Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101227

Financial Crisis
»Coburn: Control Government Spending or Face ‘Apocalyptic Pain’
»Greece: Government-Church Clash on EU-IMF Memo
»Greece: 2011 Budget, Communists Ready for War
»Italy: Confindustria Paints Bleak Economic Picture
»The Power of Unions: Average Stagehand at Lincoln Center in NYC Makes $290k a Year
»UK: How Labour Left the Taxpayer a £245bn Bill: Debt for New Schools and Hospitals Soars Fivefold
»UK: House Prices to Drop 2pc in 2011 on ‘Weak Demand’, Hometrack Says
»UK: Retailers Fear Unhappy New Year as Boxing Day Sales Disappoint
»Video: How QE2 Works and Why it is Killing the Dollar and Our Future.
»World Markets Fall as Oil Price Hits 26-Month High After Chinese Rate Rise
»DEA Transformed Into Global Intelligence Organization
»Exclusive: Allahu Akbar and Ho, Ho, Ho
»George Soros: Economics Needs Fixing
»Guantánamo Not Near to Closure, White House Admits
»How to Make Islam Respectable
»Less Than a Full-Service City
»Man Faces Five Year Prison Sentence for Reading His Unfaithful Wife’s Emails
»Obama Asks us to Believe in Impossible Things
»Obama’s Reversal on ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Stirs Concern Over Legal Claims
»Obama to Give Manhattan Back to Native Americans?
»Showdown With Terror
»The End of Easy Oil
»Uncovering Radical Islam in America
»US to Step Up Security at Hotels and Malls
»Why is the North Magnetic Pole Racing Toward Siberia?
Europe and the EU
»Backsliding in Belarus: The EU’s False Impression of Lukashenko
»BMW’s Electric Automobile Revolution
»Britain at Risk of Power Cuts From Aging Networks, Warns Ofgem
»France: National Front’s Marine Le Pen to Prove Formidable Rival to Nicolas Sarkozy
»Germany: Holidays a High Season for Islamist Recruitment
»Germany: Chinese Hackers Target Government Computers
»Italy: Milan Central to Malpensa Airport, Now Possible
»Italy: Refuse: 1500 Tonnes in Naples; Army Swings Into Action
»Italy: Fiat Mirafiori Newco to be Outside Confindustria
»Netherlands: Arrested Somalis ‘Suspected of Links to Al Shabab’, Says Volkskrant
»Netherlands: Labour Calls on Opposition to Unite
»Number of Religious Czechs Falling, Poll Shows
»Outsmarted by Apple: Nokia Looks to Recover the ‘Magic Dust’
»Terror in Rome: Bomb Found at Greek Embassy as Multiple Embassies Have Package Scares
»Top Economists Debate the ‘Clinging to the Euro Will Only Prolong the Agony’
»UK: ‘Cowardly’ Drunken Thugs Beat Up Pensioner, 69, For Wearing RAF Blazer and Poppy
»UK: Christmas Bomb Plot: Nine Remanded in Custody Over Terror Charges
»UK: Christmas Bomb Plot: Nine Men Remanded Over Plan to ‘Blow Up Big Ben and Westminster Abbey’
»UK: David Miliband May be Offered US Ambassador Post
»UK: Police Chief Duped After House He Rented Out Was Turned Into a Cannabis Factory
»Why Deport Immigrants?
»‘WikiLeaks is Annoying, But Not a Threat’
»Brussels Denies ‘Credibility Problem’ After Marty Report
Israel and the Palestinians
»Anti-Arab and -Immigrant March, Press Alarmed
»Flotilla: Israel, Lieberman Harshly Criticised
»London Considering Granting Palestinian Delegates Diplomatic Status
Middle East
»A Gloomy Christmas in Iraq. Mgr Sako: “We Will Resist and We Will Remain”
»Ankara Authorities Look to Close Alevi Group for Cemevi Statute
»GCC: Call for Correcting Population Disparity
»High-Ranking Female Religious Official Removed From Office in Turkey
»Islam: A Religion Custom Made for Men
»Look What Obama Expects Israel to Give Up Now
»‘Other Angels’ Gets Marks for Bravery With Turkish Transgender Film
»The Muslim Brotherhood Down the Salafi Road
»Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan to Hold Joint Military Exercise
»Twin Suicide Blasts Targeting Government Compound in Western Iraq Kill 9 People
»We Cannot Protect Assyrians and Other Minorities: Iraqi Official
»Mikhail Khodorkovsky Found Guilty Again
South Asia
»Bombay Stock Exchange Launches Islamic Index
»BSE, TASIS to Launch Shariah-Compliant Index
»Classified Maps Show Security in Afghanistan is Worsening, Despite Obama’s Assurances the War is ‘On Track’
»India: Orissa: Hindu Radicals Threaten a Christmas Pogrom Against Christians
»Indonesia: West Java: Catholics Celebrate Christmas Mass in a Parking Lot
»Malaysian Colleges a Hotbed for Militant Recruiting: Experts
»Need Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril
»Pakistan: Female Suicide Bomber Stops UN Aid to Pakistan Flood Victims
»Pakistan: US Predators Kill 21 ‘Rebels’ In North Waziristan Strike
»Suicide Bomber Kills 3 in South Afghanistan
»U.N. Maps Rate Afghanistan Less Secure
Far East
»The Cost of Success: Life in Beijing’s Cellars
Australia — Pacific
»Mums Welcome Paid Parental Leave
Sub-Saharan Africa
»African Elephants Are Two Distinct Species
»Somali Islamist Insurgents Threaten US Attack
»Somali Islamist Insurgents Threaten US Attack
Latin America
»The Mexican Drug War: A Nation Descends Into Violence
»The Profound Problem of Muslim Immigration
Culture Wars
»Australia: Church Free to Ban Gay Foster Parents
»New Zealand: All Parents Lie, Declares Starship Nurse
»Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir
»Stop Offending Me!
»UK: Bishop of Winchester: Legal System Discriminates Against Christians
»UK: Christians ‘Are Denied Human Rights by Our Courts,’ Claim Bishop and Top Judge
»Did First Humans Come Out of Middle East and Not Africa? Scientists Forced to Re-Write Evolution of Modern Man
»If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?
»Let’s Build Babbage’s Ultimate Mechanical Computer
»Report Documents Move by ‘Radical Philanthropist’ To Control Message
»Researchers Decipher DNA of Mysterious Human Ancestor

Financial Crisis

Coburn: Control Government Spending or Face ‘Apocalyptic Pain’

“Apocalyptic pain” from an out-of-control debt could cause 18 percent unemployment and a massive contraction in the economy that would destroy the middle class, a leading Republican deficit hawk said in an interview that aired Sunday.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who recently issued a report on government waste, warned that the U.S. only has about three or four years to get its fiscal house in order or it could find itself facing austerity measures seen in Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and earlier in Japan.

“The history of republics is they average 200 years of life. And they all fail in the history over fiscal matters. They rot from within before they collapse or are attacked,” Coburn told “Fox News Sunday.”

“The problem that faces our country today, the last 30 years we have lived off the future, and the bill is coming due,” he added.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greece: Government-Church Clash on EU-IMF Memo

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 21 — Greece’s socialist government, led by Giorgios Papandreou, has clashed with the Greek Orthodox Church after strong clerical criticism of “the ruling class”, which is said to have turned Greece into a “country under occupation” by EU-IMF creditors.

The government spokesperson, Giorgios Petalodis, answering the criticism contained in a pastoral message circulated last Sunday in all churches, said that the claims of the Orthodox bishops “have no relationship with reality” and derive from the fact that the clerics “apparently fail to understand the great importance of the efforts made by the government” to bring Greece out of crisis and to modernise the country. He invited the Church to consider “the changes and the needs of new times.

The strong government reaction, observers say, is due to the fact that the Church has chosen a delicate time for Greece to join the chorus of criticism from the entire opposition, both right and left, trade unions and the many sectors of society that oppose the austerity plan. The episode comes amid unending strikes and protests against the government.

Despite the fact that the message from the Holy Synod only partly supports the claims of the political and union opposition to the memorandum of understanding with the EU and IMF, the pastoral message has been criticized by the left and in particular by the Communist Party (KKE). The main opposition force, the centre-right New Democracy (ND) party, has approved “the holy intervention” of the bishops, saying that it evokes the Greek ecclesiastical hierarchy’s more militant past.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: 2011 Budget, Communists Ready for War

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, DECEMBER 23 — The Greek parliament last night approved the 2011 Financial Bill, thanks to the votes of the socialist majority. The new Finance Bill includes new cuts totalling 14.4 billion euros. The communist party (KKE) has ask the labourers for “a real war” to “overthrow the regime” and to set up “a government of the people” to lead the country away from the crisis “while refusing to pay the debt” to EU-IMF.

The parliament approved the new budget with 156 votes of Pasok against 142 votes of the opposition. The budget does not impose more direct cuts to salaries and pension, but new taxes and a decrease in expenditure which could deepen the recession.

A few hours earlier thousands of people demonstrated during a 3-hour general strike and a 24-hour strike of public transport.

“The painful measures are behind us”, said Premier Giorgio Papandreou, who guaranteed that the recovery will start as early as 2012 and that the country will free itself from international supervision by 2013. Papandreou said that he is more determined than ever to continue the rebalancing and bring the deficit down to less than 3% in 2014, and carry out reforms to transform the country.

“We are about to vote the first budget with limited sovereign rights”, said the leader of the centre-right opposition party ND, Antoni Samaras, referring to the loan that was granted under certain conditions by EU and IMF.

Aleka Papariga, leader of the KKE, the party that leads the protests against the austerity measures, said that “the workers should understand the causes of the crisis and prepare for a real war: aware, planned and organised to overthrow the regime”. According to the leader of KKE, the third party which grew in the recent local elections from 7.5% to 10.5%, the only solution for Greece is “to refuse to pay the debt”, something only “a labour-popular government “ can manage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Confindustria Paints Bleak Economic Picture

‘Comparison with Germany is merciless,’ says report

(ANSA) — Rome, December 16 — A bleak picture of Italy’s economy emerged from a report released Thursday by the research arm of Confindustria, a national organization representing Italian industry, disappointing hopes for signs of economic rebound after the global financial crisis set off the grimmest economic recession seen here in 60 years. “(Italy’s) illness of slow growth has never been cured.

Comparison with Germany is merciless,” stated the report.

Near-stagnant growth estimates for Italy were revised downward, as Confindustria economists cut estimates for gross domestic product from +1.2% to +1% for 2010, and from +1.3% to +1.1% for 2011. Confindustria sees the Italian workforce continuing to shrink next year, though far less dramatically than before, losing -0.4% over the course of 2011. Unemployment is likely to hit 9% in the last trimester of 2011, its studies centre said. Unemployment was 8.6% in November of this year, according to the state statistics agency ISTAT. Confindustria forecasts job creation is not likely to pick up again until 2012.

Unemployment more than doubled from April 2007 to October 2010, reaching 2.167 million people. From the first trimester of 2008 to the third trimester of 2010, the country lost 540,000 jobs, and an additional 480,000 posts were temporarily suspended with state subsidies given to workers. The report also said difficult credit conditions have yet to ease, since loans to families, businesses and regional governments continue to accrue losses, as do residual toxic assets from the economic crisis.

Confindustria criticized Basil 3, the revised international banking accord intended to shore up global finance, for overly restricting growth and providing insufficient measures to guarantee future stability.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Power of Unions: Average Stagehand at Lincoln Center in NYC Makes $290k a Year

Columnist James Ahearn of New Jersey’s Bergen Record has a great column today on, of all things, the stagehands at New York city’s top performing arts venues such as Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. These are not highly skilled or technical jobs but take a gander at how much they are paid:

At Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the average stagehand salary and benefits package is $290,000 a year.

To repeat, that is the average compensation of all the workers who move musicians’ chairs into place and hang lights, not the pay of the top five.

Across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, a spokesman said stagehands rarely broke into the top-five category. But a couple of years ago, one did. The props master, James Blumenfeld, got $334,000 at that time, including some vacation back pay.

Ahern also notes that the top paid stagehand at Carnegie Hall makes $422,599 a year in salary, plus $107,445 in benefits and deferred compensation. So why such exorbitant pay? You probably already guessed that a union is involved:


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: How Labour Left the Taxpayer a £245bn Bill: Debt for New Schools and Hospitals Soars Fivefold

The true cost of Labour’s expensive Private Finance Initiative scheme was laid bare yesterday as the bill taxpayers face soared fivefold.

Official figures show that 544 PFI projects such as new school and hospital buildings have been launched since 1997.

The original capital cost of the projects agreed under the Labour government was £51.5billion.

But repayments for these will have rocketed to an eye-watering total of £245billion by 2047/8, according to the Treasury.

That is the equivalent of £14,800 for each of Britain’s 16.5million working households. PFI schemes allow governments to put off raising upfront money for new buildings.

Instead, a private company is given a lengthy contract to build a school or hospital and then provides related ‘services’ to the public sector.

The Government leases the building for the length of the contract before it reverts to public ownership.

But any small change to the build or service is usually charged at exorbitant rates, allowing the company to make a healthy profit.

The scheme was introduced by the last Conservative government under John Major in the early 1990s. Labour then adopted it with relish when Gordon Brown used it as a convenient way to stay within his strict borrowing rules for most of his time as Chancellor.

Tory MP Jesse Norman has launched a campaign to get a PFI rebate for taxpayers.

He is calling on banks, construction firms and service companies which have benefited from the initiative over the past decade to give back a small portion of their profits.

‘Under Gordon Brown, Labour went on a spending splurge with borrowed money which taxpayers will eventually have to pay back many times over,’ said Mr Norman. ‘As a senior Treasury adviser working for Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband bears responsibility for a borrowing trick that will mean future generations saddled with billions in debt.’


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: House Prices to Drop 2pc in 2011 on ‘Weak Demand’, Hometrack Says

The average cost of a home in England and Wales dropped by 0.4pc during the month, according to the housing intelligence group. The drop was driven by the ongoing shortage of buyers, with estate agents reporting a further 4.8pc fall in the number of people registering with them in December, the sixth consecutive monthly decline.

Richard Donnell, director of research at Hometrack, said: “The seasonal slowdown which began at the beginning of November continued apace into December.”

Overall, the group said house prices had fallen by 1.6pc during 2010, with property values ending the year at a lower level than they started it in 71pc of England and Wales, although they were higher in 15pc of areas — mainly in London and the South East. Mr Donnell said: “Looking ahead we expect house prices to remain under downward pressure in the first half of 2011 on the back of weak demand although we expect the supply of homes for sale to shrink as vendors withdraw from the market or reduce pricing to a level where property will sell.”

The group expects house prices to fall by 2pc during 2011, due to weak demand and the ongoing problems in the mortgage market. But it added that a fall in the number of homes for sale, along with continued low transaction levels, would act as a support to house prices, and help to limit further falls.

The number of homes being put up for sale dropped for the second month in a row during December, falling by 1.5pc.

The supply of properties on the market has increased by 24pc during 2010, while the number of buyers registered with estate agents has dropped by 7pc during the whole of the year, but dived by 18pc during the past six months.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Retailers Fear Unhappy New Year as Boxing Day Sales Disappoint

The total number of shoppers fell by 22.8pc nationally on the day after Christmas Day, although stores in London attracted 11.4pc more visitors, Synovate said.

Shopper numbers were down by as much as 27pc in southwest England and by 19.9pc in eastern England.

Britain’s retailers are striving to sell as much as possible over the Christmas and New Year holiday period, since many expect sales to decline next year due in part to a rise in Value Added Tax (VAT) which takes effect on Jan. 4.

Nearly two-thirds of retailers expect sales next year to fall compared with 2010, as weak consumer confidence and inflationary pressures come to bear, according to a survey conducted by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

In a bearish prognosis for the retail sector, just 18pc of businesses expect sales to improve in 2011, compared with 64pc who expect a deterioration.

Shops have already been hit by the appalling December weather, Synovate reporting yesterday that retail forecasts for the month have undersestimated the drop in customer numbers caused by the snow. The research company had previously estimated a 4pc drop in shoppers, but footfall between December 22 and 24 was down 6.1pc compared with last year.

“Retailers expect a difficult December to be followed by a tough 2011,” said Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC. “They believe the VAT rise will contribute to higher prices and, with fears about government cuts and the wider economy, people will be put off spending.” […]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Video: How QE2 Works and Why it is Killing the Dollar and Our Future.

Midas Resources video “QE2 explained” shows how Qualitative Easing 2 works and why it is killing the dollar and our future. (Midas Resources sells gold, so second part of video is pro-gold; but first part explains QE1, QE2 and inflation nicely.)

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

World Markets Fall as Oil Price Hits 26-Month High After Chinese Rate Rise

Soaring oil prices, which hit a 26-month high, also unsettled investors, with losses seen from Shanghai to Wall Street. It came amid mounting fears that China’s unexpected rise in interest rates could derail growth in Asia and damage an upturn for the world’s major exporters.

On Christmas Day, the People’s Bank of China raised its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 5.81pc, as the country grapples with rampant food inflation and rising wage demands.

However, analysts believe that tightening measures by Beijing may curb growth only slightly. On Boxing Day, analysts at JP Morgan Chase trimmed their 2011 growth forecast for the Asian economic powerhouse to 9pc from 10pc.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.9pc on Monday, the most the index has fallen since November.

Growth concerns prompted jitters in all the world’s stock markets, which recently hit two-year highs. The German blue chip Dax index fell 1.3pc, France’s CAC 40 lost 1pc and Spain’s Ibex lost 2pc. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.2pc by lunchtime.

Growth concerns hit German carmakers particularly hard, as China became the world’s largest vehicle market in 2009. Shares in Daimler slumped 4.6pc, with Volkswagen shares plunging 5.7pc. The oil price, which has jumped 27pc since May, weighed heavily on market sentiment. The severe blizzard across the eastern seaboard of the US and continued cold temperatures in Europe are expected to push prices still higher as demand for heating oil grows. Brent crude for February delivery hit $94.52 in morning trading — its highest level since the height of the banking crisis in October 2008 — before profit takers moved in. Although UK markets were closed, Brent crude contracts can still be traded electronically. Oil prices are expected to rise steadily next year, with many analysts forecasting the price could cross the psychologically important $100 a barrel mark.

Analysts from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase have all said they expect oil to move above $100 in 2011, with some raising the possibility that it could happen earlier in the year than many feared.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


DEA Transformed Into Global Intelligence Organization

WASHINGTON — The Drug Enforcement Administration has been transformed into a global intelligence organization with a reach that extends far beyond narcotics, and an eavesdropping operation so expansive it has to fend off foreign politicians who want to use it against their political enemies, according to secret diplomatic cables.

In far greater detail than previously seen, the cables, from the cache obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to some news organizations, offer glimpses of drug agents balancing diplomacy and law enforcement in places where it can be hard to tell the politicians from the traffickers, and where drug rings are themselves mini-states whose wealth and violence permit them to run roughshod over struggling governments.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Exclusive: Allahu Akbar and Ho, Ho, Ho

In 1997, Mohammed T. Mehdi, head of the Arab-American Committee and the National Council on Islamic Affairs, lobbied to have a crescent and star go up at the World Trade Center during the holiday season. His wish was granted, despite the fact that Mehdi had been an adviser to Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, the religious leader behind the original bombing of the World Trade Center.

