Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101218

Financial Crisis
»European Council: All a Blur at the Euro-Summit
»New York Classrooms Promote Communist Activist
»North American Union: Why the U.S. Coverup?
»Oregon Islam Class to Go on
»Sacrificed Survivors of 9/11
»Why Violent Revolt Lies in Our Future
»Ugly Fight Against a Death-Cult Ideology
Europe and the EU
»Batman Recruits Muslim Sidekick From Paris Suburb
»Cold and Snow Whip Italy From North to South
»EU Auditor: Sicily Spending Fund for Water Not Efficient
»Italy: Mafia Video Games Rake in Sales and Provoke Ire
»Italy: Muslims Plan Gatherings During Christmas Holidays
»Italy: Minister Decries Release of Demonstrators From Prison Following Violent Protest
»Italy: ‘Nine Probed for Pompeii Collapses’
»Making Paris Safer
»Missing Sweden’s Bomber
»Netherlands: New Mosque Opened in Rotterdam at Expense of Sheikh Hamdan
»Palestinian Refugees to Play Bagpipes in Italy
»Protests Greet Paris Conference Against ‘Islamization’ of Europe
»Sweden in ‘Coldest December in 100 Years’
»Switzerland: New Legislation Creates Dilemma for Mormons
»Tweet Revenge: Italians Bombard EU Summit Wall With Silvio Berlusconi Insults
»UK: ‘Mother Cuts Out the Heart of Her Daughter, Four, As She Listens to Recording of Koran in Ritual Killing’
»UK: Calls for ‘Anti-Semitic’ Student Leader to Quit After Facebook Message About Jews
»UK: Ex-Defence Minister Joins Arms Firm Behind MOD £1.5bn Overspend
»UK: Fears of Dummy Bomb Runs by ‘Terror Scouts’ At Regional Airports
»UK: Friend of 7/7 Victim in Air Rage Outburst About Muslims
»UK: What Kind of Woman Would Help Protect a Child Killer?
»UK: Winning the Argument
»ERRC: Roma Live in Poor Conditions
»Switzerland: Media Question Wisdom of Recognising Kosovo
North Africa
»Algeria: New Splendour for ‘Notre Dame D’Afrique’
»Bluefin Tuna: Controversy in Algeria Over Its Quota
»Egypt: Siwa, Ancient Oasis Threatened
Israel and the Palestinians
»As Rabbis in Israel Ban Renting Houses to Non-Jews, Rabbis Around the World Oppose the Idea
Middle East
»130 Million Strong: Al-Qaeda’s Deep Muslim Support
»Saudi Arrests 38 After ‘Sectarian’ Clashes: Reports
»Talent: Confirmed: Suspicion of Iran is Universal
»Turkey: We’ll Make Fighter Jets! (and Spaceships Too…)
»Moscow Under Siege for Racist Violence
»Moscow Police Arrest Hundreds Ahead of Nationalist Rallies
South Asia
»24 Hours in Pictures
»Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Government Suspends Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
»Pakistan Spy Agency Denies it Helped Unmask CIA Station Chief in Islamabad
Australia — Pacific
»Icky Wiki E-Mails Skeeved Out Teen
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Radical Muslim Sect Again Stalks Northern Nigeria
»Tide of Refugees on Nile as Sudan Faces Break-Up
»European Problem, Not Just Local, Libyan Minister
»UK: Kate Middleton’s Posh Pal Jokes: I’d Shoot Immigrants
»UK: Our Coverage on Immigration and Europe Was Weak, Admits BBC Director General
Culture Wars
»UK: We’re Not Prejudiced — Just Two Christians Who Passionately Believe in the Sanctity of Marriage
»Pythagoras, A Math Genius? Not by Babylonian Standards
»UN Mulls Internet Regulation Options

Financial Crisis

European Council: All a Blur at the Euro-Summit

A naysaying chancellor from Germany, allied with a fickle president from France, up against massive but irresolute resistance at the EU’s 16/17 December summit. Is this how Europe saves its currency?

Cerstin Gammelin

The crisis has put Europe in a strange mood. If it had to be summed up in a nutshell: ambivalent. Some want to rescue their over-indebted partners at any price, others don’t. Some want to keep the euro, others want their national currency back. Nothing is the way it seemed only a year ago.

High-ranking Polish diplomats posted in Brussels are a credit to their profession when asked over beers whether their country still wants the euro at all. They tend to sigh and say, “Ah, yes, the euro…. Seems to be in rather hot water. Still and all, though, Warsaw naturally stands by its desire to trade in the zloty for the single currency. Only there’s no telling when that might be.” Followed by a diplomatic wink. But first, they say, we’ve got to wait and see whether the rescue funds suffice to liquidate those mountains of debt. We admit though we’ve been pretty relieved in recent weeks that we’re not members of the euro club — that’s understandable under the circumstances, isn’t it?

Juncker has now joined the ranks of the vacillators

The Poles feel much the same way about the euro that a number of European leaders feel about the German proposals: ambivalent. On a scale from outright rejection to full endorsement, most countries are dithering somewhere in the middle, says a senior diplomat from a smaller country. Yes, the Germans were often right on the merits. But we didn’t want to be constantly tagging along behind Berlin. Or behind Berlin and Paris. “We’ve lost our appetite for Franco-German proposals,” says a high-ranking diplomat from a big country.

Europe’s vacillating government heads also bear some of the blame for the ambient ambivalence. French president Nicolas Sarkozy wanted to convince his counterparts to borrow several billion extra euros before the end of the year to give their economies a “growth jolt” and catapult them out of the crisis. Two multi-billion-euro rescue packages later, the bustling Frenchman seems to have been reduced to Angela Merkel’s walking talking shadow.

And Luxembourg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker has now joined the ranks of the vacillators. In much-hyped public appearances he banged the drum for eurobonds to finance some of the debts — without much success. After flat refusals from Berlin and Paris, eurobonds didn’t even make it onto the summit agenda. Whereupon Juncker had his foreign minister Asselborn explain that the whole matter really isn’t all that urgent. And a few hours before the summit started, he again announced that of course he would be tabling his proposal there…

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


New York Classrooms Promote Communist Activist

New ‘human rights’ curriculum espouses teachings of Van Jones

New York schools inaugurated a new “human rights” curriculum last week that promotes the work and teachings of Van Jones, president Obama’s former “green jobs” czar.

Jones resigned in September 2009 after it was exposed he founded a communist revolutionary organization and signed a statement that accused the Bush administration of possible involvement in the 9/11 attacks.

Jones also called for “resistance” against the U.S., among other revelations of his extremist rhetoric and ideology.

Last Friday, students in classrooms across New York state participated in a webcast to launch the new curriculum, entitled “Speak Truth to Power.” Presented in conjunction with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, the webcast was broadcast live from Chestnut Ridge Middle School in Spring Valley, N.Y.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North American Union: Why the U.S. Coverup?

Memory hole? Obama administration replaces content of official website

Operating much like a “memory hole” in George Orwell’s classic novel “1984,” the Obama administration has replaced the content of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America website, providing additional evidence the White House intends to implement the SPP agenda by executive action, below the radar of public opinion and outside the framework of congressional approval.

The SPP website, under the title “Commerce Connect,” now reflects totally different content, announcing its purpose as “a one-stop shop for information, counseling and government services that can help U.S. businesses around the country transform themselves into globally competitive enterprises.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oregon Islam Class to Go on

To be held at another location while challenge to college’s cancellation continues

The Islam class is on.

At the urging of the American Center for Law and Justice, Eugene, Ore., ACT for America chapter leader Barry Sommer will be teaching his informational class on Islam.

That’s even though the local Lane Community College cancelled the class at the request of a Muslim activist organization, and that decision, while being challenged, is not yet changed.

“The ACLJ has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with LCC and they’ve given LCC 21 days to come up with the information requested,” Sommer explained.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sacrificed Survivors of 9/11

In the 2002 movie The Guys, based on a true story, a lady English professor is asked to help a New York City Fire Dept. captain write eulogies for eight of his men who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. A big part of the captain’s “needing a writer” (a line from the movie) is that he was in shock and quietly grieving shortly after their deaths.

A new documentary, entitled Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque, is, in many ways, the story and movie that the fire captain from The Guys would make if he had nine years to reflect on the events of 9/11 and was now able to speak with some ease about what happened then. The captain could also now talk about what 9/11 means in today’s world, where a quite different New York City mayor and some imam want to put up a triumphal mosque at one of the buildings hit on 9/11. That is not a stretch: the landing gear of one of the planes crashed through the roof of the Burlington Coat Factory and potential mosque site, along with quite a bit of debris, which included human remains.

“Normally you have to ask people a lot of questions to get them to talk,” says the film’s director, Martin Mawyer, “but we just sat these people in front of the camera, and they told their stories.” Mawyer is the also the head of the Christian Action Network. Patti Pierucci wrote the overview and those parts of the script that didn’t come from the words of survivors and their families.

In a premier showing and discussion held at St. Luke’s Theater in Manhattan, Mawyer and many of the people in the film — rescue operations fireman Tim Brown; construction worker Andy Sullivan; Al and Maureen Santora, the parents of slain fireman Christopher Santora; Madeline Brooks, the head of the New York Chapter of Act! for America — have come to present the film and talk to a select audience that includes an anti-terrorism expert who lived in Arab countries; “Culturalism: A Word, a Value, Our Future” author John Press; various members of the internet media; and the friends and family of those involved in the film.

The DVD began with two film previews that answered the question, “What does a mosque have to do with the sadness and fears of the loved ones of 9/11 victims?” The first preview,, “Islam Rising,” shows Muslim street protesters calling for the death of the West, followed by Dutch politician Geert Wilders stating that “Islam is the communism of today.” This is followed by Pres. Obama receiving a medallion from a Saudi official and scenes of the World Trade Center destruction. The second movie preview, “Homegrown Jihad,” shows jihadist training camps spread across the United States, where the members can be seen marching, shooting rifles, and learning hand-to-hand combat.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Violent Revolt Lies in Our Future

President Ronald Reagan used to say that the scariest words in the English language are: “Hi, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Two hundred or so years earlier, our Founding Fathers had essentially the same thoughts when they declared independence from the British Crown based on its refusal to take into account the grievances of the colonies and its peoples, and instead attempted to beat them into submission.

Today, as we observe the holidays and ready ourselves for a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the New Year, in the face of continued control of the Senate and White House by the Democrats and President Barack Obama, these words and thoughts ring louder than ever. Never before in the history of our sacred nation has the “State of the Union” been worse and indeed more hostile to the needs of the American people. And both Democrats and Republicans are responsible!

I have written in earlier columns that I sincerely believe that we have entered a new revolutionary period in American history. With each passing day, I become more convinced of it. And, regrettably, I believe that we are only a year of so from violent revolt if things do not radically change “on a dime.”

Here are the signs of the violent revolution to come…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Ugly Fight Against a Death-Cult Ideology

At the year end, and this year also brings to an end a conflict-ridden decade, we are ritually inundated with reviews of past months and predictions for the future in magazines and journals from around the world.

