Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110125

Financial Crisis
»Bank of England Chief Mervyn King: Standard of Living to Plunge at Fastest Rate Since 1920s
»Germany: Rich States Push to Curb Federal Redistribution
»The Netherlands to Press for EU Contribution Cut
»To Rule the Euro Zone
»UK, US Banks Sue Italian City Councils Over Swap ‘Fraud’
»UK: Lord Taylor Found Guilty of Fiddling His Parliamentary Expenses
»Former Guantánamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence in Embassy Bombings
»Hawaii Official Now Swears: No Obama Birth Certificate
»Illinois Supreme Court Halts Printing of Chicago Mayoral Ballots Without Emanuel’s Name
»It Was an Accident, Claims Muslim Father Accused of ‘Running Down and Killing Daughter, 20, Because She Was Becoming Too Westernised’
»Jesse Ventura Sues TSA in Pat-Down Smackdown
»Muslim Father ‘Who Ran Over Daughter Was Trying to Spit at Another Woman’
»New DNC Director Led Socialist Party Offshoot
»Obama Picks RIAA Lawyer to Replace Kagan as Solicitor General
»Opponent of NYC Islamic Center Becomes Advocate for Mosques Nationwide
»Robert Reilly, Author of the Closing of the Muslim Mind
»Southern Baptist Leader Leaves Mosque Coalition
»State of the Union: US Risks Losing Its Global Supremacy, Barack Obama to Warn
»Tea Party’s Allen West’s Anti-Muslim Tirade Against Rep. Keith Ellison
»Texas Legislator Moves to Stop Shariah
»WikiLeaks: US Military Cannot Find Evidence Linking Julian Assange to Bradley Manning
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Schools May Impose Headscarf Code
»German Film Board Prevents Release of Turkish Film
»Italy: Ruby: Defence Lawyers Send Papers to Prosecutors
»Italy: Who Else But Silvio Berlusconi?
»Netherlands: PVV Most Discussed on Social Media
»UK: Brothers Killed Two Children and Their Mother After Setting Fire to Their House Following Argument About a Car
»UK: Man Stabbed to Death and Three Others Knifed as Gangs From ‘Middle East’ Clash in Seaside Town
»UK: Mosque Will be Built After Appeal Triumph
»UK: Now the NHS Pays £1,000 for a Bottle of Salt Water!
»UK: The 29-Year-Old Set to Become Britain’s Youngest Grandfather After Daughter, 14, Falls Pregnant
»UK: Volunteers to be Given Speed Cameras to Help Clock Repeat Offenders
»Minorities and Media Face Discrimination and Pressure Says Rights Group
»Montenegro: Opposition Against Djukanovic and Berlusconi
»Report Identifies Hashim Thaci as ‘Big Fish’ In Organised Crime
North Africa
»Algeria: Insurance Firms Prepare Coverage Against Riots
»Christians: HRW Report, Discrimination in Egypt Widespread
»Egypt Reclaims Stolen Symbols of Heritage
»Egypt: Protest in the Streets, Clashes in Cairo
»Egypt: President’s Son and Family ‘Have Fled to the UK’
»Egypt Arrests ‘Al-Qaeda Cell’
»Mohamed Elbaradei on Democracy in Egypt: ‘There is No Turning Back Now’
»Tunisia: Assets of Ben Ali’s Family All Over the World, Press
»Tunisia: Advisor to Bel Ali Arrested, Former Regime Hardliner
»Tunisia: Magazin General Group, 25.5 Mln Euros in Damages
»Tunisia: Fall of Ben Ali’s Secular Regime Paves the Way for Islamic Parties
Israel and the Palestinians
»Leaks Reveal Deep Palestinian-Israeli Security Ties
»Palestinian Papers: UK’s MI6 ‘Tried to Weaken Hamas’
»Scoop: Explaining How the “Palestine Papers” Story is a Fabrication That Teaches US the Truth
Middle East
»Lebanon ‘Day of Rage’ Called Over Hizbullah Gains
»Lebanon: Indictments Expected Soon in Hariri Murder
»Letter From Turkey: When the Wolves Get Religion
»Self-Immolation Spreads Across Mideast Inspiring Protest
»Moscow Airport Bomb: Dmitry Medvedev Calls for Security Shake-Up
»Russia’s Putin Vows Revenge for Suicide Bombing
»Russia: Witnesses Hear Russian Airport Suicide Bomber Yell ‘I’ll Kill You All!’
»Russia Fails to Come to Grips With Growing Tide of Racism
»Chechen President Backs Dress Code Proposed by Moscow Patriarchate
South Asia
»Indonesia: Extremists Demonstrate Against the Opening of the Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java
»Pakistan: Former Intelligence Agent’s Death in Captivity Causes Unease
Far East
»China’s New World Order
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopian Christians Told to Convert to Islam, Or Die
»Time for a Right-Wing Party in South Africa
»Employment: Come back to Germany, Pepe
»Italians Living Longer, Having Fewer Children
»Italy: Immigrants Boost Population to Over 60.6 Mln Says Central Statistics Office
»Jimmie Akesson: Swedish Immigration is ‘Extreme’ [Video]
»UK: Former Asylum Seeker Living for Free in £1.2m Taxpayer-Funded Mansion is Charged With Benefit Fraud
Culture Wars
»Carnegie Touts Green Credentials of Genghis Khan for Slaughtering 40 Million People
»Gay University Leaders Form Group to Advocate Advancement

Financial Crisis

Bank of England Chief Mervyn King: Standard of Living to Plunge at Fastest Rate Since 1920s

Families will see their disposable income eaten up as they “pay the inevitable price” for the financial crisis, Mervyn King warned. With wages failing to keep pace with rising inflation, workers’ take-home pay will end the year worth the same as in 2005 — the most prolonged fall in living standards for more than 80 years, he claimed. Mr King issued the warning in a speech in Newcastle upon Tyne after official figures showed that gross domestic product fell by 0.5 per cent during the final three months last year. The Government blamed the unexpected reduction — the first since the third quarter of 2009 — on the freezing weather that paralysed much of the country last month. But there were fears that the country was poised to slip back into recession, defined as two successive quarters of negative growth. Economists said the situation was “an absolute disaster”. Labour accused ministers of jeopardising recovery by pushing ahead with public spending cuts too quickly.

Mr King said he was unable to offer any imminent hope of a rise in interest rates in coming months because of the poor economic outlook. Savers and “those who behaved prudently” would be among the biggest losers in the squeeze, he admitted.

Disposable household income has been hit by sharp increases in the cost of food, fuel and tax, coupled with restricted wage rises for most workers. Last year, take-home pay fell by about 12 per cent, official figures showed, and the trend was expected to continue in 2011. The governor warned that the Bank “neither can, nor should try to, prevent the squeeze in living standards”.

He said that the economic figures were a reminder that the recovery will be “choppy”. However, he said the biggest threat facing the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, which sets interest rates, was rising inflation.

The Bank is expected to use interest rates to keep inflation below two per cent, but the governor said inflation could rise “to somewhere between four per cent and five per cent over the next few months”. He claimed that rising inflation had been caused largely by increases in global oil and commodity prices, and tax rises such as the increase in VAT introduced at the beginning of the year, which the Bank was powerless to control.

“In 2011, real wages are likely to be no higher than they were in 2005,” he said. “One has to go back to the 1920s to find a time when real wages fell over a period of six years.

“The squeeze on living standards is the inevitable price to pay for the financial crisis and subsequent rebalancing of the world and UK economies.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Germany: Rich States Push to Curb Federal Redistribution

The three big, rich states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse are arming themselves for a fresh battle against paying support to Germany’s financially weaker regions, officials announced Monday.

The three powerhouses have prepared a constitutional challenge to federal equalization payments to keep in their pocket as a bargaining chip to negotiate a settlement with the states who receive the transfer money.

Under the Länderfinanzausgleich — or state financial equalization — rules, state revenue from sales tax and parts of income and corporate tax, are used to redistribute money to smooth out differences between the nation’s richer and poorer states. Federal government grants are also used for the same purpose.

But the governments of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, all net payers, decided at a joint cabinet meeting in Stuttgart on Monday to commission a legal challenge, which they would use to pressure other states towards a compromise.

They want an overhaul of the equalization system, under which the richer and more powerful states help the economically weaker ones. Among other complaints, they argue that the system gives recipient states no incentive to be fiscally disciplined.

At the same time, they made an offer to negotiate with other states who are the beneficiaries of equalization payments. If those talks fail, the three southern states could bring out the constitutional challenge.

So far, the recipient states have shown no willingness to discuss the issue. In 2010, nearly €7 billion were transferred as equalization payments.

The largest payer was Bavaria and the biggest recipient was the city-state of Berlin.

Article 107 of Germany’s constitution demands that “the differing financial strengths of the states are adequately balanced.”

The Constitutional Court has never ruled precisely what “adequately balanced” payments entail. But it has ordered in the past changes to the system, notably in 1999, in response to a challenge from the same three states in 1999.

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

The Netherlands to Press for EU Contribution Cut

The Netherlands is going to put pressure on the European Union to grant it a permanent discount on its EU contributions, Nos reports on Tuesday.

Prime minister Mark Rutte reportedly made the comment during a meeting with British prime minister David Cameron in London. Britain has had a discount since the 1980s.

The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany are still the biggest net payers into the EU’s coffers. The payment is based on national income, plus a share of value-added and import tax receipts.

The Netherlands had a €1bn discount in 2005, the last time EU contributions for individual members were amended.

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

To Rule the Euro Zone

The unified currency was supposed to limit German power. Now the Germans are in charge—and no one is happy, not even the Germans.

“For every tax receipt that’s not collected,” goes a joke making the rounds in Athens these days, “the Germans will shoot 10 hostages.” The acrid humor is but the latest proof of division in the European Union, a grand project that was conceived to make possible the harmonious cohabitation of many peoples who have, through history, hated each others’ guts. The euro was created as the currency that would unite the continent, but having pushed Europe toward an abyss, its eye-catching bank notes can no longer paper over ancient grievances.

When the EU gave bankrupt Greece a €110 billion bailout last May, under adamant orders to slash spending and raise taxes, distraught Greeks looked back to an earlier era of foreign diktats. Since it was Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, who pushed for the toughest conditions, the mayor of Athens drew up an €80 billion invoice for the Wehrmacht’s occupation of Greece during World War II. Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos fumed that the offspring of Nazis had no right to issue orders to Greeks. The left-wing Athens daily Ethnos wrote that the Germans were turning debtor countries like Greece into “colonies of the Fourth Reich” and all of Europe into a “financial Dachau.”

To compare financial assistance from Berlin to a concentration camp is, of course, of dubious logic and execrable taste. But Europe’s escalating debt crisis has taken a heavy toll on civility, especially in the ire directed at Germany. In Ireland, Spain, and Portugal, many blamed Merkel for fanning the crisis when she warned in November that insolvent countries might never pay back all their debts—an inescapably logical observation, but one that, when spoken plainly, spooked the markets. “The Germans never change,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy muttered to his advisers during a meeting in Brussels when Merkel wasn’t as forthcoming with her country’s money as he had hoped.

Of the many conceivable reasons Germany has become the object of Europe’s resentment, the euro is at the top of the list. To put it bluntly, the weak euro has meant a strong Germany. In fact, the weaker the euro, the stronger Germany becomes. No country in Europe has emerged as powerful and self-confident as Germany has from the currency’s crisis. In 2010 the German economy grew by 3.7 percent, the fastest rate of any Western nation. Unemployment, having fallen for 10 months in a row, is at the lowest level since 1992. “The average German never even noticed the crisis,” says Thomas Petersen, a veteran observer of German public opinion at the Allensbach polling institute. Andreas Rees, an analyst at UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank, calls Germany’s performance “one of the most mind-boggling economic turnarounds” in history, and Berenberg Bank’s Holder Schmieding predicts a “golden decade for Germany”—even as the rest of the West continues to struggle. On top of all that, Germany’s federal budget deficit is on track to reach zero by 2014, where it’s projected to remain thereafter. Robust growth, rising employment, and a disappearing deficit: what wouldn’t President Obama give for any of those?

