Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101221

Financial Crisis
»China ‘Very Concerned’ By European Debt Crisis
»Citigroup Warns of Fresh Wave of Bank Failures in Europe
»Spain: Zapatero Confirms Objective of Pensions at 67
»You’d Rather See China or Russia Leading?
»Arms Treaty Clears Key Hurdle in Senate on 67-28 Vote
»FCC Approves Controversial ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations
»FCC Poised to Adopt Network Neutrality Rules
»Hillary Attends ‘North American Union’ Meeting
»Islamic Group Asks DOJ to Review Police Training
»Latest Terror Threat in US Aimed to Poison Food
»NASA Selects United Negro College Fund to Help Build Science Careers
»New York Taxi Drivers to Wear Bulletproof Vests in Pilot Scheme
»Taking Names, Napolitano Style
»Tension Over US Chamber Vote on Armenian Massacre
»The Day the Internet Died?
»U.S. Buffets and Salad Bars ‘Threatened With Poison Attacks by Al Qaeda Group Behind ‘Ink Cartridge’ Bomb Plot
»Why You Need to Care About Net Neutrality
»Al Qaeda-Affiliated Website Targets Arab Christians in Canada
»More Than 100 Arab Christians in Canada Named on Al Qaida-Affiliated Website
Europe and the EU
»French Jihadist Muslim Gang’s Sentences Upheld in Halimi Case
»Italy Sees Failures in Turkey’s EU Talks
»Italy Indicts Eight in Mexico for Death of Tourist
»Italy: Bomb Found on Rome Underground
»Italy: Rome Police: Metro Train Suspect Package Was Not Bomb
»Spain: Rajoy’s PP 13.6 Pts Ahead of Zapatero’s PSOE, Poll
»Spain: Bones Give Peek Into the Lives of Neanderthals
»Sweden: Malmö Shooter Remanded Again as Charges Mount
»Sweden: Bombing Was an Attack on Swedish Society: PM
»Sweden Could be a ‘Catalyst of Understanding’ After Attack
»Swedish Accusers in ‘Tizzy’ For STDs: Assange
»Switzerland: Rightwing Raises Stakes Over Future EU Relations
»The Latest WikiLeaks Revelation: 1 in Three British Muslim Students Back Killing for Islam and 40% Want Sharia Law
»UK: Anglo-Saxon Settlement Unearthed in Northumberland
»UK: BBC Radio Presenter Lubna Qazi Exposed as £18,000 Benefits Cheat But Avoids Jail
»UK: Flu: 300 People in Intensive Care as Swine Flu Spreads
»UK: Humiliated Vince Cable Stripped of Sky Role After ‘War With Murdoch’ Gaffe
»UK: Harry Potter Star Afshan Azad ‘Asked Police to Drop Assault Case Against Her Brother’
»Wales: Five Terror Suspects Arrested After Raid by Police on Homes in Cardiff
»Kosovo: Visas: For Italy, First Reconciliation With Serbia
North Africa
»Egypt: Kidnapped by the CIA, Milan Imam Says Facebook Closed His Account-Four Times
»Libya: Italy’s ENI Makes Deal to Invest in Social Programs
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: A Time to Shout
»Mahmoud Abbas Against Dahlan’s ‘Private Militia’
Middle East
»A Christmas of Mourning for Iraq’s Christians
»Iran: Fired Foreign Minister Criticises President Ahmadinejad
»Qatar 2022: Blatter: Misunderstanding About Gays
»Syrian Leader Proposes Schengen-Like Visa-Free Zone
»The Saudi Succession Threat
»As Ethnic Tensions Simmer, Putin Visits Soccer Fan’s Grave
South Asia
»Indonesia: Catholics in Bogor (West Java) Not Allowed to Celebrate Christmas Mass
»Malaysia: In Prison Robes and Handcuffs, The British Wife Facing the Gallows for Heroin Haul
»Malaysia Gay Man Gets Threats
»US Drones Wipe Out Key Commanders of British Islamic Army in Waziristan
»WikiLeaks Cables: Bangladeshi ‘Death Squad’ Trained by UK Government
»WikiLeaks Cables: UK Hopes to Influence Islamic Education in Bangladesh
Australia — Pacific
»Haneef Settlement Figure Kept Under Wraps
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Approaching Referendum in Sudan
»Australia’s Wave of Boat Children
»Berlin Blocks Bulgaria, Romania From Schengen
Culture Wars
»Feds Force Bank to Remove Christmas Decorations
»Left: Can’t We All Just Get Along? Islam: No.
»The Death of Free Will
»Why It’s Natural for Girls to Play With Dolls and Boys to Love Guns
»UN Subterfuge… The Global Warming Hoax

Financial Crisis

China ‘Very Concerned’ By European Debt Crisis

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — China is keeping a close eye on Europe’s ongoing debt crisis and has urged the bloc’s policymakers to turn tough rhetoric into “real action”. The comments by China’s commerce minister Chen Deming on Tuesday (21 December) come as senior EU and Chinese officials meet in Beijing for the third High-Level Economic and Trade Dialogue between the two sides.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Citigroup Warns of Fresh Wave of Bank Failures in Europe

Prof Willem Buiter, the bank’s chief economist, said the eurozone was paralysed by a “game of chicken” between the European Central Bank and EMU governments. Both sides are trying to shift responsibility on to the other for shoring up southern Europe and Ireland, raising the risk of contagion spreading. “The market is not going to wait until March for the EU authorities to get their act together. We could have several sovereign states and banks going under. They are being far too casual,” he said. Mark Schofield, Citigroup’s credit chief, said Portugal would need an EU rescue soon and that it was “highly likely that Spain will go the same way”. This risks overpowering the €440bn (£373bn) bail-out fund. “Restructuring of some sovereign debt is inevitable. There is a chance that Spain could still make it, but the debt trajectory looks unsustainable if a broader EU-wide solution isn’t found,” he said. The warnings came after Moody’s said it might downgrade Portugal’s A1 rating by one or two notches on growth worries, but said the country’s solvency was “not in question”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spain: Zapatero Confirms Objective of Pensions at 67

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 17 — Spain’s socialist Premier Jose’ Luis Zapatero has confirmed that his government has the objective of adopting pension reform raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, on January 28 as market pressure is dictating.

In a statement made to the Spanish press in Brussels on the sidelines of the European Council, Zapatero said “this is our proposal, but we first want to speak with all political groupings”. For the present, not one of the opposition parties at the centre of the Toledo Pact Commission, which is examining the reform, has expressed itself in favour of raising the retirement age. The socialist Premier said he was willing to integrate “reasonable factors of flexibility” into the reform, but he repeated that responsibility for a final decision “is the government’s responsibility”.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

You’d Rather See China or Russia Leading?

The euro crisis and enduring political divisions between Europeans have undermined the Old Continent’s standing in a globalised world. It’s time to save the European way, urges Venezuelan columnist Moise’s Naim: the alternatives — US hegemony, Chinese capitalist communism or Russian autocracy — are far worse.

Forecasting Europe’s increasing irrelevance in the world has become as popular a continental sport as making fun of blunders in Brussels. In just a few decades, Europe’s share of the world economy will shrink from 20% today to well below 10%. And the European Union’s decisions leave much to be desired. My visits to Brussels have borne out my feeling that, in our day, the European project seems more of a government jobs scheme for the continent’s middle classes than an ideal that will generate hope and energise the region.

The inability to cope effectively with the economic crisis is just a symptom of a deeper problem of leadership. Why is it that Europe has suffered the most painful and prolonged consequences of the global crash? The Irish crisis has bred even more pessimism. Gideon Rachman, for example, writes in the Financial Times: “My current best guess is that the single currency will indeed eventually break up — and that the euro’s executioner will be Germany, the most powerful country and economy inside the European Union.”

His argument is that the string of financial crises will eventually wear out the patience of the Germans, who will end up thinking they’ve done — and paid for — everything they could, but “the other Europeans won’t do what is necessary to save themselves”. Germany, he says, “might then feel released from its historic obligation to ‘build Europe’“.

Unjust redistribution of wealth tolerated in the United States

Naturally, the collapse of the European monetary system could well deal a crippling blow to the project of European unity. That would obviously be bad for Europe. What is less obvious is that a world without an influential, integrated Europe would be worse for everyone. The values and examples Europe imparts to the world are superior to those coming from anywhere else. But Europe’s economic and political decline now undermines the force of that positive influence.

The repudiation of war that prevails here in the aftermath of the two horrifying 20th-century conflicts is derided by those who confuse pacifism with weakness. But better a world with a regional power willing to make some mistakes to avoid war than one in which powerful countries have no qualms about making the mistake of starting “pre-emptive wars”. If the government of your country begins violating human rights, torturing, “disappearing” opponents and imprisoning journalists, who would you rather see leading the international community? The Chinese Communist Party? Putin’s Russia? Or Europe?

While the most unjust redistribution of wealth in a century is tolerated in the United States and nouveaux riches amassing inconceivable fortunes are celebrated in Russia and China, Europe remains highly allergic to inequality. Which do you prefer: a world in which 1% of the population holds 95% of the wealth, and the poor and excluded masses fight it out for the rest, or a world dominated by an up-and-coming politically powerful middle class?

Whole world will suffer if Europe fails

Europe represents the second scenario. We know the European social model is the best in the world, though we also know it is not viable in many countries. But a model in which millions of people are deprived of adequate health care, or left defenceless when they lose their jobs or grow old, is not sustainable either, nor is it worthy of emulation. European development aid for the poorest countries tends to be ineffective. But no-one is more generous and supportive towards the neediest than Europeans…

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


Arms Treaty Clears Key Hurdle in Senate on 67-28 Vote

The Senate voted 67 to 28 on Tuesday to advance a new arms control treaty that would pare back American and Russian nuclear arsenals, reaching the two-thirds margin needed for approval despite a concerted Republican effort to block ratification.

Eleven Republicans joined every Democrat present to support the treaty, known as New Start, which now heads to a seemingly certain final vote on Wednesday, as the Senate wraps up business before heading out of town. Voting against the treaty were 28 Republicans who argued that it could hurt national security.

“Today’s bipartisan vote clears a significant hurdle in the Senate,” said Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who led the floor fight. “We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons.”

[Return to headlines]

FCC Approves Controversial ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations

If they pass and telecoms are allowed to move forward with their plans, “the Internet as we know it would cease to exist,” Sen. Franken concluded in an editorial published by Huffington Post.

“That’s why Tuesday is such an important day,” he continued. “The FCC will be meeting to discuss those regulations, and we must make sure that its members understand that allowing corporations to control the Internet is simply unacceptable.”

In a recent speech, Genachowski specified that the FCC’s rules would permit ISPs to charge heavy bandwidth users even more, creating a tiered pricing structure. ISPs would also be able to charge fees to businesses serving large quantities of data.


Republican Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell warned Tuesday that the new “Net Neutrality” rules would be used by President Barack Obama to takeover the Internet.

“The Obama Administration, which has already nationalized health care, the auto industry, insurance companies, banks and student loans, will move forward with what could be a first step in controlling how Americans use the Internet by establishing federal regulations on its use,“ he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

FCC Poised to Adopt Network Neutrality Rules

WASHINGTON (AP) — New rules aimed at prohibiting broadband providers from becoming gatekeepers of Internet traffic now have just enough votes to pass the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday.

The rules would prohibit phone and cable companies from abusing their control over broadband connections to discriminate against rival content or services, such as Internet phone calls or online video, or play favorites with Web traffic.


Republicans, meanwhile, warn that the new rules would impose unnecessary regulations on an industry that is one of the few bright spots in the current economy, with phone and cable companies spending billions to upgrade their networks for broadband.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Hillary Attends ‘North American Union’ Meeting

Trilateral process with Mexico, Canada proceeds with little notice

With little attention from mainstream media, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the foreign ministers of Canada and Mexico in a North American Foreign Ministers Meeting in Quebec, Canada.

The Dec. 13 meeting is a prelude to the next North American Summit Leaders meeting in 2011, a yet unscheduled trilateral summit that is the continuation of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. Under the low-key format, the continental meetings have been carried out with little fanfare and outside of congressional oversight.

The Canadian government website detailed that the Quebec meeting identified as important areas of trilateral cooperation” the following:

    Engagement with the countries of Central America, with a view to creating a North America-Central America dialogue to strengthen regional cooperation and efforts against trans-national criminal organizations;
  • Trilateral cooperation on natural disaster reduction, prevention/mitigation, preparedness and response in the Americas;


Also mentioned on the website of the Canadian government was “the importance of an integrated North American approach to climate change, clean energy, and environmental issues writ large,” as well as trilateral cooperation cyber security, Internet freedom and privacy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Islamic Group Asks DOJ to Review Police Training

Two groups representing American Muslims differed sharply Monday over revelations in The Washington Post about the sometimes-ignorant quality of local police training on radical Islam, with one group calling for a Justice Department investigation, the other saying it “is not a systematic problem.”

“Monitoring America,” by staff reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, cited examples of “experts” without formal training who are telling law enforcement groups that most U.S. Muslims want to take over America and replace the legal system with a strict code of religious laws known as sharia.

“They want to make this world Islamic,” one instructor, a former Army Special Forces sergeant and Los Angeles Police Department investigator who is now a private security consultant, told The Post. “The Islamic flag will fly over the White House…My job is to wake up the public, and first, the first responders.”

Another trainer quoted by The Post says he warns police officers that “you need to look at the entire pool of Muslims in a community,” and recommended that law enforcement authorities “monitor Muslim student groups and local mosques and, if possible, tap their phones.”

The Post said such views echo “Shariah: The Threat to America,” a study by the neoconservative Center for Security Policy, which argues that radical Muslims are conducting a “stealth jihad” in the United States.