On my desk, for instance, I have the Economist cautioning us about the “dangers of a rising China,” and the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs assembling wise individuals to map for us what we might find in the “World Ahead.”

From my perspective — one shaped by travels, readings and talking with people in foreign lands — there is a seismic shift unfolding in global politics and culture.

The man who sensed this shift perhaps most acutely, and described presciently its effect as the “clash of civilizations” was Samuel Huntington.

The severest of this clash is one between political Islam and the West.

I say political Islam to distinguish this ideology of murder and mayhem from Islam — the faith-tradition of hundreds of millions of simple, honest, God-fearing Muslims devoted to their family as were my parents, and also victims of Islamists who turned a simple faith into death-cult ideology.

This struggle between political Islam and the West will stay with us well into the next decade and, perhaps, beyond. It will end only when Islamists are effectively defeated and political Islam expunged similar to the defeat of German Nazis and Japanese militarists.

The struggle of this nature is invariably ugly. It is also bewildering to people caught in the midst of the struggle.


And so in my final column of this decade I predict the “clash” Huntington foresaw will get more severe before it eventually comes to an end.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Batman Recruits Muslim Sidekick From Paris Suburb

Nightrunner is a citizen of France, a Sunni Muslim, and 22 years old living in the Clichy-sous-Bois of Paris who is phenomenally well trained in parkour.

I knew it was only going to get worse at DC Comics: in his continuing efforts to form Batman Inc, Bruce Wayne recruits an Algerian Muslim living in France, in Clichy-Sous-Bois, where the Muslim riots grew out of in 2005, over the death of 2 delinquents who electrocuted themselves by stupidly entering a power station, and the blame was laid upon at least 2 policemen who weren’t even at fault and didn’t even know they were there. How about that, Bruce Wayne goes to France where he hires not a genuine French boy or girl with a real sense of justice, but rather, an “oppressed” minority who adheres to the Religion of Peace. And this is a guy whose very parents were murdered at the hands of a common street thug!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Cold and Snow Whip Italy From North to South

Rome, Capri dusted with snow

(ANSA) — Rome, December 17 — Teeth are chattering from Milan to Rome and Naples as a Siberian air current affecting much of Europe chills the length of Italy. Snow has crept outward from the Adriatic coast, now suffering its fourth day of snow, to cover regions from Lombardy in the north to Calabria in the extreme south.

In Rome, residents and tourists were delighted to see snowflakes fluttering down for the first time this year, an all-too-rare sight.

Outside the capital, snowfall had residents, travelers and airport operators snapping photos of the strange sight of Fiumicino, Rome’s international airport, dusted in white. Snow in Rome is extremely rare, and even more so on its coastline. Ice is expected to delay some trains running to or from the capital.

The famed tourist island of Capri in the Bay of Naples also saw a sprinkling of snow that melted all to fast for the local kids.

The Civil Protection department sent out a weather alert on Thursday as Italians prepared to pack freeways, roads and trains for holiday travel. Particularly hard hit are freeways leading to Genoa, in Liguria, and Valle D’Aosta, located on the Italian side of Mt Blanc. Freeway authorities pledged rigorous snow removal to keep northwestern arteries open to traffic.

Snow created treacherous stretches of road in La Spezia, where residents awoke to a rare blanket of white. Stranded residents called firemen for help leaving their homes.

“Everything is blocked, covered in snow, from sea level to the hills,”“ confirmed the local head of Civil Protection, Maurizio Bocchia, who even found himself blocked on the road to his office. “We don’t have sufficient means to clear the arteries, so today getting around will be very difficult. We invite (residents) to avoid moving unless strictly necessary”.

Snow has paralyzed traffic across Tuscany, causing numerous traffic accidents, with snow covering Florence, Pisa, Livorno and other urban areas. No lives have been lost, but a section of state road was shut due to the collision of two shipping trucks. Snow chains are necessary outside Siena, and police advise keeping them aboard vehicles throughout the region. Many Tuscan schools will be closed on Saturday.

Rarer still, snowfall picked up overnight along the freeway running from the arch to the toe of Italy’s boot, from Salerno to Reggio Calabria.

Sardinia and Sicily are being whipped by gelid winds.

Cold weather is expected to ease by Christmas but the risk of rain remains.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

EU Auditor: Sicily Spending Fund for Water Not Efficient

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, DECEMBER 14 — The spending of EU funds for a number of water facilities in Sicily and in certain regions of Spain, Greece and Portugal has not been efficient, with too much money general badly spent.

This is the finding of the latest report by the EU Auditor General Office on infrastructure for water supplies co-financed by the EU Cohesion Fund and Regional Development Fund between 2000 and 2006.

The report says that in all four countries, there was a preference for spending money on new facilities and sources instead of intervening in the existing networks. “More careful analysis would have allowed for infrastructure with lower capacity to be built, taking alternative solutions into consideration,” such as avoiding leaks and aiming to reduce consumption.

The report adds that “in a number of projects, delays and extra costs were registered, although, to an extent, these could have been avoided”. The functioning of different projects is characterised by “low efficiency” (based on the rate of capacity and non-billed water) while these long-term investments were never covered by users.

In Italy’s case, the EU Auditor General Office monitored five projects in Sicily: an untreated water adducent in Rosmarina (13.69 million, of which 6.16 million from the EU); the completion of external links between Palermo water tanks (12.34 million, 5.14 million co-financed); distribution network by the 5 Liberta’ sub-network (13 million, of which 5.42 million from the EU); the rebuilding of the Favara di Burgio aqueduct (32.96 million, 13.28 million co-financed); fifth module bis of the Gela desalinator (cost of 32.86 million, 14.79 million provided by the EU). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Mafia Video Games Rake in Sales and Provoke Ire

Rome, 17 Dec. (AKI/Bloomberg) — The Mafia killed Sonia Alfano’s father, Sicilian journalist Beppe, on 8 January 1993. Now she’s fighting against video games that she says trivialize violence and murder.

A member of the European Parliament, Alfano opposes games such as “Mafia II” by Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., whose investors include billionaire Carl Icahn. The sequel to 2007’s “Mafia” for personal computers, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3 lets players take on the role of Vito Scaletta, who rises through the organization’s ranks, going from petty robberies to mob hits, gunfights and combat.

“It really, really hurts,” Alfano, who’s also the president of Italy’s association for the families of Mafia victims, said in an interview. “We can’t allow this to happen, our wounds are still too fresh.” She asked the European Commission last week to consider banning the games.

Take-Two may sell about 1.27 million copies of Mafia II in its fiscal year, bringing in 55 million dollars and making it the New York-based company’s fourth best-seller in terms of revenue, Mike Hickey, an analyst at Janco Partners Inc. in Greenwood Village, Colorado, wrote in a note last month. Take-Two’s shares have risen 19 percent in 2010, outperforming the 11 percent gain in the Russell 3000 Technology Index.

Mafia II’s M warning comes from its gore, violence and strong language. In Europe, the Pan European Game Information rates it 18+ and warns against violence and bad language. The game has the greatest number of instances of the “f-word” among video games with 397 in the 75,000-word script and 15-hour single-player story, according to Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition 2011.

“‘Mafia II’ tells a compelling story about organized crime in America — a subject that for decades has been featured in award-winning movies, television shows and novels such as ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos,’“ said Alan Lewis, Take-Two’s vice president for corporate communications and public affairs. “We fully and completely stand behind our creative teams and products, including ‘Mafia II.’“

Italian-American organizations opposed the release of Mafia II in August, said Andre DiMino, chief media officer of New Jersey-based Italian-American group, UNICO.

Electronic Arts, the second-largest US video-game company, has published titles based on “The Godfather” novel by Mario Puzo that was made into a film by Francis Ford Coppola.

“Movies and games reflect the allure and repulsion that people feel toward violence,” said Janet Murray, a professor of Digital Media at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. “Games raise special anxieties because they are active and participatory.”

The Sicilian Mafia, or Cosa Nostra, is the most tightly knit and best known. It has existed since the middle of the 19th century, historians say. There were on average 116 Mafia and other organized-crime killings a year in Italy between 2004 and 2008.

Gaming companies are becoming more sensitive to opposition in Europe to violent games. Microsoft introduced a Pan-European website called Play Smart, Play Safe this month that helps families determine what video and online games to buy.

“We have to deliver a platform that can offer the widest range of entertainment experiences possible,” Andrew House, head of Sony’s game unit in Europe, said in interview. Sony creates a “good balance” between games for mature users while delivering others like “Gran Turismo 5,” a car racing simulator play, for a broader audience, he said.

While violent content is generally rated by the likes of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, themes in games are more difficult to monitor, said William Lugo, a professor of sociology at the Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.

“The only message within video games that is highly regulated is violence,” he said. “The harder and more complex messages, such as those having to do with race, politics, or in this case the Mafia, are outside the realm of responsibility of game companies.”

The video-game industry may become more socially responsible as it matures, Lugo said, a development the Mafia victims’ association’s Alfano would welcome.

“These games transform the Mafia, a reality of death and destruction, into a thrilling and hands-on virtual pastime,” she said. “Even if momentarily, players identify with brutal killers and for us who have experienced violence firsthand, it’s appalling.”

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

Italy: Muslims Plan Gatherings During Christmas Holidays

Rome, 17 Dec. (AKI) — Italy’s Islamic community plans to gather in a series of meetings slated for 25 and 26 December.

Unlike past meetings planned during the holidays in overwhelmingly Catholic Italy, the Muslim faithful this year will meet in different locations rather than at a single conference.

Members of Italy’s Islamic Union will come together on 25 December in Vicenza. Yahya Waziri, a noted Kuwaiti politician and two preachers from Egypt will be present at the northern Italian gethering.

The following day a meeting is planned in the industrial city of Turin, while other conferences are planned for Rome and Florence.

Many members of Italy’s growing immigrant population arrive from Muslim countries in northern Africa.

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

Italy: Minister Decries Release of Demonstrators From Prison Following Violent Protest

Rome, 17 Dec. (AKI) — Italian interior minister Roberto Maroni on Friday condemned the release of all 23 student-aged people detained after prime minister Silvio Berlusconi prevailed in a parliamentary tense confidence vote with which sparked an urban warfare-sytle clash with police on Tuesday.

“I respect but do not share the decision to release the youths that were jailed after the protests of 14 December,” Maroni said in an address to the Italian Senate.

Maroni also rejected the notion that police had infiltrated the protesters and incited them to violence.

“It is without grounds and seriously offensive,” Maroni said.

The interior minister’s remarks came a day after a Rome judge released all 23 of the detained protesters, many of which are called to hearings on 23 Dec and 13 June and one of which has been given house arrest.

Tuesday’s protest caused an estimated 20 million euros of damage in the historic centre of the Italian capital where armored police vehicles and private cars were set aflame.

Maroni said around 100 police and 34 demonstrators had sustained injuries.