Long before the Ground Zero Mosque was even a twinkle in the eye of a violent ex-waiter and a slumlord Imam, the World Trade Center allowed Mohammed T. Mehdi to bully it into flying the symbol of Islam.

By 1997, Mohammed T. Mehdi had become an unambiguously ugly public figure. He had been fired by Mayor Dinkins in 1992 for anti-Semitic remarks. The year before he had proclaimed that, “Millions of Arabs believe Saddam stands tall having defied Western colonialism”. In 1995, the US Attorney’s Office in New York had listed Mehdi as one of the unindicted co-conspirators in the trial of Sheik Rahman. Mehdi had already published a book titled “Kennedy and Sirhan: Why?”, which argued that Robert Kennedy’s assassin had been acting in self-defense.

Considering Mehdi’s role in actively working on behalf of the Sheik behind the wave of terrorism that included the original attack on the World Trade Center, if the WTC should have turned down anyone’s request for an Islamic symbol at the site, turning down Mehdi should have been a no brainer. And yet when all was said and done, in the winter of 1997 there was an Islamic star and crescent at the World Trade Center. And another one at the park in front of the White House. No one in the media thought it at all odd, that a man who had a long record of blatantly supporting terrorists should get his way. They thought it was just great.

The previous year had marked the first annual Ramadan dinner, integrating the Islamic celebration into the Clinton Administration’s schedule of events. Bill Clinton who had not come down to the World Trade Center after the bombing, had a different set of priorities. A month after 9/11 however, Bush went Clinton one better, when he became the first US President to host a Ramadan dinner. Many of the Muslim ambassadors at the event were there representing countries which had helped finance Al Queda. Little more than a month after the attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, the President of the United States sat down to break bread with the money men for the killers.

But the Star and Crescent flying at the World Trade Center did not prevent it from being targeted in a second greater attack four years later. Nor did Bush’s Ramadan dinners do anything to diminish Islamic terrorism. On the contrary, every gesture of appeasement only seemed to make it worse. Before the star and crescent flew at the World Trade Center, the site suffered only a few dead. After it, thousands dead. The more Ramadan dinners Bush hosted, the more Americans died. There was of course no direct connection between the two, only an indirect one. Because the Star and Crescent and the Ramadan dinners both signified a deliberate blindness to the threat of Islamic terrorism.

No one who understood what had happened at the World Trade Center in 1993, would have permitted a banner associated with its attackers to be flown there. But while the World Trade Center, administered by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, let Mehdi have his way, Muslims in dark rooms were plotting to fulfill Sheik Rahman’s formula for a war on America and the free world; “Cut the transportation of their countries, tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on the sea, air, or land.”

While the Star and Crescent was blowing in the cold December wind coming off the Hudson River, an even colder wind was blowing out of Hamburg, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. A year earlier Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had come up with the idea and presented it to Osama bin Laden. A year later the operation began to move forward.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

George Soros: Economics Needs Fixing

You have provided $50 million to set up the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) in New York City. What prompted you to do this?

It was the crash of 2008, which brought home the fact that there is something broken in economic theory. Two ideas — rational expectations theory and the efficient market hypothesis — have a monopoly of thought. Neither prepared us for the crash, yet other ideas don’t have enough support. I talked to friends about how to address this and the idea of an institute emerged. Now it’s running away with itself. I have never been involved in any initiative with this kind of self-generating interest before.

What does the institute aim to achieve?

A radical reorientation of economic theory. Exactly what shape it will take is impossible to predict, but I hope it will recognise the fundamental uncertainties in our economic system. These uncertainties have been ignored for the past 25 years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Guantánamo Not Near to Closure, White House Admits

“It’s certainly not going to close in the next month,” said Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, referring to the first anniversary of the passed deadline. “I think part of this depends on the Republicans’ willingness to work with the administration on this.” Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have stymied a crucial part of the closure plan by blocking the transfer of detainees to American soil for long-term detention and possible trial.

Mr Gibbs sought to blame Republicans, telling CNN. “The question is, are we going to continue to have and let al-Qaeda use Guantánamo Bay as a recruiting tool?”

It has been reported that White House lawyers are drafting a new executive order that would allow the indefinite detention of nearly 50 Guantánamo inmates. Those targeted would be prisoners adjudged by a task force to be unlikely to be convicted in a trial but too dangerous to be freed.

Mr Gibbs said: “‘Some would be tried in federal courts, as we’ve seen done in the past. Some would be tried in military commissions, likely spending the rest of their lives in a maximum-security prison that nobody, including terrorists, have ever escaped from.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

How to Make Islam Respectable

Regardless of whether one subscribes to the notion of a clash of civilizations, I think we can all agree that relations between “the Islamic world” and “the West,” however one defines those labels, are, well, strained. President Obama was elected at least partly because, with childhood roots in Muslim Indonesia and an Arabic middle name no one was allowed to mention until after the election, the Left believed him to be the perfect candidate to heal that rift. When he wasn’t healing the racial divide, America’s reputation abroad, and the planet, that is.

So right out of the gate, Obama made his first order of business an appearance on al-Arabiya TV, in which he made seven references to “respecting” the Muslim world, his flashing neon semaphore to them that he was no imperialist exploiter like his predecessor (Daniel Pipes notes here how common a motif the word “respect” was for Obama, ironically so for a man who commands none either at home or abroad). Then it was on to a self-important speech from Cairo, in which Obama flattered the Islamic world so effusively that one wondered if he was angling to ask it to the prom. And of course, who can forget his show of contemptible dhimmitude — I mean deep respect — to the Saudi King?

His efforts haven’t exactly mellowed the clash of civilizations into a Kumbiya campfire circle. And yet Obama was at least theoretically on the right track. Because a recent poll by the new Abu Dhabi Gallup Centre reports that a large majority of Muslims say that the best way for the West to improve relations with them is to “respect Islam.” But the West has made every effort at “Muslim outreach” and bent over backwards to make social and cultural concessions to its Muslim citizens. President Bush himself expressed a distasteful degree of deference toward Islam, and Obama far surpassed even that; so how much more respect will it take to make the Muslim world feel sufficiently respected?

The issue needs to be reframed. Since even our most gushing genuflection seems to have accomplished nothing except to incite further expectations of respect, it’s time for the West to take charge of this dialogue on our terms. We in the West — apart from Obama and his sycophants — are accustomed to the understanding that respect cannot simply be expected, much less demanded; it has to be earned. So now the question becomes, what must that majority of Muslims who want respect for their religion do to earn it? How can they make their religion, well, more respectable?

What follows are ten suggestions (some of which mirror Robert Spencer’s five ways to end Islamophobia) for those Muslims cited in the Gallup poll to take to heart — those who, like Rodney Dangerfield, lament that they can’t get no respect.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Less Than a Full-Service City

Plan for Detroit Would Pull Resources—and Population—From Blighted Districts

DETROIT—More than 20% of Detroit’s 139 square miles could go without key municipal services under a new plan being developed for the city, with as few as seven neighborhoods seen as meriting the city’s full resources.

Those details, outlined by Detroit planning officials this week, offer the clearest picture yet of how Mayor Dave Bing intends to execute what has become his signature program: reconfiguring Detroit to reflect its declining population and fiscal health. Yet the blueprint still leaves large legal and financial questions unresolved.

Listen: Matthew Dolan reports on what the mayor’s plan would mean for the city. Until now, the mayor and his staff have spoken mostly in generalities about the problem, stressing the need for community input and pledging to a skeptical public that no resident would be forced to move.

But the approach discussed by city officials could have that effect. Mr. Bing’s staff wants to concentrate Detroit’s remaining population—expected to be less than 900,000 after this year’s Census count—and limited local, state and federal dollars in the most viable swaths of the city, while other sectors could go without such services as garbage pickup, police patrols, road repair and street lights.

Karla Henderson, a city planning official leading the mayor’s campaign, said in an interview Thursday that her staff had deemed just seven to nine sections of Detroit worthy of receiving the city’s full resources. She declined to identify the areas, but said the final plan could include a greater number.

Ms. Henderson said her team amassed hundreds of data—on household income, population density, employment, existing city services, philanthropic investments and housing stock —in its effort to identify the neighborhoods with the brightest outlook—those that could be stabilized with additional city, state and federal resources.

“What we have found is that even some of our stronger neighborhoods are at a tipping point with vacancy,” Ms. Henderson said. “Vacancy adds to blight and blight is a disease that takes over the whole neighborhood. So the sooner we can get those homes occupied, the better for the city.”…

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Man Faces Five Year Prison Sentence for Reading His Unfaithful Wife’s Emails

A husband who suspected his wife was having an affair faces up to five years in jail after reading her emails without her permission.

Leon Walker has been charged under tough anti-hacking laws aimed at preventing identity theft in the US.

The 33 year old had suspected his wife Clara was having an affair with her former husband.

He is alleged to have used his computer skills to gain access to her Gmail email account on the shared home computer.

Walker discovered a series of emails which confirmed his suspicions that Clara was being unfaithful to him.


Legal experts say this will be the first time anti-hacking laws have been used in a domestic case.

‘It’s going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here,’ said Frederick Lane, a nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy.

The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.

‘I would guess there is enough of a grey area to suggest that she could not have an absolute expectation of privacy,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Asks us to Believe in Impossible Things

To believe in Obama’s America, it’s good to be a queen. You must be prepared to believe impossible things.

You must believe that Obama’s indefinite detention of terrorists at Gitmo is different than Bush’s indefinite detention of terrorists at Gitmo. After all, Obama promised to close Gitmo as a necessary action to restore America’s reputation in the world. His intention to close Gitmo is what’s important, certainly more important than the reality of leaving it open “indefinitely.”

You must contrast Obama’s indefinite detention of terrorists at Gitmo while heroically working to close Gitmo to Maricopa County (Arizona) Sheriff Joe Arpaio with his desert tent city of county inmates in pink underwear singing Christmas carols. Obama, the indefinite detainer, has sued Sheriff Joe for violating the human rights of county inmates because Sheriff Joe has no intention of closing his tent city. Understand?

You must believe that Obama is committed to border security even though he sued Arizona when that state wanted to actually enforce the federal laws on immigration.

You must believe that openly homosexual U.S. soldiers will win the war with radical Islam when Islamic Shariah law punishes open homosexuality with death.

You must believe that “tolerance” demands your approval of a triumphal mosque at Ground Zero, but respect for “diversity” requires you to understand why Muslims were so offended by a Christian church near Baghdad they killed 68 parishioners attending mass. Those Christians (who were in Iraq before there was an “Islam”) sure can be provocative.

You must believe that you are safer on an airplane flight from radical Muslim terrorists if the TSA can take your nude X-ray picture and/or grope your genitalia.

You must believe that FCC restrictions on the Internet will enhance free speech. And you must believe that these FCC restrictions, adopted by the FCC without any lawful authority from Congress, are lawful because the FCC intends to protect you from evil corporations, and its intention is pure. The FCC is acting in the public interest and need no authority from Congress to do so.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Reversal on ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Stirs Concern Over Legal Claims

President Obama’s decision last week to reverse U.S. policy and back a U.N. declaration on the rights of “indigenous peoples” has touched off a debate on whether the move could boost American Indian legal claims over the ills they suffered dating back to the colonial period.

The president announced his decision at the White House Tribal Nations Conference last week, making the United States the last nation to endorse the statement — the Bush administration had opposed it since it was adopted in 2007. American Indian advocacy groups cheered the move, finalized after a months-long administration review.

But John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the “abstract” document — which in several sections discusses the “right to redress” — will probably be used to fuel new legal claims. And he predicted the issue would complicate those cases more than it would help either side actually resolve them.

“It’s a kind of feel-good document that has so many unclear phrases in it that nobody’s really sure what it means when you agree to it,” Bolton told “It’s wrong and potentially dangerous to sign onto a document that you don’t fully understand the implications of.”


Carl Horowitz, a project manager with the National Legal and Policy Center who follows discrimination cases against the federal government, used the r-word — reparations — to describe those implications.

“It reflects a global egalitarianism,” he said. “It’s a shakedown.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama to Give Manhattan Back to Native Americans?

President believes nation can spare some sovereignty

President Obama is voicing support for a U.N. resolution that could accomplish something as radical as relinquishing some U.S. sovereignty and opening a path for the return of ancient tribal lands to American Indians, including even parts of Manhattan.

The issue is causing alarm among legal experts.

In recent remarks at the White House during a “tribal nations conference,” Obama endorsed the “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People,” which includes a sweeping declaration that “indigenous peoples have a right to lands and resources they traditionally occupied or otherwise used” but that later were acquired by occupying forces.

“U.N. resolutions like this claiming amorphous rights can be a stalking horse for future attempts to have international courts enforce broad interpretations of those rights at the expense of American sovereignty,” Theodore Frank, a fellow with the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute, a leading public policy think tank in New York City, told WND.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Showdown With Terror

Last year, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to kill passengers by the plane-full above Detroit on Christmas Day through an underwear bomb. Three days before Christmas in 2001, Richard Reid hatched a similar plot in the skies with explosives in his shoes. Both failed. Both demonstrated that at the very time of the year that Americans take off Muslim terrorists work overtime. The suspected 2010 plot to poison salad bars and buffets suggests that terrorists didn’t plan on taking a holiday this holiday.

This is the world in which we live. It’s also the context of Jamie Glazov’s new collection of interviews, Showdown with Terror: Our Struggle against Tyranny and Terror. For more than a decade, Glazov has been talking to leading thinkers and allowing mere mortals to eavesdrop on the conversation at William F. Buckley, Richard Pipes, Victor Davis Hanson, and Christopher Hitchens are among the thirty discussants featured in Showdown with Terror.

Glazov is the son of Soviet dissidents, so freedom is neither taken for granted nor seen as an abstraction. The interviews he conducts invariably gravitate toward that subject. For the Moscow-born historian, the Cold War is a natural reference point for discussions about the War on Terror. The freedom/tyranny dichotomy that described the combatants of the Cold War is applied to the opposing camps of the War on Terror. So, too, is the notion of useful idiots.

“There is no unifying agenda or theme that solidifies the current leftist movement,” David Horowitz tells Glazov. “What actually unifies them is their hatred for the United States as it exists in the present.” So why are we repeating history? “The hard Left sees history as infinitely malleable and remakes it to conform to whatever are its current concerns,” Cold War historian John Earl Hayes explains. “It can never learn from history because the past it ardently believes in is always one that ratifies its worldview.”

Alas, the Right-Left labels that foreshadowed one’s outlook on the Cold War do not remain terribly constructive for the War on Terror. The 9/12 Right, amply represented within the pages of Showdown with Terror, takes a muscular tack advancing human rights around the globe. Ascendant after 9/11, descendant in the wake of Iraq, the view peaked around the time of George W. Bush’s heady Second Inaugural. But in post-Tea Party America, where what matters is deficits and a return to the founding vision, the idea of using American foreign policy as a tool to spread human rights seems a throwback to a Bush presidency that many conservatives would like a do-over for.

The important foreign policy questions, then, won’t be settled through a Left-Right argument, but through an internecine debate on the Right. Consider the differences in the perspectives of Glazov’s interviewees.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The End of Easy Oil

Canada’s tar sands will soon be our top source of imported oil. But will that energy be worth the costs?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Uncovering Radical Islam in America

New York Rep. Peter King is under attack for his plan to hold hearings on the Muslim community’s lack of cooperation with the government to stop the rising threat of homegrown radicalization when he becomes chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. King’s investigation, though, is imperative, as even top Obama administration officials are warning of the frightening increase in acts of homegrown terrorism. King is being described as the real extremist for his past vocal support of the Irish Republican Army and is being accused of having an anti-Muslim bias. The legal director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee says King has “bigoted intentions” and the community affairs director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ New York chapter says he “has dedicated years of his career peddling extremist rhetoric and baseless claims concerning the Muslim community and its leadership.”

The true “baseless claims” are the ones made against King. He was an advocate of U.S. military intervention in the former Yugoslavia on the side of Muslims, has taken Pakistan’s side over India’s in their fight over Kashmir, and had a long relationship with the Muslim community of Long Island. His record contradicts the accusation that he has an anti-Muslim agenda. His warnings are based in fact and they are echoed by top Obama administration officials.

“You didn’t worry about this [homegrown terrorism] even two years ago— about individuals, about Americans, to the extent that we now do,” Attorney General Eric Holder recently said. He added that over the past two years, 125 people in the U.S. have been indicted on terrorism-related charges, 50 of which are American citizens. On September 22, Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said the same thing. He said that terrorist plots against the U.S. “have surpassed the number and pace of attacks during any year since 9/11.” These facts underscore the need for a congressional investigation into how to adapt to this changing environment.

King is being criticized for saying in 2004 that “80-85 percent of the mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists,” even though he emphasized that this does not mean that everyone attending these mosques were extremists. The Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned him and the statement is being used as evidence of King’s anti-Muslim bias, but that figure originally came from a Sufi Muslim leader named Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, the chairman of the Islamic Supreme Council of America. Kabbani’s estimate has since been corroborated by an undercover investigation of 100 mosques and Islamic schools in the country that found that about 75 percent promote an anti-Western form of Islam.

The congressman’s criticism of the Muslim community for not pulling its weight in the War on Terror is what really outraged his critics. However, his stance comes from interacting with Muslims in Long Island that he had a long relationship with. After 9/11, he was shocked at how many of them dismissed evidence that Al-Qaeda carried out the attacks, instead attributing it to a government conspiracy involving Zionists.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

US to Step Up Security at Hotels and Malls

The United States is stepping up security at “soft targets” like hotels and shopping malls, as well as trains and ports, as it counters the evolving Al-Qaeda threat, a top official said Sunday.

A year after a foiled plot to bomb a US-bound passenger plane, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN’s “State of the Union” program that other places and modes of transportation must now be scrutinized.

“We look at so-called soft targets — the hotels, shopping malls, for example — all of which we have reached out to in the past year and have done a fair amount of training for their own employees,” Napolitano said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Why is the North Magnetic Pole Racing Toward Siberia?

The north magnetic pole (NMP), also known as the dip pole, is the point on Earth where the planet’s magnetic field points straight down into the ground. Scottish explorer James Clark Ross first located the NMP in 1831 on the Boothia Peninsula in what is now northern Canada, and with the planting of a flag claimed it for Great Britain. But the NMP drifts from year to year as geophysical processes within Earth change. For more than 150 years after Ross’s measurement its movement was gradual, generally less than 15 kilometers per year. But then, in the 1990s, it picked up speed in a big way, bolting north—northwest into the Arctic Ocean at more than 55 kilometers per year. If it keeps going it could pass the geographic north pole in a decade or so and carry on toward Siberia. But why?

