Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110102

Financial Crisis
»Merkel Must Get Germans to Back Sound EU Integration
»Niall Ferguson: “The United States is on a Completely Unsustainable Fiscal Course With No Apparent Political Means of Self-Correcting”
»America’s Battle With Islam
»Clueless ‘Interfaith’ Jews Abet Sharia Banking?
»Ground Zero Imam Kicks Off Tour at Hamas Conspirator Banquet
»Obama Allows Child Soldier Nations to Receive Military Aid
»Who Will Protect the People From the Unions?
»Canadian Supreme Court Decision Could Lead to Cloning Research
Europe and the EU
»Anti-Islamization Conference
»Fifty Anglican Priests Set to Convert to Catholicism Under Pope Backed Scheme
»Italy: House Speaker to Sue Over Attack, Prostitute Allegations
»Sweden Deploys Vintage Trains to Battle Snow
»Sweden: Train Wrecked After Crash in [Malmö] Station
»Sweden Bomber’s Wife Denies Knowledge of Attack
»UK: Prisons Minister Vows to Find Out Why Only Two Guards Were Left in Charge of 500 Inmates as Jail Riot Damage Bill Hits £2m
»UK: Thatcher’s Papers Show She Wrote ‘No!’ on Requests for Compromise: What Cameron Can Learn From Attila the Pen
North Africa
»Egyptian Security Guards Withdrew One Hour Before Church Blast, Say Eyewitnesses
»Egypt’s Copts: Scheduled for a Second Massacre on January 6, 2011?
»Egypt: Imam of Al Azhar Criticises Pope’s “Interference”
»Kidnapped Eritreans: Egyptian NGOs, Govt Must Act to Save Them
Israel and the Palestinians
»Arabs Held for ‘Plotting Jerusalem Stadium Attack’
»Fatah on 46th Anniversary: We Will Continue Fighting for Right of Return, Holy Places
Middle East
»Acknowledging Political Islam
»Female Turkish Professor Laments Gender Gap at Ceremony
»Mgr Sako: Martyrdom, The Gift of the Iraqi Church to the World. More Blood in Baghdad
»Turkey’s Border With Syria Falls to Trade Invasion
»WikiLeaks: Iran Can Reach Israel in 12 Minutes
South Asia
»Afghanistan: The Four Inch Gadget That Helps British Soldiers to Pinpoint Taliban Snipers
»Drugs Charge British Mother is Victim of Malaysian Husband, Say Family
»Pakistan PM Loses Vital Coalition Partner as MQM Quits
Australia — Pacific
»Toddler Fatally Stabbed After Alleged Beach Row in Canley Vale
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Never-Ending Cartoon Chaos
»Swede Among Terrorist Suspects Held in Uganda
Latin America
»Battisti Decision Outrages Victims’ Families
»Diplomatic Crisis as Brazil Refuses to Extradite Battisti
»New Brazilian Government Agrees With Ruling on Battisti
»Thousands of German-Turks Choosing to Return to Homeland
»UK: Now It’s Dave’s Turn to Rub Our Noses in Diversity
Culture Wars
»UK: The BBC’s Anti-Christian Bias: The Sunday Programme Disgraces Itself Again
»Christianophobia: Schifani, Prompt Initiatives Needed
»Hotmail Users Log in to Discover Their Emails Have Been Deleted
»Intimidation and the Tyranny of Silence

Financial Crisis

Merkel Must Get Germans to Back Sound EU Integration

The debt crisis has strengthened Germany’s hand in Europe, but Chancellor Angela Merkel will have a tough time convincing voters that leadership might also mean digging deep for additional aid.

“So far, people do not see the costs that might be associated with what politicians have agreed to, namely some nation states underwriting the debt of others,” Barclays Capital economist Thorsten Polleit said. “It is an open question whether the crisis is over or whether we are just in the eye of the storm.”

As the de facto eurozone paymaster, Merkel has imposed strict aid conditions and insisted member countries coordinate economic policies to parry future crises. But she must still persuade voters that Germany cannot turn its back on Europe even if it means contributing to a permanent rescue fund.

“A unified Europe is the guarantor of our peace and freedom. The euro forms the basis of our prosperity,” she stressed Friday in her New Year’s address. “Germany needs Europe and our common currency, for our own well-being and also to overcome big challenges worldwide.”

But the crisis’ final cost is not known and perpetual change generated by the eurozone project has unsettled many Germans already, psychologist Monika Mueller said. The founder of FCM Finance Coaching told AFP it was hard for people to feel what belonging to the eurozone meant “because they are confused.”

“When things are constantly changing, it’s difficult” to define a clear European identity, she said. “It’s not easy to understand what is really happening.” Merkel was criticized by EU leaders for holding back as the crisis unfolded, but has since reaffirmed German solidarity with its partners. “No one in Europe will be left alone”, she told the national parliament last month.

A majority of Germans oppose more aid packages however, and with the threat of a court challenge and seven regional elections this year, politicians will “probably tread cautiously,” Commerzbank economist Eckhart Tuchtfeld said.

Germany profits from trade within the eurozone, which now counts 17 nations with Estonia’s admission, and was the main donor when weak finances in partner countries required a trillion-dollar rescue package.

Europe’s biggest economy might have to pony up again if Portugal and Spain issue distress calls following those from Greece and Ireland last year. Germany’s economic strength also stems from prudent fiscal management, which includes a 2009 debt brake law aimed at slashing the public deficit by 2016.

For average Germans, sacrifices have included wage stagnation, deregulated labour markets and higher sales taxes, and many resent having to pay now for profligate policies elsewhere. “This is problematic, there is no doubt about that,” Tuchtfeld said.

Polls for public televisions ZDF and ARD have found 62 percent of Germans opposed more support for eurozone partners, but an overwhelming majority of 88 percent agreed that a stable eurozone was in Germany’s interest.

An icon of German stability is the national pension plan introduced in 1889 by Otto von Bismarck, Mueller said. That system is now crumbling however, in part because of the country’s low birthrate. “The stability and safety that we were promised is vanishing,” Mueller said. “This makes us probably more sensitive to what happens with money and security and stability.”

Polleit, who is alarmed by soaring eurozone debt levels, said: “To make the ‘rescue measures’ work, Merkel must make a convincing case for Germany’s special role in and responsibility for the European integration process. “That may not be an easy thing to do.”

Mueller said Germans had ambivalent feelings about taking the lead, including fear stemming from the country’s role in World War II. “It would be helpful to let go of this fear and this concept of not being allowed to be one of the leaders in Europe,” the psychologist suggested. “We could take even more responsibility, in a good way,” she said.

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

Niall Ferguson: “The United States is on a Completely Unsustainable Fiscal Course With No Apparent Political Means of Self-Correcting”

“Imperial declines…are nearly always associated with fiscal crises,” and these fiscal crises are the result of the rising costs of servicing debt, according to Niall Ferguson (via Zero Hedge).

In a speech to the Center for Independent Studies in Australia, Ferguson breaks down why empires fall and the current threat to the U.S. through its own emerging fiscal crisis.

Beneath is the introduction, but the full speech is worth watching. He walks step-by-step through previous examples of imperial downfall. And the similarities between those empires, and the U.S.

Pay particular attention to this portion, focusing on the United States. Also, Ferguson’s breakdown of the U.S. fiscal position he makes here puts into perspective how our interest payment problem is about to get out of control.

[Return to headlines]


America’s Battle With Islam

Many would have you believe that America’s battle with Islam is a recent phenomenon caused by our flagrant intrusion into their holy lands and meddling in their affairs. To some extent I would agree these issues have heightened the intensity of the Islamic fervor we are currently experiencing. But make no mistake; this is not the beginning of an Islamic war against America or the Infidels, it has been active for centuries.

One period of American history, which directly relates to Islamic war mongering, took place during the early years of America’s formation. From around 1530 until the early 1780’s more than a million and a half Europeans and Americans were captured and put into slavery by the “Barberry Pirates” of North Africa. These “pirates” were followers of Mohammad as are the modern day Somalia pirates off the eastern coast of Africa that hazard the waterways of the Indian Ocean.

In response to the piracy taking place off the Barberry Coast; Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went and visited Tripoli’s envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, to enquire as to what right they could take slaves and extort money from the people of Europe and America. Jefferson reported his reply to be: “that right was founded on the laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners and that every Mussulman (sic) who should be slain in battle was sure to go to paradise.” [1] Sound familiar?

On the question of what America should do about the piracy divided the leaders of our new nation. Some argued, as did John Adams, that we should pay the tribute to get passage through the shipping lanes. Indeed Adams stated that “We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever.”[2]

He understood that we were facing a theology that viewed all those that were not a part of their faith as evil and was their duty to convert, enslave, or destroy and doing so was deemed honorable.