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

Italy: ‘Nine Probed for Pompeii Collapses’

Probe into Schola Armaturarum and House of Moralist cave-ins

(ANSA) — Rome, December 16 — Nine people were reported to have been placed under investigation Thursday for two headline-grabbing collapses at the ancient Roman city of Pompeii last month.

Judicial sources said the former superintendent at the 2,000-year-old site, Pietro Giovanni Guzzo, and Excavations Director Antonio Varone were among those probed for the cave-in of the Schola Armaturarum, a spacious hall once used by a military association, on November 6 and a retaining wall at the House of the Moralist on November 30.

Guzzo and Varone were unavailable for comment but sources close to the latter said he was convinced he had nothing to fear from the probe.

Other officials are reportedly being probed for work on the roof of the Schola Armaturarum — commonly but mistakenly known as the Gladiators School — before a commissioner was appointed for the site by Culture Minister Sandro Bondi in 2008.

According to reports after the collapse, the cement roof put on the structure after it was wrecked in WWII Allied bombing came down after heavy rain which seeped into supporting mortar.

Bondi has been targeted by the centre-left opposition after the incidents and three other less serious collapses in early December, and is facing a no-confidence motion in parliament.

The most recent collapse, on December 3, took place as UNESCO inspectors conducted a tour of the World Heritage Site, buried by Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD and excavated from the mid-18th-century on, to assess its maintenance and conservation.

The inspectors are due to report their findings at a conference in Bahrain in June.

Some international experts suggested taking Pompeii’s care out of Italy’s hands after the Schola Armaturarum collapse which President Giorgio Napolitano called “a national disgrace”.

Polemics about looting, stray dogs and structural decay have dogged Pompeii for years.

Pompeii’s current superintendent, Jeannette Papadopoulos, has stressed that the string of collapses came after weeks of torrential rain.

She said the crumbling “should not generate any alarmism or sensationalism”.

Bondi has pledged to set up a new foundation to better channel funds and manage conservation at the ruins, which is visited by an estimated two million people a year.

Rejecting calls that he should resign, the minister claimed he had done a “good job” in appointing special officials for Pompeii’s upkeep.

But he acknowledged more needed to be done and announced the foundation where the culture ministry would work with experts to better use proceeds from millions of visitors.

“The problem is in the management, not in resources,” he told parliament last month, saying the ancient site brought in an average of more than 50 million euros ($70 million) a year.

“We need management that uses the resources better”.

The new body, Bondi said, would “assess the state of decay” all over the ancient city and decide what action to take.

Work would resume on five Pompeii houses including the famous Villa of the Mysteries, he said.

The centre-left opposition was not impressed by the minister’s report and the two main groups, the Democratic Party and Italy of Values (IdV), announced their no-confidence motion aimed at bringing him down.

“Bondi has done more damage than Vesuvius,” the IdV claimed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Making Paris Safer

It all started with a nationwide march across 23 cities, in 2002 — in response to an epidemic of violent crimes against young Muslim women that were perpetrated by Muslim male gangs in the infamous Parisian suburbs called Cites (pronounced See-tay) — low-cost housing projects. The bleak, Muslim-dominated suburbs sprung up in the 1950s and 60s around large cities in France. With an unemployment rate that’s double the national average, and blatant discrimination, some young men in the ghettos, often of Muslim heritage, direct their aggression inward, assuming the role of the moral police and guardians of their families’ honour.

They create an environment where young girls are afraid to leave their homes unescorted, dress as they would like to or even talk to male classmates at school. It might sound like a tale from some obscure town in the Middle East, or in North Africa…but this is the reality of young Muslim women in Paris!

The brutal rape and murder of Sohane Benziane, a 17-year-old girl by her ex-boyfriend and his friends, served as the final catalyst. Five women and two men decided to fight this growing obscurantism and targeting of young Muslim girls. They marched all across France, calling the public’s attention to the condition of young girls in poor neighbourhoods.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Missing Sweden’s Bomber

British and Swedish authorities admit to lapses in identifying and controlling Islamist militancy following Stockholm’s first suicide bombing. It’s an acknowledgement made evident by the proliferation of terrorism cases in Britain, as well as disclosures among Wikileaks releases which show northern Europe’s struggle to counter Islamic extremism.

“Whether it’s making sure that imams coming over to this country can speak English properly, whether it’s making sure we deradicalize our universities, I think we do have to take a range of further steps,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after the Swedish attack.

“But we’ve also got to ask why it is that so many young men in our own country get radicalized in this completely unacceptable way.”

It’s a question that has been on the table for at least four years. In 2006 diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks last week, U.S. officials discuss frustration over the apparent failure of British counter-radicalism efforts. An August 2006 cable assessed that the British government “has invested considerable time and resources in engaging the British Muslim community. The current tensions demonstrate just how little progress has been made.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: New Mosque Opened in Rotterdam at Expense of Sheikh Hamdan

A new landmark mosque, built by the Al Maktoum Foundation at the expense of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and UAE Minister of Finance, was opened here yesterday in the presence of leaders of the Muslim community in Europe.

The opening of the Al Salam mosque was attended by Ahmed Aboutaleb, Mayor of Rotterdam, Ali Thani Al Suwaidi, UAE Ambassador to Netherlands, Mirza Al Sayegh, Director Sheikh Hamdan’s Office and member of the board of trustees of Al Maktoum Foundation, members of the Foundation’s board of trustees and leaders of the Muslim community.

Dr. Hussein Halawa, preacher of the Islamic Centre in Dublin, gave the first Friday sermon in the new mosque, urging Muslims to follow the moderate school of Islam and keep away from divergence.

The mosque, whose construction took a whole decade, is today the second famous cultural and civilsiational landmarks in Rotterdam after the City Hall Council.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Refugees to Play Bagpipes in Italy

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Scottish bagpipes played by young Palestinians, dressed not in kilts, but in their traditional clothes, residents of a refugee camp in the extreme south of Lebanon near the temporary border with Israel, will return to perform in Italy thanks to the efforts of the Ulaia ArteSud not-for-profit organisation, a cultural, artistic and social association based in Rome. The announcement of the initiative was made in recent days in the Burj ash Shamali camp, south of the Mediterranean port of Tyre, some 10 km from the blue demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel, by Olga Ambrosanio, president of Ulaia: “we still have to finalise the details, but we are working to bring these kids back to Italy thanks to a new collaboration with the ‘Prima Materia’ musical school in Tuscany, to allow them to play with their Italian contemporaries,” she told ANSAmed in a conversation in Beirut. The music group ‘Ghirab’, which takes its name from the local term that the Palestinians use for the bagpipes (qirab in classical Arabic), was set up spontaneously in 1989 and is today made up of 40 people, including around 15 ‘veterans’, nonetheless all aged between 15 and 24. The group is part of the non-governmental Palestinian organisation Beit Atfal — Assumud.

Bruno Le Rouzic, the Breton maestro who is one of the greatest bagpipe experts in Europe, has been going to Burj ash Shamali regularly for three years to run ‘musical empowerment’ workshops for the Ghirab band. “The instruments that the kids play now were given to them in 2003 during the traditional inter-Celtic festival in Lorient, in France, but before they were using prehistoric bagpipes, some created with makeshift material.” As Le Rouzic points out, speaking again with ANSAmed, “the bagpipes are one of mankind’s oldest instruments and traces of it have been found in the Mediterranean, from current-day Algeria to the Yemen, passing through the Arab Levant.” In the Palestinian camp near Tyre, the instrument which is commonly associated with Scotland however arrived in more recent times: “in all likelihood,” says Le Rouzic, “the bagpipes were brought here by refugees in 1948, after they had been adopted from Scottish soldiers during the British mandate in Palestine” (1920-1948).

At the end of the third workshop with the young people of Ghirab in Burj ash Shamali, Bruno Le Rouzic is stopping off in Beirut before leaving for Europe: “I’m not here to make them the best pipers in the world,” he says, “but to help them, through music and dedication, to get away from their extremely difficult daily life. We are here not for the bagpipes but for the young people.” Last year Ulaia organised Ghirab’s first Italian tour: seven girls and 6 boys from Burj ash Shamali covered over 4,200 km from Rome to Milan to Apulia, playing and marching through the historic centres of over 10 towns and cities, “each time receiving warm and welcoming hospitality from local associations.” Thanks to fundraising from the sales of their CD ‘Fuori dal Campo’ (Outside the Camp), recorded during the 2009 tour, as part of the ‘Music For Study’ initiative, Ulaia has been able to finance two scholarships, of 2,000 euros each, for two people from the camp.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Protests Greet Paris Conference Against ‘Islamization’ of Europe

About 150 people protested Saturday outside the site of a conference in Paris organized to criticize the “Islamization” of Europe. Protesters held banners reading “United Against Islamophobia” and “Fascists, get out of our neighbourhoods.” Socialist Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe had asked police to ban the conference, but police allowed it to go forward under surveillance. The conference was organized by several French groups, including nationalist political group Bloc Identitaire, that frequently complain about what they see as Islam’s growing influence over traditional French values. France has Western Europe’s largest Muslim population. Several hundred people attended the conference, which also was broadcast over the Internet. “Resistance against Islamization is alive. Nothing can stop it!” Bloc Identitaire wrote in a statement about the conference on its Web site.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Sweden in ‘Coldest December in 100 Years’

Power outages, traffic accidents as well as train and flight delays have left Swedes reeling from Thursday’s snowstorm, which forecasters say isn’t over yet.

“Slippery conditions will continue across the country. There is already a lot of snow on the roads,” SMHI’s Elin Torstensson told the TT news agency.

She explained that Sweden has experienced more cold days and more snow than is normal for December.

“There were a number of days in a row with below-freezing temperatures, so called ice days. And that we have that before Lucia (December 13th) hasn’t happened in more than 100 years,” she said.

In Örnsköldsvik in eastern Sweden, 2,300 customers of the Vattenfall power company were without electricity for several hours overnight. As of 7am Friday morning, about 1,000 households remained in the dark.

And an additional 1,000 homes lost power in Västerbotten in northern Sweden in the wake of the storm, which dumped a blanket of thick snow on much of the country.

However, according to Vattenfall spokesperson Magnus Örvell, the outages were likely caused by the storm’s heavy winds.

The fierce winds and continued snow also caused problems at many of Sweden’s airports, according to airport operator Swedavia.

Passengers are encouraged to contact their airlines for the latest information about possible delays.

Rail service was also affected by the storm. In Skåne in southern Sweden, trains traveling between Malmö and Lund were replaced with buses, and other trains were redirected via the Lommabanan route, according to the website of the Swedish Transit Authority (Trafikverket).

Trains traveling between Ängelholm and Båstad in western Sweden are experiencing 25 minute delays because of switching problems, while track problems have resulted in buses replacing trains between Karlskrona and Emmaboda in southern Sweden.

Swedish motorists also had trouble dealing with the wild winter weather. A long-haul truck slid off of route 56 north of Heby in central Sweden. While no one was injured, the road was blocked as crews struggled to clear away the trucks spilled load of gas canisters.