“Government terrorism experts call the views expressed in the center’s book inaccurate and counterproductive,” The Post said.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latest Terror Threat in US Aimed to Poison Food

(CBS) In this exclusive story, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports the latest terror attack to America involves the possible use of poisons — simultaneous attacks targeting hotels and restaurants at many locations over a single weekend.

A key Intelligence source has confirmed the threat as “credible.” Department of Homeland Security officials, along with members of the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NASA Selects United Negro College Fund to Help Build Science Careers

NASA has selected the United Negro College Fund Special Programs Corp. of Falls Church, Va., to administer a $1 million career development and educational program designed to address the critical shortage of U.S. minority students in science and engineering fields.

“Our nation’s underserved populations are a tremendous resource on which we must draw, not just for science, but for everything we do,” said Carl Pilcher, director of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. “We are extremely pleased that the NAI MIRS program will continue contributing under the leadership of such a strong and experienced partner.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

New York Taxi Drivers to Wear Bulletproof Vests in Pilot Scheme

New York taxi drivers are notable for their unique yellow cabs.

But soon they could have something else to distinguish them: bulletproof vests.

A dozen Big Apple cab drivers, who have to work in suburbs with high crime-rates, have been selected to pilot the scheme.

The president of the New York Federation of Taxi Drivers, Fernando Mateo, believes the vests will provide another — potentially vital — layer of protection for drivers in high-crime areas.

Mr Mateo said there are some 300 robberies and assaults against New York taxi drivers every month.

‘One shooting is a lot and whatever we can do to help improve the safety of our drivers is something that we will do,’ he said.

The pilot program is being launched in honor of cab driver Cesar Santo, who was fatally shot in June. And the vests are being donated by Security USA.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Taking Names, Napolitano Style

TSA, under the direction of Napolitano, consent of Obama, collecting names, personal information, labeling them as potential “domestic extremists.”

Did you see the Washington Post this morning? That was the one sentence e-mail I received yesterday from my DHS contact who alerted me to the DHS/TSA memorandum about the domestic intelligence agency’s creating and maintaining a list of individuals who were determined to be “interfering” with the enhanced airport TSA screening procedures through their objections or “opting out” of such procedures.

In my November 23rd report titled DHS making a list, checking it twice, I wrote that the DHS, through the arm of the TSA, under the direction of Napolitano and with the full consent of Obama, was collecting the names and personal information of such individuals, labeling them as potential “domestic extremists.”

Meanwhile, the very same agency was busily averting an uprising by air travelers and a potential public relations nightmare by temporarily suspending their draconian security measures during one of the busiest travel times of the year.

This tactic was first disclosed by Alex Jones and was widely reported at airports across the country, further confirming that the measures enacted are all about the total behavioral control of the populace and have little to do with air security. Mockingly and in what could be considered borderline delusional, the TSA and the corporate media actually reported that the “opt-out” day had turned into a TSA appreciation day.


The Washington Post article identifies the collection of names and profiles of Americans as the new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, or SAR for short. When a “suspicious” incident is observed or reported, information about you is collected, either through direct questioning or by more covert means, such as running your license plate through a state DMV database or even photographic surveillance for facial recognition purposes.

What happens next, however, is perhaps the most disturbing aspect to this story.

Even if the reported activity is deemed to be completely innocent and harmless, the data collected about you remains stored in the SAR “Guardian” database indefinitely. Accordingly, the DHS will be able to quickly compile in-depth profiles on you whenever they determine it to be necessary despite being completely innocent or cleared of any crime or criminal behavior.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Tension Over US Chamber Vote on Armenian Massacre

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, DECEMBER 21 — There is renewed tension between Ankara and Washington over a vote scheduled for today in the American House of Representatives on a resolution to recognise as ‘genocide’ the massacre of Armenians by Ottoman Empire troops between 1915 and 1917. Turkey has always denied that one and a half million Armenians killed were victims of genocide and has always claimed that they died as part of a civil war.

The US Congress Commission of Foreign Affairs gave its verdict in March with 23 votes in favour and 22 against resolution number 252. The Presidency and the make-up of the House of Representatives will change in the new year, with Presidency shifting to the Republican party. This means that the motion voted by the Foreign Affaris Commission automatically lapses. A number of Turkish commentators say that it is this lapse that has lead the Speaker of the Chamber, Nancy Pelosi, to accelerate the vote in favour of the motion, in order to make it law.

All Turkish papers are reporting on the issue today, quoting the letter sent yesterday by the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, to the US President, Barack Obama, in which the Turkish head of state underlines that the approval of the resolution “could damage the relations between the two countries”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Day the Internet Died?

Legions of bloggers and news site publishers everywhere are worried today that the Information Highway may be made inaccessible for average Americans, an impact should it happen, that will impact the world.


“The rules would prevent Internet service providers from blocking Web sites and applications on Internet lines feeding into U.S. homes. Those carriers— such as Comcast and AT&T—could not deliberately slow down one Web site over another. The rules frown on the practice of charging Web sites for better or faster delivery, but observers say that practice would not be strictly prohibited.


For the past year, masterful Canada Free Press (CFP) researcher Sandy Williams has been probing the Spider’s Web of the corporate and government world underworld by joining the dots to show through research how a few people interacting together through a network of well-funded organizations control the lives of ordinary Americans:


Michael J. Copps is a commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission, and was the assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Note: Linda M. Conlin is the assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce, and was the first VP & vice chair for the Export-Import Bank of the US.

James H. Lambright was the chairman & president for the Export-Import Bank of the US, a VP at Credit Suisse First Boston, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (think tank), and the interim chief investment officer for the 2008-2009 financial bailout

Jackie Clegg Dodd was the vice chairman & first VP for the Export-Import Bank of the US, and is married to Christopher J. Dodd.

Christopher J. Dodd is married to Jackie Clegg Dodd, a U.S. Senate senator, and was a mortgage recipient from the Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Barbara Boxer is a U.S. Senate senator, and was a mortgage recipient from the Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Kent Conrad is a U.S. Senate senator, and was a mortgage recipient from the Countrywide Financial Corporation.

Paul Pelosi Jr. was a mortgage recipient from the Countrywide Financial Corporation, and his mother is Nancy Pelosi.

Nancy Pelosi is Paul Pelosi Jr’s mother and the member, speaker for the U.S. House of Representatives…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. Buffets and Salad Bars ‘Threatened With Poison Attacks by Al Qaeda Group Behind ‘Ink Cartridge’ Bomb Plot

Al Qaeda terrorists planned to poison food at multiple US hotels and restaurants over a single weekend, it has been revealed this morning.

The ‘credible’ plot involved slipping the poisons cyanide and ricin into salad bars and buffets, according to CBS news.

The terrorist group behind the failed ‘ink cartridge’ attacks on cargo planes in October were said to have hatched the plan.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula branded the plot ‘Operation Haemorrhage’.

Militants say the plot consists of ‘attacking the enemy with smaller but more frequent operations’ to ‘add a heavy economic burden to an already faltering economy’.

Department of Homeland Security officials, along with members of the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, have briefed a small group of corporate security officers from the hotel and restaurant industries about it.

‘We operate under the premise that individuals prepared to carry out terrorist acts are in this country,’ said Janet Napolirano of Homeland Security a fortnight ago.

The subtle attacks would ‘initially look very much like food poisoning’, said professor of pharmaceutical sciences at St. John’s University, Dr Susan Ford.

In the CBS News report she illustrates how just a tiny portion of each poison could prove fatal. ‘250 milligrams… that is the fatal dose,’ said Dr Ford.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why You Need to Care About Net Neutrality

Thanks for watching that YouTube video! That will be 50 cents, please.

Sound unrealistic? It’s actually fairly likely, thanks to a ruling handed down Tuesday by the FCC that will allow Internet service providers to charge customers based on the amount of bandwidth they use. And some argue that it’s the greatest threat to freedom we face today.

Welcome to the complex world of net neutrality.

The basic problem is simple: As online video has grown in popularity, thanks to sites like YouTube and, Internet service providers (ISPs) complain that each consumer is more of a burden to service — that’s you, me and your next-door neighbor, Phil.


Today, Comcast, Time Warner, or whomever you pay monthly, charges you and Phil more or less the same amount. But Phil watches four hours of basketball online every night. Should he pay more for that? There’s the neutrality part, the argument that you should pay one fee for access to the entire Internet, regardless of what type of content you watch or which sites you visit.

Well … that makes sense, right? If service providers could charge based on the type of content you watch, they could easily create a system like that of today’s cable television market. Want HBO? It’s an extra $5. Want our streaming video package, with YouTube, Hulu,, and more? That’s $5 too. Don’t pay and you can’t watch. Period.

“Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it,” worried Minnesota senator Al Franken in an editorial at the Huffington Post. ISPs argue — and the FCC just agreed — that they should be allowed to charge based on the amount of bandwidth they use. It remains to be seen whether the type of content will be protected, however.


Net neutrality may be designed to allow for a tiered Internet. Or it may end up preventing one entirely. Who knows? The FCC held most discussions behind closed doors, until this morning’s debate and final approval of the regulations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Al Qaeda-Affiliated Website Targets Arab Christians in Canada

More than 100 Canadian-Arab Christians are listed on an Al Qaeda affiliated website, apparently targeted because of their alleged role in attempting to convert Muslims.

Some of those named say concerned Canadian intelligence officials have contacted them.

The Shumukh-al-Islam website, often considered to be Al Qaeda’s mouthpiece, listed pictures, addresses and cellphone numbers of Coptic Christians, predominantly Egyptian-Canadians, who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam.

In a forum on the website, one member named Son of a Sharp Sword, says “We are going to return back to Islam and all of the Mujahedeen (holy warriors) will cut off their heads.”

Three pages of the fundamentalist, Arabic-language website titled “Complete information on Coptics” sets to “identify and name all of the Coptics throughout the world who hope to defame Islam,” The website calls the Coptic Christians living abroad “dogs in diaspora,” a derogatory reference in Arabic.

Among those named on the Shumukh-al-Islam website is Samuel Tawadrous, a Coptic Egyptian living in Quebec.

“This is a direct threat against our lives,” Tawadrous said in an interview.

“They are trying to inform each other in hopes that someone can carry out this threat. They could be in Egypt and they could be here. Our names and our pictures are listed.”

Tawadrous’s picture and cellphone number were listed on the site.

One of the prominent figures listed on the website is Salim Naguib, who helped establish a Coptic organization in Canada. Naguib is described on the website as opposing Islamic Shariah and converting Muslims to Christianity. His picture, career background and cellphone number are listed on the website.

But he said in an interview he won’t be frightened.

“I only fear God,” said Naguib when reached by phone. “These websites mean nothing any more.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

More Than 100 Arab Christians in Canada Named on Al Qaida-Affiliated Website

VANCOUVER — More than 100 Canadian-Arab Christians are listed on an al-Qaida affiliated website, apparently targeted because of their alleged role in attempting to convert Muslims.

Some of those named say concerned Canadian intelligence officials have contacted them.

The Shumukh-al-Islam website, often considered to be al-Qaida’s mouth piece, listed pictures, addresses and cell phone numbers of Coptic Christians, predominantly Egyptian-Canadians, who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam.

In a forum on the website, one member named Son of a Sharp Sword, says “We are going to return back to Islam and all of the Mujahedeen (holy warriors) will cut off their heads.”

Three pages of the fundamentalist, Arabic-language website titled “Complete information on Coptics” sets to “identify and name all of the Coptics throughout the world who hope to defame Islam,” The website calls the Coptic Christians living abroad “dogs in diaspora,” a derogatory reference in Arabic.

Among those named on the Shumukh-al-Islam website is Samuel Tawadrous, a Coptic Egyptian living in Quebec.

“This is a direct threat against our lives,” Tawadrous said in an interview.

“They are trying to inform each other in hopes that someone can carry out this threat. They could be in Egypt and they could be here. Our names and our pictures are listed.”

Tawadrous’s picture and cell phone number were listed on the site…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

French Jihadist Muslim Gang’s Sentences Upheld in Halimi Case

Nearly 5 years ago we wrote about the case of Ilan Halimi, a French Jew who was lured by a woman into a trap set by a Muslim gang and then tortured to death over the period of three weeks. You can refer to the original articles to see the extent of what he endured [see, Torture Death Of French Jew By Muslim Gang Produces Collective Yawn By MSM and Coverup Of Muslim Torture Killing Of French Jew Continues]

At the time and since, the MSM has ignored the story or worse, if covering it at all, sanitized it as to mask the religious nature of the attack and to present Halimi’s jihadist murderers as common criminals looking only for a quick monetary score.

As the LA Times dissembled in its Feb 28, 2006 edition, “Rather than a premeditated anti-Semitic murder, it seems a more complex result of dysfunction in the narrow world of thug culture…”

AP and other news sources offered similarly tepid analysis, “…AP and UPI, in feeds to the U.S., barely mentioned the possibility of anti-Semitism. After arrests were made, the BBC worked hard to avoid using the word “Muslim,” though verses from the Koran were recited during the torture…” [source, Birmingham Jewish Federation,]

Of course this should be expected from the MSM combine whose multicultural self-censorship is legendary, under the circumstances, even 5 years later, the coverage should still shake the sensibilities of journalists.

Today however, we note that a French court has upheld an appeal by 16 members [out of a total of 24 convicted] of the Muslim gang responsible for the Halimi atrocity.

AP’s coverage this time around however is the stuff of pure revisionism, finally attributing the murder to the gang’s anti-Semitism rather than the originally claimed financial motivation, “The case revived worries in France about anti-Semitism, which is considered the main motive of those involved in the killing. It has led to deep anxiety in France’s Jewish community — the largest in Western Europe.” [source, AP,]

So…five years after the fact AP is forced to confront reality. Though this is a small victory for sure, in the current state of media affairs, it should still be savored.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Italy Sees Failures in Turkey’s EU Talks

A European political heavyweight has confessed that negotiations with Turkey are not going well, expressing deep frustration over the failure to open any new negotiation chapters during Belgium’s presidency of the European Union.