Many have speculated that Jefferson was, or had leanings toward, Muhammadism because he owned a Koran. But remember, during the early years of our nation the government did not have a global intelligence network as we do today. With the impending war, with the pirates of the Barberry Coast, Jefferson needed to gain insight into the motivations of this enemy and what better way than through their own scriptures.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Clueless ‘Interfaith’ Jews Abet Sharia Banking?

You tell me. From the L.A. Times:

For the first 15 years of his working life, Naim Shah Jr. was the personal assistant to the imam at Masjid Ibadallah, a mosque in Los Angeles. He helped with Friday sermons and religious classes and dealt primarily with his Muslim congregants.

But for the last six months, Shah has worked with Christian and Jewish activists across the city, drumming up support for the “responsible banking” ordinance, a law that would spur banks that do business with the city of Los Angeles to modify mortgages, increase loans to small businesses and invest in their neighborhoods.

What does community banking have to do with his commitment to Islam? Everything, says Shah, 41, who is also a professional accountant and a former director of Humanitarian Day, an American Muslim day of service to local communities, especially the homeless.

“One of the solutions to Islamophobia is organizing around city-based issues,” he said. “Trying to deal with global issues can lead to entanglements. Uniting around local issues can broaden understanding.”…

It can also broaden dhimmitude, something these clueless lefty Jews—who think helping Muslims with their “community banking” needs is a matter of “social justice” and not sharia—obviously don’t understand.

Update: Shah, a former Nation of Islam member, was once named CAIR California’s “Muslim Activist of the Year.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ground Zero Imam Kicks Off Tour at Hamas Conspirator Banquet

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim cleric behind a plan to build an Islamic center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, is kicking off a nationwide speaking tour by addressing the banquet of a group that is an unindicted co-conspirator in a scheme to raise money for Hamas.

Rauf’s first appearance is scheduled for Detroit, the city with North America’s largest Muslim population, on Jan. 15. Rauf is scheduled to deliver the keynote address to the so-called “Diversity Forum Banquet” of the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA.

ISNA is known for its enforcement of Saudi-style Islam in mosques throughout the U.S. It was named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in its case against the Holy Land Foundation in Texas, which was found guilty in 2008 of raising money for the Hamas terrorist organization. Last year, Holy Land founders were given life sentences for “funneling $12 million to Hamas.

Rauf had previously refused to condemn Hamas in a radio interview. The chief of Hamas has also come out in public support of Rauf’s proposed mosque near Ground Zero.

Rauf told the Associated Press he will tour the country in an effort “to inspire interfaith understanding” for his proposed mosque neat Ground Zero.

American Muslims like himself, he said, “can play an important role as interlocutors between the United States and the Muslim world.”

“I want to inspire interfaith understanding,” he said. “This past summer, during the demonstrations, we also saw the birth of what we believe to be a global movement of people of all faiths who want to have a better future for their children and grandchildren.”

ISNA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood document — “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America” — as one of the Brotherhood’s likeminded “organizations of our friends” who shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation, according to Discover the Networks.

Discover the Networks notes that ISNA, through its affiliate, the North American Islamic Trust — a Saudi government-backed organization — reportedly holds the mortgages on 50 to 80 percent of all mosques in the U.S. and Canada.

Islam scholar Stephen Schwartz describes ISNA as “one of the chief conduits through which the radical Saudi form of Islam passes into the United States.”

According to terrorism expert Steven Emerson, ISNA “is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation” that publishes a bi-monthly magazine, Islamic Horizons, that “often champions militant Islamist doctrine.”

The group also “convenes annual conferences where Islamist militants have been given a platform to incite violence and promote hatred,” states Emerson. Emerson cites an ISNA conference in which al-Qaida supporter and PLO official Yusuf Al Qaradhawi was invited to speak.

Emerson further reports that in September 2002, a full year after 9/11, “speakers at ISNA’s annual conference still refused to acknowledge Bin Laden’s role in the terrorist attacks.”

ISNA has also held fundraisers for terrorists, notes Discover the Networks. After Hamas leader Mousa Marzook was arrested and eventually deported in 1997, ISNA raised money for his defense. The group also condemned the U.S. government’s post-9/11 seizure of Hamas’ and Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s financial assets…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Obama Allows Child Soldier Nations to Receive Military Aid

President Barack Obama has exempted four countries from a law that restricts the United States from providing military aid to governments that employ child soldiers, and a Republican congressman who co-wrote the law wants to know why. A memorandum signed by Obama and released by the White House on Oct. 25 claims that the exemptions are due to “national interest.” The countries exempted are Sudan, Chad, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Who Will Protect the People From the Unions?

It is often forgotten that one of the causes of the evolution of the modern American urban union was the lawless suppression of workers by Democratic party affiliated political machines, and yet it did not take so very long before the union became an outgrowth of that same political machine. And having wiped out nearly every independent industry with which it was associated, the only unions still surviving are those in control of either municipal services or state subsidized service providers, particularly in the medical field.

If the union began as a way to negotiate salaries and working conditions between employers and workers, the modern day union is often little more than governments and their union supporters bleeding the public dry in order to subsidize a political party and a union leadership that brings in the votes for that party. The situation is most critical in California, but many state and city budgets are almost as badly strained by the combination of municipal union contracts and the subsidized services that they are associated with. Lethal work slowdown by union members in New York City during the blizzard

The recent lethal work slowdown by union members in New York City during the blizzard or the multimillion dollar media blitzes by California unions for Jerry Brown and New Jersey teacher’s unions against Chris Christie is a harsh reminder of the utter greed and ruthlessness of the union’s last stand, their death grip on public services fed by taxpayer money. These stands have little to do with worker’s rights. They have next to nothing in common with the old union image of underpaid workers protesting outside of factories. It’s still about exploitation, but it’s about the exploitation of the public by a union-government political establishment.

As the bosses of old have given way to managers and then to politicians, the union bosses are the only bosses still in the game, who enjoy wealth and power far beyond those of the average taxpayer being fleeced without his or her consent. Union rhetoric may pretend that they are contending with mayors and governors, but in reality it’s the public that they’re really contending with. Their strikes have hardly any effect on the politicians, but target the public. And the money that they’re paid with is the public’s money. The New Jersey’s teachers union real target was New Jersey homeowners who already pay the highest property taxes in the country. But when given a choice, homeowners across New Jersey said no to paying more property taxes into the union’s pockets. And Governor Christie won so much acclaim, because he called the union on what it was doing and insisted that the voters should have a choice. But much of the time politicians are more than happy to give in.


Governor Schwarzenegger went in as a reformer, but after losing a battle with California nurses unions turned into a Yes Man for Sacramento. His replacement, Governor Jerry Brown was elected with millions of dollars of union money. The California media has made much of how much Meg Whitman spent on her campaign, but Jerry Brown didn’t have to spend much money on his campaign. The unions were out there doing it for him, with money extracted from a state budget in freefall. This arrangement under which a new governor, who has never held any job that was not on the public dole, got elected thanks to an arrangement with unions who live off the public dole.


How long can the system go on before it breaks down? That doesn’t really matter. Because the man at the top in Washington D.C. also got there through union backing. And ObamaCare exempts unions, but forces ordinary Americans to buy into a health care system whose contracts are negotiated to benefit unions. It’s a safe bet that Barack Obama won’t let Jerry Brown, John Chiang and their unions go under. Because his own reelection campaign depends on it. Money sent to California unions, is also money sent to the Campaign to Reelect Barack Obama. But it’s also a safe bet that the California taxpayers won’t just be the only ones hit with the bill. California may default on its debts, state bonds may prove worthless and the federal government may go on covering whatever entitlements funding is needed, but sooner or later the system will still break down. It will just be a national system, rather than a state one.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canadian Supreme Court Decision Could Lead to Cloning Research

Canadian pro-life advocates are concerned a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada could pave the way for grisly research involving cloning and merging different species.

Last week, on a split 4-4-1 decision, the nation’s high court left what pro-life advocates say is a legal void that could lead to cloning research involving the fusing of humans with animals and results in the destruction of human embryos — unique human beings just days into their existence.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Anti-Islamization Conference

Gerard Brazon was uneasy. Something “unhealthy” and “dishonest” was afoot in France. It was Islam, decided the 58-year-old retired economic consultant turned blogger. And he was not alone in his concern.

On Dec. 18, Brazon joined hundreds of like-minded people to hear a procession of speakers from countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and the United States detail the dangers of Islam in Europe, notably the religion’s fundamental incompatibility with modern Western society, many of them said.

“Increasingly, freedom of religion is overtaking individual freedom,” said Brazon at the close of the first International Conference on the Islamization of Our Countries, lamenting the erosion of secular France.

