Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20101230

Financial Crisis
»Eurozone ‘Has 80% Chance of Losing the Single Currency in Next Decade’
»Financier Steven L. Rattner to Pay $10 Million in Restitution, Cuomo Says
»Metals From Copper to Silver Hit Record Highs
»UK: Rail Fares Racket: Prices Jump by Up to 46 Per Cent in New Year
»Vatican to Set Up Anti-Money Laundering Unit
»Gitmo is Not a Recruiting Tool for Terrorists
»Obama’s Muslim Adviser Says Sharia Law Misunderstood
»Reid’s Rules Scheme to Rewrite Defeat
»Reporting on Fair, Balanced — And Accurate
»Revealed: Hawaii Governor’s Own Hidden Past
»‘We No Longer Have Republic Subservient to Constitution’
Europe and the EU
»Finland: Building of Mega Shiia Mosque Raises Anger of Locals in Mellunmäki Helsinki
»Islamist Websites in Europe — a General Review
»Spain Goes on Mosque-Building Spree: Churches Forced to Close
»Swede Suspects Once Arrested in Pakistan
»Switzerland Has Unusually Cold December
»Terror in Greece: Bomb Explodes Outside Athens Court
»Trust in Dutch Cabinet on the Rise
»UK: ‘Scared’ By English Defence League Protest
»UK: How the Iron Lady Saved Britain: Mrs Thatcher Drove Through Economic Revolution Single-Handed
»UK: Halal Method is Animal Cruelty
»UK: Interview With Melanie Phillips on “World Turned Upside Down”;
»UK: Joanna Yeates’ 65-Year-Old Landlord Arrested on Suspicion of Young Architect’s Murder
»UK: Lauren Booth is Bankrupt and Owes Her Sister Cherie Blair £15,000
»UK: Solved: Puzzle of Desai in Terror Nine
»UK: U.S. Embassy in London Was Terror Target
»UK:2011 Could See Poll Tax Riots Re-Run Warns TUC
»What Other Catholics Stand Up to the Vatican’s Islamo-Insanity Like the Italians. Hey, Benedict: Why Not Build a Mosque in Vatican City
»Albanians Deposited Serb Organ Profits in Islamic Charities, Prosecutor
North Africa
»Egypt: Eritreans Taken Hostage, No Progress in Talks
»Egypt: Trial of Synagogue Attacker Postponed Till Jan 15
»Kidnapped Eritreans: Israeli NGO Appeals to Egyptian Govt
»Libyan Leader Pardons 2 South Koreans on Trial
»Morocco: Security Ratcheted Up Ahead of New Year
Israel and the Palestinians
»Fifty Rabbis’ Wives Publish Letter Telling Girls Not to Date Arab Men
»Former Israel President Moshe Katsav Facing Four Years Behind Bars After Being Found Guilty of Rape
Middle East
»Al-Qaeda in-Fighting
»An Eye for an Eye: Iranian Court Orders Man to Lose an Eye and an Ear After Acid Attack on Student, 22, Outside College
»Briton Faces Death Penalty in Baghdad Murder Trial: Security Contractor Charged With Killing Two Colleagues
»Civilian Deaths Drop in Iraq in 2010… As Suicide Bombers Kill Top Police Commander
»Dopes of the Day: Fooled by Syria…Twice
»Iran is Now a Nuclear State: Ahmadinejad
»Iran Reports Arrest of 7 Al-Qaida Suspects
»Iraqi Christians Killed in Series of Baghdad Attacks
»Israel: Iran Nuclear Bomb ‘Still Three Years Away’
»Violent Deaths in Iraq Fall ‘But at Slower Rate’
»Artificial Intelligence to Transform Web: Russian Tycoon
»Dmitry Medvedev Condemns Russia’s ‘Stagnant’ Political System
»Russian Space Officials Fired Over Satellite Crash
»Ignorant Wahhabis Killed Fifty Imams and Muftis in North Caucasus
South Asia
»More NATO Tankers Torched in Pakistan
»Pakistan Says it Will Defend Spy Chief in US Suits
»West Quickly Agreed to Back Afghan Resistance in 1980: Files
»Who Keeps the Faith?
Far East
»China Makes Skype Illegal
Australia — Pacific
»Gang Link Sees Soccer Star Kerem Bulut Lose Bail
Latin America
»Battisti Victim’s Son Vows to Fight if Lula Grants Asylum
»South American Drug Gangs Funding Al-Qaeda Terrorists
»UK: Migrant Numbers Will Not Fall Significantly in 2011 Think Tank Warns
Culture Wars
»‘Super Death Panels’ On a ‘Massive Scale’
»Al-Qaeda Targeting Christians in Canada, Austria
»Henninger: Popes, Atheists and Freedom

Financial Crisis

Eurozone ‘Has 80% Chance of Losing the Single Currency in Next Decade’

There is an 80 per cent chance that the euro will not survive in its current form, a leading think tank has warned.

The financial crisis that has crippled Greece and Ireland will spread to other debt-ridden European countries in the New Year, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

Among those in the firing line will be Italy and Spain — the third and fourth biggest economies in the single currency bloc behind Germany and France.

‘We give the euro only a one in five chance of surviving in its present form for 10 years,’ says CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams.

The hard-hitting report also warns that Britain faces a tough 2011 as austerity measures bite.

‘A double dip for the world economy is not likely because of the strength of the emerging economies,’ says Mr McWilliams.

‘But it is well within the bounds of possibility for the UK.’

An escalation of the eurozone debt crisis would be bad news for Britain because Europe is the UK’s biggest export market.

British taxpayers could also be asked to contribute more to Europe’s emergency rescue fund having already pledged £7 billion towards the £72 billion bailout of Ireland.

The CEBR’s top economic prediction for 2011 is ‘yet another eurozone crisis in the spring if not before’.

Fears are rising that governments across Europe will struggle to raise the hundreds of billions of euros they need next year because of soaring borrowing costs.

The CEBR reckons Spain and Italy are particularly vulnerable although there are also fears about Portugal, Belgium and even France.

The forecaster warns that the euro could break up next year — although it says this is unlikely given the political will in Berlin and Paris to keep it together.

Mr McWilliams said: ‘I suspect that what will break up the euro will be the failure of most of the countries to take the tough medicine necessary to make their economies competitive over the longer term.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Financier Steven L. Rattner to Pay $10 Million in Restitution, Cuomo Says

The investment banker Steven L. Rattner agreed on Thursday to pay $10 million to settle influence peddling accusations in New York.

The New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo had initially sought $26 million in fines and penalties and a lifetime ban from the securities industry.

As part of the deal, Mr. Rattner admitted no wrongdoing, but did agree to a five-year ban from appearing in any capacity before any public pension fund within the state.

Mr. Cuomo’s office had filed civil lawsuits against Mr. Rattner in November, accusing him of paying kickbacks to help his company land $150 million in state pension fund investments in 2004 and 2005. He had denied the charges.

[Return to headlines]

Metals From Copper to Silver Hit Record Highs

The red base metal, used in electronics and wiring, hit $9,550 per tonne on the London Metal Exchange, having crossed the symbolic $9,000 per tonne mark earlier this month.

Metals were strong across the entire commodities sector, with palladium reaching new nine-year highs, silver at fresh 30-year peaks and gold trading near its record price.

Traders said automatic trading orders — to take on new positions or cover a short position — during the holiday season could be responsible for high volumes.

In metals, there was also steady buying from Japan, as investors took advantage of the strong yen and weak dollar. In terms of the Japanese currency, prices are falling, compared with rises in dollar denomination.

Palladium has nearly doubled in price, silver is up 83pc and gold is 30pc higher — its tenth consecutive annual gain.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Rail Fares Racket: Prices Jump by Up to 46 Per Cent in New Year

Rail passengers are being hit with ‘astronomical’ fare-rises of up to 46 per cent this weekend — despite almost a third of trains running late on some lines.

Train operators are exploiting a loophole which allows them to ramp up prices on the busiest lines as long as they also cut charges on little-used routes, so that the average ticket rise remains modest.

Consumer groups attacked the inflation-busting hikes as ‘outrageous’ and demanded ministers scrap the increases which start on Sunday.

The rises also come after rail companies were lambasted for their poor performance and inability to cope with the winter weather before Christmas.

Rail operators, which receive billions in taxpayer subsidies, are taking advantage of the change in pricing laws to maximise their takings next year.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Vatican to Set Up Anti-Money Laundering Unit

Pope will issue proclamation Thursday

(ANSA) — Vatican City, December 29 — Pope Benedict XVI will issue a proclamation Thursday setting up a new Vatican authority against money laundering, the Vatican press office announced Wednesday, three months after the Vatican’s top two bankers were placed under investigation.

The Financial Information Authority (AIF) will aim to “prevent and combat illegal activities in the financial and monetary fields,” the press office said.

Its remit will also extend to preventing and combatting the laundering of the proceeds of criminal activities and the funding of terrorism.

The Vatican has been making efforts to secure inclusion on the international ‘white list’ of countries which are considered to have acceptable financial transparency laws, unlike tax havens.

The Vatican Bank, IOR, is currently at the centre of a probe into two bank transfers that were deemed suspicious under a new Italian money-laundering law.

IOR’s chairman and another top executive were placed under investigation because of an alleged failure by IOR officials to provide full information about the transfers, which totalled some 23 million euros.

They are not accused of money laundering.

The Vatican has expressed “amazement” at the probe, which is says stems from a “misunderstanding”.

In the past there have been allegations IOR was used to launder money, most notably by ‘God’s Banker’ Roberto Calvi whose body was found hanging under Blackfriar’s Bridge in London in 1982, a suspected victim of the Mafia.

IOR was also named in kickbacks probes stemming from the 1990 collapse of public-private chemicals colossus Enimont, part of the Clean Hands investigations that swept away Italy’s old political establishment

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Gitmo is Not a Recruiting Tool for Terrorists

In his Dec. 22 news conference, President Barack Obama claimed that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility was “probably the No. 1 recruitment tool” for al Qaeda and its affiliates. This is an escalation: Earlier this year he merely called it “a tremendous recruiting tool” for Islamic terrorists.

But the president is wrong to assign such importance to Gitmo and, by implication, to suggest it would be a major setback to al Qaeda were he to close it, as he promised but failed to do by the end of his first year in office. Shuttering the facility would not take the wind out of terrorism, in part because it is not, and never has been, its “No. 1 recruitment tool.”

If it were, then al Qaeda leaders would emphasize it in their manifestos, statements and Internet postings, mentioning it early, frequently and at length. They don’t.