The real source of Germany’s current political clout is that it’s the spider in the web that holds Europe’s single currency together. Decisions on whether the economies of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain survive or collapse—indeed, decisions about the future of the euro itself—are made in Berlin more than ever, says Charles Grant, director of the London-based Centre for European Reform (CER). “Everything depends on Germany now,” he says. “Europe is dancing to Germany’s tune.” Germany has the largest and strongest economy, the deepest pockets, and the most solid AAA credit rating of any major European economy. Even Europe’s No. 2, France, is judged by bond markets to be a potential problem.

In other words, Germany is the one country whose ability to pay back its debt is questioned by no one, for now. Berlin has been understandably reluctant to extend guarantees to insolvent countries like Greece or Ireland for fear of ending up stuck with the bill—unless the recipients agree to slash their deficits and start paying down their debt, as Germany demanded of Greece. The fact has not gone unnoticed in Europe’s capitals that the EU’s president, a bland Belgian named Herman Van Rompuy (“Rumpty-Dumpty,” the foreign minister of a large European country calls him in private conversation), gave the EU’s first-ever State of Europe address this past November not in the 27-member bloc’s capital, Brussels, but at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Aptly, he was surrounded by fragments of an ancient Greek frieze showing gods fighting monsters. The message, intentional or otherwise, was that the ongoing euro crisis has transformed Berlin into Europe’s de facto capital.

Oddly, creating the euro was supposed to achieve the precise opposite: hold Germany down and bind it more tightly to Europe. André Szasz, an eminent Dutch central banker who was present at many of the key meetings where the euro was first hatched, recalls how the Pan-European currency was pushed largely by the French as a device to keep the newly reunited Germany in check—the rope by which Gulliver would be tied down by relative Lilliputians. In early 1990, François Mitterrand tied his approval for German unity (over which the French, as one of the victors of World War II, had veto power) to Helmut Kohl’s sacrificing Germany’s rock-hard Deutsche mark for a common European currency.

After the euro was introduced in 1999, the new currency did indeed keep Germany weak while the rest of Europe grew fat. Hans-Werner Sinn, the director of Munich’s Ifo Institute and Germany’s most respected economist, explains how it worked: thanks to the euro, loans in countries like Spain, Ireland, and Greece could suddenly be taken out at interest rates just as low as those in ultra-stable Germany. “That unleashed investment booms in these countries while Germany stagnated,” says Sinn. Ireland’s economy alone grew 105 percent from 1995 to 2009. As Germany’s banks and savers invested in Spanish real estate and Greek government bonds instead of projects at home, Germany’s domestic investment plummeted to the lowest rate in Europe, and growth fell to the second lowest, after Italy. “Germany bled dry because of the euro while the others had a party,” says Sinn.

Germany reformed its economy and endured a decade of stagnating wages. “It was a painful process that almost tore apart our society,” says Sinn. But eventually the hardships helped make German companies Europe’s most competitive. Neighbors like France and Italy could no longer fend off superior German competition with an easy devaluation of the franc or lira, as they’d done in the past. At the onset of financial turmoil in 2008, German companies were among the healthiest in Europe, and, after an initial drop in exports, they quickly regained their footing. Exports of autos, heavy equipment, and consumer goods to emerging markets soared again. It became clear that Germany was Europe’s only truly global economy capable of competing directly with China and the United States. “Germany is so preeminently powerful now, economically and politically, that it’s changing the EU,” says the CER’s Grant. “Germany has become much more assertive of its own interests.”

Yet in newly empowered Berlin, the mood is more one of siege than of triumph. The Germans feel they’re being dragged into a bottomless pit. “They have realized that this is not what their politicians promised them when they gave up the Deutsche mark,” says pollster Petersen. “They’re resentful at having to pluck the potatoes out of the fire for other countries.” At German insistence, the treaty creating the euro prohibited bailouts and made every country liable for its own debt. As the Germans see things, countries that have painfully balanced their budgets and reformed their economies shouldn’t have to pay for the profligacy of others.

No wonder the German reaction to the Greek bailout was barely less hysterical than the anti-German tirades coming out of Athens. THE GREEKS ARE DESTROYING OUR EURO, screamed one headline in Bild, Europe’s biggest-circulation paper. “Dear Greeks,” Bild wrote, “we have debts too, but we can pay them back because we get up early and work all day.” The newspaper demanded Greece auction off some of its islands and its national monument, the Acropolis, before asking for a cent of German money. In December, when Spanish Finance Minister Elena Salgado blamed German talk of debt restructuring for scaring off the buyers of her country’s bonds, Bild headlined EURO-PIGSTY: WE PAY AND THEY INSULT US!…

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

UK, US Banks Sue Italian City Councils Over Swap ‘Fraud’

London, 21 Jan. (AKI/Bloomberg) — London, 21 Jan. (AKI) — JPMorgan Chase UBS AG and Bank of America are among banks bringing more than a half dozen Italian municipalities to London’s courts over swaps that are turning sour for both sides.

The banks are suing towns and regions across Italy, from Florence, a city of about 370,000 people, to Piedmont, the northern region with a population of 4.5 million, as some local governments threaten to stop making payments on contracts and others seek to recover fees they allege were hidden.

Italian municipalities, emboldened by Milan’s criminal trial of Deutsche Bank AG, Depfa Bank Plc, JPMorgan and UBS over allegedly fraudulent selling practices on swaps, are increasingly filing complaints at home to avoid losses on derivatives contracts. The banks are turning to U.K. courts, where they expect to get swifter and fairer judgments.

“Banks have sensed that the wind has turned against them and think they can get a better settlement in a U.K. court,” said Piero Burragato, a former derivatives banker and founder of Concordia Advisory Solutions Srl who isn’t involved in the cases. “The U.K. suits are a sign of concern among the banks.”

The pace of the U.K. lawsuits increased in the past month. Deutsche Bank, UBS and Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch unit in London are suing Lazio, a central Italian region made up of five provinces including Rome. Deutsche Bank and Merrill have also filed suits against Tuscany, and Merrill is suing Piedmont. At least four more suits were filed in London in December against other Italian regions over swap agreements.

Piedmont hasn’t been notified of the suit and the region has met its obligations on the contract with Merrill, said an official for the government, who declined to be identified. Officials for Florence and Lazio declined to comment, and Tuscan representatives weren’t immediately available. Officials representing all of the banks declined to comment.

Italian municipalities face derivatives losses of at least 1.2 billion euros (1.6 billion dollas ), Bank of Italy data from June 30 show. At least two cities have halted payments on their derivatives deals, stoking tension between banks and clients.

Thousands of public authorities across Europe tried to cut borrowing costs in recent years through derivatives deals whose risks they couldn’t measure. In the U.S., governments and nonprofit organizations have paid more than 4 billion dollars to Wall Street firms to end such agreements since 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Nobody really knows how much of this is out there,” said Michael Dempster, founder of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Financial Research in the U.K. “It’s indicative of the potential problem in the interaction between banks and local authorities.”

Past losses on derivatives have led some European governments to ban local authorities or state-owned companies from investing in such products. A U.K. court ruled in the 1980s that about 3.2 billion pounds (5.1 billion dollars) of swap contracts entered into by Hammersmith and Fulham Council were unenforceable. In 1997, the U.K. banned local governments from investing in derivatives. Italy banned local governments from signing new contracts in mid-2008 pending new rules.

Banks are going on the offensive to ensure their cases are heard in London, said Laurence Harris, a litigation lawyer at Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge LLP in London. Italian courts are more likely to favor the country’s municipalities and the legal system there is slower and subject to limitation periods that could make things harder for the banks.

“Italian proceedings are notorious for taking forever to come to a conclusion; they take years and years,” Harris said. “You can see why they want home-court advantage.”

If municipalities sue first in their jurisdiction, banks have to go there to argue where the case should be heard. That’s used as a tactic in Italy to slow down litigation and try to reach a 10-year deadline after which a lawsuit and any appeals will be thrown out if a ruling hasn’t been made, Harris said.

Cases last year suggest British courts will allow the Italian derivates suits to be heard in the U.K. A British court ruled in May that the Italian bank Dexia Crediop SpA and Irish lender Depfa Bank Plc could sue the city of Pisa in London. UBS also won a ruling in October allowing a dispute with a German municipal utility to be heard in the UK.

Depfa and Dexia sued Pisa in 2009 for suspending payments on two-interest rate swaps that are governed by U.K. law. Pisa stopped making payments in 2009, claiming that the 95 million euros of bonds and derivatives sold to it by the banks in 2007 didn’t provide an economic advantage to the city. A local administrative court backed its decision.

“It’s unlikely that the U.K. court would decline to hear any of the cases there since the Pisa case set a precedent, and the swaps contain an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favor of the English courts,” said Dario Loiacono, a Milan-based securities lawyer.

“Italian municipalities want to avoid trying the cases in London because of the cost of litigation, the fear of going to court in a foreign jurisdiction, and because English law is bank-protective,” Loiacono said.

If the banks win in the UK, they will still have to ask courts in Italy to enforce the judgments, Harris said. Banks could otherwise only seize the assets that municipalities held outside of Italy.

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

UK: Lord Taylor Found Guilty of Fiddling His Parliamentary Expenses

Lord Taylor of Warwick falsely claimed for travel and overnight subsistence, a jury at Southwark Crown Court decided by a majority of 11 to one.

The 58-year-old told the House of Lords members’ expenses office that his main residence was in Oxford, when he lived in west London. Taylor is the first parliamentarian to be tried and found guilty by a jury over the expenses scandal.

Lord Taylor stood impassively in the dock as the guilty verdict on all six counts was delivered.

The jury took just over five hours to reach the verdict. Lord Taylor, of Lynwood Road, Ealing, west London, was standing trial for making £11,277.80-worth of claims on various dates between March 2006 and October 2007.

The first claim was for £1,555.70, the second for £2,042.80, the third was £1,600.70, the fourth £2,309.50, the fifth £2,421.80, and the final claim was for £1,347.30.

John Taylor became the first black Conservative peer when he took his seat in the House of Lords in 1996, following a failed attempt to get elected as MP for Cheltenham in 1992.

Born in Birmingham in 1952, he earned a scholarship as a schoolboy and was then trained as a barrister, specialising in criminal law. After his campaign to win a seat in the House of Commons, he established himself as a commentator on television and radio. Throughout the trial, Lord Taylor maintained he was following the advice given to him by fellow peers, that nominating a main residence outside of the capital was a way to earn money “in lieu of salary”. An 11-1 majority of the jury of seven men and five women agreed with the case against Lord Taylor, that he misled the Members’ Expenses Section in the House of Lords to swindle more than £11,000. During the trial, prosecutor Helen Law said: “The prosecution say this case is very simple. Lord Taylor did not have a main home in Oxford and he was not entitled to claim as if he did.

“He knew that and he claimed anyway. He did so in a way that he knew would mislead the Members’ Expenses Section into making payments he wasn’t entitled to. His actions were dishonest.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Former Guantánamo Detainee Gets Life Sentence in Embassy Bombings

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former Guantánamo Bay camp detainee to be tried in the civilian court system, was sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for his role in the 1998 bombings of two United States Embassies in East Africa.

The nearly simultaneous attacks in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed 224 people and wounded thousands.

Mr. Ghailani, 36, was convicted on Nov. 17 of a single count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property, while being acquitted of more than 280 charges of murder and conspiracy.

[Return to headlines]

Hawaii Official Now Swears: No Obama Birth Certificate

Signs affidavit declaring long-form, hospital-generated document absent

Former Hawaii elections clerk Tim Adams has now signed an affidavit swearing he was told by his supervisors in Hawaii that no long-form, hospital-generated birth certificate existed for Barack Obama Jr. in Hawaii and that neither Queens Medical Center nor Kapi’olani Medical Center in Honolulu had any record of Obama having been born in their medical facilities.

Adams was employed at the City and County of Honolulu Elections Division from May 2008 through September 2008.

His position was senior elections clerk, overseeing a group of 50 to 60 employees responsible for verifying the identity of voters at the Absentee Ballot Office. It was in this capacity that Adams became aware of the search for Obama’s birth-certificate records.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Illinois Supreme Court Halts Printing of Chicago Mayoral Ballots Without Emanuel’s Name

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Rahm Emanuel’s name back on the ballot, a day after an appellate court ruled him ineligible to run for mayor of Chicago, and told election officials not to print any ballots that exclude Mr. Emanuel’s name.