The conference, held under the gaze of police and private security, was part revival preaching to the converted and part political drive to gather steam ahead of the French presidential campaign season. But for Brazon and others, it was also a “point of departure.” Organizers hailed the event as the birth of “a resistance movement against European Islamization.”

“Maybe you will have been the starting point of something in France and in Europe,” said Oskar Freysinger, the headline speaker, who stoked the crowd’s fervor after making a dramatic entrance surrounded by bodyguards wearing dark sunglasses, low-slung caps and black scarves covering their faces. As he entered, the crowd chanted his name.

Freysinger, a member of the Swiss People’s Party, is best known for his involvement last year in a successful campaign against the construction of minarets in Switzerland, a debate that rages on across Europe. His speech was a mixture of gibes against soft-on-immigration liberals and calls for “revolution.”

“What’s at stake is your mortal soul,” Freysinger told the crowd.

Organizers estimated that more than 1,000 people paid the 10 euro ($13) entrance fee to attend. Freysinger later called the audience “a true microcosm of society,” as he marveled at its diversity: Marxists, feminists, Socialists and members of the UMP, the ruling French right party…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Fifty Anglican Priests Set to Convert to Catholicism Under Pope Backed Scheme

Up to 50 Anglican clergy, some of whom oppose women bishops, could convert to Catholicism by Easter under a new scheme approved by the Pope.

The first of the converts, including three former Anglican bishops, two of their wives, and three former Anglican nuns, were applauded after they received holy communion before a packed congregation at Westminster Cathedral at New Years Day mass.

Opposition to women bishops was one of the reasons for their resignations from the Church of England, which became effective from Friday, Catholic Bishop Alan Hopes said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: House Speaker to Sue Over Attack, Prostitute Allegations

Daily said Fini planned to blame fake assault on Berlusconi

(ANSA) — Rome, December 28 — House Speaker Gianfranco Fini is to sue two daily newspapers considered close to Premier Silvio Berlusconi over allegations that he frequented a prostitute and was arranging an attack on himself that he planned to blame on the head of government.

Berlusconi’s former heir apparent Fini has become a big rival after splitting from the People of Freedom (PdL) party he co-founded with the media magnate-turned politician to form his own Future and Freedom for Italy (FLI) party this year.

The split plunged the centre-right government into instability and Fini narrowly failed in a bid with other opposition parties to topple Berlusconi in a confidence vote on December 14. That defeat was a big blow to Fini and on Monday conservative daily Libero reported allegations that the Speaker planned to revive his political fortunes with a fake attack on his life in April that he would blame on Berlusconi.

Then on Tuesday Il Giornale, which is owned by Berlusconi’s brother, ran a story on allegations by a prostitute that Fini had paid to have sex with her.

“House Speaker Gianfranco Fini has given the go-ahead for legal action to protect his honour in relation to what the newspapers Il Giornale and Libero published yesterday and today,” Fini’s spokesman Fabrizio Alfano said Tuesday.

Prosecutors in Milan summoned Libero’s editor Maurizio Belpietro to ask him about the allegations in his newspaper, which along with Il Giornale staged a fierce campaign against Fini over the summer about a purportedly shady Monte Carlo real-estate deal involving his brother-in-law.

“I spoke (to the magistrates) about something real, the target of which was Fini, but the real aim was to make the responsibility for the incident fall on to the premier,” Belpietro told ANSA Tuesday, adding that he had not revealed his sources. photo: House Speaker Gianfranco Fini.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden Deploys Vintage Trains to Battle Snow

The Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) has turned to antique rolling stock to boost resources battling the snow and to clear a stretch of track in southern Sweden, according to a report by Sveriges Television (SVT).

The trains, old DA locomotives normally resident in the Swedish Railway Museum in Gävle in northern Sweden, have been dusted off and put back into service to clear the tracks of snow between Mjölby and Alvesta in southern Sweden.

Furthermore a 100-year-old snowplough is in place alongside the tracks in nearby Nässjö, ready to be called into action if needed.

“These are made of stern stuff which can take the winter and we are very happy to be able to help to keep the railways running,” said Henrik Reuterdahl at the museum.

The two locomotives were constructed in the middle of the 1950s and are currently equipped with a heavy duty snowplough in order to perform their task.

The harsh winter will mean that costs for the maintenance of roads and railways will soar.

According to the Transport Administration’s preliminary estimates, costs for snow removal from roads will increase by approximately 100 million kronor ($14.63 million) compared to previous winters. The figure covers the whole of 2010 and thus part of last winter.

The administration also notes that the budget overrun has been the most extreme in southern areas of the country.

“It has been a busy Christmas period,” said Thomas Anderson at the administration.

The record winter has created a slew of problems for the maintenance of roads and railways with low temperatures combined with heavy snowfalls.

“We have not been able to battle the snow with salt as it has been colder than minus eight degrees Celsius in most parts of the country,” said Pär Gustafsson at the administration.

The administration’s budget extends over the entire 2010 and thus means that a large proportion of the costs of both this and last winter are in the same budget.

The situation could lead to some savings in maintenance in the summer months with cut backs on clearing verges and holding off on relaying roads as a result.

“But we will not pinch on the winter — it will cost what it costs,” Pär Gustafsson said.

Dag Rosander at national rail operator SJ was unwilling to speculate as to how much extra cost the winter has incurred.

“We may be able to see a little further on, on the other side of the new year, how it looks.”

He pointed out that SJ had strengthened its travel time warranty which may mean that winter will be somewhat more expensive for the company, although he was hopeful that it may attract more passengers to the railways.

SJ has also improved its rolling stock and set up a special department to take care of passengers hit by delays and cancellations.

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

Sweden: Train Wrecked After Crash in [Malmö] Station

A train driver crashed into the buffers at a Swedish station today, causing massive damage to the high-speed locomotive.

Luckily no passengers were on board the X2000 as it failed to stop before hitting a cement barrier at the end of the track at the terminal in Malmö.

The driver was taken to hospital with light injuries.

The force of the smash pushed the first carriage up on top of the engine, severely damaging both wagons.

The raised carriage also hit overhead electric wires, prompting the evacuation of Malmo Central Station in southern Sweden.

The cause of the accident wasn’t immediately clear but investigators have launched a probe.

Reader Bob1 comments: “It would be interesting to have some information about the driver. Malmö is in the news quite a lot.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sweden Bomber’s Wife Denies Knowledge of Attack

The wife of the Stockholm suicide bomber said she had no idea he had become radicalised and was plotting a terror attack, in an interview out Sunday.

Mona Thwany, 28, said her husband Taimour Abdulwahab appeared to be a “normal Muslim” who “never revealed his secret side” to her. The 29-year-old sports therapist blew up himself and his car in a busy Stockholm street on December 11. Two passers-by were injured. Thwany and Abdulwahab met at university in Luton, north of London, had been married for six years and lived in the factory town with their children aged six years, four years and two months. In his suicide message, he apologised to his family for keeping his plot secret for four years.

“Taimour was a normal person, a normal Muslim. There were no alarm bells,” she told News of the World, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper. “He never revealed his secret side to me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing because as a Muslim wife I was not expected to pry into his life.” Thwany denied reports that she radicalised him and said she was “never aware” that a Luton mosque asked him to leave because of his extreme views.

“Looking back, he did get more religious,” she said. “He was a practising Muslim, praying five times a day, fasting at Ramadan and giving to charity. He distanced himself from people around him. Fewer and fewer friends came to the house. “Then he lost contact with some of them altogether. He began to spend a lot of time on the Internet. He became very private.” She said the pair never discussed politics, though “he was angry about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan — but not unduly so.” Abdulwahab’s family fled from Iraq to Sweden in 1991. Thwany is from Romania and has an Iraqi father.

Abdulwahab had told his wife he was going to Sweden to see relatives and she “didn’t notice anything different about him” when he left on November 19.

“A normal kiss and a hug and he went,” she said. He sent her an MP3 sound file minutes before killing himself but thinking it would be a song, she did not listen to it. Only when Abdulwahab’s sister called to alert her to the news did she hear the recording — his suicide message…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Prisons Minister Vows to Find Out Why Only Two Guards Were Left in Charge of 500 Inmates as Jail Riot Damage Bill Hits £2m

- Forty rioters went round unchallenged causing £2m damage — Asking inmates to be breathalysed was like ‘Benny Hill’ sketch — Cocaine and heroine also found in the prison — The jail has seen staff cuts of up to 20 per cent in two years — 150 inmates sent to ‘closed’ prison

Staffing levels at an open prison which saw just two officers and four support staff in charge of 500 inmates on the night of an ‘unprecedented’ riot will be reviewed, prisons minister Crispin Blunt said today.