Tom Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reviewed 34 statements and interviews of top al Qaeda leadership since January 2009. Writing for the Weekly Standard, he reported only seven references to Guantanamo in just three public pronouncements.

In the same period, however, Mr. Joscelyn found top al Qaeda leaders mentioned Crusaders (their label for Western leaders and military) 322 times, Palestine 200 times, Gaza 131 times, Jews 129 times, Israel 98 times and Zionists 94 times. Al Qaeda leaders also talked more about Afghanistan (333 mentions), Pakistan (331), Iraq (157), Somalia (67), Yemen (18) and even Chechnya (15) than they did about Guantanamo.

New York Daily News reporter James Gordon Meek obtained similar results last January. U.S. government officials told him that al Qaeda and its affiliates “griped” about Guantanamo in only 58 out of hundreds of public statements and interviews between 2003 and 2009.

Far more numerous and more extensive in these documents are complaints about the existence of Israel, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, Western notions of democracy and freedom, Western culture, and the fact that al Qaeda’s leaders see America as the obstacle to their achieving a restoration of the Golden Age of Islam.

Take Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Sept. 15, 2010, statement entitled “Nine Years After the Start of the Crusader Campaign.” He is one of al Qaeda’s top strategists, and his statement was meant to draw attention, being released close to the anniversary of 9/11. Of its 12 pages, nearly four are devoted to Pakistan, two to the conflict in Afghanistan, nearly two to Egypt, two to the plight of the Palestinians, and two to al Qaeda’s prospects for victory. Gitmo receives one mention-in a single sentence about how the Quran was “humiliated” in “Guantanamo, Iraq and elsewhere.”

The lesson is obvious: Al Qaeda will invent any excuses to justify its war on America and the West. If one excuse is no longer salient, another pops up. Al Qaeda’s rhetoric also moves in cycles. When things were going badly for the United States, as they were in Iraq in 2006 or Afghanistan in late 2007 and early 2008, al Qaeda’s chieftains emphasized their growing chances for defeating America.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Muslim Adviser Says Sharia Law Misunderstood

President Barack Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, Dalia Mogahed, has provoked controversy by appearing on a British television show hosted by a member of an extremist group to talk about Sharia Law.

Miss Mogahed, appointed to the President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, said the Western view of Sharia was “oversimplified” and the majority of women around the world associate it with “gender justice.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Reid’s Rules Scheme to Rewrite Defeat

The Democrats are trying to change the Senate rules so that they can ram through their agenda when their majority shrinks next week from 59 to 53 seats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been scheming behind closed doors to use his slim majority to vote on January 5 for the most drastic rules changes since 1975.

“Democrats lost the election. Their power has been weakened significantly. So they are trying to do a Washington-insider tactic to try to grab power, even though the voters told them very clearly in the election that they didn’t like them, and didn’t like their policies,” said a Republican Senate aide.

In a closed-door meeting last week, Reid told the Democrats that he may outright break the rules on the first day of the 112th Congress in order to pass his audacious changes without bipartisan support.

“If Reid endorses the rules change, it would be the first time in history that a Majority Leader has opted to cut off debate on a Senate rules change by a majority vote,” said Marty Gold, a long-time Senate leadership aide and now an attorney at Covington and Burling.

Currently, the Senate needs 67 votes to end debate on a rule, then 51 votes for the rule itself. Since Reid’s rules do not have Republican support, he will need to do a historic end-run around the 67-vote bar (two-thirds of the Senate) to pass them.


Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team have a plan in place to try to stop the rules changes, according to insiders. But with only 51 votes needed to change the rules, the Senate Democrats have a real chance at succeeding.

nging the rules in this extraordinary process has the effect of election nullification,” said Gold. “It allows a smaller majority to write for itself new rules, which permit it to govern the way it wishes, even though the voters said something contrary last November.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Reporting on Fair, Balanced — And Accurate

Frank Gaffney on the O’Reilly Factor talks about the Ground Zero imam, the Muslim Brotherhood and shariah

On Tuesday night, I had an opportunity to address the O’Reilly Factor’s audience on a matter of immense importance: the threat posed to America by not only the violent form of jihad but by its stealthy counterpart — what its prime practitioner, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB or Ikhwan), calls “civilization jihad.”

As it happened, Eric Bolling was substituting for Bill during our conversation about the blindspot too many in academia, journalism and the U.S. government have when it comes to the sort of non-violent — or, more accurately, pre-violent — jihad being waged against the United States by the likes of Ground Zero Mosque Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf.

Watch the clip below: [see link for video]

The news peg for this segment was Rauf’s announcement that he is going to begin next month a nationwide tour of college campuses and other venues. The ostensible goal is to promote “understanding” and “tolerance” through speeches, interviews and interfaith dialogue. In fact, the real purpose is dawa — the systematic, highly disciplined and aggressive effort to proselytize and recruit adherents to shariah. Dawa is the engine behind what the Ikhwan has dubbed the “process of settlement,” a term used to describe the phased insinuation and ultimate triumph of shariah in lands where it has yet to be established. Dawa is the precursor to jihad…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Revealed: Hawaii Governor’s Own Hidden Past

Democrat who wants to end ‘birther’ issue tied to socialist group

Democratic Gov. Neil Abercrombie has a radical history that ties him to a U.S.-based socialist organization with deep connections to President Obama and to a “Marxist-socialist” bloc in Congress. WASHINGTON — JULY 28: U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) (2nd R) speaks as (L-R) Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), Rep. Martin Meehan (D-MA), Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) look on during a news conference on Capitol Hill July 28, 2005 in Washington, DC. The congressmen talked about H.J.Res.55., legislation titled ‘Homeward Bound’ that requires President George W. Bush to develop and implement a plan for the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from Iraq. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Abercrombie in recent days placed himself at the center of an eligibility dispute surrounding Obama’s birth documentation, telling reporters he is deeply troubled by questions that cast doubt on the president’s eligibility for office.


Abercrombie is tied to the Marxist-oriented Democratic Socialists of America.

WND previously reported that issues of the organization’s official magazine, the Democratic Left, list Abercrombie as a member of the socialist party.

In response, Abercrombie’s campaign website denied the politician was ever a member of a socialist party.


According to the organization magazine’s Winter 2007 edition, Abercrombie spoke at the socialist group’s political-action-committee event in Washington, D.C., at the home of philanthropist Stewart Mott.

A former aide to Abercrombie, George (Skip) Roberts, has long served as a Democratic Socialists of America representative to the Socialist International, the socialist group for which White House energy-environment czar Carol Browner was recently discovered to be a commissioner until 2008.

Abercrombie’s wife, academic Nancie Caraway, was listed in 1985 as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Feminist Commission.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘We No Longer Have Republic Subservient to Constitution’

Officer: Lakin case is end of ‘rule of law’

A retired military officer who pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court a legal challenge to Barack Obama’s occupancy of the Oval Office says the conviction and sentencing of an active duty officer who raised similar questions signals the end of the “rule of law” in the United States.

Cmdr. Charles Kerchner’s legal case, handled by attorney Mario Apuzzo, alleged that Congress failed its constitutional duty to examine the legitimacy of a successful candidate during the Electoral College vetting process on Capitol Hill. The Supreme Court ultimately decided not to hear arguments, leaving standing a lower court’s dismissal.

Now Kerchner has attended, and is analyzing, the military’s court-martial of now-former Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who refused to deploy to Afghanistan because of concerns that Obama consistently refused to document his eligibility to serve as commander in chief.

His comments came in an interview with Sharon Rondeau of The Post & Email.

The judge in Lakin’s case, Col. Denise Lind, ordered that Lakin could not raise the issue of Obama’s eligibility, could not seek through the discovery process evidence that would support him, could not bring in evidence to the trial and could not bring in the witnesses he sought.

The conviction, then, was assured before the panel of officers ever deliberated the question.

That means, warned Kerchner, “we no longer have a rule of law and a constitutional republic subservient to the fundamental law of the land, the U.S. Constitution.”

He explained how Lakin, before publicly challenging Obama’s eligibility to serve as president under the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” requirement — an issue that remains undocumented — had gone through every available channel seeking resolution.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Finland: Building of Mega Shiia Mosque Raises Anger of Locals in Mellunmäki Helsinki

This is yet another example of the city leaders not giving a care about what the locals think or feel, they just head along with their plans for more “multiculturalism” without ever considering what “Matti or Maija” think. Be sure to take notice the section where the secretary for the Shiia community insists that it’s “not just for Muslims”, it’s the same nonsense being used by the Ground Zero mosque Imam, Faysal Abdul-Rauf, who’s planning on building a mega mosque upon the cemetery of 9/11. KGS

NOTE: Yep, the people are really angry, and once the mosque is up, it will only be a matter of time before they start demanding the open call to prayer by loud speaker, then you’re really going to see a lot of angry Finns.

Mosques are our barracks, domes our helmets, minarets our bayonets, believers our soldiers.”…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Islamist Websites in Europe — a General Review

Part 1: Comes Back Online to Defend Sheikh Bassam Ayachi, Detained in Italy on Suspicion of Terrorism

The French-language Islamist website, which had posted inciting and antisemitic content and was shut down for several years, has come back online in order to recruit support for Sheikh Bassam Ayachi, a French citizen of Syrian origin who is detained in Italy on suspicion of ties with Al-Qaeda and involvement in terrorism. The site was closed down in 2006 after its two administrators — Abdel Rahman Ayachi (26) and French convert to Islam Raphaël Gendron, aka Abdel Raouf (30) — were convicted of racism and Holocaust denial and were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and fined 2,000 Euros. The two were arrested after the site posted an article titled “The End of the People of Israel,” which described the Jews as “cunning and base… apes and pigs.”[1] At the time, the site was closely affiliated with the Belgian Islamic Center, which carried out Islamist activities in Belgium.

In November 2008, the Italian police arrested Raphaël Gendron and Bassam Ayachi (63), Abdel Rahman Ayachi’s father, on suspicion of planning terror attacks in Britain and in France, specifically in Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. The two were arrested along with five illegal immigrants — three Palestinians and two Syrians — who were riding with them in their vehicle. According to the Italian daily La Repubblica, they had obtained weapons and explosives, and had also set up a network for recruiting suicide bombers for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. After their arrest, came back online (, and posted a petition for their release. The site is regularly updated by Abdel Rahman Ayachi, who posts under the username “Abounour,” and its main aim is to enlist support for the two and raise funds for their defense. It features scans of handwritten letters they sent from prison, as well as a translated transcript of a conversation they held in prison, which was recorded and is being used against them, and which the site describes as innocuous. There is also contact information and bank account information for those who wish to make donations.