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Backsliding in Belarus: The EU’s False Impression of Lukashenko

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko left little doubt about who was in control of his country following last week’s elections. The European Union had hoped for more democracy. But it would appear that many in Belarus are happy with the status quo.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was one of the first to congratulate “the great European leader” Alexander Lukashenko on his re-election, calling the Belarusian leader’s country a “bastion of dignity and prosperity in the middle of a Europe agitated by the insatiable greed of transnational capital.”

In his congratulatory cable, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad referred to “yet another golden chapter of the brilliant history of the great people of Belarus.”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also offered his congratulations, though with a touch of a guilty conscience. The election in Minsk, he said, was an “internal affair,” characterizing Belarus as one of the countries that is “closest to Russia, regardless of its political leadership.”

The “golden chapter” Iranian President Ahmadinejad mentioned was a reference to the election in Belarus, in which, according to the official count, 7.8 million people voted for their next president on the Sunday before last. But the chapter was not golden; it was bloody.

It had hardly been announced that autocratic leader Lukashenko would remain in power (it was his fourth election victory in a row, and this time his official tally was 79.7% of the votes), when more than 10,000 citizens took to the streets in the capital Minsk. An attempt to storm the government headquarters building failed. The secret police, which appeared to have been well prepared, clubbed down the demonstrators, arrested several hundred and carried off seven of the opposition presidential candidates.

Weekend Raids

The old and new president said that “bandits” had triggered mass unrest, and that he would not allow a revolution to take place in his country. In expedited proceedings, he had about 600 regime critics sentenced to prison terms. His justice ministry threatened to ban all parties, movements and trade unions whose members had taken part in the protest — as if many such organizations still existed. Over the weekend, police raided the homes and offices of several opposition activists.

It was an ugly reversion to former times, and it triggered a public relations crisis for Western Europe. Two days after the election, the 27 member states of the European Union noted that they had had a “bad feeling” about the images coming from Minsk. In January, the EU will decide whether to reinstate earlier sanctions against the regime in Minsk.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

BMW’s Electric Automobile Revolution

BMW is hoping to revolutionize the electric car industry. Whereas most manufacturers rely on traditional — and heavy— steel car bodies, the German company hopes that carbon fiber components could lead electric cars into the future.

Cars may have conquered the world, but they didn’t do it overnight. Decades after its invention in 1886, the passenger car was still too expensive and too impractical to be anything more than a rare sight on the streets. Gas stations didn’t even exist in those days.

The spread of electric cars in the 21st century seems to be proceeding at a similar slow pace. The first models from major manufacturers are now hitting the market, but as a form of transportation, these vehicles face much the same acceptance problem as Gottlieb Daimler’s horseless carriage did. These cars have a high price tag but offer low performance.

Mitsubishi has released its first electric car series under the rather uninspiring model designation i-MiEV. It’s a simply furnished compact car with an oval body and lithium-ion batteries under the floor panel. With one charge of the battery, the vehicle can travel 100 kilometers (62 miles) in summer or 60 kilometers (37 miles) in winter. It costs €34,390 ($45,240).

Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf — set to hit the German market next year — faces the same cost-benefit plight. Even so, European automobile journalists saw fit to name the Leaf their “Car of the Year.”

It doesn’t take extensive market research to see that something doesn’t add up here. What customer is willing to pay the price of a luxury sedan for a spartan vehicle whose operating radius barely extends beyond the range of commuter trains?

Too Weak and Too Heavy

All car manufacturers face the same problem — even the most modern rechargeable batteries are too expensive, too weak and too heavy to power conventional cars, which are already excessively heavy even without the batteries.

“Integrating electric power into existing vehicle concepts is the wrong way, a dead end,” declares Rainer Kurek, head of the Munich-based MVI Group, which develops car bodies and other components for the automotive industry. In his recently published book, Kurek urges vehicle manufacturers to take a completely new approach. “The current hype surrounding electric vehicles,” the engineer writes, “is obscuring the fact that today’s auto bodies have become far too heavy over the course of the last decades.”

A first-series Volkswagen Golf from 1974 weighs 750 kilograms (1,653 pounds). A Golf from today’s production series weighs around half a ton more. It’s also an entire vehicle class larger than its predecessor, contains a standard eight airbags and can drive into a wall at 64 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour) without its occupants being seriously injured. Such an accident in the original Golf would have meant certain death.

Technological progress has long meant an inevitable increase in weight. The aluminum auto bodies used in Audi’s luxury cars, for example, just barely manage to make up for the weight added by the all-wheel drive system that the brand has made its trademark. Hardly a technical revolution.

Now, though, BMW is attempting to break the cycle. Three years from now, the Munich-based company plans to offer an electric vehicle of a completely different construction type. The project, known as Megacity Vehicle (MCV), won’t contain steel or aluminum bodywork. Instead, it will have a light alloy frame in the car floor and a body made of carbon fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP)…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Britain at Risk of Power Cuts From Aging Networks, Warns Ofgem

In a letter to all operators, including Scottish Power, Scottish & Southern, Warren Buffett’s CE Electric and E.ON, the energy regulator has threatened to fine operators if they don’t improve their services. In a worrying sign for investors, it threatened to impose “penalties to have a proportionate impact on shareholder returns”. The letter principally warns network companies that they must be quicker about reporting any breaches of their engineering obligations while they work to keep the network in a good state.

“We want to raise our concern that the approach being adopted by some distribution network operators to assess their compliance may be exposing customers to unacceptable levels of risk regarding security of supply,” wrote Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem’s distribution partner. The letter highlighted one incident in which a company took years to report a problem with its network to Ofgem.

“It is not acceptable to expose customers to significant levels of risk for a prolonged period of time and without having a plan agreed with Ofgem in place to rectify the matter,” she said. Britain’s electricity network industry is in a state of flux since some large utility companies have been looking to offload the heavily regulated assets.

EDF sold its electricity network to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing for an unexpectedly high £6bn earlier this year. Meanwhile, E.ON has put its network up for sale, as it tries to raise cash to fund a large capital spending programme in the UK and rest of Europe.

Britain’s utility companies are under unprecedented pressure to replace their ageing networks at the same time as making sure they are upgraded to meet the needs of technologically advanced “smart” grids. Ofgem believes £32bn will need to be spent on upgrading the network into low-carbon grids and replacing old pipes and wires over the next 10 years.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

France: National Front’s Marine Le Pen to Prove Formidable Rival to Nicolas Sarkozy

The 42-year-old is seen as a potentially dangerous threat to President Nicolas Sarkozy if chosen to succeed Jean-Marie Le Pen in a mid-January party congress almost 40 years after he founded the party. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Miss Le Pen, said: “The progressive Islamisation of our country and the increase in political-religious demands are calling into question the survival of our civilisation.”

“We are fighting against Islamism, not Islam”, she said. “Islamism is the will to impose Shariah for all as civil, political and religious law. We Western societies are fighting against Islamism all around the world. We have sent our kids to Afghanistan to be killed to fight against Islamism, and we don’t have the right in France through words and political action to fight it? That seems totally absurd to me,” she said.

Miss Le Pen said examples of creeping Islamisation included pork being taken off the menu in certain French schools, the fact that 22 Quick fast food restaurants were offering exclusively Halal burgers. She also claimed that Muslim communities were receiving hidden French government funds to build “increasingly ostentatious mosque-cathedrals” or ones funded by Saudi Arabia.

“In reality, it’s asking French people to increasingly submit themselves to the Muslim religion. That goes totally against the secular principles of the French republic,” she claimed, adding that the issue would be a “key theme” of the 2012 presidential elections. Miss Le Pen, a twice-divorced mother of three, sparked outrage among the French political mainstream early in December by likening Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France, minus the “tanks and soldiers”.

Her outburst received high French backing. According to an Ifop poll, some 54 per cent of sympathisers of Mr Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party backed Miss Le Pen’s controversial comparison, while it received the support of 39 per cent of all French.

In line with other Right-wing populist parties from the Netherlands to Italy, her words have clearly struck a chord beyond the FN’s traditional electorate, with analysts predicting she could woo chunks of France’s lower-middle classes hard-hit by the economic crisis. Dominique Reynié, a political analyst, said: “The French no longer only see the FN as an extreme-Right party but as a populist and popular party transcending the Right and Left.”

An Ipsos poll has just given her a 27 per cent approval rating. One poll suggests that up to 17 per cent of the French intend to vote for her should she run for president in 2012 — a good nine points more than her father was polling two years before he took 17 per cent of the vote in the 2002 presidential election and shocked France by reaching the second round run-off.

As a result, she claims, Mr Sarkozy is scared stiff she will knock him out of the first round in 2012 and then woo enough of his electorate to beat a Left-wing candidate.

Jean-François Copé, head of the UMP party, said: “It’s undisputable: the FN has been rising regularly in recent months. We are in danger from an electoral point of view.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Holidays a High Season for Islamist Recruitment

Suspected Islamic extremists are reportedly being closely monitored during the holidays, which German intelligence authorities consider to be a high season for Islamist recruitment.

The period between Christmas and New Year is often used by Islamists to attract new followers who fill their time during breaks from work or school by attending sermons and lectures, daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.

During the holidays, Islamists hold seminars and other events to “indoctrinate particularly young people with Salafist preachers,” an intelligence source from the North Rhine-Westphalia Office for the Protection of the Constitution told the paper.

“That is not a new development,” the source said.

Such seminars were particularly troubling “because they have the space and time to offer group education and exert extremist influence through often charismatic lecturers.”

Of particular concern are preachers from the Salafi community which supports a fundamentalist stream of Islam that aims to create a society modelled on the purported original community of the Prophet Mohammed.

The star of this scene is a former boxer called Pierre Vogel — also known as Abu Hamza — who pushes a strict interpretation of Islam but publicly condemns violence and terrorism.

A group connected to him, called “Invitation to Paradise” was raided by the police the week before last. On orders from Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, officers searched the group’s headquarters and also the homes of leading members for material that could provide a basis on which to ban the organisation.

Vogel, a regular preacher at the Al-Nur mosque in the Berlin district of Neukölln, has cancelled several recent events.

In the town of Elsdorf west of Cologne in North Rhine-Westphalia, a three-day “Islam education meeting” was held between Friday and Sunday. Authorities kept a close eye on it because the teachers at the seminars are considered radical preachers by intelligence agencies that monitor extremism.

The meeting included such preachers Hassan Dabbagh from Leizig and Mohamed Benhsaid from Bonn, both of whom authorities consider radical.

Two of the preachers recently faced a complaint — ultimately unsuccessful — by Munich prosecutors that their sermons had criminal associations.

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

Germany: Chinese Hackers Target Government Computers

The number of cyber-attacks on German government computers has risen dramatically in 2010 and authorities suspect Chinese government hackers are behind the assault, the media reported Monday.

From January to September this year, about 1,600 such attacks against government computers were counted, the WAZ group of newspapers reported. That was nearly double the 900 counted in the first nine months of 2009.

Furthermore, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which has responsibility for domestic intelligence, believes there has been an increase in unreported cases.

The cyber-spies are trying to access political, military and economic data. State employees in China are behind a large share of the attacks, a spokeswoman for the BfV told WAZ.

The Chinese hackers send emails with attachments that, when opened, install a “spyware” program on the German computer and establish a connection with China so that data can be transferred.

The latest BfV report on cyber-attacks acknowledges that the hackers are getting the upper hand.

“The advantages on the Chinese side seem to predominate,” it said.

The attacks are causing such concern that the Interior Ministry is now planning counter-measures.

“We urgently need a national cyber-defence centre that monitors and aims to safeguard the security and the integrity of the internet — under control of the federal Interior Ministry,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told news magazine Der Spiegel recently.

De Maizière plans to put forward a detailed plan this year for such a cyber-defence centre. The government fears that hackers in future may try not only to access information but also to attack important systems such as the electricity grid or power stations.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Central to Malpensa Airport, Now Possible

The first Malpensa Express left from Milan’s Central Station this morning. Fifty-one runs a day, on top of the 79 to and from Milan’s Cadorna Station.

The first “Malpensa Express” left today, Sunday 12 December, at 5.25 a.m. from Central Station: 51 runs a day will be added to the 79 to and from Milan’s Cadorna Station. Of the runs to and from Cadorna, 54 go directly to Malpensa, with a journey time of 29 minutes. The new Trenitalia-LeNORD service now has 130 connections a day, between Milan and Malpensa Airport, from dawn to after midnight.

The connection has been made possible thanks to the opening of the track that joins Central Station to Bovisa Station, last July, and there are two types of service: there is a train from Central Station, every hour during the rush hour, at 25 minutes past the hour, stopping at Garibaldi, Bovisa, Saronno, Busto Arsizio FN; outside rush hour, the train also stops at Rescaldina, Castellanza and Ferno-Lonate. During rush hour, there is also a fast service, which only stops at Porta Garibaldi and Bovisa, with 5 runs leaving from Milan Central, and 6 from Malpensa Airport.

The Milan Cadorna service has been rescheduled, with 54 non-stop runs outside rush hour (run time, 29 minutes), and 25 runs with stops at Saronno and Busto Arsizio FN, during rush hour (run time, 36 minutes).

For the next six months, the ticket from Milan Central will be sold a promotional price of €7. The timetable can be consulted at and

“We’re increasing the connections to Malpensa without taking any resources away from the regional train service, because the Malpensa Express is a market service, that doesn’t get state subsidies,” said Giuseppe Biesuz, the managing director of Trenitalia-LeNORD. Biesuz then pointed out that “since it was established in August 2009, Trenitalia-LeNORD has introduced 373 new runs for commuters in Lombardy and has reduced delays by millions of hours, thanks to the essential contribution by the Region of Lombardy.”

Two of the six new Coradia trains for the airport service (shown here on the right, in a photo by Simone Carcano) are also starting work today. The remaining four trains will start work by next January.

The new trains were ordered in May 2009 by FERROVIENORD (a company that is part of the FNM Group) from Alstom, which won the public tender called in August 2007. The cost of supplying the six trains is €35 million, which is funded by the Region of Lombardy, and is part of an agreement that includes an option to increase the order up to 35 trains. The funding is part of the approximately €900 million that the Region of Lombardy has allocated, since 2001, for renewing the regional rolling stock.

The new train, which consists of five articulated carriages, is 82.2m long and 2.95m wide, and has a total of 230 seats. It has been designed in accordance with modern comfort, safety and accessibility standards, and can reach a maximum speed of 160 kph.

The entrances to the carriages are close to the ground, so, it is easy for passengers to get on, and the retractable footplates, installed on every door, give easy access also to passengers with reduced mobility. Each vehicle contains a luggage area. There are many services on board: a video surveillance system, information screens, sound system, writing in Braille, 220V sockets for mobile phones and laptops.

Three of Alstom factories in Italy are involved in making the trains. The Savigliano factory (near Cuneo) is responsible for project development, for part of the vehicle production and the type testing; the Sesto San Giovanni factory (near Milan) is responsible for the design and production of the traction systems and auxiliary converters; the Bologna factory is responsible for the on-board signalling system.

Here is the new timetable of the Malpensa Express.


Translated by Valeria Garavaglia (Reviewed by Prof. Rolf Cook)

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

Italy: Refuse: 1500 Tonnes in Naples; Army Swings Into Action

(AGI) Naples — The amount of waste being consigned to the Naples bins is slightly up, to 1500 tonnes, as binmen take 2 days off. The Army has swung into action for a second time, and have collected roughly 50 tonnes since dawn in the area between Via Don Bosco and Viale Umberto Maddalena, close to Capodichino Airport.

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

Italy: Fiat Mirafiori Newco to be Outside Confindustria

CEO Marchionne says separate contract needed for Turin plant

(ANSA) — New York, December 10 — A new company that Fiat and Chrysler intend to create in order to produce new models at Fiat’s main plant in Turin, Mirafiori, will not be part of Confindustria and thus will not have to abide by existing national contracts struck by the industrial employers association with unions, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said here on Friday.

It is not clear, however, whether this would entail Fiat leaving Confindustria entirely, to then perhaps rejoin at a later date.

The decision to keep the newco outside Confindustria was later confirmed by the association’s chairman, Emma Marcegaglia, who said the new joint venture would be “born outside Confindustria”.

She added that once a new contract was hammered out with unions that met with Fiat’s needs, the newco could then join Confindustria.

Fiat last week broke off negotiations with unions on the future of Mirafiori in response to their apparent refusal to agree to a new, ad hoc contract for the plant which was not tied to the national autoworkers’ contract.

The Italian automaker has said it is ready to invest one billion euros in Mirafiori, where it wants to produce larger cars and SUVs for both the Jeep marque and Alfa Romeo using a new, common platform. The investment is part of Fiat’s proposed 20-billion-euro plan for Italy that hinges on unions agreeing to individual factory accords.

The automaker maintains that separate contracts are needed to meet the individual conditions necessary to boost productivity at each of its plants.

Fiat has made it clear that without these accords with unions it would invest outside Italy, a move which observers say would distance Fiat from its native base.

The first new factory contract was recently struck for Fiat’s Pomigliano d’Arco plant near Naples, where it plans to move production of its popular and best-selling Panda subcompact city car.

This contract broke a common front among unions with all agreeing except one, the left-wing FIOM which is affiliated with the CGIL, Italy’s biggest union.

FIOM has also been the most resistant to an ad hoc contract for Mirafiori.

On the possibility of Fiat leaving Confindustria, one of FIOM leaders said “there is no such thing as temporarily abandoning contracted relations. You’re either in a system our you’re out”.

In regard to the unions at Mirafiori, Marchionne said “the investment is ready but we cannot wait forever. I need these cars, they have to be on the market in 2012. The countdown has begun”.

Without an accord for Mirafiori, he explained, “there will be no investment. There are many other factories and Fiat is a big group with 240,000 employees, less than a third of whom are in Italy”. Marchionne added that it would be a “very, great shame” if no accord could be worked out for Mirafiori.

Fiat last year acquired management control of bankrupt Chrysler by offering its small-car and green technology in exchange for an initial 20% stake.

Fiat’s alliance with Chrysler has allowed it to return to the American market after 26 years, with its popular 500 city car hitting showrooms next month.

This was the first benchmark which will enable Fiat to begin increasing its stake in the US automaker to 35%.

Other benchmarks include producing Chrysler vehicles, like Jeep, outside North America.

Fiat can boost its stake to over 50% when it meets other benchmarks, including repaying federal bailout loans.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Arrested Somalis ‘Suspected of Links to Al Shabab’, Says Volkskrant

The 12 Somali men arrested on Friday in connection with planning a terrorist attack on an unknown Dutch target are suspected of having connections to Islamic terror group Al Shabab, the Volkskrant reports on Monday.

The paper bases its claims on sources in the Somali community in the Netherlands, Mogadishu and Kenya.

The paper says one of the 12 men is related to a commander in Al Shabab known as Mohamed Garmashqo and that this is the same nickname as the owner of the phone shop arrested on Friday.

Not radical

However, friends of the man, Mohamed Abdullahi R say there is no question that he is involved in terrorism. He is Muslim, but not radical, they told the paper.

Five of the 12 were released on Sunday and are no longer considered suspects.

The lawyer of two of them has called for an investigation into the way the AIVD does its work.