Outside of Luleå in northern Sweden, a school bus collided with a logging truck on Thursday, sending eight children to hospital for observation.

In Skåne, around 35 accidents were reported on Thursday, five of which resulted in injuries.

Meteorology agency SMHI has issued a class 1 warning covering all of northern Sweden due to the large amounts of new snow, combined with the strong winds.

The agency also forecasts that the snow will continue throughout much of the country on Friday.

Snow showers are expected to continue throughout the weekend over parts of Götaland and southern Svealand in central Sweden, with light flurries forecast for the north of the country.

“We’re expecting about five centimetres of new snow,” said SMHI’s Torstensson.

Temperatures on Saturday are expected to range from a few degrees below freezing in Götaland to -25 Celsius in the far north, before cooling somewhat on Sunday when temperatures in the northern Sweden may dip down to 35 degrees below zero.

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

Switzerland: New Legislation Creates Dilemma for Mormons

The Swiss authorities say moves to prevent missionaries from the United States from working in Switzerland are not directed specifically against Mormons.

Swiss Mormons and many swissinfo readers reject the ban as unfair and incomprehensible.

The problem has arisen because rules allowing the free movement of people between Switzerland and the European Union, which came into effect in 2002, were counterbalanced by severe restrictions on the numbers of third country nationals allowed to take up residence in Switzerland.

“We always used to have a quota system, and that worked very well,” Peter Gysin, Swiss media spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — the official name of the Mormon church, told

“With the new rules, the number of residence permits for Americans was cut, and then Swiss businesses complained that they didn’t have enough. So they looked around to see where they could reduce the numbers, and decided on the Mormons,” he said.


He explained that all the missionaries are volunteers who pay their own way, and yet Swiss legislation regards them as paid workers, who therefore fall under the overall quota system.

A position paper issued by the LDS points out that young missionaries who get to know and love a country and its people “make a valuable contribution to understanding between nations”, and their positive feelings can only be of benefit to the host country.

“They are not taking anyone’s job and are in no way a burden on the country,” says the position paper.

This is not disputed by the Federal Migration Office, which is responsible for allocating permits. But it is not the point, as Adrian Wymann, head of the Labour Market Section for German-speaking Switzerland, told

“The question of whether they are being paid is irrelevant,” he said.

It all goes back to an ordnance of 1986, which gave a very broad definition of gainful employment, in order to prevent employers taking on foreign nationals as “trainees” and paying them lower wages.

The Mormons challenged this all the way up to the Federal Court, which stated in 1996 that actually being paid is not the issue.

“If you are doing something which by regular Swiss standards you can expect to be paid, then that is gainful employment,” Wymann explained.

Skilled workers

Under the Foreign Nationals Act of 2008, residence permits can only be given to third country nationals who are skilled and qualified.

“The only professional vocation that we can accept is ‘religious caretakers’,” said Wymann — an expression used to refer to a trained person, like a priest, vicar, Buddhist monk or nun, Muslim imam and so on.

But while the Migration Office is prepared to be “subtle”, as Wymann put it, Swiss legislation includes the principle of equal treatment, and this poses a problem in the case of the Mormons, despite the fact that the Mormons have long links with Switzerland.

“If we say we’ll continue to accept around 200 Mormon missionaries every year, and accept that they have a four month training before coming to Switzerland, there’s no way we can not accept missionaries from Brazil, from Africa, from religious communities which may not be as well known as the Mormons, which may be dubious or not — we don’t know.”

“From a legal point of view, we would have no way of saying ‘no’ to those communities.”

The Migration Office grants about a dozen permits every year to the international scout movement — “an organisation that we know and can trust”.

The difference between the Mormons and the scouts is that religion is one “box” and youth exchange an entirely different one, Wymann explained.


As it is, the fact that LDS missionaries were allowed a transition period between the coming into force of the Foreign Nationals Act and the end of the quota system for them, could be seen by other religious groups as discrimination.

While some of swissinfo’s readers are hostile to the LDS, many cannot understand the ban.

“I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for two years in Switzerland. .. I love Switzerland and I love the people. It seems that the birthplace of the Reformation should continue to be a place of religious freedom and tolerance,” wrote one.

Working for solutions

Wymann said that the Mormons had been given time to adapt because “we don’t want things to come to a grinding halt”.

He insisted that the door was open and that talks are going on. While the Swiss side has made it clear that the current practice is unconstitutional, they have also pointed to ways out of the dilemma.

LDS missionaries would have no problem if they had been trained for two or three years and had additional professional experience; they would then be regarded as religious caretakers.

But as Wymann admitted, the Mormons are unlikely to introduce special training specially for Switzerland…

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

Tweet Revenge: Italians Bombard EU Summit Wall With Silvio Berlusconi Insults

Giant screens at Brussels meeting display Twitter epithets calling Italian PM ‘a mafioso’ and ‘a paedophile’

An experimental “tweet-wall” on giant TVs in the main hall of the EU summit in Brussels was shut down to avoid causing embarrassment to Silvio Berlusconi after being hijacked by Italian Twitter users who bombarded it with messages calling their prime minister “a mafioso” and “a paedophile”.

Postings on the microblogging site tagged “#EUCO” were automatically fed to a pair of large plasma screens in the main hall of the Brussels building in which the 27 leaders of Europe were meeting to discuss a response to the eurozone debt crisis.

But soon after it was launched yesterday, Italian twitter users found out about it and flooded it with anti-Berlusconi messages.

After only two hours, the “tweet-wall” was replaced by anodyne footage of the summit proceedings and the European Council logo.

“Berlusconi pays for sex, for votes, for mafia protection, for everything he can buy. What he cannot buy will be stolen,” one tweet read.

“Berlusconi is a mafioso but he make laws for be not judged,” said another.

At around 3pm, the Euro-blogger Joe Litobarski realised what was happening and wrote: “Uh oh. Italians have realised tweets tagged #EUCO shown on Twitter wall at #EU Council meeting — expect mayhem”.

But it was the messages sent by mpietropoli, an Italian designer, that caused the council press team to take down the system when he started bombarding it with quotes from the Italian leader, including some praising Mussolini.

“Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini used to send people on vacation in internal exile,” he posted — a quote from the PM.

“[I cannot] think that there are so many pricks around who would vote against their own best interests,” mpietropoli also tweeted — another Berlusconi quote.

“We had the tweet-wall up for two hours in the main hall, but it wasn’t moderated and a lot of the tweets were … well, very, very frank,” Dana Manescu, the council press team official who organised the wall, said.

“The point was not to show insulting messages about Berlusconi. If anyone from the Italian delegation saw it, it would hurt their sensibility.”

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

UK: ‘Mother Cuts Out the Heart of Her Daughter, Four, As She Listens to Recording of Koran in Ritual Killing’

The 35-year-old woman was allegedly sitting in a her kitchen chanting verses of the Koran as her daughter’s disembowelled corpse lay next to her.

The little girl’s heart and other organs were found in different rooms around the flat in Clapton, east London.

Crime scene: Shayna Bharuchi, 35, was allegedly sitting in a her kitchen chanting verses of the Koran as her daughter Nusayba’s disembowelled corpse lay next to her.

Police suspect she she carried out the killing as a religious offering as she listened to the Muslim holy book on an MP3 player at full volume.

The mother, who is understood to have two teenage children of 14 and 16, has since been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and is in a secure unit.

The gruesome scene was discovered by the girl’s father when he arrived home to the flat on Thursday to find his partner clutching a kitchen knife.

The man, believed to be a Muslim convert, dialled 999 and paramedics pronounced the girl dead at the scene. Police said next of kin have been informed.

One neighbour, who lives in the downstairs flat and asked not to be named, said: ‘I was feeding my daughter her lunch at about 3pm and suddenly heard horrific screaming. It is shocking and so upsetting.’

He said the couple have lived in the flat for about a year.

A post-mortem examination will take place on Saturday at Poplar mortuary in east London.

The Metropolitan Police’s Child Abuse Investigation Command is leading the murder inquiry. They are not believed to be looking for anybody else.

Yesterday another shocked resident, a mum in her 30s, said the mother always wore a black headscarf with a veil.

She added: ‘Usually you could only see her eyes.

‘I often heard shouting coming from the flat as she and a man argued.

‘Their quarrels would become very heated.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Calls for ‘Anti-Semitic’ Student Leader to Quit After Facebook Message About Jews

A radical student leader who dismissed the violent tuition fees protests as ‘a few smashed windows’ has been accused of making anti-Semitic comments on a social networking site.

Mature student Clare Solomon, 37, president of the University of London Union, helped co-ordinate the protests — during which a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla was attacked — and declared herself proud of the students.

Now there are calls for Ms Solomon, the daughter of a Royal Military policeman, to resign after she wrote on Facebook: ‘The view that Jews have been persecuted all throughout history is one that has been fabricated in the last 100 or so years to justify the persecution of Palestinians.

‘To paint the picture that all Jews have always had to flee persecution is just plainly inaccurate.’

Carly McKenzie, a campaigns officer for the Union of Jewish Students, said: ‘We have lost confidence in her ability to represent Jewish students.

‘To claim that Jewish suffering is a deliberate fabrication goes beyond ignorance into real malice.

‘Her remarks had nothing to do with principled opposition to Israel and everything to do with her disdain towards the Jewish people.’

Adam Levine, President of Queen Mary Jewish Society, added: ‘She should find out before she makes such strong comments about what it means to be Jewish.’

Ms Solomon, who was raised as a Mormon, declined to comment when contacted by The Mail on Sunday but told the Jewish Chronicle newspaper: ‘This badly worded comment was something that I wrote in haste on Facebook. I’m sorry for any misunderstandings.’

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Ex-Defence Minister Joins Arms Firm Behind MOD £1.5bn Overspend

A former Labour defence minister has become an adviser to a French arms firm that supplies the government with billions of pounds worth of equipment.

Lady Taylor of Bolton — Ann Taylor — was minister for defence equipment for a year until 2008 and became minister for international defence and security until Labour lost the general election in May.

This month she joined the arms contractor Thales, which is part of the consortium supplying two aircraft carriers that are £1.541bn over budget.

The disclosure comes amid calls for closer examination of the “revolving door” of jobs between the Ministry of Defence and the arms industry.

Peter Kilfoyle, a former Labour defence minister, said: “I think its sad that people think they have to go off and do these things. I don’t think that former ministers should be working in this area at all. There’s going to be a view here that there is a potential conflict of interest.”

Taylor, 63, became leader of the House in 1997. In 2001, she became chair of the intelligence and security committee, which monitors the expenditure, administration and policy of the security service, GCHQ and the secret intelligence service. While at defence from 2007, Taylor was often involved with Thales.

In 2008, she visited Thales’ British headquarters in Crawley, West Sussex, to see their £700m Watchkeeper unmanned plane, or “drone”, programme which aims to be ready this year. In 2009, she met Thales staff at two arms exhibitions and at an international strategic thinktank. That November she announced that the government was deciding whether it could arm the Thales drones.