This review, the first in a series on Islamist websites in Europe, provides a description of the site.


The main page of the site, which officially belongs to the “Committee for the Defense of Sheikh Bassam,” states: “Sheikh Bassam is one of Europe’s most renowned Muslim imams… He taught a simple and original [brand of] Islam, from an open and independent perspective. He was free and committed in preaching his beliefs — which are similar to those of the vast majority of Muslims. However, he did not hesitate to address politics and current affairs from a critical [perspective]. His speeches were published in the media and on the Internet, and [were sold] in bookshops, [so] the Sheikh became a troubling and alarming [force in the eyes of the authorities]… As a result of a Zionist plot, [he] was sentenced to a lengthy term in prison…”

The site forum — which allegedly has some 30 members — features 56 posts by “Abounour” and only a few posts by a handful of others.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Spain Goes on Mosque-Building Spree: Churches Forced to Close

The city of Barcelona, widely known as a European Mecca of anti-clerical postmodernism, has agreed to build an official mega-mosque with a capacity for thousands of Muslim worshipers. The new structure would rival the massive Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, currently the biggest mosque in Spain. An official in the office of the Mayor of Barcelona says the objective is to increase the visibility of Muslims in Spain, as well as to promote the “common values between Islam and Europe.”

The Barcelona mosque project is just one of dozens of new mosques that are in various stages of construction across Spain. Overall, there are now thirteen mega-mosques in Spain, and more than 1000 smaller mosques and prayer centers scattered across the country, the majority of which are located in Catalonia in northeastern Spain.

The Muslim building spree reflects the rising influence of Islam in Spain, where the Muslim population has jumped to an estimated 1.5 million in 2010, up from just 100,000 in 1990, thanks to massive immigration. The construction of new mosques comes at a time when municipalities linked to the Socialist Party have closed dozens of Christian churches across Spain by way of new zoning laws that several courts have now ruled discriminatory and unconstitutional. It also comes at a time of growing anti-Semitism in Spain.

The Barcelona mosque project was announced during a weeklong seminar titled “Muslims and European Values,” jointly sponsored by the European Council of Moroccan Ulemas [Muslim religious scholars], based in Brussels, and the Union of Islamic Cultural Centers in Catalonia, based in Barcelona. A representative of the Barcelona mayor’s office who attended the conference told the Madrid-based El País newspaper that the municipality would get involved in the mosque project because “although religion pertains to the private realm, this does not mean it does not have a public role.”

The idea to build a mega-mosque funded by Spanish taxpayers comes after Noureddine Ziani, a Barcelona-based Moroccan imam, said the construction of big mosques would be the best way to fight Islamic fundamentalism in Spain. “It is easier to disseminate fundamentalist ideas in small mosques set up in garages where only the members of the congregation attend, than in large mosques that are open to everyone, with prayer rooms, cafes and meeting areas,” Ziani told the Spanish news agency EFE. He also said European governments should pay for the training of imams, which would be “a useful formula to avoid radical positions.”


Not surprisingly, the Saudi government officially supports the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative sponsored by Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which borrows heavily from the Dialogue of Civilizations concept promoted by Islamic radicals in Iran in the 1990s — an the initiative calls for the West to negotiate a truce with Islamic terrorists on terms set by the terrorists.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Swede Suspects Once Arrested in Pakistan

Two of the Swedish citizens arrested following a foiled terror plot against a Danish newspaper have previously been arrested in Pakistan.

Munir Awad, a 29-year-old Swede of Lebanese decent arrested near Copenhagen on Wednesday, was arrested in 2007 by Ethiopian forces in Somalia, together with several other Swedes, including his fiancée, then 17-year-old Safia Benaouda.

Awad was detained in Ethiopia for several months on suspicions of having fought on the side of Islamic forces in Somalia.

He was eventually released in May 2007.

Awad was arrested once again in August 2009, this time in Pakistan. Also detained were Benaouda, the couple’s toddler son, and Mehdi Ghezali, a former inmate of the US-operated Guantánamo Bay prison, as well as several other foreigners.

The Swedes were part of a group of foreigners thought by Pakistani police to be travelling in the company of a terror suspect who was bringing the group to the lawless region of northern Waziristan to meet Zahir Noor, a suspected Taliban leader.

The group was arrested on the border of the North-western province, a region heavily targeted in the ongoing civil war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Awad and the other Swedes were eventually released in October 2009. Following their return to Sweden, lawyers explained that the Swedes were in Pakistan as a part of a pilgrimage to celebrate Ramadan in a “larger Pakistani city”.

In addition, 37-year-old Sahbi Zalouti, who was arrested in the north Stockholm suburb of Järfälla on Wednesday in connection with the Danish terror plot, has been under surveillance by Swedish security service Säpo for some time, according to Swedish media reports.

He was arrested in Pakistan last year and spent 10 days in a Pakistani prison last year for having entered the country illegally. Zalouti claimed at the time he had traveled to Pakistan to spread information about Islam, according to tabloid Aftonbladet.

Speaking with the Expressen tabloid, the imam at a local mosque described Zalouti, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian decent, as “nice, pleasant and interested in knowing how to practice Islam”.

However, the imam added that Zalouti had become increasingly devout about his Muslim faith over the last year and stopped attending services at the mosque about five months ago.

He was also recently divorced from his wife, and while the two remained friends, a friend tells Expressen he told her to return to Tunisia a few days ago.

According to Säpo, Zalouti was involved in the planning of the foiled Copenhagen attack, but decided to remain in Stockholm for reasons as yet unknown.

The Local/dl (

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

Switzerland Has Unusually Cold December

There was an unusual amount of snow in the Swiss plateau in December, while the mountains were colder than they have been for decades.

Bern had more snow in a single month than in the whole of last winter, according to the national weather service MeteoSwiss on Wednesday. Geneva had never had such deep snow — 31 centimetres — in December.

The snow set in on December 1, and after a brief thaw, it returned again on December 12. The warm southern Föhn wind melted it again on December 23, when temperatures rose sharply — 13.3 degrees in the eastern city of St Gallen, for example — almost dashing hopes for a white Christmas.

But heavy snowfall practically everywhere on Christmas Eve then covered almost the whole country in white again.

The mountains were unusually cold. Temperatures four degrees lower than usual were recorded on top of the Säntis in eastern Switzerland and the Jungfraujoch in the Bernese Oberland. Such low temperatures had not been recorded on the Säntis since 1969 or on the Jungfraujoch since 1981.

The sun made only rare appearances in December: there was between only 30 and 70 per cent of normal sunshine.

Although most parts of Switzerland were colder than usual, in the valleys where the Föhn blows it was slightly warmer.

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

Terror in Greece: Bomb Explodes Outside Athens Court

A bomb hidden on a parked motorcycle exploded outside two court buildings in central Athens on Thursday, damaging cars and shattering windows but leaving no one hurt, officials said.

The powerful rush-hour blast occurred at 8:20 a.m. (0620 GMT) following a warning telephone call to a newspaper and private TV station, authorities said.

Police had evacuated the targeted buildings, which are used for administrative purposes. State health officials confirmed that no one was injured.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Greek militant groups, which have stepped up attacks in the past two years. A group of suspects facing trial next month.

The blast occurred in a densely populated area in the city’s Ambelokipi district, shattering windows and nearby shop storefronts, and damaging cars. It sent up a cloud of smoke that was visible across the city.

‘It goes without saying that we condemn this attack. Violence does not solve anyone’s problems,’ Spyros Vouyias, a deputy public works minister, told private Skai television. Vouyias served previously at the public order minister, in charge of police and the anti-terrorism service.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Trust in Dutch Cabinet on the Rise

Trust in the Dutch government is growing, with approval ratings rising from 46 percent in the third quarter to 52 percent in the fourth, according to figures released by the Institute for Social Research.

Among liberal VVD voters ratings soared from 51 to 71 percent and among anti-Islam PVV voters from 20 to 45 percent. Socialist Party voters also gave the government better ratings. Ratings dropped among Labour, Democrat 66 and Green Left voters. Christian Democrat ratings remained unchanged at 73 percent. The cabinet is made up of the VVD and the CDA with PVV support in parliament.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Scared’ By English Defence League Protest

An English Defence League (EDL) member who displayed a St George flag outside a partially built mosque and shouted “EDL” and “England” was staging a one-man protest against the “monstrosity”, a court heard.

Ronald Peterson, of Elvaston Way, Tilehurst, told Reading magistrates he wanted to speak out against what he believed to be the flouting of planning regulations and public funding of the building in Oxford Road, West Reading.

Two Muslim men who heard the shouting on May 30 said they thought a march was taking place and were afraid the situation would escalate, the court heard.

Police were out in force on Thursday last week when about 20 members of the EDL, who say they are against the ‘Islamification’ of England, demonstrated outside the court in support of Peterson.

The 37-year-old denies two public order offences, one of them being racially or religiously aggravated, and faced trial.

Giving evidence, Urfan Azad told the court he was in the Tea House, in Oxford Road, with friend Amar Nazir on the evening of Sunday, May 30, when they heard “EDL, EDL” being chanted. He said: “We thought it was a demonstration. We went around the corner and saw three guys raising their hands up and they had a St George’s flag on the fence around the mosque which is being built. I felt a bit scared and called the police.”

Mr Azad said prayers were due to take place in the existing mosque about 100 yards away in Valentia Road and he was afraid the situation might get out of control.

Mr Nazir added: “Me and my friend discussed it and we thought it could turn into something ugly. Any other Muslim could drive past and do something stupid and start a fight so we decided to call the police.”

The court heard the police arrived within about five minutes of the call to find two men standing by the St George’s flag.

Sergeant Lee Barnham said: “I asked Mr Peterson what his intention was and he told me he was staging a static protest against this monstrosity and motioned towards the mosque.”

He said he spoke to Mr Azad and said to the court: “He told me he was offended by the use of what he considered to be a religious cross against the site of worship. It was clear to me he was upset about what happened and felt intimidated and I was convinced an offence against the Public Order Act had been committed.”

Peterson, bearing facial cuts and bruises from an alleged assault, said he had planned the one-man protest because he believed the council had given the people behind the mosque preferential treatment and public money to finish the project.

He said he had the England flag with him because he had been watching England play Japan in a football match on the TV at home.

Peterson said: “I’m not a religious person. I don’t follow any religion. I see the St George Cross as being the flag of my country and there is nothing more to it than that.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: How the Iron Lady Saved Britain: Mrs Thatcher Drove Through Economic Revolution Single-Handed

Margaret Thatcher stood almost alone in driving through the tough policies now credited with saving the economy, secret papers reveal.