‘One can only assume the AIVD has made a mistake if you release suspects so quickly,’ Michael Ruperti is quoted as saying by the AD.


Ruperti’s clients also plan to claim damages for their arrest. The two were picked up, handcuffed and blindfolded and not told they were wanted on terrorism charges until Saturday, Ruperti said.

A judge will decide on Monday if the seven other suspects should remain in custody.

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

Netherlands: Labour Calls on Opposition to Unite

Labour leader Job Cohen has called on all progressive parties and organisations to attend a protest event against Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right government. The event, to be held in Amsterdam’s Brakke Grond cultural centre on 16 January, aims to present “a different view”.

Mr Cohen wants all opposition parties to form a united front against the cabinet, which comprises the pro-business liberal VVD and Christian Democrat CDA party and is backed in parliament by Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic Freedom Party (PVV). “This is not how we do things in the Netherlands. Things can be done differently”, Mr Cohen told the newspaper de Volkskrant.

Three opposition parties Green Left, the D66 democrats and Socialist Party, have agreed to take part in the meeting. The Christian Union has declined the invitation to attend the event as it is to be held on a Sunday. A number of other organisations will attend, including the FNV and CNV trade union federations, religious organisation IKV and charity Cordaid


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Number of Religious Czechs Falling, Poll Shows

Prague, Dec 22 (CTK) — One-third of Czechs believe in God and adhere to some church, which is 7 percent fewer than 15 years ago, according to a poll conducted by the polling agency STEM and released to CTK yesterday.

Practicing church-goers account for roughly one-tenth of the total population.

However, at Christmas even atheists go to churches.

The residents of Moravia are more religious than Czechs and more often observe Christmas customs, the poll found.

The agency has been asking Czechs about their faith for 15 years.

In the latest poll, 12 percent said they certainly believe in God and 20 percent they rather do. On the other hand, 36 percent said they did not believe in God and 32 percent rather did not.

The Catholic Church is claimed by 31 percent of Czechs and Czechoslovak Hussite Church and Czechoslovak Evangelical Church by around 2 percent each.

One half of those polled said they were “without any denomination” and 14 percent said they were not sure.

The rest is in various other Christian and different churches.

About one-fifth of Czechs go to masses at least once a year and 7 percent at least once a month.

Two-thirds of Czechs said a visit to church was among their Christmas customs. Compared with the situation at the close of the previous millennium, this was 5 percent fewer.

There were significant differences between Bohemian and Moravian regions. In the latter, there are more church-goers, the poll found.

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

Outsmarted by Apple: Nokia Looks to Recover the ‘Magic Dust’

For years, Nokia effortlessly dominated the cell phone market. But then Apple and Google muscled in on its turf and changed the game forever. The Finnish company is pinning its hopes on a new operating system, but it might be too little, too late.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Terror in Rome: Bomb Found at Greek Embassy as Multiple Embassies Have Package Scares

A package bomb has been found at the Greek Embassy in Rome, three days after mail bombs exploded at two other embassies injuring two people.

Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Gregoris Delavekouras said from Athens that no one was harmed in the latest incident, in part because heightened security measures had already been put in place.

‘The embassy was evacuated and the staff assembled some distance away from the building, so that everyone could be accounted for,’ he told media.

‘There were already heightened security measures at the Greek and other embassies, so the procedure that had to be followed was clear. The matter is now in the hands of the Italian police.’

Mail bombs exploded Friday at the Chilean and Swiss embassies, injuring two people who opened them. An anarchist group with reported ties to Greek anarchists claimed responsibility.

Police, carabinieri and firefighters massed around the building Monday while the Greek Embassy staff lingered outside. The street, in the residential Parioli neighborhood, remained open to traffic.

Reports of suspicious packages at the embassies of Venezuela, Monaco and Denmark were false alarms, police and news reports said. There have been several other reports of suspicious packages in recent days that turned out to be false alarms.

Police told all embassies in the capital to be on alert after the package bombs on Friday; Monday was the first day of business after the Christmas holiday.

Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said no packages have so far been found at that country’s embassy in Rome, but that it was closed Monday ‘for security measures.’

An Italian group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Federation claimed responsibility for Friday’s blasts.

News reports said that a claim found at one of the embassies cited the name of Lambros Fountas, a Greek anarchist who was killed in a shootout with police in March.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni has said that investigators believe the anarchists who were responsible might have ties to Greek anarchists responsible for last month’s letter bombings at Athens embassies.

On Nov. 2, suspected Greek anarchists sent 14 mail bombs to foreign embassies in Athens, as well as to Berlusconi, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Two of the devices exploded, causing no injuries.

A group called Conspiracy Nuclei of Fire claimed responsibility for the Greek blasts. It called on militants in Greece and other countries to step up their action, and Greek police noted Thursday that in the past, acts of ‘solidarity’ have been carried out between Greek and Italian militant groups.

Though the bombings were similar, Greek police have pointed out that the attacks there seemed not intended to cause injury — and none was caused.

In contrast, the Italian attacks seemed intent on at least seriously wounding whoever opened the envelopes, since at least one of the devices contained an iron bolt that shot into the chest a Chilean employee.

That man also risked losing the sight in his eye; both he and the Swiss victim had serious injuries to their hands and arms, hospital officials said.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Top Economists Debate the ‘Clinging to the Euro Will Only Prolong the Agony’

Leading German economists Peter Bofinger and Stefan Homburg are split over the euro’s chances of survival. In a discussion moderated by SPIEGEL, they talked about the wisdom of introducing a euro bond and what would happen if Germany left the common currency.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Bofinger, Mr. Homburg, can the euro be saved?

Stefan Homburg: In 1995, the great thinker and European policy expert Ralf Dahrendorf predicted that the euro would divide rather than unite the continent. At the moment, we are experiencing the beginning of this process. Political tensions are growing in Europe, and the Germans are being viewed as taskmasters. For these reasons, it would be better to bring down the curtain on the euro and return to the deutsche mark.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Cowardly’ Drunken Thugs Beat Up Pensioner, 69, For Wearing RAF Blazer and Poppy

A former serviceman was left bloodied and bruised when two drunken thugs beat him up for wearing an RAF blazer and poppy.

Anthony O’Brien, 69, was attacked by the thugs, aged between 17 and 20, after meeting friends to plan the funeral of a former colleague.

Mr O’Brien said today that as they attacked him they shouted: ‘Blow up all soldiers. F****** shoot all you b*******s — death to all soldiers.’

The pair — described as being of Asian or mixed race — then headbutted and punched him to the floor leaving him in a daze.


Mr O’Brien staggered back to his home nearby in Fallowfield, Manchester, but has been left wheelchair-bound after being treated for his injuries.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Christmas Bomb Plot: Nine Remanded in Custody Over Terror Charges

Gurukanth Desai, 28, Omar Sharif Latif, 26, and Abdul Malik Miah, 24, from Cardiff, and Mohammed Moksudur Rahman Chowdhury, 20, and Shah Mohammed Lutfar Rahman, 28, from London, appeared at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Chief magistrate Howard Riddle remanded them to appear at the Old Bailey on January 14.

The four men from Stoke-on-Trent were later also remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on January 14.

They were Nazam Hussain, 25, Usman Khan, 19, Mohibur Rahman, 26, and Abul Bosher Mohammed Shahjahan, 26.

The suspects were held a week ago during a series of dawn raids by counter-terrorism officers.

In all 12 men were held during the raids by unarmed police on December 20 in London, Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham. Two men from Cardiff and one from London were released without charge. The remaining nine suspects were charged last night with conspiring to cause an explosion or explosions in the UK “of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property” between October 1 and November 20 this year.

They are also accused of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism between October 1 and December 20, including by downloading and researching materials and methods; carrying out reconnaissance and agreeing potential targets, and igniting and testing incendiary material.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Christmas Bomb Plot: Nine Men Remanded Over Plan to ‘Blow Up Big Ben and Westminster Abbey’

They are alleged to have carried out reconnaissance missions before deciding on their possible targets.

Police were said to have found a list of six sites, including the full postal address of the Stock Exchange, Boris Johnson’s London mayoral office and the US embassy.

Defendants were seen studying the tower of Big Ben, before inspecting Westminster Abbey, the London Eye and the Church of Scientology. Al-Qaeda inspired books and leaflets, including instructions on making a pipe bomb, were also uncovered during the counter-terrorism operation. Details of the alleged plot were outlined at City of Westminster magistrates’ court.

The defendants, aged 19 to 28, were charged on Sunday with conspiracy to cause an explosion and conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism, having been arrested during early-morning raids in Cardiff, London and Stoke-on-Trent on Dec 20.

Piers Arnold, prosecuting, said the list of landmarks was found during police searches. “A handwritten note was found next to a computer with six contact details handwritten. They included the name, full address and post codes,” he said.

Among the details were the addresses of the Dean of St Paul’s Chapter House and of two rabbis at separate synagogues. A reconnaissance trip is alleged to have been made from Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall to Westminster Bridge where Big Ben was studied intently.

A mobile phone had appeared to be raised and pointed towards the clock tower, the court heard.

Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye were also closely examined before the Church of Scientology near Blackfriars was allegedly observed intently for some minutes. The journey ended with a meal in a McDonald’s fast food restaurant, the court heard.

Police searches are said to have uncovered two issues of the al Qaeda extremist magazine Inspire, which is published in English in Yemen and is aimed at a Western audience. An article in issue one was entitled “How to make a pipe bomb in the kitchen of your mom”, while issue two included “What to expect in jihad” and “Tips for our brothers in the US”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: David Miliband May be Offered US Ambassador Post

Downing Street is considering offering David Miliband the post of British ambassador in Washington, the Guardian has learned.

The former foreign secretary, still recovering from being beaten to the Labour leadership by his brother Ed, has the skills, contacts and abilities to make a success of the post, it is believed.

His name has also been mentioned by shadow cabinet members in connection with the post, which has been occupied by Sir Nigel Sheinwald since October 2007. Sheinwald, a lifetime diplomat, is due to retire shortly.

It has been pointed out inside the cabinet that Miliband has forged strong personal relations with the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and would be a voice trusted by the Obama administration.

If he was offered, and accepted, the post it would mean the end of his political career at Westminster, and require a byelection in his South Shields constituency.

The precedent of Peter Jay is seen as relevant to Miliband’s appointment. Jay, a broadcaster and economist, was made ambassador to the United States between 1977 and 1979 by the then foreign secretary, David Owen, a move that caused controversy among diplomats angry that a plumb posting had been taken away from the professional diplomatic service.

Former cabinet colleagues who have spoken to David Miliband have found him wary of the idea, partly because he is not clear it is a job with real power, rather than a message carrier from the British government to the US.

Some senior coalition members would like to see him taken out of Westminster, so removing what they still regard as the most dangerous political threat to the coalition inside the Labour Party.

But those in the cabinet advocating Miliband insist they are not pressing his case out of some artful desire to remove him from British politics, but due to his talent and diplomatic experience.

His views on the need to find a political solution in Afghanistan and green politics chime with the coalition government’s, and would be used to try to change thinking in Washington. He has had disagreements with the coalition over the economy and Europe, including with the foreign secretary, William Hague, but cabinet members do not regard this as a problem in relation to the Washington job.


[DF — David Miliband who was recently paid £25,000 for one speech he gave in the United Arab Emirates. As well as five star luxury accommodation on a five day trip there.]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Chief Duped After House He Rented Out Was Turned Into a Cannabis Factory

One of the country’s most senior policemen has been left red-faced after a house he owns was turned into a cannabis factory.

Rod Jarman, Deputy Assistant Commissioner at Scotland Yard, rented out the four-bed home through an online letting agent to a British man with a Chinese or Vietnamese name.

He had no idea that the £400,000 property had been turned into a drugs emporium, growing thousands of super-strong ‘skunk’ plants under his nose.

Worried neighbours contacted Mr Jarman earlier this months to say they had heard strange noise coming from inside the house.

He decided to visit the property in Abridge, Essex, and found it filled with plants and equipment for growing the class B drug.

There was also a machete lying on the floor and the rear had been smashed — signs that the house had been burgled by rivals.

The gang had run up a £20,000 electricity bill using powerful lighting to grow the cannabis and caused an estimated £48,000 of damage.

A spokesman for Essex Police said: ‘We called to a report of a break-in to a property on London Road, Abridge on December 13.

‘There have been no arrests and inquiries continue.’

The man who rented the property is understood to have provided proof of identity and bank details to the letting agent.

Mr Jarman said: ‘Despite 31 years’ experience of policing I didn’t see it coming.

‘It is an absolutely awful thing for people to find their home has been destroyed for somebody else’s illegal gain.’


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Why Deport Immigrants?

Joseph Chamie & Barry Mirkin

The world as we know it emerged out of the ceaseless wandering of humans on the planet and, more recently, with migrations of millions across national borders. That trend of globalisation could be reversed as growing numbers of political parties and movements around the world call for sterner restrictions on immigration and immediate removal of those unlawfully residing within their countries.

This could be more than an empty threat as such parties gain in established democracies. Examples abound: the Dutch Freedom Party, the German National Democratic Party, the British National Party, the French National Front, the Italian Northern League, the Irish National Party, the Israeli Yisrael Beitenu, the Indian Shiv Sena, the Sweden Democrats Party, the Danish Peopleâ€(tm)s Party, the Spanish Peopleâ€(tm)s Party, the Norwegian Progress Party, the Austrian Freedom Party, the Flemish Interest Party, the True Finns Party, the Swiss Peopleâ€(tm)s Party, the Australian First Party and the American Tea Party.

Resistance to immigration, running against the modern tide of globalisation, is an early and major plank for many of these political parties. Particularly visible and forceful, often striking a sensitive nerve among much of the public, is their fierce opposition to illegal immigration. For example, a year after voting to ban minarets, Swiss voters in November approved the referendum backed by the right-wing Swiss Peopleâ€(tm)s Party for automatic deportation of foreign-born nationals convicted 
of crimes.

Calls for increased deportation of unauthorised migrants are reinforced by the global economic recession, severity of governmental austerity measures and high levels of unemployment. Recent electoral gains by nativist parties at the ballot box have intensified pressure on leaders of every political stripe to respond to the presence of illegal migrants. Exacerbating the situation are continuing high numbers of people attempting to immigrate illegally. For example, every month an estimated 10,000 men and women, most from North Africa and South Asia, cross the Greek-Turkish border illegally.

Fueling calls for increased deportations are frustrations and disappointments with multiculturalism and assimilation, contributing to anti-immigrant sentiments. Various national leaders and party officials — most recently in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland — have expressed serious doubts about the success of immigrant integration, especially among those who differ religiously and ethnically from their host communities. Remarks by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, were unequivocal with regard to immigration, stating that attempts to build a multicultural society, living side by side and enjoying one another, have utterly failed. Some go further, such as the leader of the Sweden Democrats, claiming that the population growth of the Muslim immigrants was the greatest foreign threat to his country since World War II.

And no doubt, the heightened security concerns as a result of past terrorist tragedies and uncovered threats produce additional pressures to deport illegal migrants, particularly those with suspect leanings. Although many of those involved in terrorist acts were in the country legally, this distinction has not diminished public demands for increased deportations. Removal of unauthorised migrants is often a politically sensitive matter for governments, especially in the international context. Consequently, some countries, in particular those that do not always observe due legal process and internationally recognised protocols on migrant rights, avoid providing timely, accurate information on migrants deported or expelled. For instance, United Nations officials estimate that last year Angola expelled 160,000 Congolese, while the Democratic Republic of Congo expelled 51,000 Angolans. Malaysia in 2005 ordered the mass expulsion of more than 400,000 illegal migrant workers mainly from neighbouring Indonesia.

Other countries regularly publish annual figures and other data on those deported. While no doubt incomplete, this information provides an up-to-date sketch of the nature of migrant deportations. The country deporting the largest number of unauthorised migrants is the United States. This should not be unexpected, however, given that the US has the largest number of migrants — 43 million, as well as the largest number of unauthorised migrants — approximately 10.8 million. The number of persons removed from the US in 2009 was 393,289, a record high and nearly an eightfold increase over the level just 15 years earlier. About a third of recent US removals were convicted criminals, most involved in illegal drugs, traffic offenses and immigration violations. This proportion has declined considerably since the early 1990s when about 70 per cent of the removals were convicted criminals.

Other top deporting nations include: South Africa (165,270), Greece (68,191), the United Kingdom (64,750) and Libya (53,842). Even in countries where mass regularisation programmes have been implemented in the recent past, such as in Greece, Italy and Spain, tens of thousands of illegal migrants continue to be deported every year. Attempts to discuss international migration in international forums, such as the United Nations, have not advanced much. Calls for shared responsibility fall on deaf ears. With economic recovery reported to be underway, demands from various business sectors for more migrant workers — both skilled and unskilled — will intensify, as it has in past recoveries. As a result, countries will face the difficult task of balancing the need for economic growth and additional migrant workers with the political and social consequences of increased immigration. Failure to properly balance these powerful, but opposing forces will in all likelihood lead to heightened social tensions, rising political extremism and increased governmental paralysis, especially for democratic societies.

Illegal entry is a major means through which low-skilled foreign workers join the labour force in many industrialised countries. In the United States, for example, these workers account for 5 percent of the labour force, but are more vital to those sectors that rely on low-skilled labour intensively, including farming, construction, landscaping, low-end manufacturing, the hospitality industry, building maintenance and family care-giving. The US Secretary of Agriculture recently warned that the nation has three options concerning immigration and food prices: pay substantially higher prices if more unauthorised workers are removed from the United States; import substantially more food from other countries, raising food-safety concerns; or pass comprehensive immigration reform that addresses labour shortages in the agriculture industry.

Of course, governments may choose to ignore or downplay the presence of large numbers of migrants residing unlawfully within their borders. Or, they may decide — as has often been the case — to postpone confronting this contentious issue in hopes the political climate will improve. However, as has been observed in country after country, citizens increasingly reject governmentâ€(tm)s ostrich-like behaviour and promised-filled postponements as viable options and demand concrete action. Consequently, the calls for increased and immediate deportation of unauthorised migrants continue to mount.

Joseph Chamie is research director at the 
Center for Migration Studies, and Barry 
Mirkin is an independent consultant

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

‘WikiLeaks is Annoying, But Not a Threat’

Spiegel Interview With German Interior Minister

By Holger Stark and Marcel Rosenbach

In a SPIEGEL interview, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière talks about the failed terrorist attack in Stockholm, his opinion of WikiLeaks and governments’ responsibility for protecting the Internet.

SPIEGEL: Does the recent suicide attack in Stockholm mean that the wave of terror that you feared has now arrived in Europe?

Thomas de Maizière: No. This has little to do with the warnings of attacks that we have been receiving for months. But it is unfortunately true that wide-scale public debates always lead to copycats who are not closely linked to global terrorist networks. This might have been the case here.

SPIEGEL: You’re saying that the vociferous public debate in Germany about terror and the palpable level of tension that followed your Nov. 17 warning about a possible attack in Germany were a mistake?