The advisory committee on business appointments, which decides if ministers can take up a job after leaving office, announced her appointment to Thales Corporate Services last week. She applied for permission to take the job in September and has been told that she cannot personally lobby ministers or civil servants until May 2012.

Thales is part of the consortium supplying two aircraft carriers that are £1.541bn over budget. The coalition government considered cancelling one, but could not because of penalty clauses. Instead, one of the ships will be mothballed temporarily.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Fears of Dummy Bomb Runs by ‘Terror Scouts’ At Regional Airports

Security officials have tested security at regional airports amid fears terror scouts have been staging dummy runs, it emerged today.

Two suspect packages have reportedly been spotted in the last three months which appeared to be like improvised bombs.

One hidden in a box inside a bag of hand luggage had a BlackBerry attached to a baby’s bottle with a charging cable thought to be simulating a detonator.

The second — spotted at the same airport some weeks later — also contained a mobile phone and detonator, according to The Guardian.

Both ‘devices’ were examined by bomb disposal experts and found to be harmless, meaning no passengers were charged.

Counter-terrorism officials apparently believe that airports are being ‘periodically tested’ in a bid to hunt out any weaknesses that could be exploited.

One Whitehall source said airports out of London were a greater concern because they are perceived to have less stringent security measures.

‘Periodically they [suspected terrorists] are seeing how the system works, that the security systems are being tested,’ the source told The Guardian.

BAA, which owns Heathrow and Stansted, has urged the Government to make security procedures less predictable.

It is trialling ‘behavioural detection’, where staff are trained to pick out any passengers behaving strangely.

Fears have been heightened after the alert at East Midlands Airport last month, when an ink bomb wired up to a mobile phone was found on a freight flight.

Al Qaeda planners believed the plane would have been over the Atlantic to America when it was primed to go off but it had to make an unscheduled stop off to refuel.

The counter-terror battle to prevent 9/11 style attacks is becoming ever more difficult as terrorists become more sophisticated.

But earlier this month, the Government revealed the ban on carrying liquids in hand luggage at UK airports was to be eased and could go completely by 2013.

Passengers have been restricted to carrying just 100ml of liquid in their hand luggage following a failed plot to blow up transatlantic jets in 2006.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said he planned to make the system more flexible, starting with aerosols, gels and liquids.

A Department of Transport spokesman said: ‘The UK adopts a multi-layered approach to aviation security, combining technology, intelligence and other techniques to give us one of the strictest regimes in the world. This is kept under constant review based on the latest developing threats.’

           — Hat tip: bewick[Return to headlines]

UK: Friend of 7/7 Victim in Air Rage Outburst About Muslims

A computer expert was yesterday spared jail for a drunken air-rage rant against Muslims — after a court heard his best friend had been killed in the 7/7 bombings.

Anthony Jones, 31, launched a foul-mouthed outburst, saying Muslims should not be allowed on planes because ‘they blow people up’, after downing four cans of Stella Artois on a flight from Shanghai to Heathrow.

He had resorted to alcohol after running out of tranquilisers, which he had been taking on the 13-hour flight to control his nerves.

He said after his friend, Fiona Stephenson, a lawyer, died in the Aldgate Tube bombing on July 7, 2005, he had developed severe anxiety and a terror of flying.

In a series of foul-mouthed rants while travelling with his Chinese wife and baby son he racially abused Muslims and said ‘they blew up my friend’. He also told a stewardess he would ‘get her the sack’.


Judge Andrew Johnson told him he would have been jailed were it not for the fact that his outburst had been caused by his mental condition.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: What Kind of Woman Would Help Protect a Child Killer?

Dressed in her sparkling white communion veil, grinning shyly for the camera, Amy Houston looked a picture of purity and innocence in photographs taken when she was 12 years old.

Today, little Amy should be a contented young woman. Instead, in the words of her devastated father Paul, she was left to ‘die like a dog’ in the street after being knocked down by Mohammed Ibrahim, a serial criminal and failed asylum seeker, who was driving while supposedly banned from the road.

After taking Amy’s life, Ibrahim — an Iraqi Kurd who, after killing Amy, allegedly married a woman and had two children by her — committed a series of further crimes, including burglary, theft, harassment and yet more driving offences.

Once he was captured, Amy’s family had every right to expect that this vile man would be punished and then ejected from the country. Deporting him back to Iraq — a country where British soldiers died to help make safe — was the least punishment he deserved.

But, this week, Ibrahim won his lengthy legal battle to remain in the UK thanks, yet again, to the Human Rights Act. Being returned to his homeland would infringe on his right to a ‘private, family life’ in Britain, you see, and never mind the devastation he wrought on Amy’s family’s life.

Is it any wonder that most decent people loathe a piece of legislation which, though well-intended, has become nothing more than a charter for villains and a nice little earner for the lawyers who fight their causes…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Winning the Argument

Whenever I worry that my instinct for pluralism and debate is drawing me to listen to siren voices, I am reminded of the idiocy of the authoritarian alternative. This week I had the honour of being singled out by the Islamist fellow-travellers of iEngage after I dared to write that such a sectarian organisation should never have been considered to act as the secretariat for the new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia.

The full letter from the head of iEngage, Mohammed Asif, is available on the organisation’s website.

This is the meat of the gripe:

“It is the machinations of journalists like Martin Bright who have through their disreputable work sought to advance the “good (apolitical) Muslim”/”bad (politically active) Muslim” dichotomy that has created a situation in which Muslims who challenge and demur from the sham discourse on “Islamism” are derisively treated and cast beyond the pale.”

Beyond the barely comprehensible jargon, I think what he is saying is that he’s really angry that I rumbled him. I have no desire to close down the debate with political Islam. But it was never right that such an ideologically driven organisation was considered as the appropriate body to administer and advise such an important committee. The argument was an important one. It has now been had and the committee has made the decision to drop iEngage. Of such debate is democracy made.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


ERRC: Roma Live in Poor Conditions

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, DECEMBER 15 — The Roma in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia live in poor conditions, and racism and discrimination are the main hurdles in improving the situation, showed a research conducted by the European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), presented at the Media Center, Belgrade.

The research, which included visits to 110 families, was designed to identify the main problems of the Roma, start legal activities and see what the governments in the region are doing to tackle the problem, said ERRC research consultant Djordje Jovanovic.

“Public officials and institutions discriminate against the Roma not only by forcing them from their homes, but also by denying them the right to social housing. The criteria are strict, because the applicants must be employed and have proof of years of service, and most Roma have no personal documents,” Jovanovic said.

“The Roma live in unsatisfactory conditions, which affects their access to education, employment and health care, which in turn affects their health,” said the ERRC researcher.

ERRC lawyer Idaver Memedov said that segregation is widespread in Slovakia, where in one case municipal authorities went as far as building a wall to separate the Roma neighborhood from the rest of the town.

The Roma must be involved in the planning and implementation of all activities which help solve their housing problems, amnesty needs to be guaranteed for all informal Roma settlements and state officials guilty of discrimination need to be held accountable, Memedov said.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Media Question Wisdom of Recognising Kosovo

Does Switzerland bear a responsibility for the legitimacy of the Kosovo government, given it was one of the first nations to recognise Kosovo’s independence?

There have been criticisms in the Swiss media this week of Switzerland’s diplomatic move, following a Council of Europe report accusing the Kosovo leader of heading a mafia-style organisation.

The international community also came in for criticism by Swiss politician Dick Marty, who led the investigation..

According to Marty, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations were all aware of the crimes committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), but turned a blind eye in favour of short-term stability.

His report accuses Thaci of being the head of an organised crime ring during the Kosovo Albanian guerrilla war against Serbia in the late 1990s — a ring that assassinated opponents and trafficked in drugs as well as organs harvested from murdered Serbs.

Newspapers including Geneva’s Le Temps took Switzerland to task. On Thursday, it said that Switzerland was following and even encouraging the trend of quasi-absolving crimes committed by the Albanians — and that despite the work of its countryman Marty as well as war crimes prosecutor in the Hague, Switzerland’s own Carla Del Ponte.

“How blind! How could such a careful country that insists on human rights be so partisan,” asked Le Temps.

In Le Temps’ view, Switzerland carries a larger part of the burden than other countries on account of its connections with the KLA.

“Would Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey still shake Hashim Thaci’s hand today as she did when the Swiss embassy opened in Pristina in 2008?” queried the newspaper.

Right or wrong?

“Marty is right regarding one accusation — that the goal of political stability in Kosovo was given priority over the basic principles of justice,” wrote the Zurich-based Neue Zürcher Zeitung on Friday.

Yet former parliamentarian Ruth-Gaby Vermot from the Social Democratic Party disagrees, coming to the defence of the Swiss government’s position on Kosovo sovereignty.

“I still think it was right for Switzerland to recognise Kosovo so quickly. This young nation needed support as well as money for its development,” Vermot told

She pointed out that there are always human rights issues linked with nations and liberation organisations involved in wars. However, it is only since Marty’s report that people realise how dreadful these crimes are.

“Now it is possible to look into it properly and make the government accountable,” Vermot said.

Clarity needed

The Swiss foreign ministry has not yet taken a position on Marty’s report. It called on the affected countries to contribute to the clarifications of Marty’s “very serious” allegations.

“Now it is time for the responsible authorities — including the international ones — to take the necessary legal steps,” the ministry told the Swiss News Agency. The EU mission EULEX has already led investigations into allegations of inhumane treatment. “Justice now takes priority,” said the ministry.

A key part of Switzerland’s involvement in Kosovo is the goal of strengthening the country’s rule of law. According to the foreign ministry, the allegations in Marty’s report have provided “more arguments” that this commitment should continue.

Kosovo and Switzerland

On February 17, 2008, the former Serbian province of Kosovo declared its independence.

The Swiss government recognised Kosovo as an independent state on February 27, 2008; it was one of the first countries to do so.

Since October 1999, the Swiss Armed Forces have been involved in the international peace support mission of the Kosovo Force (Kfor) with Swisscoy in Kosovo — short for Swiss Company.

Swisscoy is composed of up to 220 voluntary military personnel armed for self defence with pistols, assault rifles and riot agent spray generators.

There are around 270,000 Albanian speakers currently living in Switzerland, of whom 200,000 are thought to originate from Kosovo.

But only a minority of Kosovars in Switzerland are thought to have participated in Sunday’s elections in Kosovo as the participation deadline for Kosovars living abroad was very short.

Kosovo, where ethnic Albanians make up 92 per cent of the population of 2.2 million, declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Serbs still dominate the north of the country.

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

North Africa

Algeria: New Splendour for ‘Notre Dame D’Afrique’

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 14 — The luminous and imposing ‘Madame Africa’, as it is known by Algerians, has regained its antique splendour, and once again dominates the bay from one of the hills of Algiers, more resplendent than ever. After restoration works lasting three years and costing 5.1 million euros, the Notre Dame d’Afrique Basilica was inaugurated yesterday before a number of Algerian and French personalities.