The Court did not rule on other matters, including whether it will actually hear an appeal in the case, which challenged Mr. Emanuel’s legal residency in Chicago.

Some analysts, though, said the stay of the lower court ruling suggested that the Supreme Court’s seven justices were at least considering it. On Monday, a panel of the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that Mr. Emanuel’s time as White House chief of staff — a post he left last October — meant he did not meet a state stipulation to having lived in the city for a year before Election Day, and that he would not appear on the Feb. 22 ballot.

[Return to headlines]

It Was an Accident, Claims Muslim Father Accused of ‘Running Down and Killing Daughter, 20, Because She Was Becoming Too Westernised’

A Muslim father ran over and killed his 20-year-old daughter because he was enraged by her failure to obey him and her increasingly Westernised values, a prosecutor has claimed.

Faleh Almaleki allegedly accelerated his Jeep in a car park in Phoenix, Arizona, hitting Noor as well as her boyfriend’s mother, before fleeing the scene — and the country.

The mother survived but Noor died after two weeks in a coma.

In a case that has gripped America, the jury will now have to decide whether or not Almaleki, an Iraqi immigrant, should be charged with murder, attempted murder or whether it was an accident, as his defence lawyers contest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jesse Ventura Sues TSA in Pat-Down Smackdown

Former governor Jesse Ventura never shied away from a battle during his one term as Minnesota’s chief executive.

Now, as a “television performer,” as he describes himself in a new lawsuit, the former pro-wrestler [and former Navy SEAL] is trying to launch a legal smackdown against the agencies that are supposed to protect the flying public.

In a complaint filed Monday morning in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota, Ventura is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its secretary, Janet Napolitano, as well as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and its administrator, John Pistole.

Ventura accuses the agencies of violating his “basic rights to privacy and dignity, and his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures,” after he received a pat-down by a TSA agent at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in November 2010.

Ventura, who said he has a titanium implant after hip replacement surgery in 2008, alleges the pat-down included “warrantless, non-suspicion-based offensive touching, gripping and rubbing of the genital and other sensitive areas of his body,” which, the lawsuit contends, met “the definition for an unlawful sexual assault.”

Ventura’s Minneapolis-based attorney, David Olsen, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS this afternoon, “The security procedures are going too far. There’s a line somewhere and he believes that line has been crossed.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Muslim Father ‘Who Ran Over Daughter Was Trying to Spit at Another Woman’

A Muslim father accused of the honour killing of his daughter claims the crash in which she died was an accident caused by him spitting at another woman.

Faleh Almaleki allegedly accelerated his Jeep in a car park in Phoenix, Arizona, hitting Noor, 20, as well as her boyfriend’s mother Amal Khalaf.

He then fled the scene and later the country leaving Noor, 20, critically injured. She died after two weeks in a coma.

Almaleki’s lawyer today claimed that his client was actually offended by Mrs Khalaf — and had been trying to spit at her when he lost control of the car.

In a case that has gripped America, the jury will now have to decide whether or not Almaleki, an Iraqi immigrant, should be charged with murder, attempted murder or whether it was an accident, as his defence lawyers contest.

The 50-year-old faces life behind bars if he is convicted of murder.

Prosecutor Laura Reckart told the 16-strong jury that Almaleki was increasingly incensed at his daughter’s failure to obey him.

In her opening statement, she told jurors that he believed she had dishonoured the family by becoming too Westernised.

And, when he saw her by chance while visiting a state Department of Economic security office in Peoria on October 20, 2009, his rage overflowed, she has claimed.

Almaleki left the office, got in his Jeep and waited for his daughter to emerge as he seethed, Mrs Reckart said.

‘He revved and raced that car right out of the parking spot in a premeditated act and ran them over,’ she continued.

However, according to his defence team, led by Elizabeth Mullins, what happened was accidental.

She claimed that when Almaleki saw the older woman walking across the parking lot he made a ‘catastrophic’ decision to show his disdain.

As he accelerated to about 20 mph (32 kph), a startled Amal Khalaf — the mother of Miss Almaleki’s boyfriend — jumped in front of the Jeep.

Almaleki swerved but couldn’t avoid hitting the woman, who thankfully survived.

But the Jeep then jumped a curb and ran over his daughter, causing severe injuries that would kill her 13 days later.

Almaleki’s lawyer claims it was an accident and that although he should be held responsible, he is not guilty of premeditated murder.

The case caused outrage after prosecutors deemed Miss Almaleki’s death an ‘honour killing’.

lmaleki is from a small Southern Iraqi town near Basra.

He and his family were relocated by the U.S. military to Saudi Arabia and then the U.S. in the mid-1990s.

Almaleki later got a job as a truck driver in the Phoenix area and his wife worked for the military.

He wanted his daughter to adhere to Iraqi traditions, but she wanted to be a typical American girl, the court heard.

When she was 17, she refused to enter an arranged marriage in Iraq — a move that enraged her father — the court records showed.

She moved into her own apartment aged 19 and began working at a fast-food restaurant but quit after her parents kept showing up at her workplace, insisting she return home…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

New DNC Director Led Socialist Party Offshoot

Worked closely with radicals, supported by communists

Patrick Gaspard, tapped as the new executive director of the Democratic National Committee, was a lead activist for a political party that was an offshoot of a socialist group.

The party, the Working Families Party, worked closely with radical groups and is supported by the Communist Party USA.

Until now, Gaspard has served as director of President Obama’s Office of Political Affairs.

Since the announcement of his move to the DNC last week, Gaspard has been taking some criticism for his work with SEIU International, a major socialist-oriented union for which he served as political director.

He has also been taking heat for his association with the controversial ACORN amid evidence he advised and worked closely with the organization’s boss, Bertha Lewis.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Picks RIAA Lawyer to Replace Kagan as Solicitor General

President Barack Obama announced Monday that he plans to nominate former Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) lawyer Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. as solicitor general, a position formerly held by Elena Kagan.

Verrilli currently serves as deputy counsel to the president and previously served as an associate deputy attorney general in the Department of Justice. Prior to serving for the Justice Department, he worked in the private law firm Jenner & Block for over 20 years.

During his private practice, Verrilli had been involved in a number of prominent cases involving online file-sharing and copyright infringement, arguing on behalf of the recording and entertainment industry.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Opponent of NYC Islamic Center Becomes Advocate for Mosques Nationwide

When the Anti-Defamation League — a leading Jewish group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and “all forms of bigotry” — came out against the construction of an Islamic center and mosque near New York’s ground zero last year, some critics alleged that the organization had lost its way.

“I would have expected the ADL to support the building of this Muslim community center,” wrote Alan Dershowitz, an influential legal and Jewish voice. “…At the very least I would have expected it to remain silent and not to lend its powerful and distinguished voice to an opposition that includes many bigots.”

Stephen Prothero, a prominent religion professor and CNN Belief Blog contributor, said the ADL’s opposition to the Lower Manhattan Islamic center showed that the group and its leader, Abraham L. Foxman, “no longer occupy a moral high ground.”

CNN host and Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria returned an award and honorarium he’d received a few years earlier from the ADL, saying he hoped the move would “spur them to… return to their historic, robust defense of freedom of religion in America.”

But several months after the controversy over the New York Islamic center has died down, the Anti-Defamation League has quietly emerged as a leading advocate for mosque construction projects that have run into local opposition across the country.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Robert Reilly, Author of the Closing of the Muslim Mind

Robert Reilly, author of the superb and essential book The Closing of the Muslim Mind, was kind enough to grant Jihad Watch an exclusive interview:

In your fascinating new book The Closing of the Muslim Mind, you expand in important ways on the insight Pope Benedict XVI expressed in his famous Regensburg address — that Islam, as it currently exists in all “orthodox” forms, is fundamentally at odds with reason. Surely, you don’t mean that Muslims don’t employ reason in their daily lives or even their political conduct. So what do you mean?

I mean what the Pope meant when he spoke of the dehellenization of Islam — its loss of philosophy and reason. I mean that the premise from which many Muslims start is unreasonable in the sense that it is not subject to critical examination. It is not subject to critical examination because the principal theological school of Sunni Islam discredited reason.

In other words, a paranoid person behaves reasonably once you accept the paranoid delusion upon which he is acting. But it is his delusion that is unreasonable, not his behavior. The problem is getting him to see that his delusion does not comport with reality. In the majority of Sunni Islam today, access to realty is blocked because of the abandonment of reason. The premise on which reason was discredited is the delusion from which they are suffering. It is very hard to get them to realize this because the premise is a theological one — that God is pure will and power, not reason.

In your book, you identify several turning points in the intellectual development of Islamic thought. I would like you to expand on them:

1) The rejection of free will on the part of Islamic exegetes, and their embrace of predestination — their assertion that man’s actions are not in fact free, but are infallibly dictated by the divine will. How and why did this counter-intuitive position win out over the theory that man acts freely? Are the Islamic texts more weighted in favor of absolute divine sovereignty?

You refer to the oldest argument within Islam, which was about predestination and free will. The advocates of free will were called Qadarites, or Qadariyya, after the Arabic word qadar, which can mean divine decree or predestination, or power. They stood for the opposite to predestination: man’s free will and consequent responsibility for his actions. Man has power (qadar) over his own actions. If men were not able to control their behaviour, said the Qadarites, the moral obligation to do good and avoid evil, enjoined by the Qur’an, would be meaningless.

Contrary to this view, the Jabariyya (determinists; from jabr — blind compulsion) embraced the doctrine that divine omnipotence requires the absolute determination of man’s actions by God. One of the names of God in the Qur’an is Al-Jabbar, the Compeller (59:23), whose power cannot be resisted. God alone authors man’s every movement. To say otherwise ties God’s hands and limits his absolute freedom. One of the exponents of this view, Jahm b. Safwan (d. 745), argued that man’s actions are imputed to him only in the same way as one imputes “the bearing of fruit to the tree, flowing to the stream, motion to the stone, rising or setting to the sun — blooming and vegetating to the earth.” As twentieth century Muslim thinker Fazlur Rahman summed up the dispute, “In the eyes of the orthodox, this freedom for man was bondage for God.” Their theology made free will anathema. Reality was distorted to fit a deformed theology. Thus we have statements such as this from Ibn Taymiyya, the medieval thinker so in favor with Islamists today: “Creatures have no impact on God since it is God Himself who creates their acts.” So freedom for God ended up meaning bondage for man…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Southern Baptist Leader Leaves Mosque Coalition

A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention has withdrawn from a coalition that supports the rights of Muslims to build mosques in their communities.

Richard Land, the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he heard from many Southern Baptists who felt the work of the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques crossed the line from defending religious freedom to promoting Islam.

“I don’t agree with that perception but it’s widespread and I have to respect it,” he told The Associated Press.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

State of the Union: US Risks Losing Its Global Supremacy, Barack Obama to Warn

The US president is to use his State of the Union speech to promise to rein in a growing debt that is deeply alarming to voters. Keeping his focus tightly on job creation, aides said Mr Obama would outline a plan “to win the future by out-innovating, out-educating and outbuilding the rest of the world”, while “reforming our government so that it’s leaner and smarter for the 21st century”. A briefing paper released by the White House in advance of the address on Tuesday said: “The most important contest we face today is not between Democrats and Republicans. It’s America’s contest with competitors across the globe for the jobs and industries of our time.” With unemployment stuck at 9.4 per cent and the likes of China, India and Brazil surging in the global economy, Mr Obama is also expected to address the insecurity about the future that many Americans feel. The national ego has been bruised by the fact that Chinese credit is keeping the US solvent, and Mr Obama was expected to refer directly to China’s superiority in the clean energy and wind turbine market as a way of encouraging Republicans to support central funding for industrial initiatives.

The State of the Union, which draws a television audience of more than 45 million, comes as Mr Obama begins the second half of his four-year term facing the awkward reality of sharing power with the Republicans, who now control the House of Representatives after a landslide victory in November’s midterm elections.

On the eve of the speech Republican leaders made it clear that winning their support for any increase in government spending would be difficult.

The party on Tuesday presented a symbolic resolution to return spending to levels before Mr Obama came into office.

Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, said: “Americans want more jobs and less spending that will just saddle their children with debt.” Tuesday night’s atmosphere in the House chamber is expected to be more sober and civil than in recent years. It is less than three weeks since an assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona on Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who is recovering after being shot in the head during a one-man rampage that left six dead…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tea Party’s Allen West’s Anti-Muslim Tirade Against Rep. Keith Ellison

Freshman Tea Party-backed Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) recently got personal in an attack on one of the House’s two Muslim representatives, declaring that Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) represents “the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

During an interview with “The Shalom Show,” West also said that he plans to “defeat” Ellison, an outspoken Democrat who “supports Islam,” according to host Richard Peritz, “intellectually in debate and discourse.”

As ThinkProgress notes, West has repeatedly sought to connect Islamic religious beliefs to supposedly anti-American views…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Texas Legislator Moves to Stop Shariah

Targets constitutional abuses from Islam, immigration, presidential impostors

A Texas legislator has proposed a state constitutional amendment that would effectively bar courts in the Lone Star State from considering Islamic, or Shariah, law in deciding cases.

Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler, earlier this month submitted House Joint Resolution No. 57, which would amend the Texas Constitution to read, “A court of this state shall uphold the laws of the Constitution of the United States, this Constitution, federal laws and laws of this state. A court of this state may not enforce, consider or apply any religious or cultural law.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: US Military Cannot Find Evidence Linking Julian Assange to Bradley Manning

Although the investigators have confirmed Pte Manning, 23, had unlawfully downloaded documents and passed them to an unauthorised person, they admitted they lack evidence connecting him to Mr Assange, according to NBC News.

The release by WikiLeaks of secret diplomatic cables last year caused a diplomatic furore and revealed some of the most sensitive American dealings with foreign governments.

Mr Assange, an Australian, is in London fighting extradition to Sweden for questioning in a sexual misconduct investigation. He has denied the allegations.

Eric Holder, the US Attorney General Eric Holder has said the Obama administration is considering whether it can prosecute the release of information under the Espionage Act.

Mr Assange told MSNBC last month that WikiLeaks did not know if Pte Manning, who is in solitary confinement at a military facility in Quantico, Virginia, was the source of the classified documents. “That’s not how our technology works, that’s not how our organisation works,” he said. “I never heard of the name of Bradley Manning before it appeared in the media.” He described as “nonsense” allegations that WikiLeaks had conspired with Pte Manning…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch Schools May Impose Headscarf Code

The Equal Treatment Commission has ruled that schools have a say in the way in which students wear headscarves.

The commission was responding to the case of the Gerrit Rietveld College in the city of Utrecht, where 50 students objected to a new dress code. This only allows Muslim girls to cover their heads as long as 90 percent of the face remains visible. Headgear which covers the chin or eyebrows, for example, is regarded as hindering communication between student and teacher.

The commission has backed the college and says the question of communication is of sufficient importance. It also noted that the code applies to everyone. Hairstyles which cover the eyes are also banned.

The equality commission recently reprimanded a college in the town of Volendam for imposing a headscarf ban on the grounds that they conflicted with its Roman Catholic principles. This was judged a case of religious discrimination…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

German Film Board Prevents Release of Turkish Film

‘Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin’ (Valley of the Wolves: Palestine) reprises the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara ship.

Plans to screen a Turkish film in Germany starting Thursday have been halted over concerns the action movie contains anti-Semitic propaganda.

A spokesperson for the Pera Film Company in Cologne, which was distributing “Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin” (Valley of the Wolves: Palestine) in Germany, said the German Movie Control Association, or FSK, would prevent the screening because the movie, which allegedly features anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli overtones, was to be released on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Noting that the company would obey the FSK’s decision for now, the spokesperson said they would make a final decision concerning the issue after examining the justification for the order.

“Kurtlar Vadisi” had been criticized by German politicians of various political persuasions in recent days.

“‘Kurtlar Vadisi: Filistin’ is a problematic movie because it foments violence, anti-Israeli [feelings] and anti-Semitic sentiments,” said Kerstin Griese, a parliamentary deputy for the opposition Social Democratic Party.

The date chosen to release the movie elicited anger from across the political spectrum, with Philip Missfelder, a parliamentary member of the ruling Christian Democratic Party, saying it disrespected victims of the Holocaust. Jerzy Montag of the Green Party said it was “irresponsible” to release the film Jan. 27.

The film reprises the raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip last year when it was attacked by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of eight Turks and one U.S. citizen of Turkish origin.

Kurtlar Vadisi first started as a television series, but spin-off movies have since come to accompany the continuing TV shows. The franchise is famous for touching upon political issues, such as when U.S. forces detained Turkish soldiers in Iraq and put sacks over their heads. The nationalist hero of the movie, Polat Alemdar, is a semi-official Turkish agent who exacts revenge on those who act against the Turks.

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

Italy: Ruby: Defence Lawyers Send Papers to Prosecutors

‘Dozens and dozens’ of pages of evidence

(ANSA) — Milan, January 24 — Lawyers for Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Monday sent the results of their “defensive investigation” to prosecutors who allege the premier had sex with an underage prostitute called Ruby and pressured police to release her from custody.

Milan prosecutors received “dozens and dozens” of pages from the premier’s lawyers, judicial sources said.

These included interviews with young women said to have attended the premier’s parties at his residence outside Milan, judicial sources said.

The premier denies having sex with Ruby or abusing his powers in helping her out of a scrape with police.

In a TV interview last week Ruby said the premier “never laid a finger on me” and claimed the 7,000 euros she received from him was a gift.

Prosecutors say they have evidence from wiretaps that support their contention Berlusconi paid Ruby for sex when she was 17.

Paying for sex with a minor is an offence that carries a jail term of up to three years.

Abuse of power carries a term of up to 12 years.

Berlusconi says the prosecutors spied on him and has vowed to “punish” them through law changes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Who Else But Silvio Berlusconi?

The Italian PM is up to his neck in scandal, but you wouldn’t know it from the polls. The problem is who would replace him

Silvio Berlusconi is on the ropes. Under investigation for paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl, extortion, and abuse of power, Italy’s flamboyant prime minister is facing the biggest challenge of his life. Sex scandals often spell the end of a political career; and the more scandals that surround a party, the more it should suffer at the polls. But strangely enough, il Cavaliere — as Berlusconi is known — seems to be experiencing precisely the opposite.

In a poll published in Sunday’s Corriere della Sera, support for Berlusconi’s Freedom People party (PdL) has actually increased since December, from 27.6% to 30.2%. In the same period, support for every major opposition party has declined. The Democratic party (PD) and the Italy of Values party (IdV), the centre-left parties that have spearheaded the attacks on Berlusconi’s probity, have declined from 25.0% to 24.5% and from 6.2% to 5.5% respectively. Berlusconi is defying political gravity.

So why has he managed it? There are two reasons.

First, however shocking it appears, the sex scandal fits very nicely with Berlusconi’s carefully crafted public image. Since he first entered politics in 1994, Berlusconi has built his success on presenting himself as the sort of person with whom everyone can sympathise and whom everyone wants to be. A bon viveur who makes no secret of his love of wealth, wine, and women, he has projected an image of himself not only as a home-grown, self-made entrepreneur, but also as an ordinary Joe who doesn’t hide his all-too-human failings, and who has the same worldly tastes as the average man on the street. He lives the Italian dream. He’s a football lover who owns AC Milan, he’s a businessman who made it big, he’s a TV magnate who likes to surround himself with beautiful women. And his alleged involvement with Karima “Ruby” el-Mahroug only serve to emphasise key elements of this image. Regardless of the morality of the case, Berlusconi continues to live a life to which many Italians aspire.

Second, the more pressure builds on Berlusconi to resign, the more Italians are forced to contemplate the alternatives. They aren’t pretty. There are really only three options if Berlusconi resigns. The most likely is an unstable centre-right coalition under the ambitious and divisive Gianfranco Fini. Not only is Fini a former fascist who has previously expressed admiration for Mussolini, but he has also thrown away his ability to marshal the centre-right effectively with at least two unsuccessful bids to topple Berlusconi in the past. Rightly, many Italians continue to perceive Fini as untrustworthy at best, and dangerous at worst.

The next most likely possibility is a minority centre-left coalition headed by the ineffective leader of the PD, Pier Luigi Bersani. Bersani’s big problem is that the centre-left is hopelessly fragmented, and has failed to offer any coherent solution to Italy’s worsening economic woes. Neither the PD nor any of its allies are able to convince Italians that they can be trusted with government.

The final option is compromise. In the absence of an obvious successor, President Giorgio Napolitano could decide to appoint a technocrat to head a caretaker government before holding elections. The absence of a popular mandate and the debilitating effects of an election at a time of economic instability make this a deeply unpopular option.

For a majority of Italians, therefore, it’s a case of “better the devil you know”.

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

Netherlands: PVV Most Discussed on Social Media

AMSTERDAM, 25/01/11 — Of the three parties forming the government coalition, the Party for Freedom (PVV) is the most discussed in political comments on the Internet. Conservative (VVD) leader and Premier Mark Rutte is the most popular of the three leaders, according to research bureau Buzzcapture.

Buzzcapture carried out a ‘sentiment analysis’ of some 1.5 million online political utterances during the first 100 days of the new cabinet. Of these, on sites such as, and, some 800,000 were about the VVD, CDA and PVV coalition parties. Over half of these, some 450,000 were about the PVV.

Before Rutte took office as premier, 19 percent of the statements about him were positive. After the first 100 days, this has risen to 31 percent. The number of negative statements about him has dropped from 32 to 10 percent. Most statements are categorised as neutral.

PVV leader Geert Wilders comes second; his popularity score dropped by one percent from 15 to 14 percent. The recent incidents concerning PVV members who turned out to have a criminal past had “no great influence” on sentiment on the PVV, the researchers conclude. The number of negative statements on the party actually declined, from 41 to 34 percent.

The PVV leader is the most discussed in the social media. Wilders, Rutte and Christian democratic (CDA) Vice-Premier Maxime Verhagen (CDA) were mentioned in over 500,000 statements. In 66 percent of the cases, Wilders was discussed, followed by Rutte with 26 percent and Verhagen with just 8 percent.

Sentiment is most negative on Verhagen, himself a fervent Twitterer, though this percentage has declined from 54 to 39 percent. The number of positive comments on him rose from 6 to 7 percent.

Rutte’s VVD continues to do well in Maurice de Hond’s polls. The party rose this week to 35 seats. Labour (PvdA) lost two seats and the PVV, one, while centre-left D66 gained one.

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

UK: Brothers Killed Two Children and Their Mother After Setting Fire to Their House Following Argument About a Car

Two brothers have been found guilty of killing a mother and her two young children in a house fire started following a row over a car.

Brothers Asjid Mahmood, 22, and Arshed Mahmood, 18, set fire to the family home in Bradford, West Yorkshire, as an act of revenge against the childrens’ father.

Tragic Alina Shah, ten, and Aman Shah, eight, died from smoke inhalation as they slept while their mother Iram Shah, 30, died after leaping out of the window of the burning home with her clothes on fire.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Man Stabbed to Death and Three Others Knifed as Gangs From ‘Middle East’ Clash in Seaside Town

Four people were taken to hospital with stab wounds following the clash between the two groups of people from Middle Eastern origin.

One man later died and another remains critical after the fight in Folkestone, Kent, last night.

Kent Police have detained one man in connection with the incident and said officers are expected to make further arrests.

A police spokeswoman said: ‘We are continuing to investigate a large disturbance which began at around 8.30pm last night.

‘It is believed that a group of men gathered outside a flat in Marine Terrace where a party was being held.

‘A fight took place between the group outside and the people from the party. Four people sustained stab wounds and were taken to hospital. Several other people also sustained a range of injuries.’

Marine Terrace was closed off this morning while police investigators search the crime scene for clues.

Chief Supt Chris Hogben said: ‘We are investigating this serious incident which appears to be the result of a dispute between two groups of Middle Eastern people.

‘We also have specialist officers working within the community to reduce these tensions.’

Detectives have already spoken to a number of witnesses, but appealed for anyone else with information to come forward.