De Maizière: By no means, but the possible negative consequences are the reason why, for nearly a year, I carefully considered the issue of whether and when I should issue a public warning. Terrorism is also a form of psychology. In retrospect, for instance, we know that the threat in the run-up to the German 2009 parliamentary elections was just a psychological ploy. Also the fact that al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the parcel bombs mailed from the Arabian Peninsula six weeks ago, and the way they claimed responsibility, was primarily intended to have a psychological effect: Look here, with a few thousand dollars, we can attack international freight traffic. We shouldn’t support these psychological tactics with a public debate.

SPIEGEL: But that’s exactly what you did when you went before the cameras in November and warned of an attack.

De Maizière: Our assessment of the situation was different then. What’s more, it would be wrong if people got the impression that absolutely nothing is going on. The comments made by the minister responsible (for this issue) have to navigate between these two extremes, without knowing exactly what reaction will be prompted by one or the other.

SPIEGEL: If you issue an alert, the terrorists have achieved their objective of disrupting society. If you don’t issue warnings, it’s easier for the terrorists to carry out their plans. Does al-Qaida have the German interior minister at its mercy?…

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen

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


Brussels Denies ‘Credibility Problem’ After Marty Report

The European Commission has “no credibility problem” on human trafficking after a Council of Europe report accused EU institutions of silently tolerating Kosovo abuses, home affairs chief Cecilia Malmstrom has said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Anti-Arab and -Immigrant March, Press Alarmed

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 21 — The Israeli press is alarmed at the repeated marches organised by far-right activists against the Arab minority and immigrants from Africa.

Yesterday in the town of Bat Yam, south of Tel Aviv, hundreds of people took part in a protest against the presence in the town of Arab inhabitants from nearby Jaffa. “Arabs are taking possession of Bat Yam. taking our women and corrupting them. We must defend Bat Yam as a Jewish town” were the words on a leaflet handed out by far-right activists.

Another protest is due to take place today in the working-class Hatikva area of Tel Aviv, in protest against African immigrants who have set up there recently. “Foreigners out” is one of the slogans being used by organisers.

These episodes are being stimgatised by commentators, who say that incitement to violence could be translated into action. Two days ago in Ashdod (South of Tel Aviv), a group of unidentified people tried to set fire to a flat inhabited by five Sudanese immigrants. In Hatikva on the same day, youths punched and kicks three young black girls in the street.

An organisation supporting immigrants says that “violence is already spreading” although attacks are not always reported to the police.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flotilla: Israel, Lieberman Harshly Criticised

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, DECEMBER 27 — A wave of criticism by members of the government and opposition has descended upon Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who made harsh remarks yesterday against the Turkish government for its “false” accusations on Israel and its call for an apology and compensation for the murder of nine Turkish citizens when the Israeli Navy boarded the ship Mavi Marmara, which was bringing pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza. Last night, Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu quickly disassociated himself from Lieberman’s comments, stating that “they reflect his personal opinion” and that the position of the government is solely expressed by the prime minister.

Today, Defence Minister and Labour Party leader Ehud Barak urged against “increasing tensions” with Turkey. Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai said that “as usual, the statements by the foreign minister are unfortunate, superfluous and out of place”. Another minister of the Labour Party, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, said that Lieberman can no longer represent Israel and urged the premier to reprimand him. Within the premier’s Likud Party, several ministers, albeit anonymously, called Lieberman’s statements “crude and vulgar” in form and substance, while opposition (Kadima, centre) rep Ronni Bar-On said that they “painfully demonstrate his independence from the premier”.

This morning, the foreign minister responded to the attacks by confirming the stance taken in an interview on public radio and pointing out that he was speaking as a party leader (Israel Beitenu), which obtained 400,000 votes in the last election, making them the third political force in Knesset.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

London Considering Granting Palestinian Delegates Diplomatic Status

This could lead to a full-fledged recognition of Palestinian statehood as done already by Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia. The Foreign Office has already confirmed that it is considering upgrading the status of the Palestinian delegation, something that is worrying the Israeli government.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) — The UK government is considering upgrading the status of the Palestinian delegation to that of diplomatic mission, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported today. In Israel, officials fear this might lead to the unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood.

If carried out, the step would follow that of various South American nations who have already granted recognition to an independent Palestinian state. The Palestinian delegation would thus enjoy a status similar to that of an independent state, which will turn Palestinian delegates into diplomats.

So far, only Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia have recognised a Palestinian state. France, Spain and Portugal have already recognised the Palestinian delegation as a diplomatic mission

The Israeli government is very concerned about the possible move because the current UK government is considered pro-Israel. Its action would profoundly change the European context.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) confirmed that it was looking into the possibility of upgrading the Palestinian delegation’s status. A FCO spokesperson said the matter was indeed being examined thoroughly.

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

Middle East

A Gloomy Christmas in Iraq. Mgr Sako: “We Will Resist and We Will Remain”

Many liturgical functions called off, no Christmas decorations, and no celebrations after dark. The Iraqi prime minister calls attacks on Christians “a crime against national unity”. An appeal for peace and solidarity among ethnic groups and religions, and a message of hope from the archbishop of Kirkuk.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews / Agencies) — A Christmas of fear and sadness for Iraqi Christians, in memory of the martyrs killed Oct. 31 in the Syrian Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad. Many masses were called off across the country, and security measures heightened. But in the midst of this also the determination expressed in a message also sent to AsiaNews by Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk. According to Middle East Concern, the celebrations were cancelled as a result of threats posted on Web sites of Islamic groups. “The decision was taken after the threats were repeated on Tuesday, December 22. The churches in Baghdad, Mosul and Kirkuk have decided not to put up Christmas decorations and called off ceremonies after dark”.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called on Christians not to leave Iraq. “Attempts to keep Christians away from their homeland and their land, which clung to them through the centuries, is a great crime against national unity,” al-Maliki said in a statement marking the Christmas holiday. But many churches in Mosul did not hold celebrations while in Basra the roads leading to churches were cordoned off with barbed wire, and the buildings were surrounded by security forces.

In this gloomy picture, the archbishop of Kirkuk, wants to talk about hope. “As long as we get back to each other: Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, Muslims and Christians, we resist and we stay, because Iraq without us loses its beautiful multi-identity. We remain because are committed to love and to return to each other. This is the road to resurrection, life and renewal”.

Archbishop Sako recalled Oct. 31: “ We live in Iraq today, a painful experience, culminating in the massacre of Our Lady of Deliverance, which have shocked Christians and Muslims together, but we are determined to withstand the ordeal. We will not give in to temptation and frustration because life is a gift from God and it is greater than the hands of evil can destroy it”.

“If we go back to the essence of religion and to our common human roots, inevitably we will meet tour national fraternity in equality, justice, solidarity. Then risk will vanish and life will reflect abundantly This is good news of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ with his message of hope: Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace. “

The Archbishop of Kirkuk concluded his message with an appeal for peace: “Peace is the base of all goods: we ask it in prayer and implement it with mutual love and solidarity. Then the miracle happens and we will have peace on earth for human beings and the glory of God in the highest. We both believe that God is the Lord of the impossible”.

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

Ankara Authorities Look to Close Alevi Group for Cemevi Statute

Ankara provincial authorities have moved to close down a local Alevi association because it aims to build a cemevi “as a house of worship,” daily Radikal reported Friday.

“This action shows that the [government’s] Alevi opening is not sincere,” said Ali Yildirim, a lawyer and one of the founders of the Çankaya Cemevi Building Association.

“Our Sunni citizens can found associations to built mosques. Alevis should be able to build cemevis as well,” said Hikmet Sami Türk, a former Turkish justice minister who noted that mosque-building associations are some of the most frequently established entities in the country. Building cemevis is also not against the law, he added.

Alevis are widely perceived by many as a liberal form of Islam.

When Alevis in Ankara formed the association in 2004, one of their primary aims was “to build cemevis, which are the belief and worship centers for Alevi believers,” according to the group’s charter. The association also aims to construct cemevis in Alevi-populated areas that are part of lands Ankara municipality has allocated for places or worship as part of a citywide reconstruction plan.

As per legal requirements, the association submitted an application to the Interior Ministry for recognition in 2004, but the ministry expressed its concern about the “place of worship” phrase contained within the group’s statutes. Ministerial authorities asked for clarification on the issue from the Religious Affairs Directorate, to which the latter said cemevis could not be considered places of worship.

As a result, the ministry demanded the association remove the phrase from its statutes, suggesting the group replace it with “building a cemevi for cultural purposes.” The association, however, refused the recommendation.

“There is no breach of law here,” said Ankara University Law School member Hasan Ayranci upon reading the association’s statutes.

Ankara’s Governor’s Office warned the association to again change the code in June, but the group responded saying the statute was not open to discussion.

As such, the Chief Prosecutor’s Office opened a case against the association late last month.

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

GCC: Call for Correcting Population Disparity

Nationals of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries may lose their identity in an ocean of expatriates, if urgent legal measures are not taken to correct the population imbalance, chief of Dubai Police Lt Col Dahi Khalafan Tamim has said.

He made this observation while participating in the “Lakom al-Qarar” (The decision is yours), a televised discussion programme in Arabic on topics of current interest, broadcast on Qatar TV a few days ago.

A report in the local daily Arrayah quoted him describing the situation as serious.

He called upon the GCC governments to evolve a strategy to increase their indigenous population. “More attention should be paid to the marriage funds to enable young men to meet the dowry and other expenses required for marriage. Incentives by way of additional financial allowances should be offered to citizens with large families.”

Currently the expatriate workforce in the GCC region hails from around 200 countries most of which are in the Asian continent.

“The Gulf national is targeted by international human rights bodies for all the problems related to the sponsorship and employment of expatriate workforce,” he said, adding that in addition to paying large sums of money for recruiting workforce from abroad the Gulf national has to bear all the blame for a variety of problems.

Drawing a difference between the Arab and non-Arab workforce he said that “an Arab national is like the son of the soil. “It is easy to interact and have a better rapport with him as against the non-Arab national. But the gulf nationals should restrain themselves from being over-dependent on expatriates because that leads to a myriad of problems.”

“Terrorism in Saudi Arabia is mainly due to the impact of foreign elements. Recruitment of workforce from abroad should be on a balanced basis so as to not to allow any one particular nationality becoming numerically strong than the rest,” the Dubai Police

chief said.

The deputy chairman of the Standing Committee on Population, Dr Hasan al-Muhannadi, who also participated in the discussion drew attention to the negative impact of Asian housemaids in the upbringing of the children in gulf households.

           — Hat tip: AJ[Return to headlines]

High-Ranking Female Religious Official Removed From Office in Turkey

The entire staff of the Religious Affairs Foundation’s Women’s Activities Center has decided to collectively resign from their posts following the removal from office of the center’s head, Ayse Sucu, daily Milliyet reported Sunday.

Sucu, who is known for her liberal views about religion and women and for wearing a loose style of headscarf, reportedly told her close friends that she was surprised and hurt by the foundation’s decision to let her go.

Foundation head Necati Akçesme said in a statement that the change was the result of “new excitement and new understanding” in the foundation. The Religious Affairs Directorate is undergoing personnel changes under new head Mehmet Görmez, who has recently identified three new deputies and appointed four general managers.

In his written press statement, Akçesme did not mention Sucu by name, but identifying her by her post, said her personal life and thoughts did not play a role in the decision. Sucu had previously said wearing a headscarf is not a religious obligation for Muslim women.

Sucu collected her belongings from her office Saturday after receiving the official statement about her removal from office. “I was always focused on my work. I achieved a lot of firsts. There has been great success here,” she reportedly told her friends, according to Milliyet. “I am really hurt by this act while there are a great number of women [paying attention to our work]. I did not deserve this.”

Monday press meeting

Vildan Karabulut, the deputy head of the center, said the staff has no quarrel with any person or institution. “This is a change in posts and it is pretty normal,” she said. “But Mrs. Ayse should have been installed in the place she deserved.” Karabulut confirmed that the center’s staff had decided to collectively resign. “With our head removed from office, the acting board no longer has the power to act. They brought us to that position,” she said. “We are going to hold a press meeting Monday.”

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

Islam: A Religion Custom Made for Men

Muslims, by belief and practice, are the most blatant violators of human rights. We hardly need to detail here Muslims’ systemic cruel treatment of the unbelievers, women of all persuasions, and any and all minorities across the board. To Muslims, human rights have a different meaning, and its protective provisions are reserved strictly for Muslims—primarily for Muslim men. Just a couple of examples should suffice for now.

Oppression of women, for one, is so systemic in Islam that to this day women are, at best, second-class citizens under Islamic law. Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islamdom, denies women the right to drive, vote or hold elective offices—the most basic rights of citizens in democratic societies. Arabs and Muslims are masters of double-acts. They do all things in private, yet the public display of morality, decorum, and even piety is something you wear as you would your Keffiyeh even under the sizzling sun.

In model Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, for instance, women do not dare complain about their Allah-decreed chattel status. If they protest in the least, they are beaten by their husbands. And if they dare to demonstrate in public for equal family rights with men, they get severe beatings by the police and are hauled to jails for additional indignities and violence.

One may wonder then why is it that millions of Muslim women meekly submit to their subservient rank and thank Allah for it. These women are virtually imprinted by their parents and the clergy from birth to adopt the gender inequality as well as the entire pathological Islamic ethos.

Islam can be a “forgiving” religion, specifically for the male. If you neglect to say your prayers or you simply don’t want to, you can hire someone, preferably an imam or a mullah, to pray on your behalf. Going to the Hajj is too onerous and takes you away from the pleasures and comforts of your life? You can deputize someone else to go in your stead. You have a few drinks of the forbidden brew and it is time to say your prayer? Simply rinse your mouth and go ahead with praying. But, always remember the will of Allah and serve him. Do your duties to vanquish the unbelievers, promote the rule of the Sharia, and make the earth Allah’s.

In Islamic societies, freedom of expression, worship, and assembly are taken away. Women are indeed treated as chattel. Young girls are subjected to barbaric genital mutilation to make them sex slaves and birth channels without the ability to enjoy intercourse. Minors are executed, adulterers are stoned to death, thieves have their limbs amputated, and much much more. Isn’t that everyone’s idea of paradise?

Women, by the very nature of their second-class status expressly stipulated in the Quran, are occasionally allowed a token high position in government, while non-Muslim minority citizens are virtually barred from securing any positions at all.

“Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the others and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you take no further action against them. Allah is high, supreme.” Quran 4.34

This misogynist religion of Allah is custom-made for the savage male. A faithful follower of Allah is allowed to have as many as four permanent wives-and replace any of them at any time he wants-as well as an unlimited number of one night or one-hour-stands that he can afford to rent. But, woe unto a woman if she even has a single love affair with another man. Nothing less than death by stoning is her just punishment.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Look What Obama Expects Israel to Give Up Now

Negotiators push surrender of territory twice used to invade Jewish state

TEL AVIV — The Obama administration is pressing Israel to enter into negotiations with Syria aimed at compelling an Israeli retreat from the strategic Golan Heights, WND has learned.

Syria is in a military alliance with Iran. The country twice used the Golan, which looks down on Israeli population centers, to mount grounds invasions into the Jewish state.

Informed Middle East security officials tell WND that Dennis Ross, an envoy for the White House in the Middle East, visited both Israel and Syria last week to discuss specifics of a deal in which Syria would eventually take most of the Golan.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Other Angels’ Gets Marks for Bravery With Turkish Transgender Film

Director, writer, producer Emre Yalgin’s debut feature, ‘Teslimiyet’ (Other Angels), is a brave attempt to shed light on the lives of the transgender community in Istanbul — since such women are usually subjected to one-dimensional stereotypes. While the transgender characters and actors impress, the film fails when the straight characters walk in.

The movie follows the lives of four transgender women living together in the underbelly of Istanbul. They are all sex workers, as is the case unfortunately for most transgender women in Turkey.

Followers of Turkish movie blogs and movie pages on Facebook might have noticed last week that there was a lot of chatter urging people to go see the feature “Teslimiyet” (Other Angels). Although you could read about its groundbreaking subject matter, and why we had a social duty to watch it in theaters, we had yet to see a film review among the dozens of blog entries.

“Other Angels” is the first feature movie to take a candid look at the lives of the transgender community in Istanbul since 1993’s “Dönersen Islik Çal” (Whistle If You Come Back). The heavy virtual traffic was thanks to those sensitive about the tragic lives of transgender people in Turkey. Here was a chance to make transgender people more visible, a chance to watch them as multidimensional characters as opposed to the simplified and unfair stereotypes they were accustomed to being depicted with.

The movie follows the lives of four transgender women living together in the underbelly of Istanbul. They are all sex workers, as is the case unfortunately for most transgender women in Turkey. Save for the novice Sanem (Didem Soylu), the other three are street-smart, true warriors in a world where they are constantly on the lookout.

As we go deeper into their daily routines, consisting of a spliff now and again, watching mindless TV, and the endless beauty routines, we see that the hierarchy among the women is not much different than a typical nuclear family. The two older women Hayat (Seyhan Arman) and Mavi (Buse Kiliçkaya) play the parents, the other two referring to them as Mom. This makes Aygül (Ayta Sözeri) the older and Sanem the younger child, a role that requires her to learn the tricks of their profession and some tips on surviving. Taking the role of the children, the two younger women take the occasional tongue-lashing from the other two.

We are simultaneously introduced to a young man, Gökhan (Kanbolat Görkem Arslan), a heartbroken straight guy who has just moved into the neighborhood. Immersed in sorrow over his recent break-up, Gökhan first doesn’t really notice the vulgar comments made by the women living next door. Soon, he notices one of them, the beautiful Sanem.

Good intentions, mediocre execution

Being the only one among four women who still continues to hold on to her hopes of finding her knight in shining armor, Sanem develops a crush over this unsuspecting young man in the neighborhood. When the women’s lives turn into nightmare with the police, bad-news customers and bad-news boyfriends, Sanem finds refugee in a life headed for doom with Gökhan. The two get close and ultimately find that they have to face their prejudices and preconceptions of one another.

Director, writer and producer Emre Yalgin’s debut feature is one of the bravest Turkish movies to come to screen recently. Delving straight into the private lives of the transgender community and hoping to be more accurate than sensationalist is not the easiest thing. What’s more, Yalgin puts real-life transgender actors into his movie. That alone deserves applause.

That said, the movie manages to disappoint with its plot holes, poorly drawn characters, bad dialogue and not doing justice to its delicate subject matter. The first half of the movie, dominated by scenes with the women, surpass expectations with the natural flow of the relationships and with dialogue that mostly impresses with its shock value.

Things start to go really bad when Sanem and Gökhan get close, and more straight characters find their way into the story. The bigoted reactions to Gökhan’s relationship with a transgender woman by his ex-girlfriend and his best friend are very predictable.