The Tory Premier had to take on her predecessor Harold Macmillan, Bank of England governor Gordon Richardson and even her own Chancellor Geoffrey Howe to push through the policies which pulled Britain back from the brink of economic chaos.

Documents released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule show the pressure Mrs Thatcher faced from the Establishment behind the scenes — and the extent to which she was isolated.


In 1981, 365 economists wrote to The Times urging Mrs Thatcher to change course and limit the damage caused by the recession.

But she was unmoved, and her tough stance succeeded in reducing inflation from 27 per cent to four per cent in four years, putting Britain on the road to recovery.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Halal Method is Animal Cruelty

CRUELTY: In relation to the debate about halal meat being served in schools, I would like to add support to previous letters to the editor, written against the use of halal meat.

Halal killing is animal cruelty in this so-called animal-loving country, and people are afraid to speak out in case they are accused of being anti-Muslim.

But it is nothing to do with being racist, it’s about being against unnecessary cruelty to animals.

This halal way of killing animals is disgraceful and needs to be banned. No animal should suffer such dreadful pain and cruelty.

People need to speak out on behalf of our animals.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Interview With Melanie Phillips on “World Turned Upside Down”;

Has Western civilization now reached a point where it has stopped trying to survive? That is one of many questions raised by British journalist and author Melanie Phillips in her recent book, The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle Over God, Truth, and Power. In an exclusive interview with Accuracy in Media, she was very critical of the role the media have played in creating this upside down world, as she sees it. She said that “The British media are worse than your American media. At least in America you have Fox News, you have talk radio, which can challenge the otherwise unchallenged worldview of the Left represented in organizations like CNN, ABC, and so on-and our BBC. But the fact is, most journalists are on the Left, and most journalists, I think, are acting as fifth columnists in the war against the West, a war waged both from within and from without.”;

Melanie Phillips worked for a decade for the left-wing British newspaper, The Guardian, as a correspondent, editor and columnist, starting in 1977. From there she went to The Observer (which had been bought by The Guardian), The Sunday Times and later The Daily Mail, and has written several books along the way, including the widely acclaimed Londonistan. She also currently writes for The Spectator.

Among the issues most important to Ms. Phillips, are the breakdown of the family, the obsession with multiculturalism, the phenomenon of radical Islam coming into Britain and not being dealt with properly, and Israel, of which she is a passionate supporter.

She explained that she decided to write The World Turned Upside Down when she realized that the above-mentioned issues, and others such as how the war in Iraq was reported, had something in common: “They were all issues on which it was not possible, any longer, to have a proper discussion or debate; they were all issues on which the progressive side of politics took the view that it wasn’t simply that they believed that people who dissented from their point of view were wrong, they believed that they shouldn’t be allowed to speak at all.”;

What these issues have in common, she concludes, is that “They were all linked by the fact that they were all ideologies-that is to say, they were all governed by ideologies such as a whole range of -isms: Feminism, anti-Americanism, environmentalism, anti-Zionism, moral and cultural relativism, and so on. And all these ideologies, because they’re ideologies, basically, they start with the belief that the idea is not only correct, but can’t be challenged, whatever that idea is, and then they force evidence to fit the idea.”;

Below, in italics, are excerpts from the interview. You can listen to the entire two-part interview or read the transcript here.

The higher up the social and educational scale you go, particularly people who have been educated in universities in the last decade or two, you find that they are people who are much more likely to have a highly ideological view of the world, to be anti-America, anti-West, anti-capitalism, and to have-most importantly-no idea what truth and objectivity actually are. They disdain the whole notion of truth and objectivity, and they’re the people who are the most vicious and venomous towards Israel, a subject I care about very deeply. I am, myself, a Jew, but I also believe that Israel should be supported not simply in its own right, but because I believe Israel is a kind of paradigm issue of our time, that as far as Britain and Europe are concerned, it’s where the most irrational and bigoted views coalesce under the umbrella of “being rational” and “progressive.”; It’s a kind of symbol, if you like, of where we’ve lost the plot over a whole range of issues.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Joanna Yeates’ 65-Year-Old Landlord Arrested on Suspicion of Young Architect’s Murder

The landlord of murdered architect Jo Yeates was today arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Bachelor Chris Jefferies, 65, was taken into custody just after 7am this morning — hours after he claimed he had watched as three people left Jo’s flat on the night she vanished.

A statement from Avon and Somerset police said: ‘Just after 07.00hrs this morning, police attended an address in Canynge Road and arrested a 65-year-old man on suspicion of murder.

‘He has been taken into custody at a police station within the Avon and Somerset force area and detained for questioning.


The body of the 25-year-old, who had been strangled, was found by dog walkers on Christmas morning, three miles from her £200,000 flat in the upmarket area of Clifton, Bristol.

She was last seen by friends on December 17 and was reported missing two days later by her live-in boyfriend Greg Reardon when he returned from a weekend with relatives.


Mr Yeates told the Southern Daily Echo: ‘At the end of the day, obviously I’m not happy because my daughter is still dead. But we are pleased the police have made an arrest as they have been working very hard to make progress in this case.

‘During the investigation police have not told us everything they have discovered but we understand there are certain things they cannot reveal.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Lauren Booth is Bankrupt and Owes Her Sister Cherie Blair £15,000

While Tony Blair can look forward to cracking open the Bollinger on New Year’s Eve at his £5.75?million mansion in Bucks, ­having added to his wealth by at least £20?million since he left No 10, things are very different for his wife’s pretty, blonde half-sister, Lauren Booth.

Indeed, so poverty-stricken is Lauren, 43, that she has just been forced to declared herself bankrupt.

Lauren, a writer, broadcaster and human rights activist who recently converted to Islam in an extra­ordinary epiphany after she visited a shrine in Iran, is named in the London Gazette as having petitioned for bankruptcy in the run-up to Christmas.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Solved: Puzzle of Desai in Terror Nine

Gurukanth Desai, one of nine men charged with plotting to carry out Mumbai-style terrorist attacks in London and other cities in Britain, is a Muslim who changed his name by deed poll to take on a Hindu name, The Telegraph can reveal having consulted unimpeachable sources.

Why 28-year-old “Desai”, a married father of three young children, of Albert Street, Cardiff, felt he had to change his name and that, too, to a Hindu one must remain a matter of speculation until his Old Bailey trial next year.

However, as far as one can tell, “Desai”, despite his new name, remained a Muslim.

He faces serious terrorism charges, as does his brother, Abdul Malik Miah, 24, of Ninian Park Road, Cardiff, who was charged under his real birth name.

That clean-shaven “Desai” and bearded Miah, whose wife is five months pregnant, are brothers was mentioned — perhaps deliberately so — when the nine men, were remanded in custody at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on December 27. All nine were picked up in dawn raids by anti-terrorist police in London, Cardiff, Stoke-on-Trent and Birmingham on December 20.

When “Desai” was charged, he had to be indicted under his new legal name, not the one given to him at birth.

The Telegraph has independently established that “Desai” and Abdul Malik Miah are indeed brothers. The birth name of “Desai” has yet to be officially revealed by the authorities (though one unconfirmed report claimed it was Abdul Mannan Miah). It has also been suggested, though again not confirmed, that the brothers are of Bangladeshi origin.

The process of changing names by deed poll is relatively simple and inexpensive in Britain, though there will now be concern both on the part of the one-million-strong Hindu population and the security services if would-be terrorists are suspected of acquiring names associated with other faiths to bypass scrutiny.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: U.S. Embassy in London Was Terror Target

The U.S. State Department confirms that the 12 terrorism suspects arrested in the United Kingdom last week had targeted the American Embassy in London.

British authorities arrested 12 men Dec. 20 for suspicion of terrorism. Few details of a possible plot emerged until a court hearing in London today for the nine men still in custody. A British police statement released earlier in the day did not provide a list of targets but said the men had conspired to cause “explosions of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.”

The BBC reported that prosecutors told the court that the nine men had plotted bomb attacks on the American Embassy and the London Stock Exchange in the days before Christmas. The men were also said to have targeted unnamed political and religious figures.

But State Department spokesman Mark Toner confirmed to reporters today that U.S. Embassy officials in London “are aware of this, are working quite closely with British authorities and appreciate the high level of cooperation that we have with them, and are obviously taking suitable security precautions.”

When he was asked if the information had come first-hand from British authorities, he said, “I think you asked me if we were aware that we were on the targeting list? and I confirmed that.”

The State Department is also warning U.S. embassies around the world to review mail screening procedures after parcel bombs were presumably sent by an anarchist group to various embassies in Rome last week. Toner said, “We have notified all U.S. embassies worldwide to review current mail screening procedures and to continue vigilance when opening mail.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK:2011 Could See Poll Tax Riots Re-Run Warns TUC

Britain is on the verge of protests on par with the ferocious poll tax riot of 1990, union leaders claimed yesterday.

In his New Year message, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said 2011 will be ‘a horrible year’, with millions of families reeling from the Government’s austerity crackdown.

He added: ‘This is going to be a year when many people suffer, but it just could be the year when the campaign for change really gets going.

‘This could well be the year that the country starts to say No to government in a way that they have not since middle Britain made a previous Conservative government abolish the poll tax.’

His reference to the poll tax protests is significant, as they culminated in a riot in London in March 1990, with looting, smashed shopfronts and mounted police battling to control demonstrators.

The poll tax — which was scrapped within months and was crucial to the fall from power of Margaret Thatcher — was eventually replaced by council tax in 1993.

Mr Barber’s remarks raise the prospect of a nationwide series of strikes organised by unions who believe the cuts are unnecessary and wrong.

The unions are promising co-ordinated strike action and other joint protests. The first protest march is scheduled for March 26.

The warning was echoed by Ed Miliband, who used his New Year message to warn that 2011 would be a ‘year of consequences for Britain’.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

What Other Catholics Stand Up to the Vatican’s Islamo-Insanity Like the Italians. Hey, Benedict: Why Not Build a Mosque in Vatican City

As I wrote in a recent post, I will try to get to a long-accumulating blog early next year, explaining my statement that converting to Catholicism (as Islam-loving Tony Blair did, and as Islam-loving Dubya was considering doing), puts a person a step closer to Islam.

But in the meantime, we’ve gotten some additional news items related to the unofficial Catholic-Islamic axis which most Catholic faithful would be horrified to perceive. But I feel compelled to help them do so, so that they might help their hierarchy with its moral confusion.