Mr Blunt, who spent two hours talking to staff and inmates at Ford prison near Arundel, West Sussex, following the New Year’s Day rampage, said the Prison Service inquiry will need to consider whether the violence could be repeated.

The suitability of the inmates being held at Ford, as well as the prisoners’ access to alcohol, will also need to be examined in the wake of the violence which saw communal areas of the jail destroyed, Mr Blunt said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Thatcher’s Papers Show She Wrote ‘No!’ on Requests for Compromise: What Cameron Can Learn From Attila the Pen

It was the exclamation marks that did it for me. When I was one of Margaret Thatcher’s youthful aides I wrote her many notes of advice, which would come back covered in comments from her vigorous blue felt-tip pen.

The lady was never a pushover and frequently I failed to convince her. There would be remarks scribbled in the margin, all too often a simple ‘No!’ My male pride could deal with rejection, but not that brutal exclamation mark.

It felt like a dagger to the heart.

Yet compared to some of her Cabinet Ministers, I got off lightly. The release of confidential Cabinet records from 1980, her first full year as Prime Minister, reveals Westminster as a battlefield with Mrs T laying into opponents and doubters on all sides.

In Opposition, some had openly mocked her as the Finchley Housewife; now, out of earshot even her friends began calling her La Pasionaria (a heroine of the Spanish Civil War who declared: ‘They shall not pass’), Attila the Hen and The She-Elephant.

She shouted at the Governor of the Bank of England. She berated her Chancellor. A paper from Peter Walker, a Cabinet ‘wet’ who urged compromise with Europe, was sent back not simply with the stark ‘No!’ scribbled in the margin four times but even a capitalised ‘NO!’ to make sure the message got through.


When the Common Fisheries Policy was up for discussion, out came the pen once more. ‘It’s our water and our fish. Don’t give them away,’ she scribbled.


There was huge pain involved in the cure, but in the end she could take pride in three Election victories and a country restored, dragged back from the very brink of disaster.

An economy in desperate recession, trade unions threatening turmoil, calls for the Government to turn back, suggestions that if we wait a little longer and cut just a little less, all the nastiness might go away.

Doesn’t this sound familiar? What might we learn from what was going on 30 years ago? Are there any lessons for David Cameron in all this?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egyptian Security Guards Withdrew One Hour Before Church Blast, Say Eyewitnesses

by Mary Abdelmassih

(AINA) — The car explosion that went off in front of Saints Coptic Orthodox Church in Alexandria killed 21 and injured 96 parishioners who were attending a New Year’s Eve Mass. According to church officials and eyewitnesses, there are many more victims that are still unidentified and whose body parts were strewn all over the street outside the church. The body parts were covered with newspapers until they were brought inside the church after some Muslims started stepping on them and chanting Jihadi chants (video showing dead bodies and limbs covered with newspapers in the street).

According to eyewitnesses, a green Skoda car pull up outside the church shortly after midnight. Two men got out , one of them talked shortly on his mobile phone, and the explosion occurred almost immediately after they left the scene. On the back of the Skoda was a sticker with the words “the rest is coming” (video of car explosion and Muslims shouting “Allah Akbar”).

It was reported that the bomb, locally made, had 100KG of explosives in addition to having nails, glass and iron balls inside. The strength of it not only caused glass panes to be shattered in all the neighborhood, but also made body parts fly into the building’s fourth floor, and to the mosque facing the church.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but officials hastily blamed either Al-Qaida or the Israeli Mousad of being behind the blast, but none of them mentioned the Egyptian state security which is viewed by Copts as the real culprit.

To clear his security forces of negligence, the Minister of Interior said that the blast was an “individual” case, caused by a single suicide terrorist detonating his vest, and has nothing to do with an exploding car. The governor of Alexandria claimed the attack as being aimed at Muslims and Christians alike.

After the blast, traumatized Copts were angered by chants of “Allah Akbar” from Muslims and began hurling stones at the mosque. Immediately security forces which were absent during the car blast and the ensuing events, appeared and starting shooting tear gas at the Copts, and they in turn hurled stones at them, said an eyewitness. Fifteen Copts were rounded up from their homes by the authorities.

After Friday prayers On December 31 and in front of Al Kayed Gohar Mosque in Alexandria, Salafi Muslims held the 17th in the series of demonstrations against the Coptic Church and its Pope Shenouda, repeating the Iraqi Al-Qaeda threats against Egypt’s Coptic Church, demanding the release of the two priests’ wives, Wafaa Constatine and Camilia Shehata, whom they claim had converted to Islam but were being held against their will by the church in monasteries (AINA 11-12-2010).

Following the massacre of the congregation at Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad on October 31 2010, Al-Qaida threatened the Coptic Church and demanded the release of Muslim women held by the church, else Christians everywhere would be their target. As a result Egyptian authorities supposedly stepped up protection around Copt places of worship after President Mubarak said he was committed to protecting the Christians “faced with the forces of terrorism and extremism”.

“Security should know that those who demonstrated are the hand of Al-Qaida in Egypt,” said Hany el-Gezeiry, head of Copts4Egypt. “They should have arrested them to investigate who was behind them. They want to destroy Egypt from inside and the government kept quiet, giving them a free hand to do what they wanted. I believe Al-Qaida achieved what it wanted..”

El-Gezeiry asks why this Skoda vehicle was allowed to park in front of the church in an area cordoned off by security, when it was known that Al-Qaeda had already announced its intention of carrying out criminal acts against churches.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that security forces guarding the church withdrew nearly one hour before the blast, leaving only four policemen and an officer to guard such a big church and nearly 2000 people attending the midnight mass. “Normally they would have waited until the mass was over,” said el-Gezeiry. He also commented on the Muslim’s schadenfreude at the massacre at the church, who were heard chanting “Allah Akbar.”

“Is this a victory?” He asks. “Whoever saw this fire and people dying and body parts all over the place and could still chant ‘Allah Akbar’ is a terrorist.”

On January 6 2010, just before the Christmas Eve Massacre in Nag Hammadi, security withdrew its forces from guarding the church a couple of hours before the shooting of the Coptic congregation took place.

Attorney Mamdouh Nakhla, Head of Al-Kalema Human Rights Center, wondered if state security is an accomplice or just too cowardly to confront the Islamists in Egypt who carried out the Church massacre. “The crime is local and those who committed it are known, in addition there was a demonstration on the same day using the same rhetoric like al-Qaida. The Al Mujahedeen website threatens to repeat the attack in more churches. The site has addresses of churches and even how to make a bomb. Does security not know about it?”

“Anyone who says that it was a foreign or Israeli plot is trying to play down the crime and is trying to clear those murderers of this massacre, and I consider them their accomplices,” said Nakhla.

Nakhla said that he was preparing a complaint to be presented to President Mubarak asking for the resignation of Interior Minister Habib el Adly for failing in his duty of protecting the Copts, and for not telling the truth by saying that it was a suicide attack by one individual, when everyone could see the detonated car, just to clear his security personnel of the responsibility of letting the Skoda park in front of the church. “This 100KG bomb could not have been transported by one individual as the Interior Minister wants us to believe.”

On January 1, the funeral of the 21 people killed in the church massacre took place at St. Mina’s Monastery in King Mariout, 50 km from Alexandria. It was attended by representatives of the President, Minsters, the governor of Alexandria, as well as nearly 10,000 Copts who traveled from Alexandria. After the funeral, the Copts, angry with the governor of Alexandria, shouted “resign” and “we do not want you.”

           — Hat tip: Mary Abdelmassih[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Copts: Scheduled for a Second Massacre on January 6, 2011?

On New Year’s Eve, Muslim suicide bombers blew up worshippers emerging from a midnight Mass at Al-Qiddissine church in Alexandria, Egypt. Twenty two people were killed and more than eighty were wounded. Only eight of the dead could be identified. The other fourteen bodies were so ripped up by heavy metal objects used as shrapnel that they were unrecognizable. Information about whom the body parts might belong to is being painstakingly gathered from reports of who attended the service.

It was the worst violence against Egypt’s beleaguered Christian minority in a decade.

Joseph Nasralla is the producer of TheWayTv,, a television station for the Coptic community both in Egypt and in the United States. Now a resident of California, he was a speaker at a New York City rally to stop the Ground Zero mosque, Mr. Nasralla stays in close touch with what is happening in Egypt and in a phone interview on January 1, 2011, he gave this report of what happened that horrible night.