The biggest shortcoming of the movie comes in the form of the relationship between Sanem and Gökhan, where they are at a loss for words in most of the scenes. And when they talk, it just becomes embarrassing. More screen time for the transgender characters, totally immersed in their characters, would have made “Other Angels” a memorable film. Sadly, we are reminded that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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

The Muslim Brotherhood Down the Salafi Road

A new study charts how the Muslim Brotherhood largely pushed itself to the fringes of society, writes Galal Nassar from Alexandria

A recent study of the Muslim Brotherhood suggests that the group is increasingly leaning towards more puritan interpretations of Islam. The author of this study, Hossam Tammam, argues that Wahhabism (the 19th century Islamic movement still popular in Saudi Arabia) and Qotbism (the militant ideas of mid-20th century Egyptian scholar Sayed Qotb) are now dominant in both the Muslim Brotherhood’s thinking and organisational structure. His study, “The Brotherhood Embraces Salafism: The Erosion of the Brotherhood Thesis and the Ascendance of Salafism within the Muslim Brotherhood,” appears in the first edition of Marased (Watchtowers), a periodical published by the Future Studies Unit of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The Brotherhood, Tammam says, has undergone the biggest organisational shift since the 1950s and 1960s, especially after the victory of conservatives in internal elections the group held in late 2009 and early 2010. With the conservatives in full control of the Brotherhood, the group’s ideology is also undergoing a profound change.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been drifting towards Wahhabism since the early 1950s, when the Salafi trend rose in reaction to the repression of the Nasserist campaign. One reason for this was that many Brotherhood members fled Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the historic hub of Wahhabi Salafism. The trend was to continue during the 1970s, when the growth in the Saudi economy led to the rise of religious conservatism around the region.

It’s not that the Brotherhood was against Salafism to start with. Hassan El-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s, described the group as “a Salafi appeal, a Sunni method, a Sufi experience, a political organisation, a sports gathering, a scientific and cultural association, and economic enterprise, and a social idea.”

The above definition makes it clear that the Brotherhood thought highly of Salafism. And yet, its original understanding of Salafism doesn’t tally with today’s definition of the term. The Brotherhood, let’s not forget, was an inclusive group, one that sought to unite rather than to divide, inspire rather than dictate. Significantly enough, the group in its early days also advocated Sufism as part of its theoretical and educational practice.

Tammam argues that the Brotherhood was inspired initially by the reformist ideas of Salafism as espoused by Sheikh Rashid Reda. This brand of Salafism was inclusive and flexible in its approach to religious rituals and textual interpretations.

Also, in its early days, the Brotherhood was pan-Arab in its orientation, which meant that it was particularly respectful of non-Muslims, as they were an integral part of the country and the region. El-Banna was particularly clear on this point.

The traumas of the Nasserist era, Tammam contends, contributed to the rise of Salafism. The first wave of Salafism occurred when the Brotherhood fled Egypt in 1954, following the first clash with the regime. Saudi Arabia offered them safe haven, and often enough passports.

The second wave of Salafism occurred in the 1970s. As Brotherhood members became acclimatised to Saudi traditions, their brand of Islam became more puritan than was the case back in Egypt. And their ranks were soon to swell. For when Anwar El-Sadat released thousands of Brotherhood members from prison, many left for Saudi Arabia, where it was easy for them to find jobs and feel accepted.

The rise of oil wealth, as it attracted a lot of workers from Egypt, reinforced this trend. The open-door policies of Sadat, with its stress on financial success, encouraged Egyptians to seek employment in Gulf countries, where religious conservatism was the norm.

Egypt had its own Salafis for decades before that. The Ansar Al-Sunna (supporters of the prophet’s traditions) group espoused a brand of thinking that closely resembled that of the Wahhabis. Hamed El-Fiqi, the group’s founder, was the first to import Wahhabi thinking to Egypt. Eventually, Ansar Al-Sunna preachers became quite popular at university campuses. And the Salafi library of Mohebeddin Al-Khatib in Cairo offered ready material for many college students of this generation, who often reprinted the books and sold them at nominal prices.

Having suffered at the hands of the Nasserist regime, the Brotherhood needed new blood, and began to court college students, especially the followers of various Islamist groups. The newcomers to the group brought their Salafi doctrines. So by the late 1970s, the Brotherhood’s thinking became more puritan than any time before.

In the post-Camp David Egypt of the 1980s, a fair amount of crossbreeding took place between the Brotherhood and the Salafi movement. Mostly, the Brotherhood brought organisational structure to Salafism, whereas the Salafis infused the Brotherhood with their newfound puritanism.

Consequently, two sub-currents in Salafism surfaced. One is a Qotbi current espousing the Jihad strain of Salafism seen in the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood led by Abdallah Azzam. The other is the Sahawi (revivalist) current seen in the Syrian Brotherhood led by Mohamed Sorour Zein Al-Abidin. The latter, in particular, maintained the Brotherhood tradition of involvement in public work while borrowing liberally from the Salafi thinking of the Wahhabis.

The rise of the Gamaa Islamiya and the Jihad also had their impact on the Brotherhood, reinforcing a militancy that was mostly short-lived and tentative.

Tammam believes that the changes in the religious and political scene in Egypt in the 1990s left a lasting mark on the Muslim Brotherhood. The group was particularly weakened by a government clampdown on Brotherhood- led labour and trade unions and the confiscation of Brotherhood-run companies. Meanwhile, the Egyptian religious scene was becoming more tolerant of Salafism. As the mainstream largely embraced stricter forms of religiosity, the Brotherhood had to keep up.

Salafi preachers became all the rage, and Brotherhood- affiliated preachers benefited from the Salafi-friendly media and the attendant boom in Islamist websites and television programmes. Some became talk show hosts, whereas others appeared regularly on cultural and religious programmes. As a result, the Brotherhood drew closer to Salafism.

A Salafi component began to assert itself within the Brotherhood. This wasn’t a development with which all Brotherhood members agreed, and some of them felt alienated as a result. This created some tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood, with the Qotbis demanding a stricter interpretation of the letter of Islam. As Brotherhood organisers tried to maintain unity within the group’s ranks, the gap between the conservatives and the reformers continued to grow.

In the Brotherhood’s internal elections of 2008, reformists within the group expressed the concern that their organisation was being “hijacked” by the Qotbi current. Their evidence was not hard to see: the supreme guide and two of his three lieutenants are ultra-conservatives.

The Brotherhood, the author argues, is becoming too conservative to be inclusive. The resurging Salafism, with its obsession with outward piety, is generally unappreciative of the arts and literature. According to Tammam, the Brotherhood has changed from a group that “wished to reclaim Islamic identity from the Wafd Party in the 1930s and 1940s to the concept of hakimia [theocracy] in the face of state and society in the 1970s, to a defender of public morality in the 1990s, to a proponent of exclusive orthodoxy today.”

The Salafis may not be dismissive of political participation, but they miss its point. As a result, Tammam says, they “will throw confusion into political doctrine… and hinder the progress of the Brotherhood in the coming years.” Interestingly, Tammam doesn’t blame the rising Salafism on the Wahhabis. He says the trend is a natural outcome of the course Egyptian society has been taking for years. The Egyptian brand of Salafism maintains certain traces of the pluralism, openness, and social vitality that are still alive in Egypt, despite setbacks.

Tammam expects the Muslim Brotherhood to lose much of its flexibility due to its new orientation. In particular, it will be unable to maintain diversity in its ranks for long. As the Qotbi and Salafi doctrines prevail, the Brotherhood may have to spend much of its energy on cultural indoctrination. To put it briefly, the Brotherhood is drifting farther from its original goal. The organisation that once had an ecumenical appeal is now hindered by its own ideology.

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

Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan to Hold Joint Military Exercise

Turkey will hold a joint military exercise with Afghanistan and Pakistan in March 2011, the leaders of the three countries reportedly decided during a trilateral summit held Friday in Istanbul.

Turkish diplomatic sources speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation confirmed the plans Friday to the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

“Development [of our countries] is a strategic tool to maintain peace, stability and serenity,” Turkish President Abdullah Gül said Friday in his opening speech at the summit, which followed a meeting of Central Asian countries belonging to the Economic Cooperation Organization.

Security and development were the main issues discussed at the trilateral summit. In his speech, Gül said the three countries had to provide a positive environment for private investment and strengthen cooperation in the fields of air transportation, commerce and energy.

In addition to the training exercise, the heads of state also decided to establish infrastructure for audiovisual conferences as well as a natural disaster emergency operation center. Four main decisions were made regarding security issues including joint military drills, the fight against terrorism, a joint program on police cooperation and one on the fight against drug trafficking.

An “ideas platform” will also be launched in order to increase communication and cooperation among researchers, academics and media outlets in the three countries. The leaders also agreed to launch a cultural exhibition that will highlight the heritage of the three countries and strengthen cultural ties.

“Friendship among the people of our countries has deep historical roots,” Gül said in his speech, adding that relations between the three countries have progressed and gained momentum since the first trilateral summit, held in Ankara in 2007.

The fifth trilateral summit took place directly after the 11th ECO Summit. Previous summits have focused on a variety of topics, including dialogue and mutual security, economic cooperation, security and education.

Iran nuke talks

A diplomatic solution to Iran’s controversial nuclear program is Turkey’s most sincere offer, Gül told his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a meeting Thursday evening, diplomatic sources told a group of journalists Friday. Gül said Turkey was making its efforts due to the responsibility it feels as Iran’s neighbor and that Turkey was ready to contribute in any way to secure positive results in the Istanbul nuclear talks to be held in January between Iran and world leaders in the P5+1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany.

Ahmadinejad said he was glad relations between the two countries were improving day by day and that Turkey was developing at a very fast pace. Cooperation between Turkey and Iran is constructive both regionally and globally, the Iranian leader said, according to diplomatic sources.

Turkish President Gül also met Friday with his Kyrgyz counterpart, Roza Otunbayeva, and suggested she invite Turkish firms to invest in her country, which is rich in natural resources and mines. Turkish companies are disciplined and will attract other investors to Kyrgyzstan by setting a good example, Gül told Otunbayeva, according to diplomatic sources. He also said justice and the rule of law would bring Kyrgyzstan much more welfare than oil and natural gas.

Afghanistan has meanwhile asked for Turkey’s technical assistance in increasing project-development capacity; the Afghan president told Gül that his country has decided to become a partner of the ECO Commerce and Development Bank. Azerbaijan also said it had decided to become a partner of the bank, while Kazakhstan said it would do so in the near future.

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

Twin Suicide Blasts Targeting Government Compound in Western Iraq Kill 9 People

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up on Monday, killing nine people at the government compound in the provincial capital of Ramadi, local officials in the Iraqi province of Anbar said. Insurgents frequently go after government targets in an effort to destabilize the U.S.-backed Iraqi authorities, as American troops prepare to leave by the end of next year.

The first blast occurred when a suicide bomber drove a minibus packed with explosives into the entrance of the main government compound of the city, official spokesman Mohammed Fathi said. As people gathered to observe the destruction, another suicide attacker detonated his explosive vest in their midst, said police and hospital officials.

The officials said in addition to the nine dead, another 43 people were injured by the blasts. Consecutive blasts meant to catch bystanders and rescue personnel have become a hallmark of al-Qaida’s tactics in Iraq in the past few years. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the double attack.

Ramadi is the seat of the Anbar provincial government and used to be a stronghold of al-Qaida. Recently, local militias have managed to bring a measure of calm to the city and province.

The complex, which houses various government agencies, including the governor’s offices, has been bombed twice this year.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

We Cannot Protect Assyrians and Other Minorities: Iraqi Official

In a secret meeting in Stockholm by an Iraqi delegation with members of the Swedish government, the Iraqi delegation called on Sweden to stop deporting to Iraq refugees whose applications were rejected for asylum. “We cannot receive Iraqi refugees deported forcibly from Sweden because we cannot protect them and their lives will be at risk if they are returned to Iraq,” said an Iraqi diplomat.

The Iraqi delegation, which included representatives from a number of ministries, said in their meeting with Swedish officials the Iraqi government is giving priority to stopping emigration and working to increase security, but it needs more time to build its security forces. The Iraqi delegation asked Swedish officials to stop the forcible deportation of Iraqis for this interim period.

The Swedish authorities are very quiet about the Iraqi delegation’s mission in Sweden. Quoting from an email by a Swedish official, Hökan Gestrin, the visit of the Iraqis to the Migration Board was not unusual. He writes that the Migration Board is often visited by delegations from other countries in order to get answers concerning legislative laws. But Gestrin refuses to answer questions about the meeting, what the Iraqi delegation discussed in the meeting are according to him issues regulated by foreign affairs privacy.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) strongly criticized Sweden last week for forcibly deporting people to Iraq. On December 15, in the same week when the meeting between the Iraqi delegation and the Swedish government took place, twenty Iraqis were forcibly deported to Iraq on a chartered Swedish aircraft; five of them were Christian Assyrians. This act was widely criticized by many organizations, who have pointed to the extremely volatile security situation in Iraq.

On the same date a hearing was held in the Swedish Parliament under the title “Iraq outside the scope of the perspective of asylum.” The questions raised during the hearing were focused on the seriousness of the situation in Iraq and its danger to minority groups in Iraq, and how the Swedish Migration Board and other immigrations services assesses Iraqi refugees issues and their need for protection, as well as how the Swedish Board deals with the information given in the country.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Mikhail Khodorkovsky Found Guilty Again

Judge Victor Danilkin said the former chief executive of the oil company and his business partner Platon Lebedev had been found guilty of using trading schemes to embezzle $25 billion in oil revenues from the now defunct Yukos and had laundered the stolen money. “The court has found that Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev committed embezzlement and abuse of their official positions,” Mr Danilkin told a courtroom packed with journalists and the defendants’ relatives.

Mr Khodorkovsky and Mr Lebedev appeared unmoved by the verdict. Mr Lebedev was seen reading a book and exchanging notes with his defence team, while Mr Khodorkovsky was seen communicating with his mother. Outside the courtroom protesters chanted “free Khodorkovsky” and police made several arrests.

Reading the full verdict and sentencing is expected to take several days. The conviction carries a minimum sentence of one year, but could keep Mr Khodorkovsky behind bars until 2017.

Mr Khodorkovsky, once Russia’s richest man, is reaching the end of an eight year sentence for tax evasion from a 2005 trial that was widely seen as punishment for defying then-president Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. After the first trial Yukos was broken up and its assets snapped up at knock-down prices by state-owned oil companies.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bombay Stock Exchange Launches Islamic Index

The Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) in the Indian city of Mumbai has launched a new index which consists of companies that meet the Islamic legal code.

The Tasis Shariah 50 was formed using guidelines from an Indian Shariah advisory board.

Studies have found that most Muslims in India are excluded from the country’s formal financial sector.

That is because Islamic law does not allow investment in companies that sell goods like alcohol, tobacco or weapons.

Neither does it allow investment in companies that derive significant profit from interest.

The index is intended to be the basis for other Shariah-compliant financial products.

‘Come and invest’

BSE Managing Director and Chief Executive Madhu Kannan said that the new index would attract Islamic and other “socially responsible” investors both in India and overseas.

“This index will create increased awareness of financial investments among the masses and help enhance financial inclusion,” he said in a statement.

Companies included in the index have been screened by Tasis, which is based in Mumbai and whose board members include Islamic scholars and legal experts.

“Before anyone can attract investors, we need to put in place institutional infrastructure, and having an index to track Shariah-compliant stock is important,” MH Khatkhatay, senior adviser to Tasis, told the Reuters news agency.

“If you have an ETF (exchange traded fund), for example, you need an index, or if overseas investors want to invest in Shariah index in India, this is an invitation for people to come and invest.”

Tasis said the index would “unlock the potential for Sharia investments in India”.

“The BSE has the largest number of listed Sharia-compliant stocks in the world,” said Shariq Nisar, director of research and operations at Tasis.

“All Muslim countries of the Middle East and Pakistan put together do not have as many listed Sharia-complaint stocks as are available on the BSE.”

Stocks will be reviewed every month to ensure they continue to meet the criteria — any which do not will be removed, officials say.

           — Hat tip: DW[Return to headlines]

BSE, TASIS to Launch Shariah-Compliant Index

(RTTNews) — Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. or BSE and Taqwaa Advisory and Shariah Investment Solutions or TASIS will launch the BSE TASIS SHARIAH 50 Index on Monday, December 27, 2010.

The Index will be the first Shariah Index created in India utilizing the strict guidelines and local expertise of a domestic, India-based Shariah advisory board. The BSE TASIS Shariah 50 index consists of the 50 largest and most liquid Shariah compliant stocks within the BSE 500.

TASIS employs a strict, proprietary screening process utilizing their knowledge of and local access to listed Indian companies to ensure that all stocks included within the BSE TASIS Shariah 50 are strictly compliant with Islamic Shariah law. TASIS has adopted financial screening norms that are more conservative than its peers, making the product ideal for Islamic investors seeking investments that adhere to the strict, conservative Shariah compliance norms.

The BSE TASIS Shariah 50 employs index constituent weight capping. Index constituent weights are capped at 8% at re-balancing, in an effort to increase the diversification within the index and ensure greater compliance with international regulatory and statutory investment guidelines.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Classified Maps Show Security in Afghanistan is Worsening, Despite Obama’s Assurances the War is ‘On Track’

Secret United Nations maps reveal security is deteriorating in parts of Afghanistan despite White House assurances its war strategy is working.

The maps reveal fighting had worsened in 16 districts in the north and east of the country by October, compared with March.

The regions, which were once considered secure, have since been upgraded to ‘high risk’ status.

The districts concerned are in the provinces of Badghis, Sari Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar.

The documents, which were published by the Wall Street Journal, also show that the south, which is regarded as the fiercest battleground between the Taliban and U.S. troops, remains unchanged at ‘very high’ risk status.

The map regions are graded by very high, high, medium and low risk categories.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Orissa: Hindu Radicals Threaten a Christmas Pogrom Against Christians

The Kui Samaj, a fundamentalist movement, has convoked a rally on Dec. 25 to “honor the memory” of one of its members who was injured while destroying a church and later died in unclear circumstances. Christians in India urge the authorities to intervene to prevent an announced massacre, similar to that of 2007.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — A radical Hindu movement, the Kui Samaj, says it will hold a rally in Kandahamal district on Christmas Day, an area that has been the scene of tragic anti-Christian violence in Orissa. The Global Council of Indian Christians reports that the announcement has caused panic among Christians in the region. “We’re scared. Please do something”, implored Kartika Nayak, a Christian youth from the village of Barkham, who witnessed the anti-Christian violence of Christmas 2007. Nayak was among those accused of killing Khageswar Mallick, a tribal Hindu, on Christmas Day of that year. Kartika Nayak said that Mallick was injured while trying to destroy a church. Hindu radicals then took him away to get it treated. Mallick died in mysterious circumstances, and since then the Hindus have been trying to blame Christians for his death.

On 19 December, Lambodar Kanhar, leader of Kandhamal Kui Samaj, informed reporters that his group would hold the rallies to honor Mallick. Local Christians say Hindu radicals have held closed meetings and distributed leaflets asking people to observe the “memorial day.” Bipra Charan Nayak — no relation- convener of Kandhamal Survivors Association, recalled that Kanhar had called for a general strike on 2007 Christmas in the district. “It resulted in violence that killed three Christians and torched 750 houses and 115 churches, convents and dispensaries,” he said. Bipra said Christians fear the cycle of violence would recur in this Christmas season if the administration failed to act.