“Notre Dame d’Afrique prays for us and for all Muslims” is written on the apse in French, Arabic and Berber. Yesterday, as if wanting to forget for a moment the problems faced by Algeria’s Christian community — four converted Algerians were sentenced on Sunday for building an unauthorised place of worship — the ceremony was attended by the Archbishop of Algiers, Ghaleb Bader, and the Minister for Religious Affairs, Bouabdallah Ghlamallah, as well as by the representative of President Bouteflika, the Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem, and the historic bishop of the Algerian capital, Monsignor Tessier.

This restoration, Bader said, “is a real work of art, not only architecturally but in terms of understanding between the different religious communities in Algeria and between the two peoples on the two sides of the Mediterranean”. Speaking to the press, Belkhadem said that “there is no distinction in Algeria between Muslims and Christians as far as religious practices are concerned,” ruling out any form of restriction. “Everyone must respect the law, and Islam is fighting for tolerance,” he added.

Built in the mid 19th century, the Basilica was showing its age. It was also seriously damaged by the serious earthquake of 2003 that hit the region around Algiers. The restoration, which has been financed by the European Union, but also by the wilaya of Algiers, three French regions, the city of Marseille and a number of Algerian and French companies, such as Cevital, Sonatrach, Sonelgaz and Total, involved a number of different parts of the building.

The aim of the work was not only to restore the Basilica to its bygone youth, but also to introduce an anti-seismic structure. The bell tower and turrets were dismantled, stone by stone, and reassembled with a new steel reinforcement.

The vaults and the apse were strengthened with carbon strips, while the 46 glass windows were taken to Marseille to be restored by French master glassworkers. The works were directed by the architect Xavier David, who also opened a training building site. In the next few weeks, David will begin the restoration of one of the other most important religious buildings in Algeria, the Basilica of Saint Augustin in Annaba, the birthplace of the saint. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bluefin Tuna: Controversy in Algeria Over Its Quota

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, DECEMBER 15 — There is controversy in Algeria over the bluefin tuna quota assigned to the country for 2011: 138 tonnes against the 680 of 2010. A drastic reduction due, according to Algiers, to the absence of its representatives at the most recent meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) due to a visa not being issued. “The absence of the delegation was done in order to deprive Algeria of its quota,” stated the president of the union for the tuna fishermen in the Mediterranean, Mourad Kahoul, who accuses ICCAT of having redistributed the Algerian quotas to Libya, Morocco, Egypt and Croatia. The north African country has already presented its appeal to the Commission to obtain at least the same quota as last year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Siwa, Ancient Oasis Threatened

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 16 — Siwa, the oasis in northern Egypt and the extreme eastern point of the Berber civilisation — ‘Siwi’, a Berber dialect, is still spoken in the area — risks losing its original urban heart, the old town of Shali, which is built out of a salt, rock and mud mixture locally known as ‘kershef’.

The area risks dissolving due to the rain and due to water that flows underground every day and is also threatened by restoration projects with modern, unnatural materials. “Of course we want to protect Shali, which is currently decaying due to the excessive cost of kershef, water, and seismic risks, we can easily rebuild it out of plastic,” said Italian architect Attilio Petruccioli with a note of sarcasm, a professor at the Politecnico University in Bari, speaking during the presentation in Cairo of the Diarcheo-Proposal for sustainable development of the Siwa Oasis, of which the architect is one of the leaders. Financed by the Italian Foreign Office and Economic Development Ministry, the project is managed by several Italian Regions, led by Apulia, and receives a contribution from Molise. During the debate, Siwa Mayor Samir Belal expressed concerns about the economic aspects of the survival of the oasis and of its urban centre, where 15,000 to 20,000 people reside. “Our agriculture,” he underlined, “is seriously hindered by the salt water that always surfaces and requires constant draining in order to continue farming. Especially for date palms.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

As Rabbis in Israel Ban Renting Houses to Non-Jews, Rabbis Around the World Oppose the Idea

The ruling by 50 leading Israeli rabbis against renting or selling property to Gentiles has caused a storm in Israel and the Diaspora. The Attorney General’s Office of Israel plans to look into possible criminal aspects of the religious ruling. More than 750 rabbis in the Diaspora said the decision caused “shock and pain”.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Hundreds of leading rabbis from congregations around the world have signed a petition criticising their counterparts in Israel after they issued a religious ruling forbidding Jews from selling or leasing property to Gentiles. More than 750 signatories to the petition by ‘Rabbis against Religious Discrimination’ deplored the new ruling issued by prominent Israeli rabbis saying it caused “shock and pain.”

“The attempt to root discriminatory policies based on religion or ethnicity in Torah is a painful distortion of our tradition,” the petition said. “Am Yisrael [the people of Israel] knows the sting of discrimination, and we still bear the scars of hatred. When those who represent the official rabbinic leadership of the State of Israel express such positions, we are distressed by this Chillul HaShem, desecration of God’s name,” the petition also read.

The petition went on to say that the Jewish communities outside of Israel “struggle to maintain a strong, loving relationship” with Israel. It noted that “Many of our congregants love Israel and want nothing more than the safety and security of the Jewish homeland, but for a growing number of Jews in America this relationship to Israel cannot be assumed.”

The petition statement added that such proclamations “communicate to our congregants that Israel does not share their values, and they promote feelings of alienation and distancing,” as well as provide “justification for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment across the world.”

For his part, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a moderate religious Zionist leader, is working to achieve a compromise on the controversy surrounding the banning of Jews from selling or leasing property to Arabs.

Druckman is proposing an alternative that would distinguish between “loyal Arabs” and “Israel-hating rabbis.” For him, a “loyal Arab” must have equal rights, but “Israel-haters” should be ostracised.

In the meantime, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein’s office stated last week that it would look into possible criminal aspects of the religious ruling that prohibits renting homes to gentiles signed by a number of leading rabbis.

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

Middle East

130 Million Strong: Al-Qaeda’s Deep Muslim Support

On December 2, 2010, the Pew Research Center released the results of a new poll of six Muslim countries that sheds a surprising new light on the number of Muslims worldwide that support al-Qaeda. (The six countries polled: Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.) The report reveals that majorities of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims neither support al-Qaeda nor believe that suicide bombings are ever justified in defense of Islam. Osama bin Laden, the poll reveals, “receives overwhelmingly negative ratings in nearly all countries” asked about him.

The Pew report coincides with an al-Qaeda video distributed on October 23, 2010. In it, al-Qaeda spokesman Adam Gadahn airs al-Qaeda’s poor view of the majority of Muslims. According to Gadahn, one part of the global Muslim community is apostate; another is victim to lustful, worldly influences; and a third (perhaps largest) portion has lost the ability to think for themselves, allowing clerics to turn them against al-Qaeda and the jihad.

While it is good news that the majority of the world’s Muslim population repudiates al-Qaeda, and vice versa, we in the West cannot take too much comfort. Pew also provides each polled country’s percentages of support for al-Qaeda: 34 percent of Jordanians, 49 percent of Nigerian Muslims, 3 percent of Lebanese, 20 percent of Egyptians, 23 percent of Indonesians, 18 percent of Pakistanis, and 4 percent of Turks. In real numbers, the total is staggering. A whopping 129,942,000 Muslims support al-Qaeda. That’s right, almost 130 million Muslims support al-Qaeda — and that from just the six countries Pew’s pollsters visited.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arrests 38 After ‘Sectarian’ Clashes: Reports

Saudi police arrested 38 people in the holy city of Medina after fighting erupted near Islam’s oldest mosque Al-Quba on the Shiite religious holiday of Ashura, Saudi media reported on Saturday. Several people suffered minor injuries in Thursday’s clashes between “groups of youths,” the press reports said. Three security officials were also wounded, the Al-Madina newspaper said. The Shiite website said the fighting pitted members of Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority against majority Sunnis. Many of the kingdom’s top Sunni clerics have condemned Shiites as having rejected “true” Islam.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Talent: Confirmed: Suspicion of Iran is Universal

One of the few good things to come from the despicable WikiLeaks of U.S. diplomatic cables is that they demonstrate that Muslim leaders who are closest to the Iranian regime — and who know it best — are emphatic that Iran is an aggressive and ongoing state sponsor of terrorism, that it must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability and that it cannot be trusted.

Those who have been skeptical of Western claims on these matters should heed the warnings of Arab leaders with regard to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism. Egyptian President HosniMubarak tells us that the Iranians are “sponsors of terrorism.” And Kuwait’s military intelligence chief told U.S. Gen. David H. Petraeus that Iran was supporting extremist groups in Yemen.

As to the threat of the Iranian nuclear weapons program, we now know that Jordanian officials have called for the Iranian nuclear program to be stopped by any means necessary. And officials in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have referred to the Iranian regime as “evil” and an “existential threat.” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi warned the United States and the world against appeasing the Iranian regime, going so far as to declare that “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged the United States to attack the Iranian regime to destroy its nuclear program. According to one cable, King Abdullah “frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons program.” The Saudi ambassador to Washington, reporting on a 2008 meeting between King Abdullah and Gen. Petraeus, tells American officials that King Abdullah “told you to cut off the head of the snake.”

It is instructive to learn what Muslim leaders think of Iran as a negotiating parter. Egypt’s Mr. Mubarak cautioned the United States to be wary of what Iranian leaders say because “they are big, fat liars.” Saudi King Abdullah told a U.S. diplomat: “The bottom line is that [the Iranians] cannot be trusted.” Foreign Policy magazine reports: “In a telling exchange at the end of his meeting with the Emir, the Qatari ruler gave [Sen. John] Kerry some advice for dealing with the Iranian government. ‘The Amir closed the meeting by offering that based on 30 years of experience with the Iranians, they will give you 100 words. Trust only one of the 100,’ the cable said.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Turkey: We’ll Make Fighter Jets! (and Spaceships Too…)

The Defense Industry Executive Committee… Even the mention of the name radiates an ultimate level of seriousness that one feels an urge to stand up and button an unbuttoned jacket. This is the panel that brings together the prime minister, defense minister, chief of the General Staff and defense procurement chief for final discussions on what weapon systems Turkey should be buying, from which supplier and under what terms and conditions.

One can imagine grey, grim office rooms decorated with giant-size Turkish flags, distasteful seats for the very important committee members, humorless discussions bogged down with complex details concerning war toys on endless shopping lists. But behind this gloomy façade, the meetings can be fun! Especially when the committee members sit down over humorless meetings but produce humorous decisions.

Wednesday was a particularly entertaining day for the Turkish defense industry. Not because the important men in suits and uniform gathered for another humorless meeting, but because they agreed to do something “humor-ful.”

After the meeting, Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül proudly announced that the committee had pushed the button for feasibility studies for the design, development and production of Turkey’s first “entirely indigenous and national” fighter jet!

The new generation “Made in Turkey” fighters will replace Turkey’s aging F-4 aircraft, and will operate together with the F-16s — which Turkey already has in its inventory — and the F-35s (widely known as the Joint Strike Fighter) — which Turkey plans to buy from a U.S.-led international consortium. The committee has decided to task the local aviation company TAI with the “conceptual design” work. With the project, Turkey will join the small league of half a dozen or so countries that has the capabilities to design and produce their own fighter jets.