“I agree things are not going very well. Bad results were achieved recently, as we were not able to open a single chapter during [the Belgian] presidency, despite the efforts of [the] presidency,” Franco Frattini, foreign minister of Italy, a founding member of the union, told a small group of Turkish journalists Wednesday on the sidelines of a conference about the Middle East in Rome.

“I would like … very much to see at least the competitiveness chapter to open, if not the energy chapter, which is also extremely important,” he said.

Turkey had aimed to open the chapter on competition during the Belgian presidency, but it was not able to complete the necessary legislation and other requisite procedures on time. Diplomats said they expected the chapter to be opened in the first months of the upcoming Hungarian presidency.

A candidate country has to open and successfully negotiate all 35 chapters to be able to become a full member of the European Union. Turkey has only been able to open 13 and close only one since the beginning of negotiations in 2005. The EU has suspended eight of the chapters due to Turkey’s objection to opening its ports and airports to Greek Cyprus (Additional Protocol), while France vetoed Turkey’s opening an additional five chapters, making it more difficult for Turkey to accelerate the talks.

The EU recently urged Turkey to respect its contractual obligations toward the EU through implementing the Additional Protocol to be able to accelerate the ongoing talks. “In the absence of progress on this issue, the council will maintain its measures from 2006, which will have a continuous effect on the overall progress of the negotiations,” it said in a joint communiqué released after Tuesday’s General Affairs Council meeting.

No return to neo-Ottoman policies

However, slowing down the negotiation process has also had a negative impact on Turkey’s image, with many pundits starting to voice concerns over whether Turkey is drifting away from the West through so-called neo-Ottoman approaches interpreted in Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s policies and speeches.

Frattini disagreed with this idea. “I do not think Turkey is moving away from Europe. I do believe Turkish people still understand how important it is to keep the negotiations on track with Europe, and Turkish leaders still see that it is much better to be in the club than outside it,” he said.

Frattini said he encourages his European colleagues to recognize that Turkish membership is in the mutual interest of both Turkey and the European Union. “It’s not a gift for Turkey.”

Frattini and the foreign ministers of United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland co-authored an article explaining why Turkish membership was important for the continent. “As we wrote in an article recently, European interest should be seen as equally important as Turkish interest,” he said.

Despite negative developments in the Turkish accession process, Frattini did not hide his optimism that Turkey would become a full member one day. “Many European states have doubts, they say, ‘How is it possible for a Muslim state to one day become a member of the EU, a member of the club?’ I have been one of the strongest defendants of the EU’s Christian roots. And exactly because of this I am saying that Turkey will become a full member of the EU, provided it fulfills the Copenhagen criteria,” he said.

Turkey a key player in the Middle East

Frattini also expressed his gratitude for Turkey’s contribution to the stability of the Middle East. Contrary to many, the top Italian diplomat said he did not share “the fears of those who claim that Turkey has returned to its neo-Ottoman policy.”

“Italy views Turkey as both a European and regional power whose close links with Middle East countries can provide added value to our efforts to stabilize the region,” he said.

In this sense, Frattini called on Turkey and Israel to resume normal bilateral relations for the latter to play the role of honest broker more effectively. Recalling that Turkey was still waiting for an apology from Israel for its deadly attack against the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara, Frattini said Turkey’s helping Israel during that country’s worst ever forest fire was a positive development. He said the act helped show Israelis that “Turkey was still there and not an enemy.”

Turkey’s reconciliation with Israel would result in launching a new round of talks between Israel and Syria under Turkish auspices and that could have tremendous impact on the regional stability, he said.

“I believe that Turkey, which is asking for apologies, is also thinking about playing again that role. That’s why I am optimistic. Turkey has a chance to once again be a key player, to play the role to bring stability to the region.”

Recalling that Iran and the international community were scheduled to meet in Istanbul next month to discuss Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, Frattini appreciated Turkey’s contributions to regional peace. “Turkey is playing another good role trying to persuade Iran to negotiate for a peaceful solution,” he said.

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

Italy Indicts Eight in Mexico for Death of Tourist

Rome applies UN torture convention for first time

(ANSA) — Lecce, December 20 — A preliminary hearings judge here in this southeastern Italian city has indicted eight Mexican nationals on manslaughter charges related to the 2007 death of an Italian tourist in Mexico.

This is the first time that Italy has applied the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which both Italy and Mexico have ratified. The case centers on the March 3, 2007 death of 34-year-old Simone Renda, a bank employee from Lecce, who died of a heart attack after allegedly being kept in a prison cell for 42 hours without light, food and water.

Renda was taken into custody on charges of indecent exposure after he came out of his hotel room in his underwear.

He was apparently seeking help after suffering the first symptoms of a heart attack and was allegedly refused medical assistance during his detention.

The incident took place in Playa del Carmen, a seaside resort south of the tourist mecca of Cancun, on the Yucatan peninsula.

Indicted by Preliminary Hearings Judge Vincenzo Brancato are: Judge Mermilla Valero Gonzales; municipal policemen Francisco Javier Frias and Jose’ Aldredo Martinez; Playa del Carmen jail supervisor Gomez Cruz; the deputy wardens of the municipal prison, Pedro May Balam and Arceno Parra Cano; and prison guards Luis Alberto Arcos and Najera Sanchez Enrique.

“This has been a battle which Simone deserved. It was a transatlantic battle which I waged alone,” the victim’s mother, Cecilia Greco, said on hearing of the indictments.

“With this decision Simone will never die, his memory will live on forever because this precedent will allow others to appeal for justice,” she added.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bomb Found on Rome Underground

Police in Rome have found a crude bomb in an empty underground train

It has been reported that police in Rome have discovered a crude bomb located in an empty underground tube line.

The device, described by Rome police officials as “rudimentary”, was found by a driver preparing a train for service in a yard near the Rebibbia metro station at about 9am on Tuesday, 21 December transport authority ATAC said.It was in a box with cables, batteries and antennas, according to an ATAC spokesman.

Police have revealed the device contained a small quantity of explosive powder but lacked a detonator and could not have exploded.

The device was discovered at a time of increased tension in Italy following anti-government protests last week that descended into some of the worst violence in Rome for years.

A senior Iraqi official said last week that al-Qaeda was planning attacks in the US, Britain and Europe around Christmas.A suspected suicide bomber was killed in a botched attack in Stockholm earlier this month.

Police believe he was planning to attack a train station or department store at the height of the Christmas shopping season.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Italy: Rome Police: Metro Train Suspect Package Was Not Bomb

Italian police say a suspicious package found on a metro train in Rome did not contain explosives.

Bomb-disposal experts said the powder contained in the package, which was found under a seat, was inert.

They confirmed earlier reports that it did not contain a trigger mechanism.

Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno said: “It’s a bluff, a provocation in bad taste that regardless showed there was no danger of attacks in our city.”

He said Rome could “breath a sigh of relief”, Associated Press news agency reported.

The black powder found in the device’s metal tubes was “very much like cement”, said Sgt Agostino Vitolo, a police spokesman.

Earlier, police said the device contained explosive material, while a city council spokesman said it had been “ready to explode” and could have been detonated by remote control.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spain: Rajoy’s PP 13.6 Pts Ahead of Zapatero’s PSOE, Poll

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, DECEMBER 20 — A poll published today by the Spain’s leftist newspaper Publico has confirmed the sharp advantage in the intentions to vote for the Partido Popular (PP) under the head of the opposition, Mariano Rajoy, against the PSOE under Prime Minister José Luis Zapatero: a difference of 13.2 percentage points. If elections were to be held today, according to the Publiscopio poll, the PP would get 43.2% compared with the 30% that would go to Socialists. Compared with the 2008 general elections, the PP has gained 3.1 points, while the Socialists have lost 13.6. According to the poll, on the left Izquierda Unida has gained support and is now the third top political party in Spain with 7.5%, compared with the CIU Catalan nationalists (4.5%) and the UPYD centrists (4.5%).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Bones Give Peek Into the Lives of Neanderthals

Deep in a cave in the forests of northern Spain are the remains of a gruesome massacre. The first clues came to light in 1994, when explorers came across a pair of what they thought were human jawbones in the cave, called El Sidrón. At first, the bones were believed to date to the Spanish Civil War. Back then, Republican fighters used the cave as a hide-out. The police discovered more bone fragments in El Sidrón, which they sent to forensic scientists, who determined that the bones did not belong to soldiers, or even to modern humans. They were the remains of Neanderthals who died 50,000 years ago.

Today, El Sidrón is one of the most important sites on Earth for learning about Neanderthals, who thrived across Europe and Asia from about 240,000 to 30,000 years ago. Scientists have found 1,800 more Neanderthal bone fragments in the cave, some of which have yielded snippets of DNA.

But the mystery has lingered on for 16 years. What happened to the El Sidrón victims? In a paper this week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Spanish scientists who analyzed the bones and DNA report the gruesome answer. The victims were a dozen members of an extended family, slaughtered by cannibals.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Malmö Shooter Remanded Again as Charges Mount

The 38-year-old suspected Malmö serial shooter had been ordered to remain in custody as suspicions against him widened to three murders and 10 attempted murders.

The man, who has been identified as Peter Mangs, was to remain in custody until Tuesday, when a decision would be made on whether he will be charged for additional suspicions.

He remains in detention as a suspect with probable cause since he could obstruct the investigation and according to the district court, there is a risk he could continue to engage in criminal activity.

Mangs is currently in custody on suspicion of the murder of a young woman in the fall of 2009 and five cases of attempted murder.

In addition, he is now considered a suspect in the murder of two men in the Malmö’s Lindängen in the summer of 2003 and an additional five cases of attempted murder from 2006 to 2010.

Mangs denies the crimes. However, he has agreed to remain in detention for the murder in 2003 and the five attempted murders for which he had previously been arrested.

Through his lawyer, Christina Brink, he has challenged the detention for the two additional murders and five attempted murders.

Chief prosecutor Solveig Wollstad has justified the demand for detention, saying that Mangs could otherwise remove evidence and continue to engage in criminal acts.

In addition, the crimes that Mangs is under suspicion for carry minimum prison terms of two years, bolstering the detention demand, according to Wollstad.

She also requested a closed-door session for the continuation of negotiations and non-disclosure in terms of everything that is said there.

Following the ruling to keep Mangs in custody, police commissioner Börje Sjöholm and Wollstad held a press conference together with Dag Andersson from the National Criminal Investigation Department (Rikskriminalen) and Åsa Palmkvist, assistant district police commissioner in Malmö.

“The investigation will take time. There is extensive investigative work to be done, but it is hard to say how long it will take. It depends also on whether he falls under suspicion for other crimes,” said Wollstad.

She did not elaborate on what Mangs said in questioning other than revealing that he denied the crimes. She also declined to specify what the technical investigation has uncovered, but investigators have confirmed that there is certain technical evidence and two confiscated weapons.

At its peak, 70 detectives worked on the investigation, said investigation leader Sjöholm.

“I have never before been involved in an investigation of a similar size,” he said.

Investigators received about 1,200 tips, one of which involved Mangs.

“The tip described a personality that fitted our criminal profile. However, it was an anonymous tip and it took us two weeks to uncover the tipster’s identity, which gave us a completely different direction,” said Sjöholm.

The investigators were constantly worried that the suspect would commit new crimes.

“The nightmare was that he would shoot someone while he was under investigation, but it did not happen. We discussed a lot about how to deal with the situation and also what could happen during an arrest if he was armed,” said Sjöholm.

As such, it was imperative to apprehend the suspect at the right moment. An intensive dialogue took place continuously between investigators and prosecutors.

Wollstad outlined the entire list of murders and attempted murders that Mangs is under suspicion for at the press conference.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Bombing Was an Attack on Swedish Society: PM

Sweden’s prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt used his Christmas speech to condemn the suicide bombing in Stockholm as “an attack on Swedish society”, praising Muslim leaders for standing up for freedom and openness.

Speaking at Skansen open-air museum in central Stockholm on Monday, Reinfeldt focused on the recent terror attacks which killed the bomber and left two people injured.

Reinfeldt described the bomber, who blew himself up before reaching his presumed destination of a crowded shopping district, as someone who hates that which Sweden stands for — freedom, openness and diversity.

“A suicide bomber steps right into Swedish society and it is that which he challenges. Freedom and openness, it is that which he hates,” Reinfeldt said.

The prime minister also referred to the fact that the attack was apparently carried out with a religious pretext.

“It had to do with religion. It is difficult to understand a secular country such as Sweden. From a starting point in religion the right is claimed to threaten others.”

Reinfeldt underlined that the religions are not ranked according to importance in Sweden and that even atheists deserve respect for their non-faith.

“In multicultural Sweden the religions exist side-by-side,” he said.

Furthermore, Reinfeldt reserved praise for the strong reactions from Swedish Muslim leaders after the attack and argued that imams and others had clearly defended Sweden’s openness and condemned the terror attacks.

“I welcome the fact that Muslim Sweden has unequivocally stood up.”

Reinfeldt interpreted the reactions in that there is a strong sense of unity over the importance of fighting for openness, freedom and diversity in Sweden.

He stated that everyone can understand the importance of upholding “the contract”, which means that you can’t just make use of openness and freedom for your own gain, but do your bit to enable others to be able to do the same.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sweden Could be a ‘Catalyst of Understanding’ After Attack

While Sweden is left asking why after experiencing its first suicide bombing, Fulbright scholar and US Muslim Dr. Abdul Majeed Azad calls on the country to deploy its history of neutrality to build bridges across Europe to defeat the radicalisation of Muslim youth.