John Forbes, aged 56, who lives in flats overlooking the area where the brawl took place, said: ‘There are a lot of Middle Eastern people living round here.

‘They congregate round by the flats where this happened, drinking strong alcohol.

‘We came home late last night and saw the area blocked off, but I didn’t see or hear anything.’

Resident Tina Alder said: ‘I was out shopping in Asda when it all happened but when we came back we saw a couple of lads lying in the road.

‘My partner took out some towels to help them but by that time the emergency services had arrived.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Mosque Will be Built After Appeal Triumph

A new mosque will be built in a Black Country town after a Muslim group won an appeal despite hundreds of objections, it emerged today.

The controversial plans by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association (AMA) to convert a disused warehouse in Vicarage Place were thrown out by Walsall Council in December 2009, despite officers recommending approval.

Hundreds of people descended on the town hall in opposition to the proposals and four petitions were submitted against the application.

A combined total of 848 people had signed.

Objections included location and traffic congestion, but they also faced a barrage of objections from other Muslims disagreeing with the Ahmadiyya interpretation of Islam.

The appeal, lodged a month after the decision was made by the authority’s development control committee, has now been granted by government planning inspector Neil Pope.

Dr Azher Siddiq, president of the Walsall branch of AMA, said: “We are very pleased.

“We feel common sense has prevailed and the right decision has been arrived at.

“We need to finalise the completion of purchasing the property.

“We are not sure yet when building work will start. There is still a lot to discuss.

“It took some time to get the full appeal application together and we think there was some delay because of a backlog of cases.

“We are a small Muslim community, probably numbering about 150, and we don’t have our own place of worship which is why we are so keen on this.”

The group previously warned that taxpayers in Walsall could be made to foot a bill of up to £60,000 if the appeal was successful, but no costs have been awarded.

The AMA earmarked the town centre site after losing a battle to build a mosque in St John’s Road, Pleck, following a wave of opposition.

Dr Siddiq said the majority of people would only attend in an evening and not in large numbers while car parking was available nearby.

He said they would encourage people to walk, car share or purchase a mini-bus…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Now the NHS Pays £1,000 for a Bottle of Salt Water!

Thousands of patients who have difficulty swallowing pills find taking their medicine in this form difficult — if not impossible.

As a result, these patients are prescribed their medication in a liquid state. But few of them would realise medicine suppliers are profiteering from their frailty.

Last week, Henrietta Spink wrote in the Mail about her shock on discovering that the liquid paracetamol prescribed to her son cost the NHS a staggering £175 for just 500ml.

As Henrietta said: ‘If I’d crushed up painkillers in a spoonful of jam, for example, as I normally do, it would have cost less than £1.’

But her experience is just the tip of the iceberg, as this Good Health investigation reveals.

We’ve discovered that suppliers are charging exorbitant rates for a range of drugs — and some chemists are colluding with them and getting kickbacks in return.

This means that the NHS is being ripped off for millions of pounds at a time when it needs to watch every penny.

The drugs in question are called specials — medicines not routinely produced by manufacturers.

Examples of specials include child versions of adult medicines that contain smaller quantities of active drugs or — the most common form of special — liquid states of medicines needed for patients who cannot swallow tablets.

It was not that long ago that specials were made up by pharmacists. But now — partly as a result of EU safety regulations — they are put together by drug suppliers. The average difference in cost between a standard pill version and a specials order is £188, according to an NHS report.

But the difference can sometimes be up to thousands of pounds.

One of the most popular specials is a liquid form of simvastatin, a drug to lower cholesterol. The NHS spent more than £3 million on around 14,000 liquid formulations of this in 2009, at a cost of £208 each (the equivalent amount in pill form costs £1.12).

But there are other, more shocking, price differences. ‘I couldn’t believe an invoice I recently received,’ one London-based pharmacist told us, on condition on anonymity.

‘It was for a supply of sodium chloride solution — salt water, basically, to treat a child with hormone problems. The charge was £570. I’ve been told it soon will be £1,000. The ingredients would have cost just pennies.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: The 29-Year-Old Set to Become Britain’s Youngest Grandfather After Daughter, 14, Falls Pregnant

A man of 29 who is set to become Britain’s youngest grandfather when his teenage daughter gives birth was today criticised for trying to ‘cash in’ on the pregnancy.

The soon-to-be record breaker was earlier said to be ‘fuming’ that his 14-year-old daughter was 11 weeks pregnant because she was due to start her GCSE courses.

But neighbours said he was in fact celebrating because more state benefits would be given to his family — and said he had bragged about ‘making a fortune’ on selling his story.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Volunteers to be Given Speed Cameras to Help Clock Repeat Offenders

SPEEDING motorists will soon be facing the short arm of the law as primary school pupils prepare to sign up for their own handheld speed cameras.

The Community Road Watch scheme, which is designed to put the skids on inconsiderate drivers in speeding hot-spots around the town, is being rolled out by Humberside Police next month and residents ranging from children to pensioners will be asked to take part to help clock repeat offenders in their neighbourhood.

One of the first roads to enter into the community camera initiative will be Grimsby’s Broadway, which is home to two primary schools and a children’s centre and has been described as a “rat run” by residents following a number of dangerous crashes in recent years.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Minorities and Media Face Discrimination and Pressure Says Rights Group

Belgrade, 24 Jan. (AKI) — Minorities and media in most countries of the former Yugoslavia are subject to discrimination and pressure, while only a tiny number of refugees have managed to return home, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

In its annual report the rights watchdog said that Roma continued to be discriminated in Serbia and independent journalists were subject to pressure and intimidation.

HWR said Serbia has made significant steps in prosecuting war crimes, but has failed to arrest the two remaining fugitives wanted by the United Nations war crimes tribunal wartime Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic, a wartime leader of rebel Serbs in Croatia.

There was a great discrepancy “between promises and achievements” in the sphere of human rights reforms in Croatia. Journalists investigating organised crime and corruption were often subject to pressure and threats, the report said.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there are about 70,000 Serb refugees from Croatia registered in Serbia, but only 203 have returned in the first six months of last year, the report said.

About 15,000 have expressed readiness to return on the conditions that they were granted retirement benefits earned in Croatia and to reclaim their apartments, it added. A small progress has been made, but the process is moving too slowly, the report said.

Croatia has stepped up the prosecution of persons accused of war crimes, but most of those tried were Serbs, the report pointed out.

The situation in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia three years ago, was even worse, the HRW said. The minorities, mostly Serbs, “continued to be discriminated, marginalised and threatened”, the report said.

There were forty ‘inter-ethnic’ incidents in Kosovo in the first eight months of last year, including four murders, the HRW said.

In the meantime, west European countries continued to repatriate refugees to Serbia and Kosovo where they are often deprived of basic means and subject to discrimination, the report said.

In the first nine months of last year 1,649 people were repatriated to Kosovo and 637 to Serbia from various European countries, most of them Roma, the report said.

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

Montenegro: Opposition Against Djukanovic and Berlusconi

(ANSAmed) — PODGORICA, JANUARY 25 — The Movement for Change, an opposition party in Montenegro, has announced its plans to incriminate former Premier Milo Djukanovic and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, thought to be responsible for seriously damaging the energy sector of the Balkan country.

The media in Montenegro report that the charges — which will be presented to the public prosecutor’s office — also regard Montenegro’s Vice Premier Vujica Lazovic and former Economy Minister Branko Vujivic.

According to the opposition party, Djukanovic, Berlusconi, Lazovic and Vujovic are all directly involved in the development of a plan to give control of Montenegro’s energy resources to the Italian energy lobby. This, according to an explanation, was decided as a compensation for the damage caused to Italy by the smuggling of cigarettes by Montenegrin criminal organisations. The accusation probably refers to the recent deals in the energy sector closed by Italy and Montenegro. The most recent agreement, closed in November 2010, regards the construction of a submarine cable between the two countries by the company Terna.

“The very high price of electricity and the announcements of further price rises are only one of the consequences of these secret agreements”, the party said, quoted by the media.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Report Identifies Hashim Thaci as ‘Big Fish’ In Organised Crime

Kosovo’s prime minister accused of criminal connections in secret Nato documents leaked to the Guardian

Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaçi, has been identified as one of the “biggest fish” in organised crime in his country, according to western military intelligence reports leaked to the Guardian.

The Nato documents, which are marked “Secret”, indicate that the US and other western powers backing Kosovo’s government have had extensive knowledge of its criminal connections for several years.

They also identify another senior ruling politician in Kosovo as having links to the Albanian mafia, stating that he exerts considerable control over Thaçi, a former guerrilla leader.

Marked “USA KFOR”, they provide detailed information about organised criminal networks in Kosovo based on reports by western intelligence agencies and informants. The geographical spread of Kosovo’s criminal gangs is set out, alongside details of alleged familial and business links.

The Council of Europe is tomorrow expected to formally demand an investigation into claims that Thaçi was the head of a “mafia-like” network responsible for smuggling weapons, drugs and human organs during and after the 1998-99 Kosovo war.

The organ trafficking allegations were contained in an official inquiry published last month by the human rights rapporteur Dick Marty.

His report accused Thaçi and several other senior figures who operated in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of links to organised crime, prompting a major diplomatic crisis when it was leaked to the Guardian last month.

The report also named Thaçi as having exerted “violent control” over the heroin trade, and appeared to confirm concerns that after the conflict with Serbia ended, his inner circle oversaw a gang that murdered Serb captives to sell their kidneys on the black market.

The Council’s of Europe’s parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg will debate Marty’s findings and vote on a resolution calling for criminal investigations. The vote is widely expected to be passed.

Kosovo functioned as a UN protectorate from the end of the Kosovo war until 2008, when it formally declared independence from Serbia.

Thaçi, who was re-elected prime minister last month, has been strongly backed by Nato powers. His government has dismissed the Marty report as part of a Serbian and Russian conspiracy to destabilise the fledgling state.

However, the latest leaked documents were produced by KFOR, the Nato-led peacekeeping force responsible for security in Kosovo. It was KFOR military forces that intervened in the Kosovo war in 1999, helping to put an end to a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian forces.

Nato said in a statement tonight that it had instigated an “internal investigation” into the leaked documents, which are intelligence assessments produced around 2004, shortly before tensions with ethnic Serbs fuelled riots in Kosovo.

In the documents, Thaçi is identified as one of a triumvirate of “biggest fish” in organised criminal circles. So too is Xhavit Haliti, a former head of logistics for the KLA who is now a close ally of the prime minister and a senior parliamentarian in his ruling PDK party. Haliti is expected to be among Kosovo’s official delegation to Strasbourg tomorrow and has played a leading role in seeking to undermine the Marty report in public.

However, the Nato intelligence reports suggest that behind his role as a prominent politician, Haliti is also a senior organised criminal who carries a Czech 9mm pistol and holds considerable sway over the prime minister.

Describing him as “the power behind Hashim Thaçi”, one report states that Haliti has strong ties with the Albanian mafia and Kosovo’s secret service, known as KShiK. It suggests that Haliti “more or less ran” a fund for the Kosovo war in the late 1990s, profiting from the fund personally before the money dried up. “As a result, Haliti turned to organised crime on a grand scale,” the reports state.

They state that he is “highly involved in prostitution, weapons and drugs smuggling” and used a hotel in the capital, Pristina, as an operational base. Haliti also serves as a political and financial adviser to the prime minister but, according to the documents, is arguably “the real boss” in the relationship. Haliti uses a fake passport to travel abroad because he is black-listed in several countries, including the US, one report states.

Haliti is linked to the alleged intimidation of political opponents in Kosovo and two suspected murders dating back to the late 1990s, when KLA infighting is said to have resulted in numerous killings.

One was a political adversary who was found “dead by the Kosovo border”, apparently following a dispute with Haliti. A description of the other suspected murder — of a young journalist in Tirana, the Albanian capital — also contains a reference to the prime minister by name, but does not ascribe blame.

Citing US and Nato intelligence, the entry states Haliti is “linked” the grisly murder, going on to state: “Ali Uka, a reporter in Tirana, who supported the independence movement but criticised it in print. Uka was brutally disfigured with a bottle and screwdriver in 1997. His roommate at the time was Hashim Thaçi.”

Haliti is also named in the report by Marty, which is understood to have drawn on Nato intelligence assessments along with reports from the FBI and MI5.