Mr. Nasralla expressed fears that Copts would face another massive attack when they celebrate their Christmas eve on January 6, 2011. This is a reasonable fear in light of recent attacks and threats. Last year, six Copts were killed and nine were wounded as they emerged from services on Christmas eve in a town in southern Egypt.(via In Sweden, threats against the tiny Coptic community there forced the church to close down for several weeks, possibly extending even through Christmas day on January 7, 2011. (via

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Imam of Al Azhar Criticises Pope’s “Interference”

(AGI) Cairo — The imam of Al-Azhar condemned the Alexandria attack but criticised the Pope’s “interference”. At a press conference, Ahmed al Tayeb condemned the New Year’s Eve attack that killed 21 people in Alexandria and called for “unity between the cross and the crescent.” However he also criticised the appeal by Benedict XVI to Egypt’s leaders to counter the persecution of Christians, as an “interference” in internal Egyptian affairs. He explained: “We don’t want to comment on the opinion of the Pope in the Vatican, but we have the right to disagree with him.” . .

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

Kidnapped Eritreans: Egyptian NGOs, Govt Must Act to Save Them

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 28 — Eleven Egyptian human rights organisations expressed their indignation today regarding the silence of the government on the situation of the African hostages being held in the Sinai Peninsula by traffickers who torture and brutalise them to obtain a few thousand dollars ransom. The groups made a plea for the government to immediately intervene in order to save them. In a statement received by ANSA, the NGOs said that they have contacted one of the Eritrean hostages who said that he is with another 15 individuals who are being held by a group of Bedouins in a metal container for not having paid the sum of money requested by their captors (3000-8000 dollars each).

“The hostage added that their captors give them two pieces of bread and salt water and that they constantly change their position between several locations in the Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of African migrants (Eritreans, Ethiopians, Sudanese and Somalis) have been subjected to torture for over 6 months,” added the statement. “While the accounts of the atrocities suffered by the hostages multiply, the Egyptian government has still refused to recognise the situation and take the necessary steps to find these people and to save them,” say the NGOs.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arabs Held for ‘Plotting Jerusalem Stadium Attack’

Israeli police and agents of the Shin Bet security service have arrested five Arab men suspected of involvement in a plot to fire a rocket into a Jerusalem football stadium, the agency said on Sunday. A Shin Bet statement said that two of the men, Mussa Hamada and Bassem Omari, had for several years been active in the militant Islamic movement Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Jerusalem. It said they received support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia.

The two were formally charged on Sunday with “membership in and support for a terrorist organisation, firearms offences and conspiracy to commit a crime,” the statement said.

Three other men have already been charged with trafficking in weapons, it added.

The Shin Bet said Omari, a resident of the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Safafa, is an Israeli citizen.

Hamada and the three accomplices were described as residents of east Jerusalem, a term used to describe Palestinians authorised to live in Jerusalem but who do not have Israeli citizenship. The statement released Sunday was the first news of the arrests, which the agency said were made in November.

It said the suspects began plotting an attack after Israel’s December 2008-January 2009 “Operation Cast Lead” offensive in Gaza, and had planned to target the 21,000-capacity Teddy Stadium during a football match.

“From their Shin Bet interrogation it transpires that after Operation Cast Lead the two began to plan a terror operation in Jerusalem, as part of which they examined the possibility of firing a missile at Teddy Stadium while a game was in progress,” the statement said. “The two went to a ridge overlooking the stadium in order to select the best place for an attack and carried out reconnaissance of the area, although the planning was not translated into action,” it added. The statement said the men had bought several pistols and were trying to acquire a rifle and explosives.

It said that during the past two years Hamada made several visits to Saudi Arabia, where he met a local member of the Muslim Brotherhood…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Fatah on 46th Anniversary: We Will Continue Fighting for Right of Return, Holy Places

In a communiqué issued on the occasion of its 46th anniversary, Fatah promised to continue fighting for an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, for the refugees’ rights, including their right to return to their homes, for the liberation of the Muslim and Christian holy places, and for the liberation of the prisoners. The movement expressed satisfaction over its success at developing new kinds of popular resistance, and at turning the fidai (martyrdom-seeker) clad in a Palestinian keffiyeh into a national, Arab and global symbol of resistance.

PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas said in a televised interview that the gun the Palestinians had used in their revolution “was not a blind gun,” but was one of the tools that were used to bring about the end of the occupation, the return of the refugees and the establishment of an independent state.

At a ceremony in Ramallah, Fatah’s Central Committee Secretary-General Maher Ghneim said that the Palestinians were following of the footsteps of the martyrs who had written the people’s inalienable rights in their blood. Another Central Committee member, Mahmoud Al-’Aloul, said that the day of Fatah’s establishment was the day on which the armed resistance was launched…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Acknowledging Political Islam

“Regimes that fight, survive.”

The words were those of a senior member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the “house” think-tank of AIPAC, the pro-Israel US lobbying organisation. Spoken at a scholarly conference in 1992, they were meant as a reproach to people like me, who argued that an ageing generation of autocratic leaders in the Middle East risked facilitating the rise of a wave of violent, anti-democratic Islamists unless they were willing to accommodate the aspirations of the seemingly more democratically-inclined Islamists in their midst.

A movement to which we referred in those days as “political Islam” was gaining momentum throughout the region, and there was much disagreement among Western scholars and government practitioners as to how — or indeed whether — to accommodate it. The language of political opposition in the region, then as now, was overwhelmingly Islamic; the question was whether there were any useful distinctions to be made among the various Islamist currents, and whether any would permanently accept a democratic model — or instead adhere, as many feared, to a doctrine of “one man, one vote, one time.”

Choosing suppression over justice

WINEP, then as now, was generally representative of right-leaning political opinion in Israel, and this case was no exception. One of the more influential voices from that quarter belonged to Binyamin Netanyahu, who argued at the time that there was a clear alignment of interests between Israel and the secular regimes of the surrounding Arab states.

The Islamist trends beginning to menace the latter were echoed in newly-ascendant Islamic-inspired Palestinian organisations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which posed the greatest threat to Israel. The secular Arab regimes, according to this line of thinking, should therefore find it in their interest to make peace with Israel and isolate the Islamists, both in Palestine and elsewhere, rather than allowing Islamic oppositionists to exploit a growing identification between Islam and Arab nationalism, and to use popular anti-Israeli sentiment to engulf both Israel and the Arab regimes alike.

Therefore, my WINEP friend argued — in suitably coded language — the Arab regimes should employ against the Islamists the repression so successfully employed by Israel in thwarting the Palestinians’ popular resistance to occupation during the first Intifada: “Regimes that fight, survive.”

The issues of the day were most starkly represented in Algeria, where a moderate Islamist opposition led by the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) had made rapid democratic inroads, only to be brutally repressed in early 1992 by the Algerian army, just when it was on the verge of winning an overwhelming majority in the Algerian National Assembly. The muted response of the US and other Western powers to this military coup gave testament to their fear of the Islamist wave, and the primacy in their thinking of practical over ideological considerations…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Female Turkish Professor Laments Gender Gap at Ceremony

It is concerning that women are increasingly perceived as being “behind men,” according to a female award recipient speaking at a ceremony Tuesday.

“[Republican founder Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk’s reforms gave priority to women’s rights. However, I watch in sadness as women are perceived as standing behind men in 2010,” said Dr. Seza Özen during a speech at the 45th annual Scientific and Technical Research Council of Turkey, or TÜBITAK, award ceremony held at the Çankaya Presidential Palace.

President Abdullah Gül agreed with Özen, saying he was “proud to see women receive such awards, but the point we are at after 40 years does not satisfy anyone. Compared to others, we are clearly behind.”

Hacettepe University’s Özen was awarded for her international work on vascular and Familial Mediterranean Fever in the area of children’s rheumatology and nephrology.

In addition to Gül, State Minister Mehmet Aydin and TÜBITAK President Nükhet Yetis attended the ceremony, during which outstanding achievement awards were handed out to Turkish scientists.

The event is the most prominent award ceremony for honoring advancements in Turkish science.

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

Mgr Sako: Martyrdom, The Gift of the Iraqi Church to the World. More Blood in Baghdad

Yesterday in the capital, six bombs near Christian homes left two dead and 12 wounded. The exodus of the faithful to Kurdistan continues, in a hampered by winter. For the archbishop of Kirkuk, the martyrdom of Iraqi Christians is a gift for awakening the faith of Christians of the West. At the same time, their friendship and solidarity, helping the Iraqis to continue their faithful witness.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) — “For us Christians of Iraq, martyrdom is the charism of our Church, in its 2000 history. As a minority, we are constantly faced with difficulties and sacrifices, but we are aware that bearing witness to Christ can mean martyrdom. In the Arabic language they have the same root: Shahid wa shahiid!. “

These the words of the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk, Msgr. Louis Sako, AsiaNews, summarizing what the past year for Iraqi Christians. Yesterday in Baghdad, six bomb explosions in front of Christian homes left two dead and 12 wounded. The bombs exploded in the Ghadir quarter, where there is a significant Christian presence in Yarmuk, Khadra, Dora, and Saidiya Karrada, near the church of Our Lady of Salvation, where last October 31 terrorists killed more than 50 Christians.