The news of the suicide bombing last Saturday has shocked everyone. I was boarding the train at Stockholm central station to return to Göteborg after attending the Nobel Prize award ceremony the previous night in Stockholm, when this happened. I got a frantic call from my wife in the US, who had just then seen the news and had freaked out, because she knew I was in Stockholm at that time. It all appears so surreal and one question that everybody is asking is: why Sweden?

A few years ago, in his broadcast timed to coincide with the US Presidential election in 2004, Osama bin Laden had laconically remarked, “If it was freedom they were against, al-Qaeda would have attacked Sweden.”

Ironically, on that Saturday afternoon Sweden eventually became the victim of one of the ideologues of Bin Laden’s vengeful militancy.

Acting alone, Taimour Abdulwahab — an Iraqi immigrant and naturalized Swede — struck Stockholm’s idyllic innocence, blowing up his car and himself. Even though there were no other casualties in terms of human life, one shudders to even imagine that the eve of his 29th birthday eerily coincided with his death.

Eighteen years is a long time to nurse a grudge and cultivate perpetual hatred for a place and people that welcomed you with open arms. A new branch of psychiatry needs to be opened and explored to understand the mindset of such dark personalities.

This was a lone act, thankfully without much damage. Had it been successful, it would have caused carnage of unimagined proportions during the festive season. It was no less barbaric though, as it succeeded in painting Islam once again as a monster religion hell-bent on causing destruction, particularly in the West.

As the pages from the life of Taimour in Tranås (Sweden) and Luton (England) are unfolding, it is unfathomable that a married man with three children could be driven to such levels of blind fanaticism.

Nine years ago on a crisp, beautiful, soft and sunny autumn morning, the innocence of humanity we all knew and took for granted, was struck on September 11th, when a horrendous tragedy was perpetrated in the name of Islam on the American soil. Nine years later, the wounds are still bleeding, the scars are still fresh and the anger is still seething.

Nine years ago, we thought American people and institutions were the sole victims of that attack. Nine years later, we know Islam also was the target. That day, we surmised that planes were hijacked, buildings were rammed into and innocent people were killed. Today we know, a storied faith was molested and its 1.6 billion followers became pariahs and ostracized for as long as it takes for the fog of ignorance and disbelief to lift.

For me as a Muslim, the very fabric of the faith which taught me the sanctity of life and what constitutes its decorum was torn on that day. Life is holy in all religions; it takes a person of ignoble misunderstanding and instability to advocate or perform violence against it. The morality and integrity of a people as a whole are vital in dealing with all people.

The Qur’an exhorted Muhammad to tell Muslims: “Come, I will rehearse what God has really prohibited you from: take not life, which God has made sacred, except by the way of justice and law; thus does He command you that you may learn wisdom” (4:151).

Islam categorically forbids Muslims from taking life in a cowardly and unjust way — their own or those of others. The precepts of my religion, my way of life uphold this.

But when events like that of December 11th in Stockholm occur, no explanation, no apology would do. Yet, while I learned with total disbelief the swift unfolding of this ruthless act, I was longing for signs of condemnation from the Muslim community in and around Stockholm and beyond. A brief written statement from the imam of the Södermalm mosque is not enough. By now, Muslims should be on the streets shrieking strongest condemnation at the top of their lungs for this act by one of their own.

The silence of Muslims in the Swedish community would send the wrong message, making their neighbours angry, co-workers suspicious, and, acquaintances and friends, disillusioned.

Saturday’s event proves that some sections of Muslim community, no matter how small, are on the path of destruction — self and otherwise, despite the vehement denial by their community elders.

Al-Qaeda might have been weakened collectively, but apparently it has been slowly but steadily succeeding in poisoning the minds of the Muslim youth — one at a time. This supply chain must be cut at the very central artery. No material and technical sophistication or eavesdropping, no coalition of the willing, no unmanned drones and no cells at Guantanamo will be able to destroy or deter the new crop of zealous doctrinaires. Why? Because, Muslim youths are being infected with twisted thoughts and are being fed distorted version of their faith. There is no benignity about this cancer. Physician, heal thyself! Muslims alone would have to muster the courage to

stand up and destroy it.

It is well-agreed that what al-Qaeda stands for and what it strives to achieve is a response, primarily to the excesses and somewhat double standards of Western foreign policy in relation to the ‘world of Muslims’ — not necessarily the ‘world of Islam’.

During the past three months of my stay in Sweden, I have found Swedes to be open, gentle, supportive, helpful, and least bothered about or biased towards others’ belief systems. It is also by far, the most tolerant country in Europe towards Muslims. Her ready acceptance of large contingents of immigrants from predominantly Muslim lands is testimony of that.

The majority of Muslims are peace-loving law-abiding citizens, caring, respectful and compassionate neighbours all across the globe. My plea to the Swedish people and its leaders is that their future approach towards Muslims in Sweden, should not be dictated by this and other such sporadic acts of violence.

Al-Qaeda and its cohorts may be inspired by the foggy misinterpretation of Islam by its leaders, but it is not a religious organization. In fact, what it has done, is doing and plans to do in future is everything Islam abhors and stands against. To

defeat this demon, all Swedes — Muslims included — must come together. They must resolve to understand the dynamics of its evil fangs and stand against its outlook of the world affair.

In the aftermath of 9/11, American-Muslims have forged strong alliances with US officials in being vigilant and safeguarding our communities, neighbors and the homeland. It is not a choice: it is incumbent upon us as the adherents of Islamic faith.

In the light of what happened in Stockholm, no less is expected of Muslims who call Sweden home. As a country that takes ‘no side in conflicts’ Sweden could be a catalyst to building bridges of understanding, thus defeating the radicalization within its borders as well as in Europe at large.

Dr. Abdul Majeed Azad, a U.S. citizen, is the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy at Chalmers University in Gothenburg, Sweden. His current research in Sweden pertains to the investigation of novel oxygen carriers with CLOU properties for solid fuels, including coal. Dr. Azad has been a professor in the Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering at the University of Toledo since 2003.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Swedish Accusers in ‘Tizzy’ For STDs: Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange alleged on Tuesday that the Swedish women who accused him of sexual assault got into a “tizzy” about possibly contracting a sexually transmitted disease from him.

Assange told the BBC that one account of what happened in August — the month at the centre of allegations against him — was that the two women had panicked when they found out they had both slept with him and went to police, who “bamboozled” them.

He insisted he was fighting a Swedish extradition warrant because he believes “no natural justice” would occur in Sweden.

“There are some serious problems with the Swedish prosecution,” he said in an interview from the mansion of a wealthy supporter in eastern England where he must stay as part of his bail conditions.

Sweden wants Britain to extradite the 39-year-old Australian to face questioning over allegations from two women that he raped one of them and sexually assaulted the other in Stockholm in August.

Assange claimed that the Swedish authorities had asked that his Swedish lawyer be “gagged,” adding that his offers to be interviewed by video link or by Swedish officials in Britain had been rejected.

“I don’t need to be at the beck and call of people making allegations. I don’t need to go back to Sweden. The law says I…have certain rights and these rights mean that I do not need to speak to random prosecutors around the world who simply want to have a chat and won’t do it in any other standard way,” he said.

He said that one account of what occurred in August was that after having discovered they had each had sex with him, they had got into a “tizzy,” or a panic, about the possibility of sexually transmitted diseases.

As a result, he said, the women had gone to the police for advice “and then the police jumped in on this and bamboozled the women.”

WikiLeaks has enraged Washington by releasing thousands of US diplomatic cables and US Vice President Joe Biden described Assange as a “hi-tech terrorist.” US officials are believed to be considering how to indict Assange for espionage.

In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Assange compared WikiLeaks’ “persecution” to that endured by Jews in the US in the 1950s.

Assange also confirmed that WikiLeaks was holding a vast amount of material about Bank of America that it intends to release early next year.

“We don’t want the bank to suffer unless it’s called for. But if its management is operating in a responsive way there will be resignations,” he told The Times, without giving details about the material.

Shares in Bank of America have fallen amid speculation that it was a WikiLeaks target.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Rightwing Raises Stakes Over Future EU Relations

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party is calling on the government to rule out the option of Swiss membership of the European Union and the adoption of EU law.

In an interview with Hans Fehr, senior party member and parliamentarian, accuses the government of being ambiguous about future ties between Bern and Brussels.

Switzerland has concluded more than 120 bilateral accords with the 27-nation bloc, but the EU is now stepping up pressure to find different forms of cooperation.

The cabinet is expected this week to discuss a report on the issue by a joint working group of experts from Switzerland and the EU.

It was set up in July to examine possible ways in which Switzerland could adopt EU law and to discuss the introduction of a tribunal to resolve contentious issues.

Hans Fehr: We must be unequivocal with Brussels and tell them clearly what we want. Switzerland is an independent country with complete freedom of action. This is the aim of our foreign policy according to article two of the federal constitution.

H.F.: What we need is a clear position and no ambiguous language and double speak.

Brussels believes the Swiss government wants to take the country into the EU. But it is well known that the Swiss people do not want to join it. Who would want to be drawn into the disaster of a poorly constructed union with a doomed common currency?

It’s time for the government to respect the opinion of its citizens and finally withdraw its application for membership [launched in 1992 and put on ice since].

H.F.: Officially the government reaffirms that bilateral treaties are the best way to work with the EU. But at the same time the political establishment in Bern complains that the bilateral policy has reached its limits and it wants to make concessions to Brussels.

The EU for its part is turning up the heat because it needs more funds.

This is why it is time to make clear that Swiss voters have opted for bilateral accords and do not want EU membership.

H.F.: It is a matter of political intentions. A deal on electricity is a priority for the EU, not for us.

H.F.: There are also different opinions in Switzerland about a treaty on the electricity market. What the EU really wants is an accord with the chemicals industry and the financial industry. Brussels is trying to weaken Swiss banks and undermine cantonal tax autonomy.

We have to say once and for all: So far and no further!

But it is too easy for Brussels if the Swiss government indicates that it wants to join the EU at some point in the not too distant future.

H.F.: The Swiss government, not the negotiators are the real problem. It sends out ambiguous signals and has failed to formulate clear mandates for the negotiations. When in Brussels ministers talk of membership, but they make the Swiss people believe that they have decided to continue the policy of bilateral treaties.

H.F.: First of all, the EU benefits more than Switzerland from the bilateral accords.

Of course Switzerland can oppose the demands from Brussels. We are not an EU colony.

Take the example of the Schengen regulations in Europe [the agreement abolishing border controls between members]. We have been forced to adopt new laws — about 120 modifications just a few years — without being able to consult Swiss voters.

At the same time the costs for the Schengen treaty are soaring and the single border policy area is threatened by growing insecurity.

The joint working group in Brussels is discussing ‘institutional solutions’. They want us to take over new laws automatically and be subject to foreign judges.

But this is unacceptable for a sovereign state.

H.F.: It was possible to get the foreign labour we needed with the old quota system and without suffering the problems of the free movement of people accord.

Managers and some business sectors may benefit in the short term from the free movement of people, namely a larger workforce to choose from who can be paid lower salaries.

But practically unlimited immigration has led to a dangerous increase in the number of foreigners every year. It jeopardises the social security system, has resulted in problems in schools, a higher crime rate and poorly integrated foreigners.

We have to act now to counter overpopulation. Immigration has to be curbed and we need a better accord. Otherwise we are likely to go from bad to worse from the middle of next year if the free movement of people regulations are extended to eastern Europe.

H.F.: The People’s Party has no problems if Switzerland takes over technical EU norms. We categorically oppose any attempt to bypass the people and direct democracy.

Switzerland will end up as a colony if it cannot maintain its independence and sovereignty.

H.F.: We don’t want Switzerland to be isolated. But everybody wants to come to this paradise.

We are an important trading partner for the EU. We are building a new transalpine rail link for about SFr30 billion ($31 billion) and they are paying nothing. There are 230,000 cross-border workers from the EU and 1.2 million other EU citizens in Switzerland.

Imports of goods from the EU exceed Swiss exports by about SFr20 billion. I don’t think Brussels will want to spoil things with such a trading partner.

The People’s Party wants Switzerland to be on good terms with EU but not at any cost. In any case, the growth markets are primarily in Asia and South America.

Andreas Keiser,

(Adapted from German by Urs Geiser)


Switzerland and the EU have concluded about 120 bilateral agreements since 1972 when voters approved an Efta accord with Brussels on a free trade zone.

The Swiss government applied for negotiations on EU membership in 1992. The application remains on ice.

The government’s 2006 report on European integration stated that the Swiss policy is based on bilateral treaties.

Last August the government reiterated that bilateral accords are the best way to work with the EU, but it said amendments were needed to continue cooperation with Brussels amid increasing difficulties.

The People’s Party is one of Switzerland’s four main political parties. It has one seat in the seven-strong cabinet…

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

The Latest WikiLeaks Revelation: 1 in Three British Muslim Students Back Killing for Islam and 40% Want Sharia Law

Around a third of young British Muslims favour killing in the name of Islam, according to a survey revealed by the WikiLeaks’ publication of U.S diplomatic cables.

A survey of 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students at 30 universities throughout the UK conducted by the Centre for Social Cohesion found that 32 percent of Muslims on UK campuses believe killing in the name of religion is justified.

A U.S. diplomatic cable from January 2009 quoted the same poll as saying 54 per cent wanted a Muslim party to represent their world view in Parliament and 40 per cent want Muslims in the UK to be under Sharia law.

The survey results, revealed by WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables, suggests increasing radicalisation among Britain’s young Muslims.

A further U.S. cable, dated February 5 2009, said reaching out to Britain’s Muslim community there was a ‘top priority’ for U.S. embassy staff.