To begin with, we had the following news item in September: “[Mosque] proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.” Not exactly “unlikely,” actually. Read on:

Catholic Church backs Muslim struggle to build Milan’s first mosque (Sept. 21)

…[A]nother of the world’s great cultural cities is arguing over a proposal for its first mosque. And proponents are getting help from an unlikely corner: the Vatican.

Milan, the northern Italian city famed for finance and fashion, is home to about 100,000 Muslims, mostly migrant workers from North African countries. But within city limits, there isn’t a single mosque.


Last winter there were a series of arrests in Northern Italy among Muslim immigrants accused of having ties to terrorist organizations. In November, for instance, two Pakistani nationals were arrested on the charge of having raised funds for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, where 173 people lost their lives. In a similar move, a judge in Milan issued 17 arrest warrants for people accused of raising 1 million euros ($1.49 million) to fund terrorist activities in Algeria.

To those pointing out that freedom to practice one’s religion is a constitutional right, Salvini replies that “Islam is not just a religion.” In his view, it “is a tool to spread a way of life and political views that are not compatible with Western democracy.” The Milan native says “there is no need to build a mosque here.” He agrees with the idea of holding a local referendum, confident most Milanese would reject the mosque.[…]

The unequivocal and unmoved tone of these Italian politicians is, to put it mildly, refreshing and impressive.

The Vatican has an Islamic problem. Recall the 1993 political cartoon on the front cover of an Italian newspaper during the Bosnian war, depicting Pope John Paul II standing atop a minaret crying to the heavens, “Isus (Warren) Christopher, save us!” As Bill Dorich wrote in his book The Suppressed Serbian Voice and the Free Press in America:


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Albanians Deposited Serb Organ Profits in Islamic Charities, Prosecutor

Serbian war crimes prosecutor says that the Kosovo Albanian criminal boss, Hashim Thaci, used bank accounts designated as Islamic charity to deposit profits he earned by selling organs he extracted from captured Serbs.

The prosecutor’s office says that Thaci deposited his organized crime money in Swiss, German and Albanian bank accounts.

Names of some of those accounts are Help For Kosovo, Medicare, Caravan, Al- Haramajin, Taibah International. etc.

Serbian prosecution says that the FBI has also uncovered these accounts after the 9/11 attacks but it is not specified why the FBI withheld the information about Thaci.

Persecution says that it has sufficient evidence to initiate a “deep” investigation of the Albanian organ trade.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Eritreans Taken Hostage, No Progress in Talks

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 22 — Talks are still underway but have not yet been successful between religious and tribal leaders in the northern Sinai and the migrant traffickers who have been holding at least 300 Eritreans — and over a hundred other Africans — hostage for weeks and who are demanding that ransom money be paid. This was reported to ANSA by local sources, who said that the hostage takers continue to demand sums of money from the hostages’ families, for some of whom several thousands of dollars in individual ransom have already been paid.

The talks, which the government in Cairo urged clan chiefs to engage in — who it seems are not for the moment engaging directly in the matter — are allegedly at a standstill after some of the hostages were freed over the past few weeks and then arrested by Egyptian police for the crime of illegal immigration.

According to not-yet-confirmed figures cited by an Egyptian source, there are 1,500 Africans being held by the marauders, to whom they had already been paid to cross the Sinai peninsula and reach Israel, a country in which they had planned to settle to find work. The sources also report that among the migrants being held by the marauders are Nigerians, Sudanese and Ethiopians.

No official source has yet confirmed the news concerning the hiding place in the Sinai in which the hostages are being held — reportedly in very bad conditions — although the humanitarian association Everyone claims that for days it has been communicating “all necessary information to reach the refugees, imprisoned in the outskirts of the Egyptian city Rafah near a government building, surrounded by an orchard, next to a large mosque and a church which has been converted into a school.

“Everyone representatives have accused the Egyptian government of “lying” on the issue, and “to prevent the killing of other innocent people” it “is turning to Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Trial of Synagogue Attacker Postponed Till Jan 15

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 22 — Cairo Criminal Court decided on Tuesday to adjourn to January 15 the trial of Gamal Hussein Ahmed, 49, who is facing charges of attacking a synagogue in downtown Cairo.

Ahmed has been admitted to a mental institution and was being examined by a number of doctors, who said that he is mentally strong.

Ahmed went up to the fourth floor of the three-star Panorama Hotel opposite the synagogue on Cairo”s Adly Street carrying a medium-sized bag and asked to book a room in February this year.

The case contained four containers of gasoline each attached to a glass bottle of sulfuric acid meant to shatter on impact and ignite the makeshift bomb.

As he was at the reception hall, he tricked the hotel employees throwing the bag toward the pavement near the building setting the explosive charge inside ablaze.

He confessed to having committed the attack and said it was an expression of his deep anger at the situation in the occupied Palestinian lands. No one was hurt and no property was damaged in the attack.(

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kidnapped Eritreans: Israeli NGO Appeals to Egyptian Govt

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, DECEMBER 29 — ‘We Refugees’, an Israeli human rights NGO called for urgent action by the Egyptian government to free the 300 Eritrean refugees being held captive in inhuman conditions by traffickers in the Sinai Peninsula, according to reports. The NGO joined a similar “indignant” plea launched yesterday by 13 Egyptian NGOs, which denounced “a conspiracy of silence” on the issue. The message from the Israeli NGO, also signed by former MP Zaava Galon, states that the lack of action by the authorities until now “creates a concerning impression that the crimes (of which the refugees are victims, editor’s note) are seen by the Egyptian and Israeli government as in line with their national interests. The current situation is the direct pursuance of policies that have seen migrants killed (by fire from border guards) on the Israeli-Egyptian border.” ‘We Refugees’ is an NGO formed by lawyers who have undertaken a commitment to protect the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and stateless people. According to several sources, about 300 Eritrean refugees (and perhaps also Sudanese) are being held hostage by a group of predators who have reportedly sharply increased the initial sum of money agreed upon in order to allow them to illegally enter into Israel. Based on what has been leaked to the press, it is believed that these people have suffered serious maltreatment, most probably including torture and rape.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libyan Leader Pardons 2 South Koreans on Trial

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has pardoned two South Koreans charged with violating the country’s religious law, the Foreign Ministry said, closing a case that overlapped with a separate diplomatic row.

The two South Koreans, identified only by their surnames, Koo and Jeon, were arrested earlier this year on charges of engaging in Christian missions work in the Muslim country.

Their arrests were seen as related to a dispute over allegations that a South Korean intelligence agent attempted to collect information on the Libyan leader and the country’s weapons systems.

Koo and Jeon were released in early October after the diplomatic row was resolved following a meeting between Gaddafi and South Korean lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk, who is also a brother of President Lee Myung-bak. Still, Koo and Jeon have been barred from leaving Libya.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Security Ratcheted Up Ahead of New Year

Rabat, 29 Dec. (AKI) — Morocco’s security services are boosting security in tourist locations, churches and at the offices of international organisations in the North African country ahead of the New Year, according to the Interior Ministry.

The heightened alert follows the arrests of six jihadist terror suspects last week when police uncovered an alleged Al-Qaeda cell in Morocco. The six suspects were all weapons and explosives experts and made extensive use of the internet to communicate.

Moroccan security chiefs have also decided to set up road blocks at the main approaches to cities.

Security forces have uncovered dozens of suspected terrorist cells in Morocco since May 2003, when a deadly attack by an Al-Qaeda linked Salafite group killed 45 people in the city of Casablanca.

Targets included a Spanish-owned restaurant in the city, a Jewish cemetery, community centre and Jewish-owned Italian restaurant, as well as the Belgian consulate.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Fifty Rabbis’ Wives Publish Letter Telling Girls Not to Date Arab Men

(AKI) — The wives of around 30 well-known rabbis in Israel published an open letter urging Israeli girls to avoid dating Arab men because their courtship is only a ruse that will result in maltreatment.

The letter comes three weeks after an uproar sparked by another open missive by 50 state-appointed rabbis telling Jews not to rent or sell property to non-Jews.

The latest letter that was was published by some websites and news outlets warned Israeli girls that Arab men’s gentlemanly behaviour won’t last.

“As soon as you are in their hands, in their villages under their control, everything becomes different. You can ask dozens of girls who have been there. They will tell you it is all an act.

“Your life will never be the same. The attention will be replaced with curses, beatings, and humiliations. Even if you want to leave the village it will be much harder. They won’t let you, they will chase you, they won’t let you come back.”

The letter was spearheaded by the head of Lehava, an extreme right-wing group that says it aims to prevent the “assimilation of the Jewish people” and works at “saving Jewish girls from Arab villages.”

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

Former Israel President Moshe Katsav Facing Four Years Behind Bars After Being Found Guilty of Rape

The former president of Israel has been found guilty of two charges of rape this morning.

Moshe Katsav, who was in charge of Israel for seven years from 2000 to 2007, was forced to step down due to the allegations.

And now the 65-year-old, the eighth president of Israel, has been convicted of rape by a court in Tel Aviv, the country’s second-largest city, and faces at least four years in prison.

Katsav had faced two allegations of rape by an employee when he was tourism minister in the 1990s. He was also accused of later sexual offences.

Judge George Karra, who presided over a panel with two other judges, delivered the verdict and said: ‘We believe the plaintiff [Woman A] because her testimony is supported by elements of evidence, and she told the truth.’

Katsav’s evidence, the judges decided, was ‘riddled with lies’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Al-Qaeda in-Fighting

The bravado of the Al-Qaeda leadership is hiding divisions within the terrorist group over the wisdom of their strategies. Despite the tough talk, key leaders are seriously questioning whether Al-Qaeda is on the winning side. This does not mean they are giving up on the cause but it shows that the War on Terror is taking a toll on their confidence. The former spokesman of Al-Qaeda, Suleiman Abu Ghaith has been permitted to leave Iran and has written a book called “Twenty Guidelines on the Path of Jihad.” Al-Qaeda and its leaders are not mentioned by name but the criticisms are widely seen as directed towards them. He says that certain jihadists have made it seem like they are part of a “culture of killing and destruction” instead of “securing a better life for all who live with Islam and in the Islamic state.” He writes that there’s been too much of an emphasis on violence instead of on building the institutions of Islamic states.

The introduction to Abu Ghaith’s book is written by Abu Hafs the Mauritarian, another high-level Al-Qaeda leader who was the head of its Sharia Committee. He opposed the 9/11 attacks and has had a public rift with Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda. This shows that significant elements of the group are calling for a revision in strategy and are willing to publicly voice their challenges to the leadership.