“These acts — points out one faithful — have created a climate of panic and disappointment among us The government is not doing anything. Attacking Christians has become a normal phenomenon in Iraq. We are a convenient target. Christians continue to flee to Kurdistan, and every day brings new families. 700 families have arrived in Erbil; 116 families in Soulaymaniyia. What future awaits them this winter? Where are our religious authorities, while they kill us for our faith? We Christians have not celebrated Christmas, we will not even celebrate the New Year. “

Archbishop Sako, who has welcomed many refugee families to his diocese, underlines their faith. “Here in Iraq we understand that faith is not an ideological or theological speculation, but a mystical reality. Faith is a personal encounter with someone who knows us, loves us and to whom we give ourselves totally. For faith, one must always be willing to go beyond, even to sacrifice. Martyrdom is an expression of loyalty to that love. On 31 October, Fr Wassim, the young priest from the Syriac Catholic cathedral turned to the terrorists and cried: Kill me and free the faithful. He knew what he was saying, this was his commitment of love for Christ and for his flock. “

“Christians around the world — continues Bishop. Sako — can renew their faith and their commitment to being in contact with Iraq’s persecuted Christians. At the same time, the friendship, solidarity and support of our brothers and sisters of the West gives us the courage to resist and remain in our land and in our churches, continuing our presence and Christian witness. Knowing that you stand by us, urges us to cultivate a common life, in peace and harmony with our Muslim brothers. “

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

Turkey’s Border With Syria Falls to Trade Invasion

Five border cities in Southeast Turkey are working to boost economic and cultural relations with counterparts in Syria as part of a 25-million-Turkish-Lira program operating in parallel with national-level diplomatic efforts to deepen bilateral ties. Calling the border between the two countries ‘an artificial one,’ Mardin Gov Hasan Duruer expresses support for establishing a free-trade zone that could eventually encompass Lebanon and Jordan as well

Turkey’s less-developed border cities are riding the wave of Ankara’s increasing engagement with the Middle East, boosting trade and economic cooperation, as well as cultural and sporting interaction, with southern neighbor Syria.

“The border between Turkey and Syria is an artificial one. No boundaries exist in [our] minds or thoughts,” Mardin Gov. Hasan Duruer told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a telephone interview.

The southeastern Anatolia cities of Mardin and Sanliurfa have joined nearby Kilis, Gaziantep and Hatay in a 25 million-Turkish Lira program to promote trade, employment and sports and cultural exchanges between the five Turkish cities and three Syrian counterparts, Aleppo, Rakka and Haseki. Of the total budget, 15 million liras will be allocated by Turkey; the rest will be provided by Syria.

“One of the planned projects concerns maintaining border security,” Duruer said. “The area next to the Nusaybin border gate is full of landmines. We have the thought of clearing the mines and establishing a free-trade zone with Syria. Maybe in the future we can include Lebanon and Jordan. Why not?”

The cross-border initiative follows Turkey’s move to establish a high-level strategic council with Syria in order to deepen the bilateral relationship in a wide range of areas and abolish visa requirements for travel between the two countries. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for the establishment of a kind of European-style Schengen zone for Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Government leaders from the three nations are expected to meet next month in Istanbul to implement the plans.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also proposed a visa-free travel region for Syria, Iran, Turkey and other neighboring countries. “We completely support this project,” Mardin Gov. Duruer said.

“The natural market commercially for the five cities is the Middle East. In the past, they failed to utilize trade due to the political problems between Turkey and some neighboring countries and could not develop in economic terms,” Bedri Yay, an expert with the Mardin Investment Support Office, told the Daily News. “The more the psychological barriers are removed, the more economic development will take place.”

In addition to boosting the economy and trade, the projects being undertaken also seek to promote sports and culture. Officials said such projects could include providing Arabic courses in Turkey and Turkish-language courses in Syria, or organizing football events between the two countries’ city teams.

“We have Kurds, Arabs and Syriacs, and Syria has the same. There is no difference,” Duruer said.

Prior to 2007, provincial governors’ offices undertook several projects to promote trade between Syria and the Turkish border cities of Kilis, Gaziantep and Hatay through the coordination of the State Planning Organization. Since 2007, several development agencies have been established, for a total of 26 today. The Dicle Development Agency, which is responsible for Mardin, Batman, Siirt and Sirnak, is overseeing the new program and training local officials and nongovernmental organizations to initiate projects that will contribute to the Turkish-Syrian relationship. Complete project proposals must be submitted by Feb. 3.

Turkey and Syria came to the brink of war in the 1990s due to Syria’s allegedly harboring members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but the relationship has improved since the early 2000s, becoming a strategic model for the region. The two countries have held joint Cabinet meetings, and last week held the second prime-ministerial-level meeting of an intergovernmental strategic council in Ankara, bringing together 26 ministers to evaluate the progress made in 51 cooperation deals signed last year.

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

WikiLeaks: Iran Can Reach Israel in 12 Minutes

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iran has missiles that can reach Israel in 12 minutes, according to cables released by WikiLeaks.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi told a U.S. Congressional delegation in November 2009 that the Islamic Republic has over 300 missiles that can reach the Jewish state in up to 12 minutes, according to the cables released on Sunday.


He also said that Hezbollah has over 40,000 rockets capable of reaching all of Israel, and that Hamas could hit Tel Aviv.

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: The Four Inch Gadget That Helps British Soldiers to Pinpoint Taliban Snipers

British soldiers are to test a revolutionary new device which can pinpoint the exact position of enemy snipers 1,000 yards away.

The tiny computerised ‘sniper spotter’, which has been developed by Army scientists at the top-secret Defence Science and Technology Laboratory in Wiltshire, identifies the shooter’s location in an instant, enabling British troops to fire back immediately and accurately.

The new high-tech gadget — just 4in square and weighing 11oz — is worn on a soldier’s arm. It is connected to a shoulder sensor which pinpoints the location.

The device will be trialled this month with the Parachute Regiment in Afghanistan.

The detector’s powerful acoustic processing technology evaluates the enemy position by determining the target’s co-ordinates on a small screen with an arrow indicator.

Simultaneously it bleeps a warning into a headset connected to the device.

The Boomerang Warrior-X processor is the most advanced detector on the market. It has been refined by the scientists from a US system used in Iraq.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Drugs Charge British Mother is Victim of Malaysian Husband, Say Family

At first glance, it is hard to feel much sympathy for Shivaun Orton.

After all, when Malaysian police raided the backpacker hostel run by the British mother and her husband, they found bundles of cash and their largest drugs haul for three years.

And despite caring for sons Jacob, 16, and Isaac, 14, Shivaun and her Malaysian husband Abdul Harris Fadilah are self-confessed heroin users in a country where possession of just 15 grams carries the death sentence.

[Photo] ‘Controlled’: Briton Shivaun Orton, 41, with Malaysian husband Abdul Harris Fadilah, 46, who Miss Orton’s family claim has forced her into drug addiction


At just 21, Shivaun married her French boyfriend, Olivier, and emigrated to Miami, but the marriage collapsed within a year.

Remaining in the US, she soon met Abdul Harris Fadilah, who was then working as a pool hall manager.


But it took another two years before the sister confided deeper problems.

In one of their regular chats, Shivaun revealed she had found Harris in their bed with another woman.

He then admitted sleeping with many other women. Worse, a woman from Miami had turned up at the resort with a child she claimed was his.

She revealed she had been married to Harris and that they were not divorced, making Shivaun’s marriage illegal.

Stephanie said: ‘Shivaun was in pieces. But instead of Harris begging her forgiveness and offering reassurance, he became incredibly nasty and hostile towards her.’

He threatened to tell the authorities their marriage was illegal and said she would be jailed, flogged or deported, meaning she would lose her sons.

‘Shivaun’s parents urged her to flee to Wales but she would not abandon her children.

For the next ten years, Shivaun learned to live with the increasingly strict regime.

‘Harris regularly beat her up,’

Stephanie said. ‘He locked her in the house while he went out to meet other women for sex.’

Shivaun even claims that her husband arranged for her to be raped by local police officers in lieu of fines he had failed to pay.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan PM Loses Vital Coalition Partner as MQM Quits

Pakistan’s MQM party says it is leaving Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s coalition to join the opposition.

The move will deprive Mr Gilani of his majority in parliament.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the second largest party in the coalition, withdrew two ministers from the federal cabinet last week.