Marty’s report includes Haliti among a list of close allies of Thaçi said to have ordered — and in some cases personally overseen — “assassinations, detentions, beatings and interrogations” during and immediately after the war.

Haliti was unavailable for comment. However, in an interview with the media outlet Balkan Insight last week he dismissed the Marty report as “political” and designed to “discredit the KLA”. “I was not surprised by the report. I have followed this issue for years and the content of the report is political,” he said.

But he accepted that the Council of Europe was likely to pass a resolution triggering investigations by the EU-backed justice mission in the country, known as EULEX.

“I think it’s a competent investigating body,” he said, “It’s a European investigation body. I think that there is no possibility that EULEX investigation unit to be affected by Kosovo or Albanian politics.”

Responding to the allegations in the NATO intelligence reports tonight, a Kosovo government spokesman said: “These are allegations that have circulated for over a decade, most recently recycled in the Dick Marty report. They are based on hearsay and intentional false Serbian intelligence.

“Nevertheless, the prime minister has called for an investigation by EULEX and has repeatedly pledged his full cooperation to law enforcement authorities on these scandalous and slanderous allegations.

“The government of Kosovo continues to support the strengthening of the rule of law in Kosovo, and we look forward to the cooperation of our international partners in ensuring that criminality has no place in Kosovo’s development.”

Road to Strasbourg

It has taken more than two years for an inquiry into organ trafficking in Kosovo to reach the Palace of Europe, a grand building in Strasbourg that serves as the headquarters of the Council of Europe.

The formal inquiry into organ trafficking in Kosovo was prompted by revelations by the former chief war crimes prosecutor at The Hague, Carla Del Ponte, who said she had been prevented from properly investigating alleged atrocities committed by the Kosovo Liberation Army.

Her most shocking disclosure — unconfirmed reports the KLA killed captives for their organs — prompted the formal inquiry by human rights rapporteur Dick Marty.

His report, published last month, suggested there was evidence that KLA commanders smuggled captives across the border into Kosovo and harvested the organs of a “handful” of Serbs.

His findings, which will be subject to a parliamentary assembly vote tomorrow, went further, accusing Kosovo’s prime minister and several other senior figures of involvement in organised crime over the last decade.

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

North Africa

Algeria: Insurance Firms Prepare Coverage Against Riots

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 24 — Insurance companies operating in Algeria are to ask the authorities for permission to launch a new product offering coverage to public customers against potential disorder and riots. Insurance of this kind currently exists only for businesses.

The announcement was made by the Director General of Alliance Assurances, Hassen Khelifati, during a press conference marking the launch of a new insurance contract with Renault. Demand for this type of product, he added, increased significantly after the latest unrest to break out across Algeria at the beginning of January. An official request will be made to the Ministry of Finance in the next few days.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Christians: HRW Report, Discrimination in Egypt Widespread

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, JANUARY 24 — Egypt is facing criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), whose annual report accuses the authorities in Cairo of “widespread discrimination” against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities.

“Despite the fact that the Egyptian Constitution guarantees the equality of rights, there have been reported cases of widespread discrimination against Egyptian Christians and intolerance towards heterodox Islamic sects,” the report states.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt Reclaims Stolen Symbols of Heritage

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 24 — It left Egypt almost a century ago and now the Egyptians want it back, but the current owners don’t want to hear it: the dispute is over the famous bust of Nefertiti, an ancient artefact that is 3,300 years old and was discovered in 1912 in Tell el Amarna by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt, who brought it back to Germany, where it is now on display in Berlin’s New Museum. To remedy what in Egypt is thought of as theft, time ago the authorities in Cairo engaged in battle with Germany, but with little to show for it to date. The issue was addressed today by Zahi Hawass, the head of Cairo’s Higher Council for Antiquities who is known in his land for his passionate commitment in the fight to recover works of art stolen in the past centuries, who wrote a letter to Herman Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, asking for the artefact to be returned. But the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs promptly responded through its spokesperson Andreas Peschke, who stated that “the government’s position on Nefertiti is well known and has not changed”. In effects the Authorities in Berlin claimed, showing the relative papers, that the work of art was lawfully brought into Germany.

But the Egyptians, quoting the archaeologist’s diary, tell a different story, stating that when Borchardt discovered the artefact he was well aware of holding a priceless portrait of Nefertiti, but instead listed it as a simple “bust of a princess in painted chalk”. Victim of an endless dispute between the German and Egyptian authorities, the bust is only one of the many works of art that have been stolen from Egypt over the centuries and which the Country would like to have back. During a conference dedicated to the matter that organised in Cairo in April 2010, Hawass made an appeal to the other involved countries, including Greece, which wants London to return marble parts of the Parthenon, and Mexico, which is missing Montezuma’s feather headdress, for greater cooperation to get back what was taken away from them. A major step in this direction was taken by the parliament in Paris which in May 2010 widely approved the return to New Zealand of a dozen heads of Maori warriors brought back to France by European explorers in the 18th and 19th centuries that were then put on display in various museums. The initiative had already been pressed by the Wellington government during the 1980s, without result, until in 2007 when a French municipality voted in favour of returning the heads to the legitimate tribal owners, despite objections by the French Ministry of Culture, which was concerned about setting a dangerous precedent.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Protest in the Streets, Clashes in Cairo

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The protest rally called for today by Egypt’s anti-government movements and parties resulted in violent clashes along the main streets of Cairo. Police forces in the central Tahrir square, close to the Egyptian Museum, were attacked by protesters with a substantial throw of stones which forced the police agents to move back despite being deployed with many armoured vehicles and their firing of tear gas in reaction. According to the organisers of the protest, 25,000 people took to the streets. “Mubarak go away” and “Bread and freedom” were some of the slogans being shouted by the demonstrators. This morning a massive security force has been drawn up in Cairo for the “day of anger”, called by a group of opposition parties and civilian organisations to protest against the lack of work and the repressive measures. The websites of the organising groups continued to launch messages regarding the location of demonstrations, because the sites that were selected until yesterday were heavily guarded by the police this morning.

Egypt’s Interior Minister Habib El Adly said in an interview in this morning’s newspaper Al Ahram that the security services “will not tolerate any threats to the country’s goods and security. These irresponsible young people have no influence and the security services are able to prevent any illegal action”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: President’s Son and Family ‘Have Fled to the UK’

Cairo, 25 Jan. (AKI) — Gamal Mubarak, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s son who is widely tipped as his successor, has fled to London with his family, Arabic website Akhbar al-Arab said on Tuesday. The report came as violent unrest broke out in Cairo and other Egyptian cities and hundreds of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in a Tunisia-inspired day of revolt.

Officials did not immediately confirm the report that Gamal Mubarak has fled to the British capital with his wife and daughter aboard a private jet.

The jet with Mubarak, his family and 97 pieces of luggage on board left for London on Tuesday from an airport in western Cairo, according to the US-based Akhbar al-Arab.

Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month. The anti-government protests in Egypt broke out after opposition groups waged an internet campaign inspired by the Tunisian uprising.

An anti-riot police officer was killed in clashes on Tuesday in central Cairo, Egyptian daily ‘al-Wafd’ reported. Egyptian security forces reported used tear gas, fire hoses, and clubs to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo.

Over 30,000 anti-government protesters had gathered. in Cairo’s Maidan al-Tahrir square to take part in the ‘day of anger’, the spokesman for Egypt’s ‘6 April’ opposition movement, Mohammed Adel, told Adnkronos International (AKI) in an interview.

“Police used tear gas and water canon to break up our protest and they arrested 40 of us, but we don’t have official figures on the numbers of arrests across Egypt,” said Adel.

Supporters of the ‘6 April’ movement, the opposition al-Ghad party, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the al-Wafd party and supporters of former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed El Baradei took part in the protest.

The protesters want Egypt to end its 30-year state of emergency and pass a law preventing a president from serving more than two terms, and want the interior minister Habib al-Adly, to resign.

Al-Wafd daily said police arrested 600 people during Tuesday’s protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Tantan, al-Mahala, Asiut, al-Bahira and al-Quium.

Between 200,000 and 300,000 people took part in protests in these cities on Tuesday, according to the Rasad al-Ikhbari observatory, which is staffed by journalists and opposition activists.

Police set dogs on protesters in Port Said and charged protesters in Suez and al-Mahala, an unnamed activist from Rasad al-Ikhbari told AKI.

Protests are rare in Egypt, where Mubarak tolerates little dissent.

US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday Washington believed the Egyptian government was stable and urged restraint on both sides.

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

Egypt Arrests ‘Al-Qaeda Cell’

Egypt’s interior minister said on Tuesday that 19 people thought to have links to Al-Qaeda had been arrested in Egypt last month. The group, which included Tunisians and Libyans, “had used Egypt as a transit point from which they would travel to other countries, including Iraq, to join a group called the Islamic State of Iraq,” Habib al-Adly told the state-owned Al-Ahram daily in an interview. The ISI is the Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq.

He said security services had found weapons and ammunition in the group’s possession.

Adly stressed that the group was not behind a New Year’s Day church bombing in Alexandria that left 23 people dead. On Sunday, Egypt blamed the Palestinian group Army of Islam, another Al-Qaeda affiliate, for the church bombing.

The Alexandria attack followed threats to Egypt’s Copts from the ISI, which claimed an October 31 attack on a Baghdad church in which two priests, 44 worshippers and seven security personnel died…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mohamed Elbaradei on Democracy in Egypt: ‘There is No Turning Back Now’

After the revolution in Tunisia, observers are wondering if governments in other North African states could also fall. In a SPIEGEL interview, Egyptian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei talks about the consequences for the regime in Cairo and his hope that Egyptians can copy the Tunisians’ example.

SPIEGEL: Mr. ElBaradei, the opposition in Egypt has called for a nationwide “Day of Anger” on Tuesday. Do you support the protests?

ElBaradei: Yes, I do. I stand behind any peaceful demand for change. My call for reforms has gone unheard with the regime, which leaves taking to the streets as the only option. These are young, impatient people who are now demonstrating their resolve, and I very much hope that the protests will not get out of hand.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the protests will truly lead to change?

ElBaradei: They mark the beginning of an historic process. The Egyptians have recognized that they must take their fate into their own hands. For the first time in the country’s recent history, they are really prepared to take to the streets. The culture of fear that the regime cultivated has been broken. There is no turning back now. Activists anticipate the biggest demonstrations in decades. These protests are a snowball that could turn into an avalanche.

SPIEGEL: And the regime will simply look on and do nothing?

ElBaradei: I hope that the security forces do not use violence against the protesters. I appeal to (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak not to allow the situation to escalate. The regime should respect the universal right of the freedom to demonstrate.

SPIEGEL: Will you take to the streets yourself?

ElBaradei: No, I don’t want to rob the people who have called for the protests of their victory. But I will support them in any way I can. At the moment I am more useful to the movement on a strategic level, even at times when I don’t happen to be in Egypt, than I would be on the street.

SPIEGEL: As a potential challenger to Mubarak in the upcoming presidential election in September, you want change through elections. Is it too late for that now?

ElBaradei: It is quite possible that my country is facing a phase of instability. Freedom has its price. But everyone, from the Marxists to the Muslim Brotherhood, agrees that stability has to be our goal.

SPIEGEL: You want a modern, democratic Egypt. But the people on the street aren’t just calling for freedom and dignity — they also want bread.

ElBaradei: These demands are understandable in a country in which more than 40 percent of the population earns less than $1 a day. In our case, (the protests) also revolve around basic needs, which makes Egypt different from Tunisia. It has a broad middle class, while we could face a revolt by the poor and the frustrated.

SPIEGEL: The self-immolation of a vegetable seller triggered the revolution in Tunis. Several people have already set themselves alight in Egypt, but Mubarak seems unmoved.

ElBaradei: Don’t be deceived. This composure is just a façade. Secretly he is extremely nervous. He never listened, and he isn’t listening today either. The regime doesn’t want to see or hear anything. I warned Mubarak about this development. Now he’s getting what he deserves.

SPIEGEL: Can he still prevent the protests from spreading?…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Assets of Ben Ali’s Family All Over the World, Press

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 24 — The Ben Ali and Trabelsi families, according to “Tunis Hebdo” today, do not only have buildings in Tunisia and bank accounts in Switzerland, but also in several other parts of the world.