This dissension first became public in 2005 when a letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, criticized his tactics. He questioned the wisdom of Zarqawi’s attacks on Shiite civilians, beheadings and bombings of mosques. Zawahiri said this was causing a backlash and “in the absence of this popular support, the Islamic mujahed movement would be crushed in the shadows.” He also warned Zarqawi that “this matter won’t be acceptable to the Muslim populace however much you have tried to explain it.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

An Eye for an Eye: Iranian Court Orders Man to Lose an Eye and an Ear After Acid Attack on Student, 22, Outside College

A court in Iran has ordered a man to lose an eye and an ear as punishment for blinding another man and burning his ear in an acid attack.

The accused, identified only as Hamid, was also ordered to pay blood money after he was found guilty of the attack five years ago.

Hamid claimed he had mistaken his victim — identified only as Davoud — for a former classmate who had bullied him at college, reports Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.

‘In college, some of the classmates bullied me so much that we had to move from the city I was living in to another one. This was carved in my mind and I couldn’t get over it,’ he said, according to Fars.

‘I bought acid and went back to my former college and waited for some of the classmates to come out. When he [Davoud] came out, I followed him and threw acid on him and I also injured my own legs by doing so.’

Victim Davoud was 22 at the time of the attack and denied ever meeting Hamid — and he claimed that the two-year age gap between them meant they could never have been in the same class.

In Iran citizens are supposed to obey Sharia law, a penal code that hands out what are perceived to be harsh punishments by Western culture for crimes, transgressions, curtailing civil rights, and violating human rights.

The eye-for-an-eye, or tooth-for-a-tooth, punishment is legal under the Sharia code of gisas, which allow retribution for violent crimes — hence why there are a number of public hangings for alleged murderers.

In November 2008 Majid Movahedi was sentenced to lose both eyes in a similar case, having been found guilty of throwing acid at Ameneh Bahramia, a woman who refused to marry him.

It is unclear whether the sentence has yet been carried out.

In October, however, Iranian authorities chopped off the hand of a convicted thief at a prison in the central city of Yazd.

In recent weeks Iran has been criticised for sentencing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, to be stoned to death for adultery.

She has so far escaped the sentence because of the international outcry surrounding her case.

Iran has executed at least 200 people in the past 10 months, according the human rights website

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Briton Faces Death Penalty in Baghdad Murder Trial: Security Contractor Charged With Killing Two Colleagues

A British security contractor charged with killing two of his colleagues has gone on trial in Baghdad.

Danny Fitzsimons is the first Western contractor on trial in an Iraqi court since a 2009 U.S.-Iraqi security agreement lifted immunity for foreign contractors.

The 29-year-old from Manchester faces the death penalty if convicted.

Iraq pressed hard for foreign contractors to be accountable for their actions after armed contractors employed by the North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, now known as Xe, opened fire at a Baghdad intersection in September 2007, killing 17 civilians.

Fitzsimons is charged with two counts of premeditated murder in the deaths of two contractors, a Briton and an Australian, during an argument last year inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Civilian Deaths Drop in Iraq in 2010… As Suicide Bombers Kill Top Police Commander

Civilian deaths in Iraq have further decreased in 2010 — 3,976 down from 4,680 in 2009 — according to a report issued by a British organisation which monitors the statistics.

However Iraq Body Count said that the rate of decline was smaller than in previous years and warned of a lingering, low-level conflict in the years ahead in a conflict ‘notable for its sheer relentlessness’.

And, almost to serve as a reminder of how dangerous the Middle East country still is, a top police commander has been killed by a suicide attack.

The IBC said that the figures — correct up to December 25 — indicated that future security improvements would be much harder to come by; even now an average of two explosions a day resulted in civilian deaths.

‘The 2010 data suggest a persistent low-level conflict in Iraq that will continue to kill civilians at a similar rate for years to come,’ the report read.

The organisation is believed to be the only non-governmental group to have consistently recorded Iraqi civilian casualties since the war began in March 2003.


Mosul was where three suicide bombers stormed Lieutenant Colonel Shamil al-Jabouri’s compound while he was sleeping yesterday and detonated their explosives.

He was renowned in the tense northern city of Mosul for his relentless pursuit of Al-Qaeda insurgents, and the terror group had tried at least five times to kill him.

As Mr al-Jabouri slept on a couch in his office in Mosul, three men wearing police uniforms over vests laden with explosives slipped through an opening in the blast walls surrounding the compound where his building stood, police said.

Police manning one of at least four observation towers surrounding the compound shot one of the attackers in a yard and his vest exploded.

Under the cover of that blast the other two suicide bombers charged about 100 yards (90 metres) and made it into Mr al-Jabouri’s single-story building.

They detonated their vests simultaneously — one at the door of the office — killing the commander instantly and injuring a policeman sleeping in a trailer nearby.

The two blasts brought the whole building down, burying the slain commander under the rubble.

Just 10 days ago, Mr al-Jabouri led a raid that ended in the death of the top al-Qaida figure in Mosul, his colleagues said.

And two months ago he had been instrumental in stopping a gang that had been targeting jewellery stores in the city — robberies that are frequently ways for terror groups to refill their coffers.

‘We’ve lost a sword of Mosul who chased Al-Qaeda terrorists out of the city,’ said Abdul-Raheem al-Shemeri, a top security official on the Mosul Provincial Council.

An Al-Qaeda affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, took responsibility for the attack in a statement posted on the Internet.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Dopes of the Day: Fooled by Syria…Twice

Since I have written about how easily fooled Western politicians, officials, journalists, and academics are by Middle Eastern radicals, I’m going to try to provide examples in a regular feature called Dopes of the Day. This is a good starting point. (Be sure to read this article to the end to find out about both Dopes of the Day.)

There is a newspaper in Lebanon called al-Akhbar. Curiously, while other newspapers are in decline or starved for funds, al-Akhbar is expanding. The New York Times reporter fell for the foolish notion that this newspaper is some model of independence and enterprise. In fact, it is not exactly a secret in Lebanon that it is a hard-line, Syrian backed newspaper that repeatedly slanders the moderate forces there as well as delivers propaganda for Hizballah. And that’s where the money comes from.

So the Times is cheering a Syrian propaganda operation just as, not long ago, the Guardian went into rhapsodies about a supposedly wonderful publication in Turkey that is a front for the Islamists and producing false material that enabled the regime there to throw innocent people into prison on trumped-up charges of conspiring to overthrow the government.

Any serious investigation should have shown the true nature of al-Akhbar but the reporter couldn’t even find anyone to quote on this point, apparently not even trying to produce a balanced article, much less an accurate one.

Instead here’s what we get:

“It was the latest coup for a five-year-old paper that has become the most dynamic and daring in Lebanon, and perhaps anywhere in the Arab world. In a region where the news media are still full of obsequious propaganda, Al Akhbar is now required reading, even for those who abhor its politics.”

But perhaps this free advertising for a Hizballah and Syrian parrot can be explained by the article’s lead:

“Ibrahim al-Amine, the hawk-eyed editorial chairman of Al Akhbar, describes his newspaper’s founding ambitions this way: ‘We wanted the U.S. ambassador to wake up in the morning, read it and get upset.’“


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iran is Now a Nuclear State: Ahmadinejad

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said Iran is now a nuclear country and that it has achieved nuclear know-how for energy purposes, a media report said. “Though the US and its allies have been exerting political and propaganda pressure and have issued resolutions against Iran over its

nuclear programme, all their efforts have failed and Iran has now become a nuclear country,” Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by Press TV.

Addressing a gathering in northern Karaj city, the Iranian President said cooperation rather than confrontation was the only way to resolve issues related to Iran’s nuclear energy programme.

“We are open to cooperation based on our rights,” he said, warning Western countries that Iran would give a “regretting” response to anyone who “intends to prevent Iran from achieving its rights”.

He termed the sanction resolutions passed by the UN against Iran as “illegal” and said the sanctions would only “strengthen the Iranian nation” and accelerate the pace of its progress.

I excerpted bits of the recent “stackelbeck on terror” show, with the iranian CIA-informant warning the west… might be a good addition if anyone is posting on this

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Iran Reports Arrest of 7 Al-Qaida Suspects

Iran’s state news agency reported Wednesday that security forces have arrested seven people near the border with Iraq and alleged they are al-Qaida suspects.

It was the first report in years in Iran of an al-Qaida arrest, although in the past the country has reported hundreds of such arrests. IRNA didn’t provide further details but said the seven were propagating Wahhabism, an austere version of Sunni Islam practiced primarily in Saudi Arabia.

There was no indication if those arrested were Iranians or foreigners. IRNA cited an unnamed source — described as “informed” — as saying the suspects “were identified” over the past month and were subsequently detained in the northwestern town of Sardasht. Many al-Qaida operatives are believed to have fled to Iran after the overthrow of the Taliban regime in neighboring Afghanistan in late 2001.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Christians Killed in Series of Baghdad Attacks

The worst attack was in the central Baghdad district of Al-Ghadir, where a homemade bomb exploded around 8pm (1700 GMT), killing the two Christians and wounding three others, including one Christian, an official from the ministry said.

Al-Ghadir is an area with a significant Christian population, though many have fled following the massacre and in light of threats by al-Qaeda to target them. The number of Christians left in Iraq is estimated at between 450,000 and 500,000, including around 300,000 Roman Catholics (down from 387,000 in 1980).

Between 800,000 and 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq in 2003. Iraq is still recovering from a massacre at a Baghdad cathedral in October. A group of Islamist extremists burst into the church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, murdering two priests, holding the congregation hostage and eventually killing more than 50 people. The pope, in his annual Christmas message, urged political leaders to express solidarity with Christians in Iraq.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel: Iran Nuclear Bomb ‘Still Three Years Away’

Iran’s nuclear programme has been hit by technical problems, and it could be still three years away from making a bomb, an Israeli minister has said.

The statement came a month after Iran said centrifuges used in uranium enrichment had been sabotaged.

There are suspicions, denied by Iran, that the centrifuges were targeted by the Stuxnet computer worm.

The West fears Iran’s goal is to build nuclear weapons but Iran says its programme is for peaceful energy use.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon said the programme had faced “a number of technological challenges and difficulties”.

“These difficulties have postponed the timetable,” he told Israeli radio.

“So we can’t talk about a point of no return. Iran does not have the ability to create nuclear weapons by itself at the moment.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Violent Deaths in Iraq Fall ‘But at Slower Rate’

The number of civilians killed by violence in Iraq in the past year was the lowest since the 2003 US-led invasion, a rights group has said.

Iraq Body Count (IBC), which collates casualty reports, said deaths dropped by 15% from 2009 to just under 4,000.