Mr Gilani denied there his government was in danger of collapsing. “I don’t see any crisis,” he said, speaking on television after the announcement.

The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says the government is now scrambling to find new partners, but that without them, new elections are likely.

Pakistan’s governing coalition held 181 seats — including the MQM’s 25 — in the 342-member parliament. The MQM’s departure leaves Mr Gilani’s Pakistan People’s Party well below the 172 seats needed to preserve its majority…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Toddler Fatally Stabbed After Alleged Beach Row in Canley Vale

A STABBING that left a two-year-old girl dead allegedly started with her parents arguing over a trip to the beach.

The Daily Telegraph reports the girl was found fatally wounded in her family’s unit after her mother was repeatedly stabbed in front of two young neighbours in the carpark at Canley Vale, in Sydney’s south-west.

It is alleged the Afghan woman, 24, had been fighting with her husband over going to the beach and he had chased her with a knife.

The woman had banged on a neighbour’s door seeking help about 6.45pm Saturday.

A neighbour’s young sons were in the car park and screamed when they saw the attack, which left the woman with chest and shoulder wounds and slumped in the entrance to the building .

Her 32-year-old husband was under police guard in hospital last night after their daughter was found fatally stabbed in their unit.

A female neighbour, who asked not be identified, said the woman had joined her husband from Afghanistan about a year-and-a-half ago, and the couple had lived in the unit for about six months.

The husband, a security guard, had migrated from Afghanistan about five years ago, she said.

The neighbour said the couple had been arguing because the wife wanted to go to the beach and her husband would not let her.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Never-Ending Cartoon Chaos

At a meal of halal pasta at a Johannesburg restaurant in 2004 , I found myself defending my one-time work colleague, Graeme Joffe, at a table of young Muslim men, after a joke he had made on a local radio station.

“Even if he thinks he’s funny, this was insulting to us, and the brothers are right to launch a complaint,” said one.

“They should fire him. Do you even know what he said? ‘What do you call a Bangladeshi cricketer with a bacon sandwich on his head? Ham’head. And if he has two bacon sandwiches? Mo’Ham’head!’ Disgusting!”

I tried to interject diplomatically, “I know Graeme, he’s one of the most polite, least offending, self-deprecating people you can meet. It’s a light-hearted radio show, come on. I worked with him at Supersport; if anything they should fire him because the joke was so bad!”

“Garda, you don’t understand”, insisted the most annoyed. “No matter how harmless the intention” and, with the surest of conviction, he continued: “When it comes to the prophet, there are no jokes.”

Joffe and the radio station were censured after South Africa’s Broadcasting Complaints Commission saw his joke as “hate speech” that violated the constitution. And yes, it has been no joke since late 2005, when 12 cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten seemed to ignite frenetic flames of fury that just wouldn’t die down.

The very depiction of Prophet Muhammad was an affront to Muslims, who do not depict him for fear of idolatry, among numerous other theological reasons. He has been depicted before, to the annoyance of many Muslims, but not much more. What seemed to tip the saga into the epicly dangerous territory that it has occupied since is that a substantial number of the images of him had sometimes tacit, sometimes overt references to Muhammad and misogyny, Muhammad and violence, Muhammad and terrorism.

Manufacturing anger?

But was that it? Was there merely an impulsive, collective rising up, a synergy of the insulted? Had the outcry been devoid of any larger outside forces prodding, pricking, planning — manufacturing anger?

The recent WikiLeaks revelations suggest otherwise. They show that the US charge d’affaires in Damascus, Stephen Seche, believed that Syria actively encouraged violent protests in which the Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked. The leak reminded me of another meal in another African country, Egypt, in 2008…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Swede Among Terrorist Suspects Held in Uganda

A Swedish national is among a group of three people arrested on Uganda’s eastern border on suspicion of having ties to a terrorist group, according to a local media report.

The woman was among three people arrested last Wednesday aboard a bus from Nairobi in Kenya to Kamapal in Uganda on suspicion of links to the Somali terrorist group Islamist Al-Shabaab, according to a report in the Ugandan Monitor newspaper.

According to the newspaper’s sources the police had received information that the suspects were on their way to Kampala to deploy bombs. Al-Shabaab has previously threatened terror attacks in Uganda and Burundi as the countries have refused to withdraw their forces from Somalia.

One of the three arrested, a woman, had two passports, one of which was Swedish.

The three suspects were arrested and taken to Kampala to be interrogated further.

Teo Zetterman at the Foreign Ministry’s press service said that the ministry is aware of the information in the media.

“Staff from the Embassy in Kampala have spoken to a police officer, but have not been able to get this information confirmed. The embassy will seek new contact with the police tomorrow (Sunday),” said Teo Zetterman.

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

Latin America

Battisti Decision Outrages Victims’ Families

Lula ‘an accomplice’ in ex-terrorist’s murders


(ANSA) — Rome, December 31 — The decision by outgoing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva not to extradite Italian former terrorist Cesare Battisti sparked outrage among the families of his four victims Friday.

Alberto Torregiani, son of a Milanese jeweler, Pierluigi Torregiani, gunned down by Battisti’s leftist militant group in 1979, said: “those politicians and judges should be hauled onto a plane and brought to Italy to understand the nonsense they have said”.

Torregiani, left wheelchair-bound by the attack at the age of 13, said he was “angry and upset” at the news and reiterated he would try to organise street protests with the other relatives.

Alessandro Santoro, the son of a prison guard, Antonio Santoro, shot dead in Udine in 1978, said he was “very bitter for us and all the other families who have suffered for so long only to see ourselves humiliated yet again”.

The relatives of the other two victims in 1978 and 1979, Milan security police officer Andrea Campagna and Mestre butcher Lino Sabbadin, also expressed their unhappiness with Lula’s decision.

Sabbadin’s son Adriano branded Lula “an accomplice” of Battisti’s.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Diplomatic Crisis as Brazil Refuses to Extradite Battisti

Italian Premier Berlusconi expresses ‘bitterness and regret’

(ANSA) — Rome, December 31 — A diplomatic crisis exploded between Italy and Brazil on Friday when the Brazilian government said it had denied a request to extradite former terrorist Cesare Battisti to Italy.

The announcement was widely expected as it followed reports this week that alleged fears for Battisti’s life had outgoing Brazilian President Inacio Lula da Silva leaning towards refusing the request in one of his last acts on his final day in office.

“I express deep bitterness and regret about President Lula’s decision to deny the extradition of multiple-murderer Cesare Battisti,” said Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in a statement.

“This decision is against the most elementary sense of justice.

“I consider the case anything but closed. Italy will not give up and it will enforce the respect of its rights at all forums”.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said he was sending a message to Brazilian president-elect Dilma Rousseff, who will replace Lula on New Year’s Day, asking her to reverse the decision.

He also said he was recalling Italy’s ambassador to Brazil to Rome for consultations on legal measures to have the refusal overturned. Battisti, a 56-year-old fugitive who was part of a leftist militant group in the 1970s, when Italy endured its ‘Years of Lead’ of political violence, has been convicted of four murders in his homeland.

He has petitioned for political asylum in Brazil, saying his life would be in danger if he were forced to return to Italy.

Friday’s announcement is not the end of the affair as Battisti will have to stay in jail in Brazil at least until February and the case looks likely to return to the country’s supreme court, which ruled in favour of extradition last year.

Frattini said the claim that Battisti’s personal safety would be at risk in Italy made the decision “so much more incomprehensible and unacceptable to the Italian public”. Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said the decision was not an affront to Italy as “particular situations can create risks for a person despite the democratic character of the two states”.

He expressed “amazement” at the Italian reaction and described as “impertinent” a statement by Berlusconi’s office released Thursday saying failure to extradite Battisti would be “unacceptable”.

Defence Minister Ignazio La Russa, one of several government members who warned serious diplomatic consequences would follow if Battisti were not turned over, was indignant.

“The worse possible forecast has come true,” La Russa told ANSA.

“Nothing will be left untried, at the judicial level or via any other legal means, to have overturned this unjust and seriously offensive decision, which fortunately is not final.

“It is offensive above all to the memory of the people murdered and the relatives of the people who lost their lives because of the killer Battisti”. Italian opposition parties also blasted the decision.

“It’s mortifying that Brazil considers the right to asylum a pretext to give a killer impunity,” said Antonio Di Pietro, a former magistrate and leader of the Italy of Values centre-left party.

“Let’s hope this is not the end of the story. It’s an ugly page (of history) that we would have hoped never to read” Roberta Angelilli, vice president of the European Parliament and a member of Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party, stressed the extradition was a “legitimate request made to the Brazilian government not only by Italian institutions but also by European Union ones”.

Angelilli pointed out that the European Parliament passed a resolution in February 2009 backing the Italiian request.