Umesh Nayak, a local Christian leader — no relation to the two mentioned above -, who was part of the district collector’s peace meetings, says government assurances do not assuage Christians’ fear. He recalled that Kandhamal experienced seven-week anti-Christian violence starting August 2008 despite promises of safety from the federal minister, who visited them in relief camps in that January. Itikera Sunamajhi, a tribal leader, said they do not want December 2007 repeated. “Definitely, there is a fear among the Christians. We have told the collector about it and the administration has assured us that it would take necessary measures”.

The problem has the support of the President that the Council of Christians, Sajan George, who has written to Prime Minister of Orissa. “Panic is spreading among Christians in Kandhamal after KSSS announced plans to hold rallies on Christmas day. The rally announced is a stalk reminder of brutality and deceit being carried out in Barakama on the Christmas day of 2007.Now, the radicals want to observe Christmas day as his ‘memorial’ and thousands of leaflets are send out to whip up passion ..Christians fear the cycle of violence would recur in this Christmas season if the administration failed to act with determination to curb the sinister move”. Sajan George recalls that in 2007 the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district had no precedent in Indian history. A total of 730 houses were destroyed, along with 115 churches. The nine dead were Christians, many women raped and more than 40 businesses and shops damaged. And the letter closes with a plea: “Mr. Minister, we ask you to restore confidence in this tiny Christian minority.”

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

Indonesia: West Java: Catholics Celebrate Christmas Mass in a Parking Lot

An order by Bogor Regency prohibits members of the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church from engaging in any public activity, ostensibly because they lack a proper place of worship. Muslim extremist groups increasingly threaten Indonesia’s Christians.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Hundreds of members of Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church in Parung (West Java) celebrated Mass under the sun and in a tent set up in the parking lot of the Marsudirini Elementary School. Bogor Regency chief’s prohibition of Christmas celebration was thus not repealed despite repeated attempts by Tulang Kuning Church leaders to negotiate with local authorities.

The latter justified their decision citing the lack of a permit to build a church. Without it, the local parish is not allowed to perform any public functions even on its own land.

According to Indonesia’s constitution however, no one has the right to prohibit any religious community from practicing its faith and celebrating its rites and services. Yet with the rising influence of Islamic radicals, the constitution has been repeatedly violated as local authorities kowtow to Muslim extremists and show greater hostilities towards Christians.

The Parish of Saint John the Baptist has at least 3,000 members. In April of this year, dozens of Muslim extremists threatened those from the community in Tulang Kuning, preventing them from celebrating Easter Mass.

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

Malaysian Colleges a Hotbed for Militant Recruiting: Experts

Malaysia’s universities have become prime recruiting grounds for Islamic militants looking for youngsters to draw into terrorist networks, security experts warn.

Unlike neighbouring Indonesia and Thailand, the moderate Muslim-majority nation has remained largely free of terror attacks but there are fears that lax admission policies have created a haven for jihadists. A string of arrests and detentions this year have highlighted the growing presence of radicals using Malaysia as a base to sign up supporters and plan attacks.

“The terror threat to Malaysia is very real in terms of terrorists who come in as students,” Zamihan Mat Zin, deputy head of the Malaysian Islamic Training Centre, told AFP.

“They are under the radar so they can recruit and create terrorists in our midst,” said Zamihan, who is among a group of Muslim scholars engaged by the government to rehabilitate terror suspects in custody. In June, authorities deported 45-year-old Al-Qaeda-linked Syrian scholar Aiman Al Dakak along with eight other foreigners from Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and Jordan, most of them students.

Al Dakak gave lectures to Malaysian and foreign students at his Kuala Lumpur home, allegedly indoctrinating them with jihadist ideology and urging them to carry out bombings on places of worship in the multi-ethnic nation.

The following month, engineer Mohamad Fadzullah was detained under internal security laws for trying to recruit students at Malaysia’s national university and technical institutes for the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) extremist group.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said after the deportations that the phenomenon was an “unhealthy trend which can affect national security”.

He said foreign militants were using Malaysia as a base to carry out financial transactions, share information and sign up new followers. “Despite the arrests, we believe there are still many who are here now and this process is continuing,” said Zamihan, who was given permission to interview the nine deported terror suspects. “Some of these Al-Qaeda operatives who are caught overseas but not prosecuted because of a lack of evidence or a good lawyer, they are able to escape so they then come to Malaysia to study to do a Masters or PhD, but at the same time they are busy recruiting undergraduates.” “Once they have their recruits, whether local or foreigners studying here, they plan regional attacks. Many of them have confessed this,” he said.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Need Pushes Pakistani Women Into Jobs and Peril

Dinner at Rabia Sultana’s house is now served over a cold silence. Her family has not spoken to her since May, when Ms. Sultana, 21, swapped her home life for a cashier’s job at McDonald’s. Her conservative brother berated Ms. Sultana for damaging the family’s honor by taking a job in which she interacts with men — and especially one that requires her to shed her burqa in favor of a short-sleeved McDonald’s uniform.

Then he confiscated her uniform, slapped her across the face and threatened to break her legs if he saw her outside the home.

Her family may be outraged, but they are also in need. Ms. Sultana donates her $100 monthly salary to supplement the household budget for expenses that the men in her family can no longer pay for, including school fees for her younger sisters.

Ms. Sultana is part of a small but growing generation of lower-class young women here who are entering service-sector jobs to support their families, and by extension, pitting their religious and cultural traditions against economic desperation.

The women are pressed into the work force not by nascent feminism but by inflation, which has spiked to 12.7 percent from 1.4 percent in the past seven years. As a result, one salary — the man’s salary — can no longer feed a family.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Female Suicide Bomber Stops UN Aid to Pakistan Flood Victims

The distribution centers give food to 41 thousand people. The suicide attack killed 46 and wounded nearly 100. The condemnation of Ban Ki-moon. This is the first Attack by a woman suicide bomber, believed to be between 18-22 years.

Islamabad (AsiaNews / Agencies) — The offices of the World Food Programme (WFP), which gave food to 41 thousand people affected by flooding, will be closed for a week because of the attack that killed 46 people waiting rations on Christmas Day. There are 96 wounded. The terrorist action took place in Khar, Bajaur tribal region in the north-west of the country on the border with Afghanistan.

Mustaqeem Khan, a government representative in the region, confirmed that on the morning of December 25 at 8.30 am, a woman wrapped in a burqa blew herself up after trying to mingle with the crowd that was waiting in line outside the WFP food office. From the remains of the woman, the police concluded that she was between 18 and 22 years. According to Pakistani media this is the first action performed by a woman suicide bomber.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has condemned the “horrible terrorist act which targeted innocent people.” Even Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack and vowed that the fight against militants will continue until their complete elimination. “

Last year, the Pakistani army launched an offensive against the Taliban in the border area with Afghanistan. The radical Islamists have responded with a series of guerrilla attacks against the army and minorities, even as the country tries to cope with the crisis which followed massive flooding that left 17 million people homeless and without food.

The Taliban in Pakistan, claiming the attack, said they have ordered it because the locals — the Salarzai tribes — support the military.

U.S. president Barack Obama has condemned the killing. “Killing innocent civilians outside a WFP distribution point — he said — is an affront to the Pakistani people and all humanity.”

The distribution of aid will resume within a week, after checking and improved security in the distribution.

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

Pakistan: US Predators Kill 21 ‘Rebels’ In North Waziristan Strike

The US launched an airstrike today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike is the first in 10 days, and the first in the Mir Ali area in a month. Unmanned Predators or the more heavily armed and deadly Reapers fired two missiles at a compound and four more missiles at two vehicles in the town of Mir Ali, Geo News and Al Jazeera reported. One of the vehicles is said to have been laden with explosives and ammunition, “magnifying the blasts from the missile attacks.”

Twenty-one “rebels” were killed, according to Pakistani intelligence officials, but no senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed in the strike. Pakistani officials often refer to al Qaeda or allied Central Asian terrorists as rebels.

The Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils. In addition to al Qaeda, Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area.

In 2010, the US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in the European plot. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region.

Since Sept. 8, a total of 16 Germans and two Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the Mir Ali area. The IJU members are believed to be involved in a recently discovered al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modeled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Suicide Bomber Kills 3 in South Afghanistan

A suicide car bombing in the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar killed three people and wounded 26 others, mostly police, officials said Monday, in an attack spotlighting instability in Afghanistan as the NATO-led fight against insurgents there approaches the start of its 10th year.

The bomber struck in the crowded center of the city, near a police compound and a branch of Kabul Bank, and witnesses described a chaotic scene after the dust and smoke cleared.

“I was sitting near the gate when this explosion occurred. We fell to the ground and we couldn’t see anything for five minutes” due to the dust and smoke caused by the blast, said Noor Mohammad, a policeman who was guarding the bank, adding that police and security guards from nearby buildings and compounds took the casualties to a hospital. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw pieces of the suicide bomber’s car scattered around the street. Three police vehicles, at least two civilian cars and two shops in the area were also destroyed by the blast.

In a statement, President Hamid Karzi condemned the midday attack. The government and witnesses said it killed three people. The bombing highlighted the precarious nature of security gains in Afghanistan, and the challenges the country faces in trying to quell an insurgency that has found a measure of safety in Afghanistan’s rugged terrain and porous borders.

Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar, hours after the blast, stressed that Pakistan should not provide safe havens for insurgents and pressed the need for better security cooperation between the neighboring nations. Pakistan is host to the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, a militant movement based in its North Waziristan region that carries out operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan’s government is believed to give the group some freedom as a way of securing Islamist support against archrival India.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

U.N. Maps Rate Afghanistan Less Secure

Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year’s fighting season, countering the Obama administration’s optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago.

The Wall Street Journal was able to view two confidential “residual risk accessibility” maps, one compiled by the U.N. at the annual fighting season’s start in March 2010 and another at its tail end in October. The maps, used by U.N. personnel to gauge the dangers of travel and running programs, divide the country’s districts into four categories: very high risk, high risk, medium risk and low risk.

In the October map, just as in March’s, virtually all of southern Afghanistan-the focus of the coalition’s military offensives-remained painted the red of “very high risk,” with no noted security improvements. At the same time, the green belt of “low risk” districts in northern, central and western Afghanistan shriveled considerably.

The U.N.’s October map upgraded to “high risk” 16 previously more secure districts in Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Balkh, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Faryab, Laghman and Takhar provinces; only two previously “high risk” districts, one in Kunduz and one in Herat province, received a safer rating.

A Pentagon report mandated by Congress drew similar conclusions when it was released last month. It said attacks were up 70% since 2009 and threefold since 2007. As a result of the continued violence, the Taliban still threaten the Afghan government, according to the report. The White House’s National Security Council declined to comment.

The director of communications for the U.N. in Afghanistan, Kieran Dwyer, said he couldn’t comment on classified maps. But, he said, “in the course of 2010, the security situation in many parts of the country has become unstable where it previously had not been so. There is violence happening in more parts of the country, and this is making the delivery of humanitarian services more difficult for the U.N. and other organizations. But we are continuing to deliver.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

The Cost of Success: Life in Beijing’s Cellars

As speculators and increasing demand drive up Beijing’s real estate prices, those who cannot afford the rent are going underground — literally. Hundreds of cellars and air-raid shelters are being rented out as living spaces in the Chinese capital.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Mums Welcome Paid Parental Leave

WHEN Cathy Mollica had her first child three years ago there was no paid parental leave at her IT job and she says she felt disempowered because she had to ask her husband for money.

“I was entitled to not a single day’s paid leave,” said 32-year-old Ms Mollica.

She said her relationship with her husband changed during the 14 months she took off work to rear her daughter Charlotte because she had to go to him when she needed money.

“I had been an independent woman contributing to the running of the household and all of a sudden I was at home and my relationship with my husband changed because I found myself asking him for money,” she said.

“I felt disempowered and he was horrified I felt like that.”

Ms Mollica is due to give birth to her second child in June and this time round she won’t have to go begging to her husband because she will be a benefactor of the federal government’s Paid Parental Scheme which begins on January 1.

Families Minister Jenny Macklin launched the scheme at the Melbourne Museum today and said that for many people this will be the first time that they will have access to paid parental leave.

She said for women who give birth between now and Saturday, the Baby Bonus and other family payments will be available to them and other families who are not eligible for paid parental leave.

Under the scheme, the government will provide 18 weeks’ leave pay at the National Minimum Wage, currently $570, for applicants who have worked at least 330 hours, or just over one day a week, in 10 of the 13 months before the expected date of birth.

Ms Macklin said the scheme will cost around $260 million a year.

The government will make the payment directly to parents until July 2011 when business will be required to take over the responsibility.

She said the government will monitor employers to make sure they don’t substitute the government scheme for their own in-house paid maternity leave scheme.

“What we are seeing is employers saying they are going to keep their paid parental leave and allow their employees to take this scheme on top,” Ms Macklin told reporters.

“Woolworths, Aldi, Coles, Holden, Rio Tinto, some of the banks, have already come out and made it clear that that’s what they’re going to do.

“They know that paid parental leave is good for their employees and good to be able to keep their employees who they have spent money and time training.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African Elephants Are Two Distinct Species

Scientists have long debated whether African elephants belong to the same or different species. They look very different, with the savanna elephant weighing around 7 tonnes — roughly double the weight of the forest elephant. But studies had suggested they were the same species — DNA in mitochondria (the cell’s energy factories) from African elephants found evidence of interbreeding between forest and savanna elephants around 500,000 years ago.

Now a group of scientists have taken a deeper look at the African elephants’ genetic ancestry. The researchers sequenced the nuclear genomes of both types of African elephant, as well as that of the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). They also extracted and sequenced DNA from the extinct woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) and mastodon (Mammut americanum) — ancient elephant ancestors. By comparing all these genomes, the team found that the forest and savanna elephants diverged into separate species between 2.6 and 5.6 million years ago.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Somali Islamist Insurgents Threaten US Attack

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A leader of Somalia’s Islamist insurgency threatened to attack America during a speech broadcast Monday.

“We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country,” said Fuad Mohamed “Shongole” Qalaf.

Al-Shabab has not yet launched an attack outside Africa but Western intelligence has long been worried because the group targeted young Somali-Americans for recruitment. About 20 have traveled to Somalia for training and at least three were used as suicide bombers inside Somalia. Al-Shabab holds most of southern and central Somalia and has the support of hundreds of foreign fighters, mostly radicalized East Africans.

It seeks to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed government, which is protected by 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian African Union peacekeepers.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Somali Islamist Insurgents Threaten US Attack

A leader of Somalia’s Islamist insurgency threatened to attack America during a speech broadcast Monday.

“We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country,” said Fuad Mohamed “Shongole” Qalaf.

Al-Shabab has not yet launched an attack outside Africa but Western intelligence has long been worried because the group targeted young Somali-Americans for recruitment. About 20 have traveled to Somalia for training and at least three were used as suicide bombers inside Somalia.

Al-Shabab holds most of southern and central Somalia and has the support of hundreds of foreign fighters, mostly radicalized East Africans. It seeks to overthrow the weak U.N.-backed government, which is protected by 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian African Union peacekeepers.

The al-Shabab militia launched coordinated suicide attacks in Uganda in July that killed 76 people. It has also announced its allegiance to al-Qaida and is believed to be harboring a mastermind of the twin 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

The radio message was recorded in the town of Afgoye, near the Somali capital, during a meeting of Shongole and Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, formerly the leader of insurgent group Hizbul Islam. The two insurgent groups had clashed several times previously but announced a merger last week. Aweys said his group will fight under al-Shabab’s command.

“We have united for the sake of our ideology and we are going to redouble our efforts to remove the government and the African Union from the country,” said Aweys on Monday.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

The Mexican Drug War: A Nation Descends Into Violence

The Mexican government has been using the army to fight the nation’s drug cartels for about four years. It isn’t working. Some critics say the army is part of the problem, even if the occasional mission removes a kingpin. But President Felipe Calderón has no one else to trust.

Ivana García didn’t flee when two headless bodies were found in front of the city hall, nor did she leave when a body without arms or legs was hanging above a downtown square.

But when fighting erupted on the street in front of her house, when mercenaries working for the drug cartels began firing their Kalashnikovs from armored vehicles, and when house-to-house skirmishes went on for hours, as if Ciudad Mier were a town in Afghanistan, not bordering the United States, she had no choice but to flee. In fact, almost the entire population, about 6,000 people, left Ciudad Mier. When they realized there was no one to protect them — no government, no army — they packed their belongings and left their homes.

Ciudad Mier used to be an inconspicuous Mexican municipality on the Rio Grande River, consisting of a colonial center and a few rectangular blocks of houses. Now it is known throughout the country as a ghost town — one of those symbolic places that exist all over Mexico. Each of these towns can tell the story of a nation descending into violence.

Horrific, but Commonplace

One of them is Ciudad Juárez, where more than 3,000 murders were committed this year alone, making it the most violent city in the world. Criminals battle each other in broad daylight in the resort town of Acapulco. In the village of Praxedis, a 20-year-old woman became police chief because no one else dared to accept the job. On a ranch in northern Mexico, a 77-year-old man shot and killed four of the gunmen who had been sent to kill him, only to be murdered by the rest. He was celebrated as a hero.

Horrific news reports have become commonplace in Mexico. Some 29,000 people have died in drug wars within the past four years, and this year the number of killings doubled to about 12,000. An astonishing 98 percent of the crimes committed in Mexico remain unpunished.

It has been four years since President Felipe Calderón came to office promising to defeat the cartels, multibillion-dollar organizations that supply the United States, the world’s largest drug market, with cocaine, crystal meth, heroin and marijuana.

Calderón mobilized 45,000 soldiers and federal police officers for his campaign. There was no one else he could trust, including local police forces and governors. The army is his only reliable tool.

There have certainly been many spectacular arrests. Famous drug kingpins were arrested or killed, including the leader of the “La Familia” cartel, who died earlier this month. But have these successes weakened the drug cartels? There are few indications that this is the case.

At first, many citizens saw the violent excesses as the beginning of a necessary evil. Recent opinion polls, however, show that a majority now opposes the government’s strategy. The newspapers are filled with reports of kidnappings, blackmail and beheadings. There are blogs that specialize in publishing photos of severed limbs taken with mobile phones.

It is easy to picture the savagery with which this war is being waged. But it is more difficult to understand why the violence doesn’t stop, what its causes are and what can be done about it.

Could the legalization of drugs be the answer, as some experts suggest? Or maybe more border controls? Would a new national police force and a reform of the government solve the problem? Or is it best to simply leave the cartels alone, which for years was the government’s policy?

These are the questions that Mexico is asking itself in 2010, the 200th anniversary of the beginning of its war of independence. The filmmaker Luis Estrada has given his native country a bitter film for its anniversary: “El Infierno” (Hell). It is the portrait of a world consisting of nothing but narcos, whores and corruption.