It said two bombs exploded each day on average, each killing four people.

But the group warned the number may have reached an “impassable minimum”, and that civilians were likely to die at a similar rate for years to come.

In its annual report, IBC said 3,976 people had died violently in Iraq over the past year, compared to 4,680 in 2009. Of the 2010 deaths, 66% were caused by insurgent bomb attacks.

The capital Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul were the worst affected areas.

“After nearly eight years, the security crisis in Iraq remains notable for its sheer relentlessness: 2010 averaged nearly two explosions a day by non-state forces that caused civilian deaths,” IBC said.

“As well as occurring almost daily, these lethal explosions can happen almost anywhere, with 2010’s attacks occurring in 13 of Iraq’s 18 administrative regions.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Artificial Intelligence to Transform Web: Russian Tycoon

The emergence of artificial intelligence is to transform the Internet industry and social networking over the next decade, Russia’s leading web tycoon said in an interview on Tuesday.

The low-profile Yury Milner, chairman in the rapidly expanding Internet firm and CEO of DST Global investment company who built minority stakes in Facebook and other Western firms, made the comments in an rare interview with Vedomosti.

“I think that in 10 years if you ask a question on a social network and you get an answer you will not know if a computer or a person has answered you,” Milner told the financial daily. “When you receive a question, you will not know if it has been asked by a person or an artificial intelligence. And by answering you help the computer create an algorithm.”, which is part owned by Russian magnate Alisher Usmanov and recently enjoyed a solid IPO in London, has grown into the biggest Internet firm in the Russian-speaking world with stakes in the most prominent portals.

It rose to prominence abroad when it unexpectedly took a 2.4 percent stake in Facebook. DST Global, the investment vehicle, also has an undisclosed stake of its own that unconfirmed reports put at a total holding of 10 percent.

In the interview Milner made no comments on the size of the Facebook stake, or’s holdings in online games portal Zynga and deal-of-the-day website Groupon.

Milner said there had been a revolutionary change in demand for information and now there was “as much information generated in the the last two days as there was in the history of civilisation up to 2003.” He defended the company’s tight focus on consumer Internet products, and in particular social Internet, saying that “we have chosen a strategy to have a global expertise in a very narrow sector.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Dmitry Medvedev Condemns Russia’s ‘Stagnant’ Political System

In a video blog on the Kremlin’s web site, Mr Medvedev complained that the country’s political system showed dangerous signs of stagnation, a phrase that Russians use to evoke the moribund period when Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was in power in the 1970s.

“At a certain point, our political life started showing signs of stagnation,” Mr Medvedev, who assumed the presidency in 2008, said. “This stagnation is equally damaging to both the ruling party and opposition forces.”

Although he claimed in the same breath to have pushed through a raft of minor improvements in the last two years, his description of Russia’s political landscape was damning.

“If the opposition does not have the slightest chance of winning in a fair fight it degrades and becomes a marginal force. But if the ruling party has no chance of losing anywhere or ever it simply ‘bronzes over’ and eventually also degrades like any organism that does not move.” Mr Medvedev went on to say that the ruling United Russia party which is led by Mr Putin should not be packed with “dummies and performers” or serve as a mere appendix to the executive branch of government. His outburst comes ahead of a major speech he is expected to deliver next week which will be scrutinised for clues as to whether he intends to run for a second presidential term in 2012. Both he and Mr Putin, his long-time political patron, have refused to be drawn on which one of them will stand.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Russian Space Officials Fired Over Satellite Crash

President Dmitry Medvedev fired two senior Russian space officials Wednesday over the loss of three navigation satellites that crashed into the sea this month.

The GLONASS satellites, intended for Russia’s rival to the American GPS system, a project dear to the Kremlin, were lost because the Proton M rocket carrying them into orbit was loaded with too much fuel, a investigating commission found.

A Kremlin spokeswoman said the deputy head of the Russian space agency Roskosmos, Viktor Remishevsky, and the deputy head of the Russian rocket manufacturer Energia, Vyacheslav Filin, had both been fired over the calculation error.

Medvedev also issued an official reprimand to Roskosmos head Anatoly Perminov.

The satellites were to be the last of 24 needed for Russia to fully deploy GLONASS — short for Global Navigation System — next year. Putin has personally promoted GLONASS as strategically important in helping to build Russian technological independence and stimulate the production of domestic consumer devices such as smartphones and vehicle sat-navs.

He has even fitted his black labrador dog Connie with a collar bearing a GLONASS transmitter.

Experts have estimated that the crash cost Russia 5 billion roubles ($160 million) and set back GLONASS by six months.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Ignorant Wahhabis Killed Fifty Imams and Muftis in North Caucasus

Renowned islamologist Roman Silantyev cited statistics according to which about fifty Islamic spiritual leaders were killed in the North Caucuses for fighting against Wahhabism.

“Almost 50 people were killed. These people could have formed a big muftiat,” he said in the The Faith and the World program on the Voice of Russia radio.

According to the islamologist, there are few such people left in Russia: “they are killed almost every month, losses is some muslim boards are irreplaceable, the greater number of people who were able to actively fight against Wahhabism have been killed.”

“Others are demoralized and stopped opposing or just deserted to the enemy. The situation is critical,” Silantyev believes.

He is satisfied that Russian authorities ordered to give security guards to Muslim spiritual leaders in the North Caucasus, “or we can just stay without allies.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

More NATO Tankers Torched in Pakistan

Pakistani militants have attacked two NATO supply vehicles transporting fuel destined for US-led forces in Afghanistan and set them on fire in Baluchistan province.

A group of unidentified armed men opened fire on two tankers in Quetta — the provincial capital of Baluchistan Province — on Thursday morning. At least one driver was killed in the shootout, Pakistani news television channel AAJ TV reported.

The assailants later torched the tankers and fled the area in a vehicle. Their whereabouts is unknown.

Police cordoned off the area after the incident and launched a search operation to arrest the perpetrators.

The attack came a day after one person was killed and two others sustained injuries as militants attacked two NATO fuel tankers in Landi Kotal district of the border town of Torkham.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militants regularly attack NATO convoys in Pakistan.

The US military and NATO rely heavily on the Pakistani supply route into landlocked Afghanistan, more so now that Taliban attacks are increasing.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Says it Will Defend Spy Chief in US Suits

Pakistan will strongly contest two U.S lawsuits that link its spy chief and his agency to the deadly 2008 attacks in Mumbai, the government said Thursday.

The statement shows how sensitive Pakistan is to claims that its agents were involved in the assault that killed 166 people in India. It could also be evidence of pressure on the weak civilian government by the powerful spy service.

It appeared that the goal of the tough Pakistani stance was to get the lawsuits dismissed.

The suits have already caused tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan. The U.S. depends on Pakistani cooperation to fight Taliban fighters in its border area with Afghanistan, and friction over other issues could harm the alliance.

The lawsuits were filed in New York in November. The plaintiffs include relatives of victims in the Mumbai attacks.

The bloody, coordinated attacks on several sites in Mumbai, including luxury hotels, a cafe, a train station and a Jewish center, have been blamed on the Pakistani Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a defendant in the suits.

The 60-hour siege by 10 Pakistani militants, which has been called India’s 9/11, paralyzed India’s financial capital and deeply wounded the national psyche.

The court papers repeat long-standing allegations that Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence has “nurtured and used international terrorist groups,” including Lashkar.

“Defendant ISI provided critical planning, material support, control and coordination of the attacks,” the lawsuits allege, pressing wrongful death and additional claims against the ISI, its chief Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha and others.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

West Quickly Agreed to Back Afghan Resistance in 1980: Files

Western powers met in secret soon after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and formed plans to back Islamic resistance, according to British files from 1980 released Thursday.

Senior officials from Britain, France, then West Germany and the United States met in Paris on January 15 that year to discuss the West’s response to the December 24, 1979 invasion.

The National Archives’ release of the secret papers after 30 years in the vaults comes as Western allies prepare to enter another year of conflict in Afghanistan, battling Islamist insurgents. US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was among those at the Paris meeting, as was Britain’s cabinet secretary Robert Armstrong, the top civil servant.

He said support for the mujahideen should be coordinated by “our friends” — a euphemism for MI6, Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, and its peers from the allies.

Armstrong reported from the Paris meeting that while they wanted to avoid sparking a border war with Pakistan in the volatile tribal region, there was still much they could do.

He said that the powers at the meeting concluded “it would be in the interests of the West to encourage and support resistance”. As long as there were Afghans willing to continue resisting the Soviet invasion and as long as the Pakistanis were willing to see their territory used, resistance should be supported, said Armstrong. “That would make more difficult the process of Soviet pacification of Afghanistan, and would make that process take much longer than it otherwise would,” he said.

Armstrong added that “the existence of a guerilla movement in Afghanistan would be the focus of Islamic resistance, which we should be wanting to continue”.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Who Keeps the Faith?

by Diana West

The U.N. believes about 1 million Afghans between the ages of 15 and 64 — roughly 8 percent of the population — are addicted to drugs. The publication Development Asia estimates 2 million Afghan addicts.

Depending on whose figures you read next, some staggering number of these same addicts ends up in the Afghan National Police (ANP). Fully “half of the latest batch” of police recruits tested positive for narcotics, the Independent reported in March, drawing on Foreign Office Papers from late 2009. Also in March 2010, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reported, depending on the province, 12 to 41 percent of Afghan police recruits tested positive. The GAO added: “A State official noted that this percentage likely understates the number of opium users because opiates leave the system quickly; many recruits who tested negative for drugs have shown opium withdrawal symptoms later in their training.” The problem was dire enough, the report continues, to place under consideration “the establishment of dedicated rehabilitation clinics at the regional police training centers.”

Pederasty, misogyny and corruption aside: This drug-addled ANP is part of the Afghan National Security Forces that the U.S. government fully expects — no, completely relies on — to secure Afghanistan against “extremist networks” and is spending $350 million per day in Afghanistan until that happens.

My question: Who’s high here? Illiterate Afghans on drugs, or educated Americans on fantasy?…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Makes Skype Illegal

All internet phone calls will be banned apart from those made over two state-owned networks, China Unicom and China Telecom. “[This] is expected to make services like Skype unavailable in the country,” reported the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist party.

Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are already blocked in China and Google closed down its Chinese servers last year after heavy government pressure.

Yesterday (Thurs), Wang Chen, the deputy head of the Chinese Propaganda department, boasted that “By November, […] 350 million piece of harmful information, including text, pictures and videos, had been deleted [from the Chinese internet]”.