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 taken to the Brazilian supreme court, which in November 2009 reversed the earlier decision and turned down Battisti’s request for asylum.

However, the court added that the Brazilian constitution gives the president personal powers to deny the extradition if he chose to.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

New Brazilian Government Agrees With Ruling on Battisti

(AGI) Brasilia — The new Brazilian Minister of Justice, Jose’ Edoardi Cardozo, reiterated that he “had no doubts” regarding the “correctness” of former President Lula’s ruling on the extradition of former terrorist Cesare Battisti to Italy.

Deputy Minister of Justice in the former Cabinet, Cardozo said to ‘O Globo’ that Lula “has fully respected the law” and was “in line with the position assumed by the Supreme Federal Court.

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


Thousands of German-Turks Choosing to Return to Homeland

Many in Germany have long feared that Turkey’s European Union accession would result in a flood of Turkish workers to Germany, yet recent statistics suggest more and more German-Turks are choosing to return to their ancestors’ homeland.

Some 40,000 German-Turks returned to Turkey in 2009, German daily Bild recently reported, covering the story with the headline “ ‘We German-Turks returned to Turkey.’“

Özlem Aydin, a 36-year-old woman from Munich, said she worked as an architect in Germany before coming to Turkey on vacation.

“I received a good job offer. I met a very nice man and got married. I don’t think I’ll move anywhere else,” she said. “Munich is like a village compared to Istanbul. However, I missed the German beer, sausage, and the Oktoberfest at the beginning.”

Arda Sürel, a 40-year-old consultant in the banking sector, said he was small when his family immigrated to Germany and added that he felt a sense of belonging when he came to Turkey for holidays, leading him to return to the land of his birth in 2003.

After leaving his job at the bank in 2003, “I moved to Istanbul and started my own business. I think I have German characteristics as well and that I brought them with me here,” Sürel said.

For others, the transition has been somewhat more difficult.

Özgür Mengil, 36, was working as a preschool teacher in Frankfurt when he decided to quit his job and move to Istanbul.

“I’ve been looking for a job in Istanbul for two months. It is unusual for a man to be a kindergarten teacher in Turkey. I know very few people like me in Istanbul,” he said. “I feel like a stranger here compared to Germany.”

Hümeyra Sayin, a 25-year-old woman from Düsseldorf, said she felt very torn when she decided to move to Turkey from Germany.

“I was like a German here [in Germany]. I spoke German, had German friends and dreamed in German. But after I moved to Turkey, I learned Turkish and finished school,” she said.

“Now, I’m working for a call center in Istanbul. I have tried so hard to get used to living in Turkey. I want to be a German teacher in the future,” Sayin said.

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

UK: Now It’s Dave’s Turn to Rub Our Noses in Diversity

Another year begins with another Big Lie exposed. I wonder how many voters foolishly supported David Cameron’s Unconservative Party last May because of his loud claims that he would do something about immigration.

Yet a report from a Left-wing think tank, the IPPR, shows that Mr Cameron must have known perfectly well that his pledge could not be kept. Immigration will not fall this year and may even rise. EU citizens can come and go as they please. Lithuanians and Latvians, and many of our Irish neighbours, will arrive in thousands in search of work, keeping wages low.

We will continue to host hundreds of thousands of overseas students and large numbers of alleged refugees. ‘Family reunions’ will allow many others through supposedly closed doors, from all the parts of the world which have already supplied so many of our new citizens.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: The BBC’s Anti-Christian Bias: The Sunday Programme Disgraces Itself Again

Nowhere in the BBC’s output is Left-liberal bias more thickly applied than on Radio 4’s Sunday programme. If you didn’t think you could actually hear a lip curl, try listening to any of its “reports” that involve Christian conservatives. (The programme’s heavily loaded discussion of Catholic issues during the Pope’s visit was easily the low point of the BBC’s otherwise good coverage.) Radical Islam, on the other hand? Let me refer you to a Spectator Coffee House post by Nick Cohen, who describes this morning’s twisted little number far better than I could:

Alas, whenever you believe that you have nailed British hypocrisy, the BBC comes along and proves that it is worse than you thought. If there were an award for intellectual cowardice, a gold medal for journalistic double standards, this morning’s effort by Radio 4 deserves it. The BBC began its report (here 28 minutes in) on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 by saying that after the attack “some in the west felt personally threatened by Muslims. They believed that Muslims had nothing hatred for America and its allies.” Note how at once the BBC avoids discussion of radical Islam, which does indeed have nothing but hatred for the West, for the Jews, for the Hindus and for the free thinkers, atheists, agnostics, liberals, secularist and democrats. Hatred that is complemented by its loathing for those Muslims or ex-Muslins who do not share its fascistic values, and whom it is slaughtering and oppressing wherever it has the power to kill.

Instead of acknowledging radical Islam’s existence, the BBC politely ignores what was in front of its nose and implies that to oppose radical Islam is to incubate a racist hated of all Muslims. The only fanatic it quotes is Pastor Jones, the Florida preacher who wanted to burn the Koran. He is a nasty piece of work, to be sure, but an insignificant figure whose global notoriety owes everything to media corporations such as the BBC. The fanaticism we should worry about is Christian fanaticism not Islamist fanaticism, the suggestion runs. At the very least there is a moral equivalence between the two. The BBC then mentions the 7/7 bombings, which as I remember them were perpetrated by men with “nothing but hatred for the West”. Instead of finding someone who can talk about the killings with honesty and intelligence, it drags up a vicar so wet you could wring him out. His contribution is to blame the media for “piling on the agony” — as if journalists were the suicide bombers — and to describe the atrocity in tellingly woozy and illiterate language as “something international,” when it was all too clearly “something domestic”. I am glad to say that in the studio discussion afterwards, Stephen Pollard exploded. “The idea that there is some kind of equivalence of extremism” between a Florida pastor with a tiny congregation and a global clerical fascist movement was “fantasy,” he boomed…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Christianophobia: Schifani, Prompt Initiatives Needed

(AGI) Rome — Commenting on the increasing cases of violence against Christians, Schifani said initiatives are needed to give hope. “Religious freedom is a fundamental right which marks the progress of civilization and morality in the history of mankind. Faced as we are with repeated and cruel cases of violence against Christians, in what has become a real persecution of helpless people, initiatives are needed which can give and guarantee real hope “ Senate speaker Renato Schifani said. He went on to say that “no institution can shirk this moral obligation. The Senate will respond with resolve and without delays”.

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

Hotmail Users Log in to Discover Their Emails Have Been Deleted

Email giant MSN is facing a barrage of complaints from Hotmail users who claim emails have been deleted from their accounts.

A number of users resorted to forums to vent their frustration after they logged in to find empty inboxes and missing folders. It is unclear whether the problem lies with Microsoft, which owns MSN, or whether it is the work of hackers.

Some users of Microsoft Hotmail are starting off the new year scrambling to get back e-mails of old. A chorus of frantic users has posted complaints on Microsoft’s online forum that all of their messages have disappeared.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Intimidation and the Tyranny of Silence

While WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is celebrating his $1 million-plus book deal on a 600-acre estate and enjoying his status as a lefty fringe hero, former cartoonist Molly Norris is in hiding.

The moral of this column is that in today’s world, cartoons, if they target Islam, can be more hazardous to your health than crossing the mighty U.S. government and its allies.

Swedish and Danish authorities arrested four suspected militant Islamic jihadists last week for allegedly planning a terrorist attack before this weekend. Their target was the Jyllands-Posten news bureau in Copenhagen. In 2006, the newspaper became the target of terrorist threats after it printed controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in 2005. Authorities say the suspects arrested planned to use the same “swarm” tactics used in the 2008 Mumbai killing spree that left 163 people dead.

Kurt Westergaard drew a cartoon that depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Last January, a Somali man wielding an ax and demanding “revenge” broke into Westergaard’s home. In 2009, Danish authorities arrested three men for planning to behead Westergaard.

Like Westergaard, Jyllands-Posten Editor Flemming Rose, who commissioned the cartoons, now has round-the-clock security. I asked via e-mail, How many planned attacks against his paper and cartoonists have been thwarted?

Rose answered that this latest episode represents the sixth or seventh foiled attack.

In his new book, “Tyranny of Silence,” Rose explains that he asked cartoonists to submit works on Muhammad in order to stand up to “my perception of prevalent self-censorship among the Danish media” on the subject of radical Islam. Now he has a target on his back.

When we met in 2008, Rose summarized what summed up “The Cartoon Crisis.” “They are basically saying, ‘If you say we are violent, we are going to kill you.’ “

And: “If you give in to intimidation, you will not get less intimidation, you will get more intimidation.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]