“Although people of Muslim faith make up only 3 to 4 percent of the UK’s population, outreach to this key audience is vital to U.S. foreign policy interests in the UK and beyond. … This is a top Mission priority,” stated the cable.

The February cable outlined a plan encompassing ‘engagement and community capacity-building’ to counter the possible growth of ‘violent extremism’ in the UK.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Anglo-Saxon Settlement Unearthed in Northumberland

Investigations also revealed a number of other sites

The remains of an Anglo-Saxon settlement have been discovered at a surface mine in Northumberland.

Buildings and artefacts dating from the 6th to 8th centuries have been uncovered at Shotton Surface Mine, on the Blagdon Estate, near Cramlington.

The site had been investigated by archaeologists before the start of open-cast mining work.

Experts said the find had provided “the first direct evidence” of Anglo-Saxon settlement in that part of the county.

A team of archaeologists from TWM Archaeology, funded by Banks Mining, undertook the excavation and discovered the settlement.

Remains ‘surprise’

It comprised of at least six rectangular post-built halls — each thought to house a family unit — two buildings with sunken floors and a system of enclosures, fences and trackways.

Anglo-Saxon pottery, loom weights and metalworking residues have all been recovered from the site.

The archaeological investigations on the surface coal mine also revealed a number of other sites including several Iron Age roundhouses, ditches and pit alignments — which were used as land divisions.

Part of the restoration plans for Shotton include the Northumberlandia landform The potential of the site was recognised by Northumberland County Council archaeologists but despite the extensive preliminary work, the council said the remains came as a surprise.

Karen Derham, Northumberland County Council Assistant County Archaeologist, said: “We know Northumberland was at the heart of the early medieval Kingdom of Bernicia and yet archaeologists have so far only discovered a very small number of settlement sites, all previously in the north of the county.

“The surface mine at Shotton has given us the first direct evidence of Anglo-Saxon settlement in this part of the county and has confirmed its potential for making important archaeological discoveries.”

Banks Mining has been operating Shotton Surface Mine since 2008.

Part of the restoration plans for Shotton include the Northumberlandia landform which is currently being constructed and will be open to the public in 2013.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC Radio Presenter Lubna Qazi Exposed as £18,000 Benefits Cheat But Avoids Jail

A BBC radio presenter who was exposed as an £18,000 benefit cheat has avoided jail.

BBC Asian Network presenter Lubna Qazi, aka DJ Kanwal, wrongly claimed Carer’s Allowance for her sick husband without declaring her job at the corporation.

The 53-year-old presenter, from Kings Heath, Birmingham, told Department for Work and Pensions bosses in 2003 she was caring for her husband, who spent 35 hours a week in bed after suffering a stroke.

But she falsely claimed state handouts for seven years by working just nine hours a week for the BBC, earning £24.47 per hour.

In total she swindled £18,014 in benefits by not declaring her job as presenter of two weekend Bollywood music shows on the BBC’s Asian Network radio station.

The presenter earned nearly £25 per hour working for the corporation for nine hours at weekends, exceeding the upper limit of £95 a week for the allowance.

Birmingham Crown Court heard today Qazi was overpaid £18,014 between March 2003 and January 2010 as a result of the fiddle.

But Recorder Collingwood Thompson QC described it as an ‘exceptional’ case and sentenced her to a 12-month conditional discharge.

He said: ‘I have to sentence you on the basis you knew you were not entitled to the benefits.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Flu: 300 People in Intensive Care as Swine Flu Spreads

Data from the Department of Health for England revealed there were 302 people in intensive care beds. It is unclear how many have swine flu but they are expected to be in the majority. New figures on the number of deaths from flu and swine flu will be released by the Health Protection Agency on Thursday. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley briefed Cabinet colleagues this morning on the flu situation and told them the NHS had plenty of capacity to deal with the upsurge in cases. Prime Minister David Cameron told a press conference at 10 Downing Street: “We had a report at Cabinet this morning from the Health Secretary about the situation as regards flu, and particularly swine flu.

“He gave a report about the number of critical care beds being used for people with flu. While obviously… the number of flu cases has doubled in the last week, there is still plenty of capacity in the NHS.

“I think the figures on flu are are quite similar to two years ago. They are a little worse than last year.

“I think there is a very good grip in the Department of Health on this issue. Andrew Lansley has a great grip over that department.”

Mr Cameron said he did not know whether his wife Samantha had been advised of the risk of swine flu to pregnant women while she was carrying their fourth child, Florence, who was born earlier this year.

As of yesterday, there were 24 children under five in critical care with confirmed or suspected flu, another 12 aged five to 15, and 243 in the 16 to 64 age group.

There were also 23 people aged over 65 in critical care.

So far this flu season, 14 people have died with confirmed swine flu and another three from flu type B.

This figure will be higher when new figures are released on Thursday. Last year, 474 people died from swine flu.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Humiliated Vince Cable Stripped of Sky Role After ‘War With Murdoch’ Gaffe

A humbled and diminished Vince Cable was tonight allowed to cling on to his cabinet post as business secretary, but was stripped of all responsibility for media policy after it emerged he had told undercover reporters that he had “declared war” on Rupert Murdoch over the media magnate’s plans to take over all of BSkyB.

Cable’s reckless claims, in a secretly recorded conversation, were considered a flagrant breach of his duty to take a quasi-judicial approach to the proposed takeover, and were declared “totally unacceptable and inappropriate” by Downing Street. Many had expected an angry David Cameron to sack Cable or transfer him to a lesser cabinet role.

But instead the business secretary was hauled in front of his party leader, Nick Clegg, and then Cameron. After a series of emergency meetings, which included George Osborne, the chancellor, Clegg felt he could not afford to lose the second most senior Liberal Democrat from the government.

Nearly 70 civil servants responsible for all aspects of media and telecoms policy will now be transferred from Cable’s business empire to the Department of Culture Media and Sport headed by Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary and a Conservative likely to be sympathetic to Murdoch.

One Downing Street source said: “Losing a big chunk of his department is more humiliating for Cable than being transferred to another cabinet post.”

But No 10 denied Cable was being parked on the political equivalent of death row pending the expected return to government of David Laws, the former chief secretary to the Treasury and a close ally of Clegg. Laws stood down from the post in May and is hoping to be cleared of allegations of expenses abuse by the Commons standards and privileges committee early next year. The government will be hoping that the onset of the Christmas recess will create a political lull that will shield Cable from media calls for him to thrown out of the government.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Harry Potter Star Afshan Azad ‘Asked Police to Drop Assault Case Against Her Brother’

A star of the Harry Potter films who was attacked by her brother over her relationship with a Hindu man asked police not to take action against him — because it would put her in ‘genuine danger’.

Muslim actress Afshan Azad — who played one of the Patil twins in the hit films — was assaulted by brother Ashraf Azad, 28, at the family home in Beresford Road, Longsight. Manchester Crown Court heard she was so terrified that she escaped from her bedroom window and now lives in London.

A former pupil at Whalley Range High School For Girls, Ms Azad, 22, initially gave police a statement.

Richard Vardon QC, prosecuting, said she then ‘made it plain’ that she ‘did not support any action’ being taken against either her father or her brother because she feared that it could make the situation worse and place her in danger.

And although she was called as a witness she failed to turn up at court. But she had never retracted her initial allegations — and the case went ahead without her.

Her brother Ashraf pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm and will be sentenced next month.

The judge, Roger Thomas QC, ruled a verdict of not guilty over a charge of threatening to kill her should be entered.

He also ordered that Ms Azad’s father Abul Azad, 53, be found not guilty of threatening to kill her. He was bound over to keep the peace for 12 month in the sum of £500.

JudgeThomas said that vulnerable victims of domestic violence would continue to be protected by prosecutions even if they refuse to personally give evidence in court.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Wales: Five Terror Suspects Arrested After Raid by Police on Homes in Cardiff

RAIDS on terror suspects in Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent and London followed months of surveillance and monitoring by counter terrorism and MI5 officers, sources revealed last night.

Police yesterday searched at least four properties in the Welsh capital after arresting five men in the city on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism in the UK.

Four men from Stoke-on- Trent and three from London were also arrested on suspicion of the same offences following co-ordinated 5am raids.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she had been kept fully informed of the police operation, adding the UK faced “a real and serious threat from terrorism”.

Police sources indicated no firearms or explosives had been found during yesterday’s searches.

The searches in Cardiff were being carried out at two adjoining terraced houses in Ninian Park Road, Riverside, a large, seven-bedroom terraced house in nearby Neville Street and in a flat next door to the Raj Indian takeaway on Cowbridge Road West. One of the flat’s front doors had been broken down.

All the men, who were aged 23, 24, 25, 26 and 28, are thought to have been from the Bangladeshi community. Three were arrested in Riverside and two in Ely.

A neighbour on Neville Street, Marc Davies, 26, said: “I was driving to work when I saw police all suited up. It looked like they were wearing chemical suits.

“There were police everywhere, there were vans parked up on the side of the road and it looked all go.”

One female neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “There have been undercover officers in and out all day, they keep taking stuff away and then coming back.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Visas: For Italy, First Reconciliation With Serbia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, DECEMBER 16 — The time has not yet come to abolish visas for citizens of Kosovo who want to enter the European Union, as “reconciliation with Serbia must first be pushed forward”. This is according to the Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, the day after the visas were officially abolished for Albanians travelling to countries in the Schengen area.

Answering questions from Albanian television in the Foreign Ministry in Rome today, Frattini explained that “the final target is for all Balkan countries to join the EU,” although “at the moment, Kosovo still needs our help,” as is shown by the fact that “our soldiers are there to calm tensions” with Serbia.

The Minister added that he would travel to Pristina and Belgrade in January, in an attempt towards reconciliation ahead of the resumption of talks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Kidnapped by the CIA, Milan Imam Says Facebook Closed His Account-Four Times

Cairo, 20 Dec. (AKI) — An Egyptian clieric kidnapped seven years ago in Milan by CIA and Italian agents says social networking giant Facebook has recently shut his account — for the fourth time.

“I had to open a reserve account,” said Osama Hasan Mustafa Nasr, commonly known at Abu Omar, in an interview on Monday with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Speaking by telephone from Egypt where he resides, Nasr, once an imam in Milan, said he has received no response from Facebook requesting an explanation.

Nasr’s abduction from a Milan street in February 2003 was specifically mentioned in a secret CIA document released in August by the whistle-blowing Wikileaks website discussing the US as a possible “exporter of terrorism.”

In a landmark ruling in November, 2009 an Italian judge convicted 23 CIA agents and two Italian agents of Nasr’s abduction in broad daylight.

Three other Americans were acquitted on grounds of diplomatic immunity, including the CIA’s former chief in Italy.

All of the Americans were tried in absentia.

Nasr alleges he was flown to Egypt and tortured in prison there.

He was released in 2007 and now lives in the Egyptian city of Alessandria. He is suspected of recruiting Muslim fighters to train in Afghanistan and said he will set up an Islamist party with any legal damages he is awarded.

Nasr and his wife are seeking 15 million euros in compensation.

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

Libya: Italy’s ENI Makes Deal to Invest in Social Programs

(AKI) — Eni, Italy’s biggest energy company, has said it will help Libya construct a naval port, desalinization plant and 1,000 houses in the El Agheila area along the Gulf of Sirte.

The memorandum of understanding foresees Rome-based Eni making a “significant” investment, the company said in a statement, without providing specific terms of the agreement.

Eni controlled by the Italian government, the company’s biggest shareholder — said the pact was part of a 2006 deal with the Libya to invest in social hospitals, the preservation of archaeological sites, training Libyan graduates, and other social programs.

Italy and Libya in 2008 inked a “friendship treaty” in which Italy agreed to pay Tripoli 5 billion dollars for its 30-year occupation of the north African country.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: A Time to Shout

The new campaign calling for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard from prison in the US is in many ways a curious development. Pollard was arrested in 1985 and convicted on one count of transferring classified information to Israel during his service in US Naval Intelligence. He pleaded guilty to the charge in the framework of a plea bargain in which the US attorney pledged not to request a life sentence.

Despite this, Pollard was sentenced to life. So far, he has served 25 years, much of it in solitary confinement and in maximum security prisons. His health is poor. He has repeatedly expressed remorse for his crime.

Pollard’s sentence and the treatment he has received are grossly disproportionate to the sentences and treatment meted out to agents of other friendly foreign governments caught stealing classified information in the US. Their average sentence is seven years in prison. They tend to serve their sentences in minimum or medium security prisons and are routinely released after four years…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Mahmoud Abbas Against Dahlan’s ‘Private Militia’

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 17 — Tensions appear to be rising in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) between the entourage of President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Mohammad Dahlan, one of the more eager “colonels” of his party, Al-Fatah. So reported today Israeli newspaper Haaretz, which specifies that Dahlan is apparently suspected by the presidential staff of working on the formation of a private paramilitary militia in the West Bank, outside the institutional control of the PNA.

The news, which is also highlighted by the Palestinian press agency MAAN, is based on speculations that are attributed to political sources in Ramallah. According to these sources, Dahlan has started a recruitment campaign distributing money, weapons and military commands. Abu Mazen is reportedly trying hard to strike down this initiative.

Dahlan has denied the speculations, and claims that he is at the centre of a “gossip” campaign which has damaged his ties with the President, but “will not be able to cause a break”.