“We have a national problem, and it’s called impunity,” says Estrada, a soft-spoken man with glasses and a gray beard. “People who break the law aren’t punished. That’s why many believe that honesty doesn’t pay. We Mexicans are in hell, that’s for sure. I just don’t know which pit of hell it is at the moment.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


The Profound Problem of Muslim Immigration

As the West has accepted extensive immigration from Islamic countries, unexpected social and political problems have followed. While rising crime rates, rampant unemployment and a heavy load on our much-appreciated welfare systems are severe problems in itself, a distinct and dramatically more significant problem is the subtle subversion of our free and democratic societies, also known as “Stealth Jihad”.

The retired Islamic scholar Sam Solomon, in this compact book “Al-Hijra, The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration”, connects the dots and explains why seemingly unrelated incidents are in fact rooted in Islamic tradition and are steps on the path to create a fully Islamized society.

To demonstrate how this functions, Sam Solomon dives into his exhaustive knowledge of Islamic history and law. As Islamic scholars everywhere, he derives his conclusions from Islamic scripture, the life of Muhammad in particular, and shows how historically immigration has slowly but steadily lead to formerly Jewish or Christian societies submitting to Islam. The primary example in the book is Muhammads takeover of Yathrib, today known as Medina, and how the concepts and strategies developed for the conquest of a relatively insignificant Arab city are being duplicated by Islamic leaders worldwide, with the same goal: Expanding Islamic conquest ever further.

The depth of knowledge and connections described in Al-Hijra constitute both a strength and a weakness. Most important is the strength: Sam Solomon uses his Islamic scholarship to reveal the justifications and machinations being applied to undermine and attack the very notion of a secular society. This is important information that everyone involved in these matters deserve to have.

The weakness is that the book frequently becomes hard to follow. Understanding Islamic terms like Darura (necessity), Takweem (empowerment), I’dad (readying) etcetera are important in order to counter the undercurrent of Islamization, yet the denseness of the presentation makes the lines of thought hard to follow for the unprepared. One does well in having some knowledge of Islamic thought before reading Al-Hijra.

That said, this book is indispensable for a very simple reason: It presents information otherwise not available to the uninitiated Westerner, and mercilessly reveals the twisted logic of Islamist activists, their justifications, methods and ultimate goal: A fully Shariah-compliant society. By pointing out the scriptural justifications and inner logic of seemingly benign and unrelated Muslim demands, it provides an invaluable tool for identifying and countering the stealth jihad destabilizing our societies. Dismantling this threat peacefully requires knowledge as provided by Sam Solomon.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Australia: Church Free to Ban Gay Foster Parents

CHURCH groups are free to discriminate against homosexuals after a landmark judgment in which a tribunal ruled religious charities are allowed to ban gay foster parents.

The ruling, made in the NSW Administrative Decisions Tribunal, has been hailed by the Catholic Church but has outraged civil libertarians, who are demanding religions no longer be exempt from anti-discrimination laws if they receive public money, reported The Daily Telegraph.

The Council of Civil Liberties suggested more children might end up in orphanages because church-based service providers could now knock back couples who did not conform to their beliefs.

Even the tribunal itself, whose judgment came down in favour of the ban, said it was effectively bound to reach the decision because of the very broad exemptions in the Anti-Discrimination Act relating to religious groups.

And, it went as far as suggesting that Parliament may wish to revise those laws.

The decision marks the end of a seven-year legal battle for a gay couple who attempted to become foster carers through Wesley Mission Australia but were knocked back because their lifestyle was not in keeping with the beliefs and values of Wesleyanism, a Methodist order of the Uniting Church.

The ADT initially awarded the couple $10,000 and ordered the charity to change its practices so it did not discriminate but an appeals panel set aside that decision and ordered the tribunal to reconsider the matter.

The tribunal then said it had little choice but to find that the discrimination was “in conformity” with the church’s doctrine because the test in the law “is singularly undemanding”.

Council of Civil Liberties president Cameron Murphy said churches who received taxpayers money to provide services for the state -as was increasingly the case -should no longer be exempt from discrimination laws.

“It’s outrageous,” he said. “If a non-religious organisation tried to do this they would be in breach of the law.

“If they want to run a foster care agency they ought to be looking after the best interests of the child, not trying to push their religion on the community.

Cardinal George Pell welcomed the decision and said churches must be able to choose who they wanted to use in the provision of services.

Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said it was high time groups were no longer able to discriminate for religious reasons.

A spokesman for Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said if the matter came before Parliament the Liberal Party would allow a conscience vote.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

New Zealand: All Parents Lie, Declares Starship Nurse

A senior nurse at Starship hospital’s child protection unit told a conference of medical professionals that “all parents are liars until proved otherwise”, doctors who attended say.

The revelation comes after a Sunday Star-Times investigation into practices at the unit, Te Puaruruhau, revealed concern it is being run like a police station, with staff treating parents as guilty until proven innocent over unexplained injuries.

Families have complained that the unit’s doctors rushed to judgements, refused to budge from their initial assessments, and failed to apologise when injuries were shown to be accidental.


But a comment at the start of the speech raised eyebrows.

“She just blankly said the most important thing she’d learnt working in the unit was that all parents are liars until proved otherwise,” a GP who attended the session said.

He asked not be named because he did not want to “buy into a fight with Starship” and child abuse was not his area of expertise.

“It’s etched in my memory. It gave me a bit of a cold chill.

“How can you communicate, connect or go forward with families if you’re starting from that point?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir

By R. Pear

When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over “death panels,” Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.

Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.

Congressional supporters of the new policy, though pleased, have kept quiet. They fear provoking another furor like the one in 2009…


[Return to headlines]

Stop Offending Me!

I can’t believe it! I’d just mailed a check to the Red Cross when I discovered they’d caved to “offended” Muslims. I’ll certainly think twice before I write another such check.

Admittedly, the capitulation is by the British Red Cross not the American Red Cross, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to be a patsy anymore when there are such blatant examples of catering to our veiled and robed friends in the name of ecumenism.

The British Red Cross decided to remove Christmas decorations from all 430 of their fundraising shops on the outside chance Muslims, atheists and others might be offended by a public display recognizing the Christian Christmas holiday.

Really? They did it to protect the sensitivities of those possibly “offended” people? Or did they do it because they feared violent repercussions if they didn’t cave to those sensitivities?

Or are they just so cowed by political correctness that they’ve lost their minds?

Am I the only one to find it strange that Muslims, who are subject to the tough rules of Islam as well as the very strong punishments for believers who break those rules, suddenly develop very thin skins and delicate sensitivities when exposed to visible signs of other religions in the public square?

Oh please.

Some members of this group find it serves their offended selves to riot, destroy, maim and kill in retaliation for perceived offenses against Muhammad — remember the Danish cartoon riots — but when Jews, and particularly Christians, want their religious holidays to be visible in the public square, they’re shut down in no uncertain terms when Muslims and others object.

Last week, the European Commission was blasted for EU diaries, which they printed and sent to British schools as student gifts. The annual calendars had dates and anniversaries noted on the appropriate days for Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish and Chinese festivities and they also highlighted EU anniversaries.

But gee, they eliminated all Christian festivals — there was no mention of Christianity at all.

Roman Catholic groups and Christian Democrat parliamentary members are furious and complained.

The commission response shows how weak-spined they are.

According to the Telegraph, a spokesman said it was a “blunder” which would be corrected in the interests of political correctness by eliminating all references any religion in future editions.

“We’re sorry about it, and we’ll correct that in the next edition. Religious holidays may not be mentioned at all, to avoid any controversy.”

Hmmm — they’re more concerned about political correctness than about fairness, equality and logic. Or is it they’re more than ready to deal with unhappy Christians than they are with angry Muslims?

Did I mention the diaries were supposed to be Christmas gifts for the schoolchildren?

What hypocrisy.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Bishop of Winchester: Legal System Discriminates Against Christians

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, warned that the death of “religious literacy” among those who made and administered the law had created an imbalance in the way in which those with faith were treated compared to sexual minorities.

Highlighting the case Gary McFarlane, a relationship counsellor who was sacked by Relate for refusing to give sex therapy to a homosexual couple, he said that the judiciary now went out of its way to protect the rights of minorities.

At the same time, for the first time in British history politicians and judges were largely ignorant of religion and so failed to appreciate the importance Christians placed on abiding by the scriptures rather than the politically correct values of the secular state. The Bishop’s concerns were underlined by Lord Woolf, a former Lord Chief Justice, who agreed that in some legal cases the balance had gone “too far” in tipping away from Christians.

His words echo recent warnings from other church leaders about what they perceive as attacks on Christianity.

The critique of the Human Rights Act is likely to fuel the criticism of David Cameron for failing to abide by a pre-election pledge he made to replace the controversial European rules with a home-grown Bill of Rights.

Other recent high profile legal cases involving Christians include bed and breakfast owners sued for turning away two homosexuals who wished to share a bedroom, and adoption agencies forced by the Government to close their doors after they refused to place children with same sex couples Bishop Scott-Joynt told the BBC’s World This Weekend: “The problem is that there is a really quite widespread perception among Christians that there is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service. “Probably for the first time in our history there is a widespread lack of religious literacy among those who one way and another hold power and influence, whether it’s Parliament or the media or even, dare I say it, in the judiciary.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Christians ‘Are Denied Human Rights by Our Courts,’ Claim Bishop and Top Judge

An Anglican bishop and Britain’s former top judge yesterday launched an impassioned defence of the rights of Christians in an increasingly secular society.

The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said judges wrongly discriminate against people of faith because they are ignorant of religious beliefs.

He said failure to support the beliefs of Christians and other religious people could drive them from their jobs and blamed the Human Rights Act for allowing them to be victimised.

The bishop was backed by ex-Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, who said the courts had gone ‘too far’ in restricting the rights of Christians in the workplace. He said it was ‘about time the tide turned’.

The two were speaking at the end of a year in which Christian relationship counsellor Gary McFarlane lost his appeal against dismissal after he refused to give sex therapy to a homosexual couple, and nurse Shirley Chaplin lost a discrimination case after she was moved to a back office job because she wore a crucifix.

During the General Election campaign, David Cameron promised to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which would spell out rights and responsibilities based on British traditions.

But that promise has been watered down by the Coalition agreement, which promises only to set up a commission to ‘investigate the creation of a British Bill of Rights that incorporates and builds on all our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights’.

Yesterday the bishop said he ‘generally welcomed’ the Human Rights Act but said it was being used without reference to religious sensibilities.

He said: ‘There is growing up something of an imbalance in the legal position with regard to the freedom of Christians and people of other faiths to pursue the calling of their faith in public life, in public service. One major context is obviously the Human Rights Act.’

He condemned the treatment of Mr McFarlane, who was sacked by Relate after refusing to give sex therapy to a gay couple because it contradicted his religious beliefs.

The bishop said: ‘We have had a statement from a senior judge this year that matters of Christian belief were only matters of opinion and the law couldn’t possibly take countenance of them in coming to decisions about the rights and wrongs of particular behaviour in the workplace.’

He argued it was not an option for Christians to keep their faith private. ‘Anybody who is part of the religious community believes that you don’t just hold views, you live them. Manifesting your faith is part of having it and not part of some optional bolt-on.’

He said in the McFarlane case, ‘judgment seemed to be following contemporary society, which seems to think that secularist views are statements of the obvious and religious views are notions in the mind. That is the culture in which we are living. The judges ought to be religiously literate.’ He also accused Parliament of having behaved ‘quite tyrannically’ over the treatment of Catholic adoption societies, which were told they would have to accept gay and non Christian staff.

Lord Woolf said the bishop’s complaints did have ‘a grounding in the facts’ and added: ‘I think it’s a very good thing that you voice those concerns because the tide goes in and the tide goes out in these areas and sometimes it’s about time the tide turned a bit and started to go back. We may have gone too far.

‘The law must be above any sectional interest even if it is an interest of a faith but at the same time it must be aware of the proper concerns of that faith.

‘The law should be developed in ways that, wherever practicable, it allows that faith to be preserved and protected.’

¦ Pope Benedict yesterday condemned Christmas attacks on Christians. He told pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square that he was saddened by the ‘absurd violence’.

Explosions on Christmas Eve in Nigeria killed at least 32 people and left 74 critically injured. Clashes were still continuing between armed Christian and Muslim groups yesterday. On Christmas Day, six were injured by a bomb in a Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.

Pope Benedict said: ‘I want to express my heartfelt sorrow for the victims of these absurd acts of violence and once more repeat an appeal to abandon the path of hate and seek instead peaceful solutions to conflicts.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Did First Humans Come Out of Middle East and Not Africa? Scientists Forced to Re-Write Evolution of Modern Man

Scientists could be forced to re-write the history of the evolution of modern man after the discovery of 400,000-year-old human remains.

Until now, researchers believed that homo sapiens, the direct descendants of modern man, evolved in Africa about 200,000 years ago and gradually migrated north, through the Middle East, to Europe and Asia.

Recently, discoveries of early human remains in China and Spain have cast doubt on the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, but no-one was certain.

The new discovery of pre-historic human remains by Israeli university explorers in a cave near Ben-Gurion airport could force scientists to re-think earlier theories.

Archeologists from Tel Aviv University say eight human-like teeth found in the Qesem cave near Rosh Ha’Ayin — 10 miles from Israel’s international airport — are 400,000 years old, from the Middle Pleistocene Age, making them the earliest remains of homo sapiens yet discovered anywhere in the world.

The size and shape of the teeth are very similar to those of modern man. Until now, the earliest examples found were in Africa, dating back only 200,000 years.

Other scientists have argued that human beings originated in Africa before moving to other regions 150,000 to 200,000 years ago.

Homo sapiens discovered in Middle Awash, Ethiopia, from 160,000 years ago were believed to be the oldest ‘modern’ human beings.

Other remains previously found in Israeli caves are thought to have been more recent and 80,000 to 100,000 years old.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

If Modern Humans Are So Smart, Why Are Our Brains Shrinking?

Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimeters to 1,350 cc, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion. “I’d call that major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink,” he says. “This happened in China, Europe, Africa—everywhere we look.” If our brain keeps dwindling at that rate over the next 20,000 years, it will start to approach the size of that found in Homo erectus, a relative that lived half a million years ago and had a brain volume of only 1,100 cc. Possibly owing to said shrinkage, it takes me a while to catch on. “Are you saying we’re getting dumber?” I ask.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Let’s Build Babbage’s Ultimate Mechanical Computer

The 19th-century Analytical Engine computer, complete with CPU and a memory, remained unbuilt — time to put that right, says John Graham-Cumming.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Report Documents Move by ‘Radical Philanthropist’ To Control Message

For someone who once described himself as “some kind of god” and said that makes him feel comfortable, the scrutiny of a new report that looks into his increasing influence over the messengers in today’s world probably won’t have a personal impact.

But whether it affects him or not, octogenarian billionaire George Soros’ funding of a media “monitor” that routinely attacks traditional and conservative media is becoming a focal point.

“Like the protagonist in the classic Orson Welles movie ‘Citizen Kane,’ Soros can never have enough power. But unlike Charles Foster Kane, the haughty, imperious fictional media mogul, Soros views himself as much more than a mere leader,” the report says.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Researchers Decipher DNA of Mysterious Human Ancestor

The human family just got a new relative. Genetic researchers in Leipzig have deciphered the DNA of a hominid species that coexisted with Homo sapiens and Neanderthals around 40,000 years ago. A tiny piece of bone was enough for them to sequence the genome.

The miniscule amount of powder could have sat on a knife point, and yet, according to Johannes Krause, it contains something sensational. The Leipzig-based genetic researcher extracted the fine powder from a minute piece of fossilized bone — and discovered a whole chapter of mankind’s history inside it.

Krause and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in the eastern German city of Leipzig were able to sequence almost the complete genome of a hitherto unknown type of hominid from molecules that they extracted from bone meal. In addition to the DNA sequence of modern Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, they also unlocked a genome from a third type of hominid, according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Nature. The researchers have dubbed the new hominids “Denisovans,” after the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia where the bone was found.

Krause announced to the world’s media earlier this year that he had discovered the remains of a new type of human. The only surviving fossil was a tiny piece of finger bone from a girl who had died around 50,000 years ago that had been found in the Denisova Cave.

The Leipzig scientists — who focus on the era when modern humans shared the Earth with their Neanderthal cousins — had registered their interest in the find immediately. But when Krause drilled into the tiny finger bone for the first time in his clean-room laboratory in Leipzig, he had no inkling of the sensational discovery that awaited him.

At first it seemed to be a routine examination. Krause only wanted to ascertain whether this little bone came from a modern human or a Neanderthal. However, the DNA sequence he found did not match anything he had ever seen before. Krause had stumbled upon a completely new being, a third type of human, who had competed with modern humans and Neanderthals for dominance in Eurasia.

Complete Genetic Code Deciphered

Since the discovery was announced in March, the researchers have been focused on the task of decoding the entire 3 billion DNA building blocks in the complete genetic makeup of the newcomer from the Altai Mountains. It is only now becoming clear what kind of “wonder bone,” as Klause puts it, that they are working on.

Seventy per cent of the DNA code snippets that they found in the bone powder came from the Denisova girl. Never before had scientists found such a high level of purity in Stone Age DNA. Normally with such ancient discoveries, 99 per cent of all DNA consist of contaminants of a bacterial origin. Thanks to the unparalleled purity of the sample, a tiny amount of bone dust was enough for the scientists to assemble an almost-complete DNA sequence of the prehistoric girl. This now enables them to draw remarkable conclusions about the fate of the mysterious Denisovans.

Some 300,000 years ago, they split off from the branch which eventually developed into the Neanderthals. Whereas the Neanderthals spread westwards into ice-age Europe, the Denisovans moved east.

So far, the discovery in Siberia is the only example of this new type of hominid. But researchers believe that the Denisova may have hunted across large swaths of Asia. It is an assumption borne out of the perhaps most stunning part of their analysis.

Few Traces of Intermingling

The scientists posed the question as to how different types of hominids might have interacted with each other. Did they hunt each other? Did they avoid each other? Might they have stolen each other’s women? To find the answers to these questions, the Max Planck scientists compared DNA from the Denisova cave with that of modern man. They found no traces of Denisova characteristics in people from Africa, Europe or China. Indeed, clear indications of intermingling were only found among the inhabitants of Papua New Guinea.

The two types of hominids, researchers believe, must have encountered each other somewhere in Southeast Asia. They hypothesize that different Denisova tribes had settled there long before modern man made his way to East Asia some 30,000 years ago. The two groups must have interbred, perhaps not as a matter of course, but periodically. Later, the modern humans and their genetic dowry moved further south, whence today’s Melanesians developed.

The Leipzig researchers now want to search Russian and Chinese collections for more fossils that could belong to the Denisova. The hope is to understand what they may have looked like. While the DNA provides hints on several characteristics of the Denisova, appearance is not one of them.

Massive Molar

But the researchers did present an additional find. In the same Siberian cave, a molar was found. The tooth’s owner, according to DNA analysis, was closely related to the Denisova girl.

This molar is distinctly different to those of all other known types of humans. Its massive size alone leads the scientists to suppose that it once belonged to a man. “Theoretically, it could also have come from a woman” said Svante Pääbo, the head of the Leipzig-based team of genetic researchers. “But in that case I would prefer not to meet the corresponding male.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]