According to the newspaper, the Ben Ali family reportedly owns a building valued at 37 million euros in Paris, as well as several apartments in the capital and other properties in the region. Also in France, he reportedly has a villa in Cannes and a chalet in Courchevel. In 2008, one of Ben Ali’s sons-in-law reportedly bought a villa in Vermont (USA) for 2 million dollars, while other properties are reportedly located in Argentina and Brazil.

In terms of bank accounts, in addition to his accounts in Zurich and Lausanne, there are reportedly others in the countries of the Gulf Region, and in Tunisia under different names.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Advisor to Bel Ali Arrested, Former Regime Hardliner

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 24 — Abdel Waheb Abdallah is considered to be one of the “hardliners” of the old regime and the architect of Ben Ali’s propaganda, a collaborator of the deposed president. Initially on house arrest, he is now in prison.

He was taken into custody in the Marsa Les Pin area, north of Tunis. According to eyewitnesses, Abdallah was living at his sister’s home after his house was looted on January 14. In addition to being a political advisor to Ben Ali, he was also previously foreign minister.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Magazin General Group, 25.5 Mln Euros in Damages

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 24 — The Magazin Général group, with the sacking of 14 of its supermarkets, has suffered estimated damages of 50 million dinars (about 25.5 million euros). The chairman and general director Tahar Bayhai, in underscoring that the group has never had business relations with the Trabelsi family (Leila Trabelsi is the wife of former president Ben Ali) reports that works had already begun in the 14 supermarkets to repair the damage done and therefore resume their regular activities as soon as possible.ù

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Fall of Ben Ali’s Secular Regime Paves the Way for Islamic Parties

The fall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s forcibly secular regime has likely paved the way for the rise of Islamic influence in Tunisia, from moderate Muslims taking a greater role in party politics to extremist infiltration from neighbouring Algeria.

REUTERS — For years they were jailed or exiled. They were excluded from elections, banned from politics, and played no visible role in Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution.

But in the brave new world of multi-party politics, moderate Islamists could attract more followers than their secular rivals like to admit.

And the downfall of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s police state may leave Tunisia open to infiltration by extremists from neighbouring Algeria, where war between authorities and Islamists has killed 200,000 people in the last two decades.

“The Islamist movement was the most oppressed of all the opposition movements under Ben Ali. Its followers are also much greater in number than those of the secular opposition,” said Salah Jourchi, a Tunisian expert on Islamic movements.

‘Its effect could be large’

Secularism has been strictly enforced in Tunisia since before its independence from France in 1956. Habib Bourguiba, the independence leader and long-time president, was a nationalist who considered Islam a threat to the state.

Indeed, in 1987, when Ben Ali pushed aside Bourguiba, he briefly released Islamists from jail and allowed them to run in the 1989 elections. The results surprised and worried Ben Ali.

Ennahda, or Renaissance, Tunisia’s largest Islamist movement, officially won 17 percent of the vote, coming second to the ruling party.

Jourchi said there was widespread electoral fraud and the real figure could have been closer to 30-35 percent. That compared with a combined total of three percent for all the secular opposition parties that ran in the same elections.

Ben Ali reversed his policy, banned Ennahda, jailed its followers and cracked down harshly on anyone showing any tendency towards Islamism. Ennahda’s leader Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi was exiled to London the same year.

Ennahda’s renaissance?

Ghannouchi, who declared his desire to return to Tunisia soon after Ben Ali’s ouster, has yet to set a date.

But now that Tunisia’s interim government has agreed an amnesty law that allows banned parties and frees political prisoners, Ghannouchi could return any day.

Husain Jazeery, an Ennahda spokesman exiled in Paris, said the movement would take part in parliamentary elections expected to be held in the next six months but would field no candidate for the presidency because “we do not want to rule the country”.

“We are a party that does not want to rule but wants to take part alongside all the other groups and to do so responsibly,” he said by telephone.

“Any exclusion of Ennahda would be a return to the old regime and that would be impossible in the current situation … regardless of internal or external pressures.”

Despite the state’s crackdown on Ennahda, the movement is considered moderate and could draw widespread support.

Ghannouchi, a respected scholar, teaches that Islam is compatible with democracy. Having lived in London for over 20 years, he also advocates dialogue with the West.

That view was repeated by worshippers at the Quds mosque in Tunis, many of whom identified themselves as Islamists though they wore Western suits, spoke French and were clean shaven.

“Tunisia is a small country but it has room for everyone and everyone’s ideas. They thought there would be chaos in Tunisia but we are united. We do not have Shi’ites, Christians, Jews. We are all Sunni Muslims and this unites us,” worshipper Rida Harrathi told Reuters before Friday prayers.

“Of course Ennahda will play a big role in the elections. It is from the people. It did not come from outside, from another planet. It is part of us and these people made a big sacrifice, as did the honourable members of the communists and the unions.”

History of secularism

The end of Ben Ali’s rule could see a marked growth in the outward expression of faith.

Bourguiba, who saw himself as a modernising leader akin to Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk, famously called the veil an “odious rag”. He seized properties held by Islamic trusts, closed their courts and enshrined secular family codes.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Leaks Reveal Deep Palestinian-Israeli Security Ties

Leaked documents published Tuesday show extensive collaboration between Palestinian security forces and their Israeli counterparts, a relationship Israeli commanders say has been key to security gains in the West Bank.

Among the most explosive revelations in the latest release are minutes of a 2005 meeting in which Palestinian officials appear to be plotting with Israeli officials to assassinate a Palestinian militant in Gaza.

The leaks are likely to aggravate unease in the Palestinian territories, following revelations earlier in the week that showed the Palestinian leadership offering extensive compromises to Israel in peace talks.

Qatar-based al-Jazeera satellite channel on Sunday began releasing what they say are internal Palestinian negotiating-team papers dating from 1999 to 2010.

According to the Palestinian minutes of a 2005 meeting, Israel’s defense minister at the time, Shaul Mofaz, asked then Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Youssef about a militant named Hassan al-Madhoun.

“Why don’t you kill him?” Mr. Mofaz asked Mr. Youssef, according to the document. Mr. Youssef replied that he instructed the Palestinian security forces commander in Gaza to do just that. “We will see,” he said.

Weeks later an Israeli missile struck the militant’s car in Gaza City and killed Mr. Madhoun.

Neither Mr. Youssef nor Mr. Mofaz could be reached to comment. Gen. Adnan Damiri, a spokesman for the Palestinian security forces, said the documents were “filled with lies,” but declined to comment on the specific incident.

“We have a professional security force, not a militia and not a political security force,” Mr. Damiri said. “Our job is to implement the law and the decisions taken by the civilian leadership and we have returned security and stability to the West Bank.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Papers: UK’s MI6 ‘Tried to Weaken Hamas’

Leaked documents relating to the Middle East peace process suggest Britain’s intelligence service has been closely involved in attempts to weaken Hamas.

The documents, published by al-Jazeera, date back to 2004, before the militant group won elections in 2006 and took control of the Gaza Strip.

The Foreign Office says it has a long-standing policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

The BBC has been unable to independently verify the papers.

The Arabic news network al-Jazeera is gradually publishing 1,600 confidential documents from more than 10 years of secret US-brokered Middle East peace talks.

The seven-page Palestinian Security Plan, written by British intelligence officials, says its objective is to “encourage and enable the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fully meet its security obligations under Phase 1 of the Roadmap” — the US-backed 2003 peace initiative, under which Israel agreed to stop settlement building and Palestinians to clamp down on militant activity.

It proposes a number of ways of “degrading the capabilities of rejectionists”, naming Hamas, PIJ (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and the al-Aqsa Brigades.

This would involve “the disruption of their leaderships’ communications and command and control capabilities; the detention of key middle-ranking officers; and the confiscation of their arsenals and financial resources held within the Occupied Territories”.

Israel talks

The document goes on to suggest: “We could also explore the temporary internment of leading Hamas and PIJ figures, making sure they are well-treated, with EU funding”.

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner says the news that MI6 have been involved in such plans is controversial…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Scoop: Explaining How the “Palestine Papers” Story is a Fabrication That Teaches US the Truth

By Barry Rubin

The “Palestine Papers” hoax is (or, more accurately, should be) turning into the most teachable moment about the Israel-Palestinian conflict in modern history. At least, everyone has reversed what happened: The compromise position was offered by Israel; the Palestinians rejected peace. Are we going to see this story corrected?

The “Palestine Papers” have been “obtained” by al-Jazira, the Guardian, and perhaps others, in imitation of Wikileaks.

They purport to show, in the media version, that the PA made Israel a big offer of peace and Israel rejected it. Naturally, this is being accepted by these and other newspapers as true without verification or considering how these claims stack up against other information. Also claimed is that the PA was ready to accept Israel as a Jewish state and give up the demand that Palestinian refugees can live in Israel, again things it has totally opposed.

Hello? Is anyone out there actually following Israel-Palestinian issues?

Here’s how the Los Angeles Times summed it up: “Al Jazeera said the documents also revealed that Palestinians were willing to divide the Old City, limit the return of Palestinian refugees to 100,000 people and recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”

Wait!!! This sounds familiar. It is the ISRAELI NOT THE PALESTINIAN position. In other words, either deliberately or in the translation they REVERSED the story! It should read:

“The documents also revealed that the Israelis were willing to divide the Old City, limit the return of Palestinian refugees to 100,000 people and [asked the Palestinians to] recognize Israel as a Jewish state.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanon ‘Day of Rage’ Called Over Hizbullah Gains

Sunni lawmakers have called for a “day of rage” throughout Lebanon Tuesday to protest gains by the Shiite militant group Hizbullah.

In a news conference, lawmaker Moustafa Alloush called for protests to voice refusal for “Persian tutelage” over Lebanon — a reference to Hizbullah’s patrons in Iran.

He said the protests should be peaceful.

Hizbullah secured the support from a majority of parliament Monday to nominate its candidate for prime minister, putting the Iranian-backed militant group in position to control Lebanon’s new government.

Hizbullah toppled the government of the Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni, on Jan. 12.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Indictments Expected Soon in Hariri Murder

Court Official Says Names to Be Made Public in Weeks

The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon is moving closer to indicting Hezbollah leaders in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A court official says names will be made public in a matter of weeks and that a trial could follow as soon as September.

The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) would like to do everything in its power to exercise the arrest warrants of the suspected killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bombing attack in Beirut.

STL registrar Herman von Hebel told SPIEGEL the arrest warrants would be activated “in cooperation with the government of Beirut, which is obligated to extradite — if necessary with the help of other states.” As “registrar,” the Dutchman holds a key position in the court, which was created at the request of Lebanon and is meant to have an “international character,” as it states on its own website. It is the first of its kind to attempt to clear up a terrorist attack.

In light of the tense political situation in Lebanon at the moment, particular importance is being attached to von Hebel’s words. It is likely that the tribunal will move to charge leading members of the radical Islamist Hezbollah in connection with the assassination. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, 50, has already announced that he will not allow any of his people to be extradited, stating that the tribunal is an “American-Israeli tool.” The week before last, Nasrallah initiated the resignations of his party’s ministers as well as a few allies in the cabinet, causing the collapse of the national unity government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 40.

Hariri Determined to Work with Tribubal

But Hariri, Rafik’s son, is determined to continue working together with the STL. He will remain in office as interim prime minister and wants to fight to keep his post. For his part, Nasrallah appears to favor former Prime Minister Omar Karami, 76, a friend to Syria. At this time, however, no clear possibility is forming for a new government coalition and the deadlock could last for months to come.

It’s possible the tribunal will act sooner. Last Tuesday, one day after the chief prosecutor in the Hague sealed the arrest warrants and turned them over to the coordinating judge, Hezbollah provoked Prime Minister Hariri with an odd display of force: The group dispatched its militias to protest at strategic locations around Beirut. Hariri supporters within his party called it a test run for a possible national strike.