Still the existence of a conflict seems hard to deny. Dahlan is considered to be one of the coming men in Fatah, despite the setback in 2007 when his image as ‘strong man’ of the Gaza Strip was smashed by the defeat by Hamas. Now he has suddenly been dismissed as man in charge of the mass-media sector of the central Committee. He was elected in this position during last year’s congress in Bethlehem, a re-launch as one of the possible future successors of Abu Mazen. And that’s not all: his license for a new television channel set up under his control has been cancelled, and his personal guard has been taken away by the PNA security services. These setbacks have probably to do with his recent remarks, in which he criticised the moderate comments made by Mahmoud Abbas on the stalemate in the peace talks with Israel, mediated by the USA. But also, according to some commentators, with the uncertain prospects of the succession of the 76-year-old successor of Yasser Arafat. Mahmoud Abbas seems in fact unlikely to step back at the moment, also because of the relative weakness of his many possible successors and their mutual fierce rivalry.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Christmas of Mourning for Iraq’s Christians

After the series of anti-Christian attacks, Iraq will mark Christmas again under tight security. No functions will be held on Christmas Eve, nor decorations or ceremonies. A community enduring suffering and losses is preparing to experience the message of hope brought by Jesus to earth because, for Iraqi Christians, Christmas is always a time of joy as well as martyrdom. Mgr Louis Sako, Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, bears witness.

by Louis Sako*

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — Midnight Christmas Mass has been cancelled in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk as a consequence of the never-ending assassinations of Christians and the attack against Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral on 31 October, which killed 57 people. For security reasons, churches will not be decorated. Masses will be sombre and held during the day.

A sense of sadness and mourning prevails among Christians. There is much concern for the future of young people. For the past two months, they have been unable to go to university. The same is true for many families that fled north who now must plan a future without any concrete bases.

No one expects anything from the government as far as protecting Christians. Political leaders are too caught up in setting up a new administration.

Security is slightly better in Kirkuk than in the capital, but here too abductions and threats occur. For this reason, we have decided for the first time since the war began not to celebrate Midnight Mass. We shall simply not have any feast, period. Santa Claus will not be coming for the children; there will be no official ceremony with the authorities proffering their best wishes.

For the past six weeks, we have not celebrated Mass because of a lack of security, except late in the morning and Saturday afternoons. For now, we have also stopped teaching the catechism.

We do not have the right to put people’s lives in danger. All our parish churches have security guards, but when worshippers step outside the church and into the street, they become an easy target.

Yet, despite everything, we shall pray for peace this Christmas and help the poor families of Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. So far, 106 families have arrived from Baghdad and Mosul.

In my homily, I am going to focus on such problems, on the clashes and on people’s fears but also on the fact that Christmas brings a message of hope. Of course, heaven and earth are two different realities. The Massacre of the Innocents followed Christmas. Thus, for us in Iraq, Christmas is a time of hope and joy as well as pain and martyrdom.

Peace is a goal that people of good will should make happen. If we Christians want to be Christian and welcome Christmas and its message, we must be peacemakers, and build harmony among our Iraqi brothers and sisters.

* Chaldean bishop of Kirkuk

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

Iran: Fired Foreign Minister Criticises President Ahmadinejad

Tehran, 20 Dec. (AKI) — The former Iranian foreign minister who was abruptly fired last week spoke out against president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and said his firing was “un-Islamic”, local media reports said.

“Dismissing a minister during a mission is un-Islamic, undiplomatic and offensive,” Manouchehr Mottaki said. “I was never informed,” according to report by Mehr new agency.

Ahmadinejad last week replaced Manouchehr Mottaki with Iranian nuclear chief and close ally Ali Akbar Salehi as a ‘caretaker’ foreign minister.

Ahmadinejad announced the move while Mottaki was on a visit to Senegal. In a letter, he said he appreciated Mottaki’s efforts during his term and appointed Ali Akbar Salehi as the caretaker of the ministry.

Mottaki in recent months challenged Ahmadinejad’s plan to place the president’s handpicked special envoys to the Middle East, Afghanistan and the Caspian Sea region. Mottaki won that round after reportedly getting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene. Ahmadinejad eventually reclassified the envoy posts as advisers.

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

Qatar 2022: Blatter: Misunderstanding About Gays

(ANSAmed) — ABU DHABI, DECEMBER 17 — “A remark of mine about homosexuals in connection with the 2022 World Cup which I made over the past few days has been misunderstood and condemned. It was not my intention to offend anybody. If I have done so, I apologise to all concerned”. Joseph Blatter, the FIFA President chose his words carefully during today’s meeting in the capital of the United Arab Emirates in which he took stock of the situation ahead of the World Club Cup final.

Over recent days, a gay rights group had expressed its opposition to a world soccer championship being held in Qatar where homosexuality is a crime. And, speaking on the matter of possible discrimination against homosexual football fans who come to this small Gulf Emirate, Blatter quipped that they should “abstain from any sexual activities”.

Blatter went on to say he was “sure there would be no problems” adding that “there is a different culture in the Middle East because this is a different region, but there are no frontiers in football. We open up everything to everybody and there shouldn’t be any discrimination against any human being.

If they wish to attend the matches in Qatar, I am certain they can do so”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syrian Leader Proposes Schengen-Like Visa-Free Zone

The Syrian president has proposed a visa-free travel region for Syria, Iran, Turkey and other neighboring countries that would be similar to Europe’s Schengen Zone.

“I was the first one to bring this issue to the agenda. I started talking about [visa-free travel] between Turkey and Syria three years ago,” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Sunday in an interview with daily Hürriyet and the German paper Bild that touched on regional influence, Middle East peace and his country’s reputation.

“When Erdoðan said, ‘We are ready’ [for a visa agreement] during my visit to Turkey last year, I was very surprised,” al-Assad said.

Asked about claims in U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks that he said Iran holds a more crucial position than Turkey, al-Assad denied the allegations and asked whether anyone would believe he said Syria ranks last among the three countries. “I allegedly said Iran ranks first, Turkey ranks second and Syria ranks third,” the president said with a smile. “Could you believe that I would make such a ranking? Unless I say Syria is the most crucial country in the region, such a claim is not correct.”

Pressed further on the topic, al-Assad said he thinks Syria, Iran and Turkey all hold significant positions, even though other perspectives are sometimes stated or written by U.S. people.

“If you have a good image, yet live in a bad reality, this is, in fact, a bad situation. If you have a bad image, yet live in a good reality, this is positive,” he said. “The most ideal is to have an image based on reality. The West will learn the realities in the region in time.”

The leader of Syria for 10 years, al-Assad said the country’s image had already been changed somewhat since the presidency of his father, Hafez al-Assad, but added that it would be even better if it were changed further. Agreeing with a statement by one interviewer that during his father’s time, soldiers, police and intelligence operatives created an image of dictatorship, but that Syria took on a more liberal image under his own presidency, al-Assad said he does not care whether other people like him or not.

Regarding the concept of an “Ottoman Nations Gathering” proposed by Turkish Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu, the Syrian leader said he could not evaluate what is meant by this phrase. He added that the question of how Turkish people define the difference between “Ottoman” and “Turkey” should be considered, and that it does not sound good if someone tells him that he comes from the Turkish nation. “Is this related to boundaries? I guess he [Davutoðlu] is not talking about the spread of Turkey,” al-Assad said.

The Syrian president said peace had not yet been able to come to the region because of conquerors and that even though local people live under very bad conditions, they managed to live in peace for many years within a social structure. “The civil war was not experienced here, but in Lebanon. The reason for all wars is conquerors. First the British, then the French and now Israel,” Al-Assad said, when asked for his comments on Middle East peace.

According to the Syrian president, peace will only come to the region if Israel applies all United Nations Security Council decisions and returns the land it conquered. When asked to compare Syria’s position with that of Iran, which does not accept the existence of Israel, al-Assad said Iran and Syria do not have different attitudes about peace in the region.

“Maybe we might have different perspectives on details, but if we think about the news headlines that will be utilized, there is no disagreement between Iran and Syria on this issue,” he said.

           — Hat tip: DL[Return to headlines]

The Saudi Succession Threat

Saudi Arabia has been a part-time ally of the U.S., crushing Al-Qaeda terrorists trying to overthrow the Royal Family in its own territory but promoting radical Islam outside of it. The U.S. has made the largest arms sale in history to the Saudis but these weapons could end up in dangerous hands, especially if Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud becomes king. King Abdullah is 86 years old and in poor health. His designated successor, Crown Prince Sultan, is 82 and widely thought to have cancer. Aware that he and his successor could die in a short period of time, King Abdullah made Prince Nayef the Second Deputy Prime Minister in March of 2009, a position which is viewed as being the slot just below the successor. A cable from the U.S. embassy in Riyadh released by WikiLeaks is dated May 2009 and reports that “Crown Prince Sultan has been incapacitated by illness for at least (the) past year.” This means that Prince Nayef effectively becomes the king when Abdullah passes. Prince Nayef is already extremely powerful. As Interior Minister, he oversees the security forces including the religious police that enforce the Sharia law on the country. He is also the chairman of the Supreme Committee on the Hajj, making him the manager of the most important trip for Muslims all around the world. He also exercises power over foreign policy, such as by leading the delegation to the Gulf Cooperation Council summit this month. Nayef is understood to be an ally of the Wahhabist clerics and an opponent of the more reform-minded elements of the Royal Family like King Abdullah. His role in promoting extremism is so deep that in 2003, Senator Chuck Schumer wrote a letter to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. requesting that Nayef be sacked because of his “well-documented history of suborning terrorist financing and ignoring the evidence when it comes to investigating terrorist attacks on Americans.” According to former CIA case officer Robert Baer’s book, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, Nayef bluntly said shortly after the 9/11 attacks that “the great power that controls the earth, now is an enemy of Arabs and Muslims.” He was also the head of the Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Quds Intifada and told a Saudi newspaper on November 29, 2002 that “It is impossible that 19 youths carried out the operation of September 11, or that Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda did that alone…I think [the Zionists] are behind these events.” In May 2004, he reiterated this belief, saying “Al-Qaeda is backed by Israel and Zionism.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


As Ethnic Tensions Simmer, Putin Visits Soccer Fan’s Grave

Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin appeared to offer support to soccer fans on Tuesday in a potentially explosive ethnic conflict with migrants from the North Caucasus region, most of whom are Muslim and have flooded the country’s major cities in search of work.

Mr. Putin held a formal meeting with representatives of soccer clubs, and paid his respects at the grave of a fan who was killed this month in a brawl with migrants from the North Caucasus.

The killing of the fan, Yegor Sviridov, 28, a member of a soccer club called Spartak, has stoked deep frictions between the two sides that the government has struggled to contain. Complicating matters, openly racist Slavic nationalists have allied with the soccer clubs, whose members have themselves sometimes used provocative slogans.

Mr. Putin’s visit to the grave — where he placed a bouquet of red roses — seemed to represent a highly symbolic effort to win the favor of the soccer clubs.

Mr. Putin suggested that if tensions were not curbed, the government might be forced to adopt restrictions on migrants settling in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other metropolises. Such a move might mark a return to the types of limits on movement that existed during the Soviet era.

“If we do not respect one another, then what are we going to have to do?” Mr. Putin said. “We are going to have to — to put it mildly — improve the registration rules in the territories of our country, especially in major centers.”

Mr. Putin made his comments less than two weeks after thousands of soccer fans and nationalists reacted to Mr. Sviridov’s killing by conducting a violent demonstration near Red Square that startled the Kremlin. The police since then have detained thousands of people in Moscow and other cities on both sides in an attempt to prevent disturbances.

Last week, Mr. Putin said the country needed to have strong law enforcement in order to deal with extremists.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Catholics in Bogor (West Java) Not Allowed to Celebrate Christmas Mass

The authorities ban all Christian activities, citing as their reason the lack of a proper place of worship, which Catholics have been demanding for years without success. Increasingly, radical Muslims are becoming intolerant towards Christian groups.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Bogor authorities have banned all public activities or celebrations associated with Christmas, including Christmas Mass, at Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Parung, Tulang Kuning, Bogor Regency (West Java Province). The official ban was issued in a letter that restated the usual reasons, namely the lack of a building permit for a place of worship (Izin Mendirikan Bangunan in Indonesian). Without it, even praying on Church-owned land is prohibited.

In Indonesia, permits are required for any type of building, but when it comes to Christian places of worship, they are issued only after 60 residents living near the would-be church have agreed in writing to the project and the local Inter-faith Dialogue Group has given its approval.

In this particular case, because the application has not yet been approved after a long period of time, worshippers have taken to meeting under a tent or in a restaurant. Complicating matters, local authorities have interpreted the law very restrictively, going so far as to prevent Christians from even meeting in public. Now local Catholics are at a loss because they cannot figure out how to interpret the ban.

“We still have no idea how to respond such demands, despite the urgency to find a peaceful solution that would allow Catholics to profess their faith at Christmas,” Fr Gatot, the local parish priest, told AsiaNews.

The situation is particularly worrying because of past episodes of violence. Some parishioners, who asked their names be withheld, told AsiaNews that the ban was preceded by repeated threats from local Muslim extremists, who are bent on preventing any Christian ceremony in a public place.

The fear is that radical groups might take advantage of the ban to carry out violent acts in case Catholics hold celebrations in a public place, under a tent for example, or in a restaurant in neighbouring villages, which they have done in the past.

In 2005, local hard-line Muslim groups disrupted Easter celebrations. More problems arose in 2008, when hundreds of radical Muslims blocked access to church-owned land. On that occasion too, Easter celebrations were interrupted. Nonetheless, Good Friday and Palm Sunday services were successfully pulled off without an incident.

Parung is home to at least 3,000 Catholics. The local diocese owns 7,500 m2 of land where it wants to build a church. However, Muslim extremists have tried to prevent them.

In April this year, radical Muslims stopped Catholics from holding Easter Mass, but parishioners at the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church are not alone in experiencing such violence. The congregation of Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI, better known as Yasmin Church) have also gone through the same thing.