Wonderful news! I cannot help prematurely suggesting to christen the Turkish fighter “the Fatih” or “the Yavuz” — or just “the Sultan.” With some Italian help it could well be dubbed “the Mamma li Turchi!” Since the proposed aircraft will boast state-of-the-art features specifically for air-to-air missions (dogfights and combat), an alternative name could be “the 1453,” with a hidden message to our friends across the Aegean.

Things may take an even more humorous turn with the involvement of TAI, our national aerospace powerhouse. I could not hide my smile in front of the defense official friend upon Minister Gönül’s announcement, especially when I remembered that TAI had been bogged down with developing a simple trainer for the past several (oh, more than several!) years. The Hurkus, TAI’s basic trainer, is yet to make a maiden flight, but a photo at the TAI premises shows it flying over Turkish skies thanks to Turkish engineering miracles — not aircraft making but photo-shopping!

Apparently, trainer aircraft and drones are systems too complex for Turkish engineering. On the other hand, kites and model planes would be too simple. I would suggest something in between for a nice start, rather than an agile fighter jet with air-to-air combat role. Maybe big model planes or kites equipped with rockets would do. Should Minister Gönül insist on a fighter aircraft flying over our skies and safeguarding the homeland, TAI’s engineers will have to do overtime on more photo-shopping projects.

But “the Sultan” — I increasingly warming to the name — will certainly capture the average voter who would be content with a photo-shopped warplane. He won’t care if there really is a Turkish-made aircraft. Just the news of it will suffice to thrill him — and make him proud of his government. See from now on how the “yellow newspapers” will cover the “big news.”

In early 2000s, a cartoon in a Turkish magazine depicted two defense procurement officials apologetically telling an angry minister of defense that their national tank prototype “had derailed during field tests.” I cut the cartoon and sent it, with compliments, to the procurement chief, Murad Bayar. The always polite and gentlemanly Mr. Bayar later told me that that cartoon was adorning an office wall where the head of the project for the design and development of Turkey’s first main battle tank works — on strict orders that it should remain framed there until Turkey’s first national tank, the Altay, is up and running.

But what happened to the Altay after more than a decade? The government earmarked a generous $500 million for the design and development of four prototypes, one of which will eventually become the Altay. There is a minor problem, though. Of that money, $350 million went to a foreign technology supplier for what will become “Turkey’s first entirely Turkish tank!” I hope the project coordinator will forgive me for forcing him to face a boring cartoon for several years.

But I won’t give up. As soon as some creative cartoonist depicts two procurement officers apologetically telling an angry minister of defense that the prototype for our first national fighter jet has failed to glide underwater during sea tests, I’ll send it along to Mr. Bayar — with compliments, as always.

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


Moscow Under Siege for Racist Violence

The death of a Spartak fan killed in a fight with a Caucasian triggers clashes between xenophobic ultra-nationalists and immigrants from the Caucasus. For four days the capital has been under curfew and there are still incidents of xenophobia. The police yesterday arrested over 1300 people, including immigrants and extremists. Islamic and Orthodox religious leaders are warning about the risk of ethnically motivated massacres.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — For four days an escalation of violence between the xenophobic ultra-nationalists, linked to the world of football fans and groups of immigrants from the Caucasus, has been holding the capital prisoner. Yesterday, in a maxi raid on a demonstration organized by fans, police arrested about 1300 people, most of them immigrants with whom the extremists had already begun to clash.

The town’s police chief, Viktor Biryukov, said that police seized knives, sticks and other weapons. More than 3 thousand officers in riot gear were deployed around the station in Kiev where the xenophobic nationalists and immigrants had gathered for the protest. “Caucasians go Home” and “Russia for Russians” read some of the banners and slogans shouted by the protesters.

The trigger, a brawl between supporters and immigrants

The death of a Spartak fan, in a fight with a Caucasian, on 11 December triggered the violence. Immediately after the killing, rumors of the arrival of groups of Caucasians in the capital, ready to respond to the provocations of the Spartak hooligans started to circulate online and in media reports. Spartak fans in turn had already taken to the streets shouting racist chants. The reaction of the murdered boy’s “comrades”, was decidedly ultra-nationalist in nature and led to the first violent protest during the weekend, which resulted in a real urban warfare under the walls of the Kremlin that ended with a toll of more than 30 wounded, and seventy arrests. Since then, Moscow is virtually under a state of siege, with the center closed and patrolled by police in riot gear, ready to intervene in case of any recurrence.

December 13, the xenophobic alarm saw attacks by gangs of young against Caucasians immigrants and death by stabbing, of a Dagestani who had been brutally beaten first.

Religious leaders appeal for peace

The alert level has also led to the mobilization of members of religious communities. The head of the Council of Mufti Ravil Gainutdin warned about the risk of an “anti-Caucasian and anti-Islamic trend in Russian society.” “Russia must not become an arena of inter-ethnic slaughter.” And he called to “Youth, first of all the Muslims, not to respond to provocation. Do not leave home “was his call.

The Russian Orthodox Church has said it is “concerned about the situation” of ethnic relations. The head of the department for relations between the Church and Society of the Moscow Patriarchate, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, has called on the authorities to expel the immigrants responsible for the death from the country and asked local people for dialogue on the basis of shared rules of civil coexistence.

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

Moscow Police Arrest Hundreds Ahead of Nationalist Rallies

Russian police arrested some 1,300 people Saturday in Moscow city and the region in a bid to prevent gatherings of Russian nationalists and Caucasians which have already sparked deadly violence. “The police prevented several attempted non-authorised gatherings in the Moscow region,” regional police spokesman Evgeny Gildeev was quoted as saying by the Itar-Tass news agency. “As part of these preventative measures to ensure public order, 808 people have been detained in police stations,” he said, without specifying whether the people were nationalists or Caucasians. In the city of Moscow, some 500 right-wingers marched in a park near the Ostankino television headquarters shouting slogans such as “Russia for the Russians,” an AFP photographer at the scene reported. Hundreds of riot police descended on the park, after Internet messages called for a rally at Ostankino to protest at media coverage which had described the right-wingers as “fascists”. There were no confrontations with police, the AFP photographer said. “Nearly all the participants (in the march) were arrested,” city police spokesman Viktor Biryukov told Russian news agencies. He added that most of some 500 people arrested in Moscow were minors. Questioned about the number of teenagers taking part in the far-right rallies, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told Russian television that he thought it was a “disturbing sign”, that it was necessary to “work with the youth”, saying that they were not “a lost generation”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

24 Hours in Pictures

New Delhi, India: A Shiite Muslim beats his chest as part of a self-flagellation ritual during the Ashura mourning period. The festival commemorates the slaying of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Imam Hussein in the seventh century

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur: Government Suspends Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim

The former deputy premier accuses the government of having ties with Israel. Along with him, three other members of Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition, have been suspended. This move brings the Barison Nasional, the ruling party, to regain a majority of two thirds, lost for the first time in 40 years with the 2008 elections.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) — Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, along with three members of his camp, were suspended yesterday for six months, allowing the Barison Nasional coalition to reach a majority of two thirds. Ibrahim accused the ruling party of having ties with Israel. The leader of the Pakatan Rakyat, the opposition coalition, can however still participate in current parliamentary debates.

Earlier this year, Ibrahim said that the policy agenda 1Malaysia, planned by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2008, is connected to Israeli political alliance called One Israel. The opposition leader said the prime minister employed the Apco Worldwide, a public relations consultancy firm, to develop the slogan of 1Malaysia. He also accused the Apco of having links with Israel.

The parliament has also suspended the opposition MPs Azmin Ali, Karpal Singh and Sivarasa Rasih accused of leaking information while they were part of the inquiry committee into 1Malaysia.

The suspension paves the way for the Barisan Nasional to regain a two-thirds majority in parliament, gaining the support of independent candidates. This will allow the coalition to amend the Constitution and redraw the electoral boundaries.

The next general elections are scheduled for 2013, but the government wants to bring them forward to 2011. With the last vote in 2008, the Pakatan Rakyat deprived the Barisan Nasional of a two-thirds majority for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Anwar Ibrahim, 62, was deputy until 1998, when he had to leave his post following allegations of corruption and sodomy. Jailed at the time of the Asian financial crisis at the end of the millennium, he has spent six years in prison. In 2004 the Federal Court overturned the conviction for sodomy, and Ibrahim threw himself back into political life. Now he faces a new set of charges of sodomy, which the opposition claims conceal political motives.

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

Pakistan Spy Agency Denies it Helped Unmask CIA Station Chief in Islamabad

Pakistan’s top spy agency denied speculation Saturday that it helped unmask the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad in retaliation for a New York City lawsuit linking Pakistan’s intelligence chief to the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India.

The CIA ordered its station chief out of Pakistan because his life was threatened after a Pakistani lawsuit revealed his name.

His recall comes at a delicate time, as the White House presses Islamabad to rid its lawless tribal regions of safe havens for militants fighting in Afghanistan, where the U.S. is grappling with an exit strategy.

The station chief’s name was revealed by a Pakistani man threatening to sue the CIA over the deaths of his son and brother in a 2009 U.S. missile strike.

The attorney involved with the legal complaint said the man learned the name from Pakistani journalists. Pakistan’s spy agencies have kept ties to a number of Pakistani journalists as a way to influence coverage.

Questions have arisen as to whether a civil lawsuit filed last month in Brooklyn in connection with the 2008 Mumbai attacks may have raised tensions with Pakistan and spurred it to retaliate.

The lawsuit lists Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, as a defendant and accuses the ISI of nurturing terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks, which left 166 people dead.

A Pakistani intelligence official dismissed any claims of ISI involvement in exposing the CIA official as “a slur.” He declined to offer any comment on the Brooklyn lawsuit and said it was entirely possible Pakistani journalists simply figured out the station chief’s identity on their own.

Such “unfounded stories can create differences between the two organisations,” the Pakistani intelligence official warned.

He also said the CIA has not directly accused the ISI of any wrongdoing in the matter.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Icky Wiki E-Mails Skeeved Out Teen

Julian Assange has his own embarrassing e-mails.

The lovesick WikiLeaks founder sent a 19-year-old girl a series of gross-out messages for 10 days until he finally heeded her pleas to go away.

Assange also tracked down the girl’s phone number and license plate in a futile attempt to date her in 2004, long before he became famous.

Assange, then 33, met her at a bar near Melbourne, Australia, and tried to flirt by explaining complex math equations.

“I didn’t think he was sexy or anything” — but rather “quiet and nerdy,” the woman, identified only as Elizabeth, told

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Radical Muslim Sect Again Stalks Northern Nigeria

In the dusty streets of northeastern Nigeria, far from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan, a group known as the Nigerian Taliban is waging war against a government it refuses to recognize.

