according to a report filed Friday by the library security staff to the Harvard University Police Department.

HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano wrote in an e-mail that the vandalized books’ subject matters included lesbian and gay issues and same-sex marriage. Due to the nature of books, HUPD is currently investigating the incident as a bias crime.

“The HUPD has zero tolerance for any bias-related incidents or crimes,” Catalano said.

“Harvard College will not tolerate acts of vandalism, especially those that appear to be motivated by hate or bias,” Harvard College Dean Evelynn M. Hammonds wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson. “[As] a community yadda, yadda, & etc…”


[Return to headlines]

Michelle Obama on Deciding What Kids Eat: ‘We Can’t Just Leave it Up to the Parents’

Speaking at Monday’s signing ceremony for the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act”— a law that will subsidize and regulate what children eat before school, at lunch, after school, and during summer vacations in federally funded school-based feeding programs — First Lady Michelle Obama said of deciding what American children should eat: “We can’t just leave it up to the parents.”

The law gives the federal government for the first time the authority to regulate the food sold at local schools, including in vending machines.


The Senate approved the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act legislation in August and the House approved it earlier this month by a vote of 264-157 (with 153 Republicans and 4 Democrats voting no, and 247 Democrats and 17 Republicans voting yes). The law will be administered by the Department of Agriculture, which will craft new school nutrition standards under the law.

The law increases spending on school nutrition programs by $4.5 billion over ten years and encompasses a range of provisions, including offering qualified children breakfast, lunch and dinner at school, as well as meals during the summer. It also includes a pilot program for “organic foods.”

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Religion vs Freedom vs Art: Can’t They All Just Get Along?

The thing about religious zealots is, you cannot reason with them. You cannot tell them they are being utterly irrational, because if they could think rationally at all, they wouldn’t be religious zealots in the first place. So when Muslim extremists threaten to kill cartoonists because they find their caricatures “insulting,” it serves little purpose to explain to them that a drawing of Mohammed is not an insult to their faith, and that an insult to their faith does not demand murdering the artist. And when Christian extremists grow hysterical about a video in which Christ’s body is being eaten up by ants, you can’t explain to them, logically, that they have no business complaining about this if they are also going to complain about the censorship of drawings about Mohammed. It just doesn’t work. For those of us who value reason above all things, there are few efforts more frustrating, more irritating, more infuriating, than this. There are also few causes less likely ever to be resolved.

I mention this because last week, religious right groups in America forced the removal of an art work by the late David Wojnarowicz from the exhibition “Hide/Seek” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Titled “A Fire In My Belly,” the work — a video installation that includes images of ants climbing across the dead body of a crucified Jesus — refers to social violence, to the ravages of AIDS (which ultimately killed Wojnarowicz in 1992), and to the pains of his own personal, tragic history. As Holland Cotter describes it in The New York Times, “That ‘A Fire in My Belly’ is about spirituality, and about AIDS, is beyond doubt. To those caught up in the crisis, the worst years of the epidemic were like an extended Day of the Dead, a time of skulls and candles, corruption with promise of resurrection. Wojnarowicz was profoundly angry at a government that barely acknowledged the epidemic and at political forces that he believed used AIDS, and the art created in response, to demonize homosexuals.

Nonetheless, in a statement on the website of the Catholic League, its leader, Bill Donahue, declared the work “hate speech.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spanish Researchers Want to Tag Human Embryos With Bar Codes

In futuristic movies like “Aliens 2” and “12 Monkeys,” prisoners are bar coded for easy identification. But today’s reality is even wilder: Scientists have proposed bar-coding embryos.

Researchers from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona in Spain have just finished testing a method for imprinting microscopic bar codes on mouse embryos — a procedure they plan to test soon on humans. The venture is meant to avoid mismatches during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer procedures. But privacy experts and children’s rights advocates were instantly concerned by the concept of “direct labeling” of embryos, calling for transparency in the process.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Who Will Teach Tolerance to the Muslims?

Every time a Muslim terrorist is caught trying to kill Americans in the name of Islam, the media and the politicians immediately go on full alert over the threat of an “Islamophobic backlash” against Muslims.

Right away city mayors, district attorneys, law enforcement officials, sensitivity trainers, school board members, television executives and editorial writers go sliding down the TolerancePole(TM) on an urgent mission to head off the inevitable orgy of violence by ordinary Americans who are always presumed to be 5 minutes away from shouldering a battering ram and heading off to the nearest mosque—by teaching tolerance toward Islam. That means embedding Islam even deeper into the school curriculum, adding a “positive depiction” of a Muslim to every TV show on the air, and arresting anyone who even looks funny at a Koran.

With all the energy expended on teaching Americans to be tolerant of Islam, you would think the streets of every major city were covered in the bodies of Muslims murdered by mobs of ignorant Americans who had never been exposed to the wonders of Islam. But 9 years after Muslims murdered thousands of Americans, there has yet to be such a case. The mobs have not materialized. Even the already inflated number of hate crimes targeting Muslims are a blip on the radar compared to how many such crimes target Jews and Blacks. The Islamophobic backlash that was on the verge of drowning Dearborn or Jersey City in a postmodern pogrom has never actually materialized.

So far Muslims have murdered thousands of Americans. And a single American filmmaker killed his Muslim partner when the latter expressed support for Al Qaeda right after 9/11. That was 9 years ago.