Although they were able to celebrate Mass on Easter Sunday, they had their building permit withdrawn on 14 February 2008. Local authorities issued a closure order for their church, because of protests by Muslim extremists.

In 2009, the Administrative Court, Indonesia’s highest civil court, ruled in favour of the Yasmin Church, which had successfully sued the municipality and won the right to keep its place of worship open.

Its victory was short-lived. On 11 March this year, the municipality closed it down permanently under pressure from Muslim extremists. As a protest, the faithful began celebrating Mass in the street (pictured).

Such cases illustrate what is happening across Indonesia. Non-Muslim religions are victims of a wave of intolerance fed by radical Muslims. Increasingly, it is taking on a violent form because local authorities are not taking decisive action to stop it.

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

Malaysia: In Prison Robes and Handcuffs, The British Wife Facing the Gallows for Heroin Haul

Dressed in orange prison robes and handcuffed to a fellow suspect, this is the daughter of a British nuclear scientist facing the death penalty in Malaysia for drugs trafficking.

Shivaun Orton, 41, and her husband were arrested after police found £16,000 of cannabis, amphetamine, ecstasy and heroin during a raid on their home.

If found guilty, she could become the first British woman to be hanged since Ruth Ellis in 1955. But yesterday she insisted she was innocent. She said that while her Malaysian husband Abdul Harris Badileh was a womanising drug user, she had been kept as a virtual prisoner at their home 12 miles from a beach resort they own.

Miss Orton’s late father Mike worked at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment in Aldermaston, Berkshire, for 36 years. She grew up in the Welsh coastal town of Harlech but has lived in Malaysia since 1995.

Yesterday she wept as she told how she had arrived at her present predicament.

Having passed her A-levels, Miss Orton left for the U.S., where she did an arts degree at Miami University. It was there that she met her husband-to-be. Despite her mother Shirley’s disapproval of the relationship, they married and 15 years ago moved to Malaysia, although she always kept her British passport and surname.

She said she left America with about £20,000, with which she helped her husband set up the Ranting Resort, a group of chalets in Cherating. They have two sons, Jacob, 16, and Isaac, 14.

‘I soon learned what it was like to be an Islamic bride,’ she said. ‘My husband insisted I live across the border in Terengganu, which is a strict Islamic state and which I call Taliban Land. I cannot go out by myself. I have to cover up. I am there to serve my husband and family.

‘My husband on the other hand was out all the time, often with women and taking drugs. What angered me most was that the women were of no class at all, just tarts.

‘It got so bad that in 2003 I packed my bags and got in the car. I had made it almost 200 kilometres and was within an hour of Kuala Lumpur and the airport and a flight back to London when I was stopped by police at a checkpoint near a town called Bentong.

‘I was handcuffed and raped, twice each by two policemen, and one did it three times. My husband had phoned the police and set me up.

‘He later admitted that he had said I was a runaway prostitute and told police to give me a warning before sending me home.’

Miss Orton said she tried to make the relationship work for the boys’ sake.

‘But my husband still insisted on chasing women. Once I burst in and caught him with a girl and smoking heroin. Once I had got rid of the girl I asked him why. He said, “Because you do not get high and have fun with me”.

‘That’s when I agreed to do heroin with him, but only at the weekends, while my husband did it every day.’

Miss Orton was yesterday remanded in custody for a week with her pony-tailed 46-year-old husband and an 18-year-old girl, Ram Nazarul Shima. She is a friend of Jacob and was at the house when police raided.

As Miss Orton spoke, her husband listened with his head bowed. He said: ‘It’s true I forced Shivaun to stay and that I introduced her to drugs. I needed her to be dependent on me. If she was dependent on drugs she would not run away.

‘Our relationship was on-off. But we lived in separate rooms. The heroin was mine and it was in my room. It had nothing to do with her.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Gay Man Gets Threats

A Muslim gay man in Malaysia says he fears for his safety after speaking about his sexuality in an Internet video that attracted online death threats and accusations by religious authorities that he is insulting Islam.

Azwan Ismail told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday he was taking safety precautions following fierce criticism in this conservative, Muslim-majority country over his clip, which has been viewed more than 140,000 times on YouTube in just six days.

The segment, titled “I’m Gay, I’m OK,” features the 32-year-old engineer encouraging other gay Malaysians to be confident in themselves. It is part of a series of interviews posted online by gay rights activists since last week, but Azwan has attracted heavy attention because he is the only one from Malaysia’s ethnic Malay Muslim majority so far.

“I don’t know what to expect next,” Azwan said Tuesday in his first comments to the media after his nearly three-minute clip was posted Dec. 15. Other gay Malaysians featured in the “Independent Sexuality” video campaign so far are mainly ethnic Chinese non-Muslims, who generally face less of a public stigma about homosexuality.

Azwan said he has tried to avoid going out alone or lingering at public places after a few of the 3,000 people who commented on his video issued death threats and many others rebuked him. He has also made his personal details more private on social media websites. Although Azwan’s face appears clearly in the video, he declined to be photographed for the AP interview.

Malaysia’s Cabinet minister for Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, voiced concerns over the weekend that gay activists were trying to promote homosexuality. He said officials might take “appropriate action to prevent this from spreading because it would hurt Islam’s image.”

Harussani Zakaria, one of Malaysia’s top Islamic clerics, reportedly said Azwan should have not made such an open declaration that “derided his own dignity and Islam in general.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US Drones Wipe Out Key Commanders of British Islamic Army in Waziristan

LAHORE: The Pakistan-based Islamic Army of Great Britain (IAGB) has suffered another major setback with the killing of its two more white commanders, both British nationals, in a US drone attack in North Waziristan on December 10. The operational chief of the Britons had earlier been killed in a drone strike in the same area on October 4, 2010.

Well-informed sources in the Pakistani security agencies have confirmed that the December 10 drone strikes had killed two Britons in Khadar Khel town of Miranshah in North Waziristan who have been identified as Stephen and Smith. The white commanders, who were known in the militant circles with their pseudonyms of Abu Bakar (Stephen) and Abu Mansoor (Smith), were travelling in a car with two other local militants when the American drone targeted them. Even though the car was completely destroyed and little remained of the bodies, local militants were quick to take out from the burnt car the mutilated corpses for burial. Stephen alias Abu Bakar, 47, has been identified as a senior al-Qaeda operative who was imparting terror training to a group of white jehadis from Great Britain in North Waziristan for carrying out terrorist activities in Europe and America. Smith alias Abu Mansoor, 28, has been identified as the right hand man of Stephens in the Islamic Army of Great Britain.

While the deaths of the Britons have not yet been confirmed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) which actually runs the deadly drone programme, it is not for the first time that reports of Muslim converts from Europe fighting for al-Qaeda and Taliban in the Pak-Afghan area have emerged. On October 4, 2010, Abdul Jabbar, a British terror suspect, was killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan. Later identified as the chief operational commander of the Islamic Army of Great Britain, he was a British citizen, came from Jhelum district of Punjab, and had a British wife. Abdul Jabbar had earlier survived a drone strike on September 8, 2010, targeting a militant training camp being run by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a Pakistani Taliban commander allied with the Haqqani militant network. Jabbar was reportedly tasked by the Waziristan-based al-Qaeda leadership to plan the Mumbai-style fidayeen attacks against targets in the Great Britain, Germany and France.

Besides Abdul Jabbar, two German nationals were also killed in the October 4 US drone attack. They were usually known in the militant circles of North Waziristan with their Islamic names of Imran and Shahab. According to the intelligence information the British authorities have shared with their Pakistani counterparts, Jabbar, Imran and Shahab had been making phone calls to London and Germany to their contacts in a bid to set off the terror plot by finding accomplices in Europe. In their conversations, the British and German jehadis used to talk about facilitators and logistics they needed in Europe to execute their terror attacks. However, Jabbar’s younger brother, who is a key leader in the lslamic Army of Great Britain, and two other most wanted German jehadis were lucky enough to have survived the October drone hit. The white Germans — 27-year-old Mouneer Chouka alias Abu Adam and 25-year-old Yaseen Chouka alias Abu Ibrahim are real brothers. Coming from Bonn, both lead a group of 100-plus German militants who had travelled to the border areas of Pakistan in recent years, raising the latest security alert in Europe.

The information about the presence and activities of the Chouka brothers in North Waziristan as well as the hatching of a Mumbai-like terror plot for Europe actually came from none other than an arrested German jehadi of Afghan, Rami Mackenzie alias Ahmed Siddiqi. The 36-year-old was part of an 11-member jehadi cell which was to take part in the European terror plot, but was arrested in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in the beginning of July 2010. He is reported to have told his American interrogators that the European terror plot was approved by none other than Osama bin Laden who had also provided some funding. Currently being held at the US military airbase at Bagram, Siddiqi further told his interrogators that small teams of militants were to model their missions in European countries on the pattern of Mumbai attacks by first seizing and then killing hostages. The unearthing of the terror plot soon led to an unprecedented surge in the drone strikes in North Waziristan, primarily to target the hide outs of the Islamic Army of Great Britain, thus killing its top leadership.

Top security officials from UK have informed their Pakistani counterparts in recent months that many of the planned terror attacks in Britain in the past had been linked directly or indirectly to Pakistan, starting with the 7/7 suicide bombings of London’s busy transport network in 2005. The attacks, which killed 52 people, were conducted by four British nationals of the Pakistani origin. The UK officials have further informed that the September 1, 2005 video message of one of the four bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was recorded in the Waziristan area during the latter’s November 2004 visit to Pakistan. Through the video broadcast, showing pictures of Dr Ayman al-Zawahri and the bomber, the al-Qaeda had claimed responsibility for the July 7, 2005 London attacks. “Until we feel secure, you will be our targets and until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people we will not stop this fight,” said Khan in the video tape.

The recent killings in Waziristan of the white jehadis from Britain have confirmed the fears of the British agencies that the al-Qaeda network based in Pakistan now poses the greatest terror threat to the security of United Kingdom. They believe the threat includes both terrorist attacks and the financial and ideological networks that support and inspire such attacks. According to a recent study conducted by the British home department, three quarters of the most serious terrorism cases investigated since the 7/7 London attacks have links to al-Qaeda in Pakistan. Similarly, of the 90 individuals convicted or punished in Britain for their involvement in jehadi terror plots between September 2001 and September 2009, 64 were affiliated with al-Qaeda and 27 were trained either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan — more than in any other country across the world.

These figures clearly show that al-Qaeda now seeks to employ white men with Western nationalities to successfully strike in the heart of the West. Therefore, the Western agencies believe that dismantling of well-entrenched al-Qaeda network in the Waziristan area is a must to protect the West from any further act of jehadi terrorism.

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

WikiLeaks Cables: Bangladeshi ‘Death Squad’ Trained by UK Government

The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”, leaked US embassy cables have revealed.

Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement”.

Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB — and that it would be illegal under US law to do so — because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.

Since the RAB was established six years ago, it is estimated by some human rights activists to have been responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings, described euphemistically as “crossfire” deaths. In September last year the director general of the RAB said his men had killed 577 people in “crossfire”. In March this year he updated the figure, saying they had killed 622 people.

The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights organisations. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out crossfire killings.

However, the cables reveal that both the British and the Americans, in their determination to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh, are in favour of bolstering the force, arguing that the “RAB enjoys a great deal of respect and admiration from a population scarred by decreasing law and order over the last decade”. In one cable, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, expresses the view that the RAB is the “enforcement organisation best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation”.

In another cable, Moriarty quotes British officials as saying they have been “training RAB for 18 months in areas such as investigative interviewing techniques and rules of engagement”. Asked about the training assistance for the RAB, the Foreign Office said the UK government “provides a range of human rights assistance” in the country. However, the RAB’s head of training, Mejbah Uddin, told the Guardian that he was unaware of any human rights training since he was appointed last summer.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks Cables: UK Hopes to Influence Islamic Education in Bangladesh

British government officials have made moves towards influencing Islamic education in Bangladesh as part of regional counter-terrorism strategies.

A leaked diplomatic cable, released on WikiLeaks, has revealed how the Department for International Development (DFID) has been working with the US to change the curriculum of thousands of madrasas as a “common counter-terrorism goal”.

In one cable discussing British and American counter-terrorism tactics for Bangladesh, the US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, notes how their plans involved asking the country’s prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, to develop and implement a standardised curriculum for unregulated Islamic madrassah schools.

The moves followed a proposal for a madrasa “curriculum development programme” to the Bangladeshi government by the US government development agency, USAid.

There are around 64,000 Islamic schools in Bangladesh. They are seen as an important part of Bangladesh’s education system, often providing free schooling to children whose parents are unable to send them to conventional schools.

However, the 15,000 or so unregulated madrasas have been a constant cause for concern for the current government, which claims the standard of education received is poorer than average.

Some have also blamed madrasas for radicalising children, with claims emerging that they could be used to set up jihadist training camps.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Haneef Settlement Figure Kept Under Wraps

The Federal Government says it is unable to disclose the amount of money paid to Mohamed Haneef over his wrongful detention on terrorism-related charges.

Dr Haneef, who had been working as a hospital registrar on Queensland’s Gold Coast, was wrongly accused of being involved in the botched 2007 terrorist attack at Glasgow in Scotland.

He was detained for more than three weeks and charged. After being granted bail, then immigration minister Kevin Andrews cancelled his visa.

Dr Haneef was later cleared of any wrongdoing and his lawyer Rod Hodgson says after two days of negotiations, Dr Haneef accepted a substantial compensation settlement with the Government.

In return he has dropped a civil claim against the Commonwealth and defamation action against Mr Andrews.

“The resolution of this matter will lead to the cessation of all legal proceedings against the Commonwealth and Mr Andrews,” he said.

The Government says the terms of the settlement cannot be revealed because of a confidentiality agreement.