The radical Muslim sect called Boko Haram was thought to be vanquished in 2009, when Nigeria’s military crushed its mosque into concrete shards, and its leader was arrested and died in police custody. But now, a year later, Maiduguri and surrounding villages again live in fear of the group, whose members have assassinated police and local leaders and engineered a massive prison break, officials say.

Western diplomats are concerned that the sect is catching the attention of al-Qaida’s North Africa branch. They also worry that Boko Haram represents chaos and disintegration in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and one of the top suppliers of crude oil to the United States.

“It is possible that Nigeria could be a future Pakistan,” a leaked cable released by the WikiLeaks website quotes U.S. Assistant Secretary of African Affairs Johnnie Carson as saying earlier this year. “In 25 years, there could be impoverished masses, a wealthy elite and radicalism in the north. The question is whether the oil wells will be dry as well.”

The cable later adds: “Nigeria is at a critical financial and political threshold and the entire nation could possibly tip backwards permanently.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tide of Refugees on Nile as Sudan Faces Break-Up

The first barges came yesterday at dawn completing an epic 17-day journey along the White Nile to deliver their human cargo from Khartoum to Juba, the capital of what may become Africa’s newest country next month.

Washerwomen on the west bank sang a high-pitched welcome to the hundreds of incoming refugees who crowded the decks ululating and beating drums.

The half-dozen rusting hulks that floated into Juba with more than one thousands passengers were the latest additions to a wave of southerners flooding out of the north ahead of a January vote expected to split Sudan in two.

As many as 75,000 southerners have moved south, according to the UN, aboard makeshift convoys of trucks, buses and barges. Some have come to vote and others to escape a feared backlash in the Muslim-dominated north.

“These big numbers are moving earlier than humanitarian agencies had anticipated,” said Vincent Bolt from Catholic charity Cafod. “It has not yet reached humanitarian crisis proportions but the UN estimates are that up to 800,000 in the next six months could make the journey, which would be a 10 per cent increase of the southern population.”

The influx is coming into one of the poorest countries on earth where nine out of 10 people live in abject poverty. In the would-be new country, a girl has more chance of dying in childbirth than finishing school.

Three weeks today, a referendum in the south will decide whether to divide Africa’s largest country under the terms of a 2005 peace deal that ended the continent’s longest civil war. An overwhelming “yes” vote is expected in favour of secession.

Prior to the ceasefire, 22 years of fighting between the Arab-ruled north and the predominantly Christian and animist south left two million dead and scattered millions of refugees. As war ravaged the south, emptying vast areas, the population of southerners living in the north swelled to 1.5 million.

A recent drumbeat of threatening noises from the government in Khartoum has persuaded many to abandon their lives in the more developed north and move south.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


European Problem, Not Just Local, Libyan Minister

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, DECEMBER 13 — “Solutions linked to security are temporary and do not resolve the problem.

Strategies need to be found to support the economies of the countries of origin, and to develop reasons not to leave through dialogue between departure countries, transit countries and destinations”.

This is according to Libya’s Public Security Minister, General Younis Al Obeidi, who has been speaking about illegal immigration at the informal meeting of 5+5 countries in Tripoli this morning.

So far, the Minister said, “we have not found effective cooperation on issues linked to illegal immigration, which is a direct problem for us”. According to some figures quoted by Al Obeidi, there are “5,000 Libyan police involved in controlling the 4,000 kilometres of the southern borders, the 2,000 kilometres of coast to the north and the one and a half million illegal immigrants in Libya who have committed 24,000 crimes between 2002 and 2010”. Some 30% of these illegal immigrants die trying to reach Europe.

“We find dozens of them in the desert and just as many die at sea aboard any available boats that are loaded beyond all limits by people-traffickers”, the General said, adding that illegal immigration is “not a local problem but one that concerns all of Europe”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Kate Middleton’s Posh Pal Jokes: I’d Shoot Immigrants

A POSH pal of Kate Middleton was at the centre of a police probe last night — after joking she planned to SHOOT illegal immigrants. Emma Sayle, who works as an orgy organiser, will be formally quizzed by cops on Monday over alleged racist posts on Facebook.

The 32-year-old socialite shocked friends when she wrote of herself: “Just had a two-hour shooting lesson. She will now be using this skill on the top of East London high rises to help with the UK’s illegal immigrant problem.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Our Coverage on Immigration and Europe Was Weak, Admits BBC Director General

BBC coverage of issues such as immigration and Europe had been weak in the past, admitted the corporation’s Director General Mark Thompson.

He confessed the BBC had been nervous about tackling issues regarded as sensitive.

But he claimed the broadcaster had corrected that position and forced reluctant politicians to address the matter of immigration during this year’s General Election.

He admitted it should not be the corporation’s role to start ‘censoring the public debate’ and said the BBC would give space for ‘extreme and radical perspectives’.

His admission comes only a few months after he accepted the corporation had been guilty of a ‘massive’ Left-wing bias.

His latest comments — made during a speech at the Institute for Government on Thursday night — follow a 2007 BBC Trust report which suggested news coverage had sidestepped immigration and Europe.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: We’re Not Prejudiced — Just Two Christians Who Passionately Believe in the Sanctity of Marriage

The seven-bedroom hotel is, you see, owned and run by devout Christians Peter Bull, 71, and his wife Hazelmary, 66, who permit only married heterosexual couples to book into their double rooms. Unmarrieds can sleep in their twins and singles.

Civil partnerships between same sex couples do not count as marriage in the Bulls’ eyes.

‘We are not homophobic, but the Bible is very clear that a man should not lie with a man and woman should not lie with a woman,’ Hazelmary tells me.


This week, both sides had their day in court, with the Bulls — supported by the Christian Institute — arguing that the Equality act infringes their human rights as Christians. Judgment has been deferred.

But during the hearing, an intriguing question was raised: could the Bulls have been deliberately ‘set up’ by the gay rights lobby?

A month earlier Mr and Mrs Bull had received correspondence criticising their policy from gay rights group Stonewall, of which Mr Hall and Mr Preddy are reportedly supporters.

The booking page of the hotel’s website contains a ‘special note’ which states: ‘Here at Chymorvah we have few rules, but please note that as Christians we have a deep regard for marriage (being the union of one man to one woman for life to the exclusion of all others).

‘Therefore, although we extend a warm welcome to our home, our double-bedded accommodation is not available to unmarried couples.’

However, Mr Preddy told the court he’d not been aware of this special note on the hotel’s website, and had booked Chymorvah simply because it looked like a nice place. He denied the hotel had been deliberately targeted because of the Bulls’ Christian beliefs.

The Bulls remain unconvinced.

Don’t most people, they ask, do quite a bit of research on hotels, scouring websites for every single detail, rather than risk disappointment, before parting with their cash?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Pythagoras, A Math Genius? Not by Babylonian Standards

(CNN) — Over 1,000 years before Pythagoras was calculating the length of a hypotenuse, sophisticated scribes in Mesopotamia were working with the same theory to calculate the area of their farmland.

Working on clay tablets, students would “write” out their math problems in cuneiform script, a method that involved making wedge-shaped impressions in the clay with a blunt reed.

These tablets bear evidence of practical as well as more advanced theoretical math and show just how sophisticated the ancient Babylonians were with numbers — more than a millennium before Pythagoras and Euclid were doing the same in ancient Greece.

“They are the most sophisticated mathematics from anywhere in the world at that time,” said Alexander Jones, a Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at New York University.

He is co-curator of “Before Pythagoras: The Culture of Old Babylonian Mathematics,” an exhibition at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World in New York.

“This is nearly 4,000 years ago and there’s no other ancient culture at that time that we know of that is doing anything like that level of work. It seems to be going beyond anything that daily life needs,” he said.

Many scribes were trained in the ancient city of Nippur in what is now southern Iraq, where a large number of tablets were discovered between the mid-19th century and the 1920s.

Typical problems they worked on involved calculating the area of a given field, or the width of a trench.

These problems, says Jones, required the kind of math training taught to American Grade 10 students, but not in a format we would now recognize.

“It’s not like algebra, it’s all written out in words and numerals but no symbols and no times signs or equals or anything like that,” he said.

This system, and the lack of recognizable Western mathematical symbols such as x and y, meant that it was several years before historians and archaeologists understood just what was represented on these tablets.

It took a young Austrian mathematician in the 1920s, named Otto Neugebauer, to crack the mathematical system and work out what the ancient Babylonians were calculating. But despite his advances, it is only recently that interest in Babylonian math has started to take hold.

“I think that before Neugebauer and even after Neugebauer, there wasn’t a lot of attention placed on mathematical training in Babylon even though we have this rich cuneiform history with the tablets,” said Jennifer Chi, Associate Director for Exhibitions and Public Programs at Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

One of the aims of the institute, she says, is to find interconnections between ancient cultures as well as look at what the institute sees as under-represented ancient cultures — and the culture of ancient Babylonian math, she says, is ripe for popular revision.

“When we think of ancient mathematics, the first names that come to mind are Pythagoras and Euclid,” she said, but that “this shouldn’t be the case.”

And though ancient Babylonia is often referred to in popular culture as a “lost” world, in fact much more evidence of mathematical learning from the period exists than from ancient Greece, said Chi.

Jones of New York University believes that there is much more that could be excavated but that, of course, current conditions in Iraq are not favorable. Still, there are enough tablets in collections across the world for mathematical historians to get stuck into.

For non-mathematicians, these tablets are a fascinating document of life in Mesopotamia. Most of the problems displayed are grounded in the everyday needs of ancient Babylonians.

But some tablets show the students engaging in what Jones calls “recreational math” — math for math’s sake.

“The only point of learning to do this kind of thing is really as a mental exercise, as a way of showing how smart you are,” he said.

And it seems there is still more to learn from the Babylonians. Duncan Melville is a Professor of Mathematics at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, whose special interest is Mesopotamian mathematics.

According to Melville, teachers can continue to learn a thing or two about the way math was taught in Mesopotamia.

“You look at the way they set up their sequences of problems and it’s all very carefully graduated, from simple problems to more complicated problems,” he said.

“As a teacher of mathematics, it’s very interesting to see how they organized their material,” he continued. “There’s still interesting things to learn from cutting-edge pedagogy 4,000 years ago.”

With research continuing into this strand of ancient history, it remains to be seen whether Pythagoras’s theorem will come to bear the name of an old Babylonian scribe instead.

           — Hat tip: STT[Return to headlines]

UN Mulls Internet Regulation Options

WikiLeaks sparks push for tighter controls.

The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet.

Establishment of such a group has the backing of several countries, spearheaded by Brazil.

At a meeting in New York on Wednesday, representatives from Brazil called for an international body made up of Government representatives that would attempt to create global standards for policing the internet — specifically in reaction to challenges such as WikiLeaks.

The Brazilian delegate stressed, however, that this should not be seen as a call for a “takeover” of the internet.

India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia appeared to favour a new possible over-arching inter-government body.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Regarding the protest of the French conference on the Islamization of France... Once, just once, I'd really love it if a meeting or conference organized by non-Muslims was NOT vehemently protested, immediately shouted down, and virtually rioted against by Muslim brown shirts.