Some Chinese users of Twitter, the micro-blogging website, claimed they could already no longer download Skype, but the service appeared to be working normally in Shanghai.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Gang Link Sees Soccer Star Kerem Bulut Lose Bail

ONE of Australia’s brightest soccer stars is part of a gang involved in attempted murder, kidnap, drugs and robberies, police alleged yesterday.

Kerem Bulut, 18, of Berala, who plays for the Young Socceroos, was refused bail in Parramatta Bail Court yesterday, after allegedly breaching a court-imposed curfew.

Bulut, whom police allege is a member of the gang MBM or Muslim Brotherhood Movement, is accused of breaching his bail conditions when he allegedly threatened to “smash” a man in Sydney’s south west.

The curfew formed part of strict bail conditions which were set after Bulut was charged with five offences last month, including robbery in company and membership of a criminal group — MBM.

Police allege members of the MBM are involved in serious offences such as robbery, attempted murder and kidnapping. They have also been linked to numerous property and drug supply offences, police say…

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Battisti Victim’s Son Vows to Fight if Lula Grants Asylum

‘It’s right to demonstrate’ if ex-terrorist stays in Brazil

(ANSA) — Milan, December 29 — The son of a jeweler gunned down in Milan in 1979 on Wednesday vowed to fight on if the ex-terrorist convicted for his father’s murder is granted asylum in Brazil.

Alberto Torregiani, who was left paralysed from the waist down in the attack that killed his father, told ANSA the time for diplomacy was over and he and other victims’ families would organise street protests.

Outgoing Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva is set to decide this week on Italy’s request to extradite Cesare Battisti and the Brazilian press has reported he will turn Italy down.

“If you do things politely, it seems justice is ignored,” said Torregiani, who was 13 at the time of the attack by Battisti’s leftist militant group, and is now 44.

“It appears you get more by putting your foot down and banging your fists so that’s what we’re going to do.

“Anyone who believes in justice must not accept this decision (by Lula). We won’t do anything outrageous, we’re thinking of mobilising people.

“People demonstrate for many things, even trivial ones, so perhaps it’s right to demonstrate for this”.

Torregiani praised the Italian government’s efforts to get Battisti back to serve out a life sentence for four murders but said it was time for the victims’ relatives to take things into their own hands.

“Up till now we and the other families have just spoken about (the affair) and allowed the institutional bodies to do their work, which has been excellent.

“But clearly it isn’t enough to use diplomacy, the people’s voice must be heard”.

Torregiani said the relatives had been expecting Lula to grant asylum but stressed “we’re losing all sense of justice by letting a common criminal go free”. Lula told ANSA on Monday he wanted to resolve the Battisti issue before his successor Dilma Rousseff takes office on January 1.

The Brazilian press reported Tuesday and Wednesday that, according to its sources, the former terrorist would be allowed to stay in Brazil. In November 2009 Brazil’s supreme court turned down Battisti’s request for asylum.

The Brazilian president, who has in the past indicated he might view Battisti’s case favourably, told Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in Washington last April that he would review the high-court decision.

But there was no word at the time on which way Lula might be leaning.

The supreme court judges said his decision should square with bilateral agreements between Italy and Brazil, but added that the Brazilian constitution gives the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he chooses to.

If Lula stops Battisti’s return in a case the Italian government has fought hard for, experts say the diplomatic repercussions could be considerable.

The 56-year-old Battisti was arrested in Brazil in April 2007, some five years after he had fled to that country to avoid extradition to Italy from France, where he had lived for 15 years and become a successful writer of crime novels.

In January 2009 the Brazilian justice ministry granted Battisti political asylum on the grounds that he would face “political persecution” in Italy.

The ruling outraged the Italian government who demanded that it be appealed to the Brazilian supreme court.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

South American Drug Gangs Funding Al-Qaeda Terrorists

South American drugs gangs are providing millions of pounds of funding for al-Qaeda terrorists by paying them to ensure the safe passage of cocaine across north Africa and towards Europe.

Islamic rebels familiar with the barren terrain of the Sahara have struck deals under which they provide armed security escorts for drug traffickers in return for a slice of their profits.

Counter-terrorism experts said that the terrorists belong to the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group, which has kidnapped a series of Westerners and killed a British tourist last year.

They warned that the money they receive from drugs gangs could be used to attract new recruits and plan terrorist attacks on European cities.

Olivier Guitta, a counter-terrorism and foreign affairs consultant, said that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Marxist rebel group, was the “force behind the agreement with AQIM”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


UK: Migrant Numbers Will Not Fall Significantly in 2011 Think Tank Warns

Immigration to Britain is ‘unlikely’ to fall significantly next year because of the parlous state of the Eurozone, a leading think-tank warns today.

Plans to impose a cap and gradually bring down migration levels will falter because there is nothing the Government can do to stop workers from the EU coming to Britain, it says.

The Institute for Public Policy Research adds that the effect will be amplified as restrictions on some eastern European workers end next year.

As a result, net migration is unlikely to fall much below 200,000 in 2011 — about the same annual level it has been for much of the last decade, the IPPR concludes.

This runs counter to the Government’s pledge to restrict immigration from ‘hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands’.

Since January 2007, workers from the newest EU countries, Bulgaria and Romania, have largely needed to apply for work permits to work in the UK.

That restriction is due to be lifted in December 2011, meaning that thousands more could be tempted to move to take advantage of the relatively healthy British economy.

Around 120,000 Irish people are expected to leave the Republic’s crisis-hit economy in 2010 and 2011, with many likely to head to Britain where there is no language barrier or work restrictions.

Migration could even increase if more people from other economically troubled countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece choose to move to Britain.

They do not come under the annual cap which will be introduced in April. Meanwhile fewer Britons are moving abroad. The exodus of UK citizens fell sharply to just over 30,000 in the year to March 2010.

This compared with 130,000 in the year to March 2008. Countries favoured by British sun-lovers, such as Spain and the United Arab Emirates, were wiped out economically, making them less attractive destinations for jobseekers.

The weak pound has also made it too expensive for many pensioners and students to move abroad.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Super Death Panels’ On a ‘Massive Scale’

New Obama end-of-life regs ‘more egregious’ than ones Congress rejected

At the request of several Democratic lawmakers, the administration quietly slipped language into a Medicare regulation paying doctors to provide “end-of-life” consultations with patients. Doctors will instruct patients how to write “advance directives” listing what types of treatment they wish to receive, or not receive, if they are hospitalized in such poor condition that they are unable to make health care decisions.

The new regulation was revealed by the New York Times on Dec. 26. The regulation will go into force Jan. 1.

“Nothing good can come of this,” said Judie Brown, the president of American Life League. “This will affect everybody’s parents and grandparents and preborn babies, and it will not affect anybody for the good.”

Congress must step up to cancel the regulation, Brown added. “If not, a death certificate is written for an awful lot of elderly people.”


“This new Congress has to pass a law that revokes this new Medicare regulation because we’re going to see pressure on the elderly to end their lives prematurely,” said Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver. “This regulation is more egregious than the original Obama health care legislation.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Al-Qaeda Targeting Christians in Canada, Austria

Not content with terrorizing the Christian minorities that endeavor to survive under Islamic rule, Al-Qaeda is now targeting Coptic Christians who have left Egypt for lives in Europe and North America.

The December 21 Toronto Star drew attention to the publication of a “death list” naming 200 Coptic Christians, over half of whom now live in Canada. According to the Star:

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

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

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

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

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

The brutal persecution of Copts in Egypt — persecution which often includes forced “conversions,” rape, and even murder — has had the same effect in Egypt that similar incidents are now having in Iraq: Christians are fleeing Muslim nations for the freedom of the West. But now relocation is not enough, as Jihadists try to silence the voices of their victims with death threats.

Those who are being targeted are not even recent emigres; for example, Sherif Mansour, one of the men on the list, has operated a business in Quebec for 22 years since leaving Egypt. Again, according to the Star:

Sherif Mansour said he found out he was named on the website when intelligence officials called him.

“They asked me, ‘are you afraid?’ I said ‘Should I be?’“ said Mansour, who has run a business in Quebec for the past 22 years since emigrating from Egypt.


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Henninger: Popes, Atheists and Freedom

This being the season of hope, Islamic extremists of course have been engaged in their annual tradition of blowing up Christian churches.

An attack by a radical Muslim sect on two churches in northern Nigeria killed six people on Christmas Eve. On the Philippines’ Jolo Island, home to al Qaeda-linked terrorists, a chapel bombing during Christmas Mass injured 11.

One of the central public events during these days at year’s end is the Pope’s midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In his homily the pope invariably pleads for peace, but on Friday evening a viewer could not have missed the meaning when Benedict XVI twice mentioned “garments rolled in blood,” from Isaiah 9:5.

The image, as befits Isaiah, is poetic and disturbing. Benedict surely intended it so: “It is true,” he said, “that the ‘rod of his oppressor’ is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the ‘garment rolled in blood’ still remains.” He was of course referring to the sustained violence against Christian minorities by Islamic fundamentalists.

Hours before this, from a window above St. Peter’s Square, Benedict also took a pass on the holiday pabulum handed out by other world leaders this time of year by explicitly criticizing China. He said the “faithful of the church in mainland China [should not] lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience.”

For some, the Vatican’s efforts on behalf of Christian minorities in Islamic countries or among China’s population of 1.3 billion is regarded as worthy and admirable, but only a footnote against the grand sweep of current geopolitical concerns. Iran’s bomb, China’s economic importance and all that. This is a mistake. In these times, the pope’s agenda is the civilized world’s agenda. The pope’s agenda is individual freedom.

To the extent that the goal of freedom still occupies a high place in the purposes of foreign policy, then the pope remains an important strategic ally, as he has been since Karol Wojtyla left Poland to become pope in October 1978.

The reality of the modern Church’s interests aligned with the world’s best interests emerges forcefully in the recently published second volume of George Weigel’s magisterial biography of John Paul II, “The End and the Beginning.” For this final volume, Mr. Weigel had access to material from the archives of former Communist intelligence services. The book’s first half tells the tale of Communist security agencies-the Soviet KGB, East Germany’s Stasi and Poland’s SB-coming to grips with the threat posed to their system by Karol Wojtyla, first as archbishop of Cracow and then as Pope John Paul II. One Polish Communist Party ideologist called then-Cardinal Wojtyla “the only real ideological threat in Poland.”

In 1984, after John Paul had completed two pastoral pilgrimages to Communist Poland, a conference was convened by members of the KGB, Warsaw Pact and Cuban intelligence services. Its purpose: to discuss “joint measures for combating the subversive activities of the Vatican.”


           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]