A spokesman for Mr Andrews says he is overseas and unavailable for comment.

In a statement Attorney-General Robert McClelland says he is pleased the matter has been resolved in the interests of Dr Haneef and the Government.

The Opposition will be briefed on the settlement this morning.

Meanwhile, Dr Haneef says he now wants to resume a normal life with his family.

“We look forward to possibly returning to Australia one day,” he said.

“I would like to thank the people in Australia who have supported me. I also wish to thank the people of India; all of you have been a great source of strength for me and my family.”

He is currently working as a doctor in the United Arab Emirates but wants to resume his training and eventually work as a specialist physician in Australia.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Approaching Referendum in Sudan

‘Already Flying the Flag of an Independent State’

Voters in Southern Sudan will soon decide whether to secede from Sudan. Many anticipate that the referendum could result in renewed violence between the north and the south. Southern Sudan’s regional representative in Cairo, Ruben Marial Benjamin, spoke with SPIEGEL about the approaching ballot.

SPIEGEL: On Jan. 9, 2011, Southern Sudan will vote on secession from the republic of Sudan. Are you certain that the majority will vote for secession?…

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


Australia’s Wave of Boat Children

THE number of children being taken on dangerous sea crossings to Australia has exploded since the Gillard Government said two months ago it would free women and children from detention.

In October 141 children arrived by boat, up from 58 in September and Department of Immigration figures show 124 arrived by sea last month.

The Christmas Island boat crash tragedy showed how vulnerable children are on the journey with seven killed, including three baby girls and a baby boy.

The toll was yesterday revised up to 48, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealing there were most likely 90 men, women and children on the SIEV 221 when it smashed into rocks last week.

Already 30 Iranian, Iraqi and Kurdish asylum seekers have been confirmed dead, while 42 were rescued. Ms Gillard said it was likely a further 18 had died.

“We are talking about very rough seas, very rocky and difficult coastline and so it may be that there are bodies of people who travelled on the boat that are never recovered,” she said.

Asylum seeker advocate Jamal Daoud said more children were being placed on rickety sea vessels to come to Australia because of delays caused by the Government’s decision to freeze new asylum claims earlier this year.

He said traditionally a male asylum seeker would come by boat and then arrange for his wife and children to fly in under a family reunion program.

“We understand more children are coming by boat because of the slow process of applications and there was a freeze … before 2008-09 there was not many women and children coming because the time for applications to be processed was less than three months,” he said. “You would be out of detention and there would be a family reunion. Now you have people in detention for more than one year.”

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen denied the Government’s policies had given incentive for asylum seekers to bring children because they knew they would be housed in the community.

“The increase in children in terms of numbers is commensurate with the increase in total arrivals. In short, there’s no noticeable trend. This percentage has barely moved,” a spokesman said.

In August, 43 children arrived by boat, 100 came in July, 77 in June and 118 in May. In October a total of 766 people arrived by boat, 729 arrived in November and arrivals in the other months ranged from 327 people to 617.

The Federal Government defended the number of arrivals this week, saying the influx was caused by violence in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka not by its policies.

As the focus turned to how to stop people smuggling, Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie called for Australia to double its humanitarian refugee intake — which Ms Gillard ruled out.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Berlin Blocks Bulgaria, Romania From Schengen

France and Germany decided Tuesday to block Bulgaria and Romania from joining Europe’s borderless 25-nation Schengen area next year, a move denounced by the Romanian president as discriminatory.

French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux and German counterpart Thomas de Maiziere told European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem in a letter that it was “premature” to let them enter the passport-free travel area in March 2011.

The ministers said a decision on the applications would be made once the two former communist bloc nations make “irreversible progress” in the fight against corruption and organised crime, according a copy of the letter seen by news agency AFP.

Romanian President Traian Basescu slammed the Franco-German move as “an act of discrimination.”

Bulgarian officials said they would do their utmost to ease any doubts about their readiness to join.

The Schengen area allows more than 400 million citizens to travel across a territory that ranges from Greece to Finland, and Portugal to Poland, without having to pull out a passport.

The area includes 22 of the European Union’s 27 members plus Iceland, Switzerland and Norway.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007. By choice, EU members Britain and Ireland have not joined the travel zone while Cyprus has applied to enter Schengen.

Experts from EU states who visited Romania and Bulgaria will present a report in January that will be used by governments to make a decision.

Allowing a country to join Schengen must be agreed by members states by unanimity, meaning that France and Germany have veto power over the applications.

The decision to block the entry of Romania and Bulgaria follows a summer row over France’s deportation of Roma migrants from the two eastern European nations, although the issue was not cited as a reason for the Schengen veto.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Feds Force Bank to Remove Christmas Decorations

A Jew or Muslim or Atheist May be Offended…

Perkins, Oklahoma — A small-town bank in Oklahoma said the Federal Reserve won’t let it keep religious signs and symbols on display.

Federal Reserve examiners come every four years to make sure banks are complying with a long list of regulations. The examiners came to Perkins last week. And the team from Kansas City deemed a Bible verse of the day, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say “Merry Christmas, God With Us.” were inappropriate. The Bible verse of the day on the bank’s Internet site also had to be taken down.

“I don’t think there should be a problem with them displaying whatever religious symbols they want to display,” said Amy Weierman, a Perkins resident.

Specifically, the feds believed, the symbols violated the discouragement clause of Regulation B of the bank regulations. According to the clause, “…the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication … express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion.”

The feds interpret that to mean, for example, a Jew or Muslin or atheist may be offended and believe they may be discriminated against at this bank. It is an appearance of discrimination.

But customers Eyewitness News 5 talked to said they aren’t buying it.

“This is just ridiculous,” said bank customer Jim Nyles. “This whole thing is just ridiculous. We all have regulatory bodies that govern us. But this is too much.”

“I think that’s absurd,” said Chelsi Holser, a bank customer. “I don’t agree with it at all. They are taking Christ out of Christmas and life.”

The bank is quietly fighting for a clearer interpretation of the clause. Officials have contacted their two U.S. legislators, Rep. Frank Lucas and Sen. Jim Inhoffe, and the Oklahoma Bankers Association to help.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

Left: Can’t We All Just Get Along? Islam: No.

I can only plead “holiday hysteria”… or more accurately “Christmas confusion”… or perhaps “Yule whirl.” Yup, it’s got to be the Yule Whirl that caused me to miss this headline in my hometown paper, the L.A. Times, two weeks ago:

“Majority of Muslims want Islam in politics, poll says”

As in, they would like policy decisions to be influenced by their faith? The way Christians bring their worldviews to the political debate, injecting concepts like individual responsibility, natural rights, and yes, pro-life morality?

Well… no. More like this:

“According to the survey, majorities in Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan and Nigeria would favor changing current laws to allow stoning as a punishment for adultery, hand amputation for theft and death for those who convert from Islam to another religion. About 85% of Pakistani Muslims said they would support a law segregating men and women in the workplace.”


The poll showed mixed reactions to terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, with about half of Nigerian respondents giving Al Qaeda a thumbs up. The other two groups got better numbers.

Let’s review. In seven countries with large Muslim populations, a significant percentage are “okay” with militant terror organizations — as long as they’re Islamist. And a majority look favorably on Islam’s growing role in politics.

If nothing else, this poll illuminates the deep and disturbed — one might even say schizophrenic — viewpoint of the Left, which would collectively wet itself if a poll showed that Christianity was having a growing role in politics, or more to the point, if Christians said they’d look favorably on that. Meantime, the Lefties continue defending the “religion of peace” that would KILL PEOPLE who convert to any other faith.

As Mark Steyn said in America Alone, honest Muslims want America to be a Muslim country, and some have admitted as much. NewsBusters blogger Lachlan Markey points out that those Muslims are known in the media as “moderates” — apparently simply because they don’t favor flying airplanes into buildings. But they do favor a wholesale takeover of the West:


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Death of Free Will

Something is drastically wrong with the present restructuring of education. I hope this article will persuade parents and traditional public school administrators and teachers to work together to stop the dismantling of what was once considered the finest educational system in the world. The traditional system’s successful administrative structure which allowed elected school boards (working with superintendents, principals, and teachers) to provide our children with an academic education, should not be changed to accommodate the needs of the corporate fascist/socialist (government/business) partnerships and tax-exempt foundations.

One must understand that the situation with low academic test scores and unacceptable behavior of students was deliberately created over a period of 80 years, starting in the 1930s with the Carnegie Corporation’s plan to use schools to bring about a Soviet-style (performance-based) planned economic system. See reference to Carnegie Corporation’s Conclusions and Recommendations for the Social Studies (1934) and Carnegie-Soviet Academy of Science Agreement (1985). The latter agreement was signed the same year Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev signed the U.S.-USSR Education Exchange Agreement. The first experiment with Outcomes/Performance-Based Education (the restructuring system being implemented today) was Carnegie Corporation’s “Eight Year Study” (1933-1941).


Solution—the following government agencies which control local education must be abolished:

U.S. Department of Education, its laboratories and centers, and all federally funded state departments of education. Also, legislation must be passed prohibiting outside meddling in state or local education matters by corporations and tax exempt foundations. Such legislation would prevent international, national or corporate entities from administering attitudinal assessments and collecting private data on students, their families, educators and/or members of small businesses.

It is doubtful that major conservative groups would help in this endeavor. Our best hope is to enlist the help of traditional teachers and administrators, and small business owners, who would have to go up against their prospective organization leadership. It might work. It’s worth a try.

This article is written for the benefit of parents, our children, and the teachers of our children; it explains the following:

Link 1: Re-inventing Schools Coalition

Link 2: Back to Basics Reform or. . .OBE . . .Skinnerian International Curriculum and the deliberate dumbing down of America

Link 3: Jed Brown on Behavioral Conditioning

Link 4: Educators Push Back Against Obama’s “Business Model” for School Reform (If a link becomes broken, please do a Google search for the title.)

The last nail of so-called school reform is being struck in the coffin of traditional American education which made our nation the envy of the Free World and which produced famous scientists, engineers, mathematicians, writers, artists, musicians, doctors, etc.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why It’s Natural for Girls to Play With Dolls and Boys to Love Guns

Girls play with dolls because they’re programmed to, not because of any sexual stereotyping, new research suggests.

Young chimps in the wild play play boy and girl games, much like their human counterparts, scientists found.

Although both male and female chimpanzees play with sticks, girl chimps treat sticks like dolls copying their mothers as they care for infants.

The findings suggest girls play more with dolls than boys not because of sex-stereotyped socialization but because of ‘biological predilections.’

Richard Wrangham of Harvard University said: ‘This is the first evidence of an animal species in the wild in which object play differs between males and females.’

Earlier studies of captive monkeys had also suggested a biological influence on toy choice.

When juvenile monkeys are offered sex-stereotyped human toys, females gravitate toward dolls, whereas males are more apt to play with ‘boys’ toys’ such as trucks.

The findings were the result of 14 years of observation of the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

It is inbuilt for girls to want to play with toys like dolls (picture posed by models)

It found that chimpanzees use sticks in four main ways, as probes to investigate holes potentially containing water or honey, as props or weapons in aggressive encounters, during solitary or social play, and in a behaviour the researchers refer to as stick-carrying.

Mr Wrangham said: ‘We thought that if the sticks are being treated like dolls, females would carry sticks more than males do and should stop carrying sticks when they have their own babies.

‘We now know that both of these points are correct.’


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


UN Subterfuge… The Global Warming Hoax

For 30 years the UN has fomented worldwide hysteria based upon the premise of global destruction by CO2.

After schooling in the Environmental Sciences, and cleaning up toxic waste sites for an environmental agency, my hobby became global warming. At first it was interesting because the prevailing theory was always changing, but as new theories were advanced, they relied more on data adjustments and political strategy, than science. Today, Americans perceive global warming as a low priority item, and have turned their attention to our economic and security concerns. But big government agencies (UN and US) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) continue to quietly expand UN influence, by teaching their insidious Marxist policies to the bureaucratic, naive, and idiotic.


The science of global warming has been unraveling for years, but one of the most glaring revelations came in 2007, when a UK High Court judge considered the science behind the 2006 Academy Award winning movie “Inconvenient Truth.” The judge ruled the movie contained nine significant errors and ruled it was a “political” movie, not a science movie.

Through the serendipity of Climategate, we discovered that although Russian weather stations cover most of Russia: “the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports.” Then came the discovery that famed UK global warming scientist Professor Phil Jones moved weather stations in China. As the scientific methods of global warming scientists were aired, the number of skeptics increased, and one petition now has over 31,000 signatures.

But while the world was debating, the UN was infiltrating! The UN has been quietly training local governments and universities on UN sustainability policies and organizing techniques since 1990. Their plans are in Chapter 28 of Agenda 21, which advises: “Local authority programmes, policies, laws and regulations to achieve Agenda 21 objectives would be assessed and modified, based on local programmes adopted.” This chapter is a primer on how to infiltrate the US at every level, and in every organization.


For 30 years UN scientists contorted scientific theories, data, and “hockey sticks” to cobble their science together. The current status of global warming can be summarized with the Jeffersonian maxim: “It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.” It is now clear that global warming was an epic scam. Please consider:

1. Why reduce CO2 emissions to 1990 levels as called for in the Kyoto Treaty? Which scientists determined the 1990 CO2 levels would save the planet? Actually, the 1990 level was negotiated by bureaucrats, and despite their assertion that CO2 is harmful, they exempted two of the biggest CO2 emitters, China and India. In 2007, Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria discovered: “These two countries (China and India) are currently building 650 coal-fired power plants. The combined CO2 emissions of these new plants is five times the total savings of the Kyoto accords-that is, if the Kyoto targets were being adhered to by western countries, which they are not.” (Quoted in Climate Change and Presidential Policy, p4.)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]