As of now the domestic murder scoreboard reads, “Muslims 3,000 — Americans 1”. Anyone trained in the arcane arts of basic addition and subtraction can’t help but look at that score and wonder if it’s perhaps the people who have a kill count in the thousands who need to be taught tolerance, more than the schlubs who were just barely tolerant enough to score a 1.

“Be tolerant of your murderers” That the 1’s need to be taught to tolerate the 3,000’s among them is as perverse as bringing retired members of the SS into Jewish classrooms to teach tolerance toward Nazism. Yet every day across the country, American children are indoctrinated to positively view the ideology that murdered thousands of their countrymen out of religious fanaticism and naked bigotry. “Be tolerant of your murderers”, is the real message. “Because if you’re not tolerant enough of them, they might snap and car bomb your Christmas tree lighting ceremony or your next family outing to see the Lion King.” Is that what tolerance comes down to? Teaching the children of tomorrow to feel like battered spouses today.

Missing in all this great hullabaloo of tolerance, is any interest in teaching Muslims to tolerate the Christians, Jews, Hindus and other religions that they have traditionally persecuted and massacred. And though the score still stands at that bloody 3,000 to 1, there is no program to prevent Anti-Christian and Anti-Semitic bigotry in Muslim schools. Fine educational institutions where it is not unheard of to teach the class that Jews are descendants of “pigs and apes” and out to conquer the world. Or that homosexuals should be executed. And that Muslims are allowed to kill and rob Hindus and Buddhists.

Even the least rational among us, taking a look at that 3,000 to 1 score, would come to the conclusion that maybe more ToleranceEducation(TM) resources should be devoted to the people who carried out the worst massacre in American history, than to the people who in response to that massacre began reassuring them that there were no hard feelings about it…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Brain Oddities: Spelling is Irrelevant to Comprehension

In trying to make sense of the world around us, our brains have evolved to do some very odd things. The more we learn about our cognitive processes, the more it seems we have inherited a very weird wetware set, filled with bizarre and misleading foibles.

…Spelling don’t matter. Comprehension remains essentially unchanged, even when all letters of a word are totally mixed up — just so long as the first and last letters are in their proper place.

[see URL for stunning example. Someone please give Vlad Tepes the good nwes]

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Climate Distortions Were Achieved. National Weather Agencies Are the Trojan Horses

Maurice Strong set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) through the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to provide a powerful vehicle for almost complete control of climate science. Each national weather office perpetuates the deception that human CO2 is causing climate change. He controlled the science through the IPCC and the political and propaganda portion under the umbrella of the Rio Conference (1992) and the ongoing Conference of the Parties (COP). By peopling the IPCC with representatives of national weather offices, he attained control of the politics within each nation and collective global control. They’re the Trojan Horses from which funding and research emanate to deceive the politicians and public into achieving his goal of destroying the industrialized nations.

Funnel For Funding

No surprise that control was through funding of research, which was almost all through government. Canada is a good example of how they bypassed normal efforts to prevent political interference. Most scientific research funding goes through the National Research Council (NRC) or the National Scientific and Engineering Council (NSERC) to reduce political interference. However, virtually all climate research funding went through Environment Canada (EC). An article published on December 2, 2010 authored by Gordon McBean says, “This month, the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences celebrated a birthday that could be among its last. After 10 years as Canada’s main funding agency for academic weather and climate science, the foundation will soon cease to exist if there’s no further support from the Canadian government.”

The author’s history reveals the hypocrisy of his letter. It’s a perfect example of how they controlled climate science through the WMO and the national agencies. McBean chaired the 1985 meeting in Villach, Austria at which the IPCC was created. Tom Wigley, former Director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) and his successor Phil Jones attended. Both were major participants in the corruption revealed by the ClimateGate leaked emails. McBean was Assistant Deputy Minister, the second highest-ranking bureaucrat at Environment Canada. His tenure in that office was relatively brief and appears deliberate. It’s apparently related to Maurice Strong’s personal friendship with Canadian Prime minister Paul Martin. After securing funding of $61 million for the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), McBean took early retirement in 2000. A month later he was appointed as chair of CFCAS. He was also the lead author of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), a report of pure speculation that became a major source of information for the 2007 IPCC Report.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Old and Wise: Why Do Smarter People Live Longer?

Bees help to explain the link between intelligence and long life.

Intelligent people live longer—the correlation is as strong as that between smoking and premature death. But the reason is not fully understood.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why Can Some Blind People Process Speech Far Faster Than Sighted Persons?

Functional brain imaging has revealed that some blind people’s brains rewire themselves, giving them extraordinary auditory comprehension.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Why Surgeons Dread Redheads

As the authors of a recent study published in BMJ attest, society’s red-haired members don’t always get a fair shake. Hoary stereotypes, such as the idea that redheads are also hot heads, are mixed together with actual physiological differences — such as a heightened sensitivity to pain.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

"Spelling don’t matter. Comprehension remains essentially unchanged, even when all letters of a word are totally mixed up — just so long as the first and last letters are in their proper place."

This has to be in the "desperately stupid" category.

In the example shown, a text with garbled letters (which is the only "proof" of that ridiculous pretense), it's obvious that, yes, you can read that text and make some sense of it (although with considerably more difficulty than if it had been written correctly), but only if you have learnt the right spelling in the first place.

This mimicks exactly the ideological process by which educated, intelligent Leftists who have been correctly taught spelling (and a few other things) in their young years, deny others the right to benefit from the same education by saying that, basically, education does not matter.

Perverted thinking.