STL registrar von Hebel says it is likely the names contained on the arrest warrants will be made public in “six to 10 weeks” and that a trial could start as soon as the beginning of September. “If necessary, a trial without the presence of the defendants would be conceivable, the statutes allow us to judge in absentia,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Letter From Turkey: When the Wolves Get Religion

by Srdja Trifkovic

Chronicles Online, January 24th, 2011

The city of Istanbul reflects Turkey’s transformation over the past decade. Almost eight years after my previous visit I am greeted by an impressive new international terminal at the Atatürk International Airport—Europe’s seventh busiest—and by the massive office towers and apartment complexes surrounding it. According to OECD, on current form Turkey may be the second-largest economy in Europe by 2050.

The city’s population has grown by a half since 2003, from nine to thirteen million, making it by far the most populous megalopolis on European soil. That the street crowds are unevenly urbanized is more apparent than before, reflecting the ongoing influx from rural Anatolia and Turkey’s continuing demographic boom. Half the country’s 73 million people are under the age of 30, and even with declining fertility rates it is expected to reach 100 million by mid-century.

More significantly, Istanbul is now visibly a Muslim city. The old cliché about the crossroads between the West and the Islamic world apparently still applies to the bustling cafes of Cihangir or smart boutiques of Nisantasi, but these are shrinking oases inhabited by the Kemalist elite and their offspring. The balance is tilting in favor of the teeming multitude around the Fatih mosque, which last Friday was unsurprisingly headscarved (women) and bearded (men). The same marks of Islamic piety are now present more widely and in greater numbers than at any time since Mustafa Kemal’s days.. In some residential areas the hijab is by now dominant. It is ubiquitous in public places and institutions where old restrictions formally still apply but have been ignored with impunity for years.

These visible fruits of nine years’ rule by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) invoke the memory of its previous leader, Necmettin Erbakan, who announced many years ago that “Turkey is going to change its regime towards fundamentalism—the debate is whether it is going to be with blood or without.” The change of the Turkish state and society, of its ethos and institutional culture, is less visible but profound and probably irreversible. The secularist elites see it happening, “but they are gripped by panic, paralyzed, unable to act, living just for today,” Claire Berlinski, an American-born writer and journalist who has lived in Istanbul for years, told me last Friday. She compares the atmosphere in the city to the last days of the Weimar Repuiblic in Berlin: the writing may be on the wall, but the “dread and exhilaration of the looming catastrophe” is intoxicating. Nevertheless she would not live anywhere else (and moving with her seven adopted cats could be a problem).

There may be less than meets the eye to Turkey’s economic success, Claire Berlinski warns (“Turkish statistics are the product of a combination of ineptitude and deceit”), and it is unable to absorb the young newcomers to the labor market. Nevertheless, the Western media and politicians remain infatuated with the twin myth of Turkey’s “Islamic democracy” and AKP-engineered prosperity. Sensing a mix of Western weakness and wishful thinking, Prime Minister Erdogan now asserts that the tables have been turned: in the decades ahead, Europe will need Turkey more than Turkey needs Europe. “European labor markets and social-security systems are comatose,” he writes, and “European societies are near geriatric,” in contrast to Turkey which is “bursting with the vigor that the EU so badly needs”:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Self-Immolation Spreads Across Mideast Inspiring Protest

The five weeks of protests in Tunisia that led to the toppling of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali have inspired demonstrators from Morocco to Yemen, but more controversially, so has the suicide by self-immolation by Mohammed Bouazizi that set off the unrest.

At least 13 cases of people setting fire to themselves in protest have been recorded in the Middle East since Bouazizi, an unemployed university graduate, doused himself with petrol and set himself alight in the city of Sidi Bouzid on December 17. He was protesting official harassment of his street-side produce business, but his act quickly came to symbolize government abuse and the absence of economic opportunity.

In Egypt, at least six cases of self-immolation have been reported, including a man arrested last Thursday while trying to set himself on fire outside the Egyptian parliament in downtown Cairo. Over the weekend, a Moroccan man set himself on fire in Casablanca as did a Mauritanian man who set himself on fire and died in hospital on Saturday. In Algeria, four men have reportedly set themselves on fire. Even in Saudi Arabia, whose people are insulated from poverty and inflation by oil wealth, a man in his 60s set himself on fire in the town of Samitah. He died in hospital on Sunday.

Even as cities across the region are struck by mass demonstrations, the images of people committing suicide by setting themselves afire may be doing more than anything else to spread protests across the Arab world, said Michael Biggs, a lecturer in sociology at Oxford University, who has studied the phenomenon of self-immolation.

“It’s very clear that death of Bouazizi had major political impact, and the cost for him was very high, but the political benefit seems to be high as well,” Biggs told The Media Line. “It’s the ultimate altruistic act. It shows that some people care enough about political change that they think it’s worth making that terrible sacrifice.”

Ben Ali took the trouble to visit the 26-year-old Bouazizi at his hospital bed in a show of sympathy December 28, six days before the young man succumbed to his burns and died.

As the phenomenon of self-immolation spreads, it has sparked a debate between Islamic legal scholars and political activists. Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the seat of religious learning in the Sunni Muslim world, issued a statement January 18 saying that sharia, (Islamic religious law) prohibits suicide as a form of protest. Egypt’s Religious Endowments Ministry last week instructed the imams of all mosques across the country to warn about the prohibition of suicide in Islam in their Friday sermons.

Emad Gad, a political scientist at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, said he had no doubt the warnings were issued on instructions from the government, which is concerned that Tunisian-style unrest may be difficult to contain. Opposition leaders, including the Muslim Brotherhood, plan a major day of protests on Tuesday.

But not all religious scholars were ready to condemn self-immolation. Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, a celebrity cleric who articulates his views on the Al-Jazeera television network’s popular “Shariah and Life” program, termed Bouazizi a victim of Tunisia’s repressive rule, conditions that were no different elsewhere in the Arab world.

“This young man and others like him acted under mitigating circumstances,” Al-Qaradhawi said in the January 16 broadcast. “These [rulers] have brought the people to a state of psychological crisis. As I see it, he was not free when he made his decision. He was seething from within.”

He was challenged by another Islamic scholar, Abd Al-Fattah Idris, two days later, who said no one had forced Bouazizi to commit suicide. “The fact that he chose to take his life in such a manner means that he wasn’t deprived of his free will,” he told Egypt’s Al-Hayat television…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Moscow Airport Bomb: Dmitry Medvedev Calls for Security Shake-Up

Speaking a day after the suspected suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that killed at least 35 people, Mr Medvedev echoed demands that have followed previous attacks blamed on militants from Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region.

“Everything must be done to find, expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to court — and the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated,” Medvedev told Federal Security Service chiefs.

“We must not stand on ceremony with those who resist … they must be destroyed on the spot,” he said.

Later in the day, prime minister Vladimir Putin vowed revenge for the attack that killed 35 people.

“This was an abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty,” Mr Putin told a meeting of ministers in Moscow. “I do not doubt that this crime will be solved and that retribution is inevitable.”

Both Mr Putin and Mr Medvedev visited victims of the attack in hospital. They donned white coats and stood at victims’ bedsides in separate visits shown on state television.

Mr Medvedev criticised law enforcement and airport authorities over the attack at Domodedovo, an international hub and major gateway to Russia, which killed at least eight foreigners.

The bombing darkened Russia’s image in a week when Mr Medvedev is due to promote it as an investment destination at a major global forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“It is clear that there is a systemic failure to provide security for people” at Domodedovo, said Mr Medvedev.

He ordered the interior ministry to recommend transport security officials for dismissal and said authorities found culpable would be held responsible, suggesting they could face prosecution. He urged officials to develop a system that would provide for “total checks” on people and bags at airports.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s bombing, but it bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state in the North Caucasus region on Russia’s southern frontier. “It’s obviously a terrorist act that was planned well in advance in order to cause the deaths of as many people as possible,” Mr Medvedev said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Russia’s Putin Vows Revenge for Suicide Bombing

MOSCOW (Reuters) — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed revenge on Tuesday for a suicide bombing that killed at least 35 people at Russia’s busiest airport and underscored the Kremlin’s failure to stem a rising tide of attacks.

Talking tough a day after the bombing, Russia’s leaders ordered security services to root out the culprits behind the attack, which bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state along Russia’s southern flank.

“This was an abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty,” Putin told a meeting of ministers in Moscow.

“I do not doubt that this crime will be solved and that retribution is inevitable.”

President Dmitry Medvedev criticised law enforcement agencies and airport managers over the attack at Domodedovo, a major international gateway to Russia. At least eight foreigners were killed in the attack.

“Everything must be done to find, expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to court — and the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated,” he said.

“We must not stand on ceremony with those who resist … they must be destroyed on the spot,” Medvedev told leaders of the Federal Security Service FSB.L, which is tasked with coordinating Russia’s fight against terrorism.

The bombing, which ripped through the area where international travellers emerge after collecting their bags, came just days before Medvedev is due to pitch Russia to investors and corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Medvedev has delayed his departure for Davos, where he is due to deliver the keynote speech opening the forum. Russia’s Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said 49 people remain in a serious or very serious condition in hospital.


There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Russia has been grappling with a growing Islamist insurgency in the mainly-Muslim republics which make up its southern flank in the North Caucasus.

Rebels from the region have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to a parliamentary election this December and a 2012 presidential poll in which Putin is expected to return to the Kremlin or back his protege Medvedev for a second term.

Russian financial markets, accustomed to periodic bombings and hostage dramas over the past 12 years, showed little reaction. The benchmark rouble-denominated MICEX share index was trading up 0.22 percent at 1441 GMT. The rouble closed virtually unchanged from Monday.

“Terrorism remains the main threat to the security of our state, the main threat to Russia, to all our citizens,” Medvedev said. He said terrorist attacks increased last year, calling it “the most serious signal” for law enforcement.

“It is clear that there is a systemic failure to provide security for people” at Domodedovo, said Medvedev…

[Return to headlines]

Russia: Witnesses Hear Russian Airport Suicide Bomber Yell ‘I’ll Kill You All!’

[WARNING: Graphic content.]

Witnesses in the deadly bombing at Moscow’s Domodedova Airport that claimed the lives of 35 people and injured nearly 200 others say the suicide bomber shouted “I’ll kill you all!” before detonating the explosives, according to The Guardian.

Driver Artyom Zhilenkov said he was standing just a few yards away from a man who may have been the suicide bomber. He saw an explosion on or near the man, whose suitcase was on fire.


Russian authorities believe that a man and a woman — known as a Black Widow — detonated the bomb at the airport.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russia Fails to Come to Grips With Growing Tide of Racism

Egana Gassanova, 45, is an assistant cook in a restaurant in the Arbat district of Moscow. Born in Azerbaijan, a Muslim, Turkish-speaking country on the shores of the Caspian, she obtained citizenship after 11 years in the capital. “I am Russian,” she says, showing us her passport.

Every evening at about 10pm, Gassanova takes the metro home to Moscow’s south-east suburbs. One Saturday last December she barely noticed the youths sitting opposite her in the carriage. “They started throwing paper pellets at me. I looked the other way. Then the insults started: ‘Bitch! Filthy black! The least we should do is kill people like you.’ I burst into tears. I tried to get out at the Tekstil’shchiki stop but by the time I got to the doors they had shut,” she says.

The six youths gathered round and started hitting her. Dazed, with a cut above one of her eyes, she managed to escape. “I got out at Kuzminki and they stayed behind. I heard them laughing,” Gassanova adds.

None of the other passengers reacted. “During the 11 years I’ve lived here people have always been nice — the neighbours, my workmates, the staff at my daughter’s school. Where do they come from, these kids full of hate?” she wonders.

According to the Sova Centre, an NGO that researches racial discrimination in Russia, 37 people were killed and 368 injured in 2010. The defining slogan for the ultra-nationalist groups, whose ideas have infiltrated government institutes, sports clubs and youth organisations, is: “Down with non-Slavs, Russia for the Russians”.

The debate took an unexpected turn with a proposal by a senior representative of the Russian Orthodox church. Father Vsevolod Chaplin raised the idea of a national dress code, particularly for women, as a contribution to social harmony.

At a round table on inter-ethnic relations, he said a woman wearing a miniskirt “can provoke not only a man from the Caucasus but a Russian man as well. If she is drunk on top of that, she will provoke him even more.”

He added that many Russian women went out “‘painted like a clown” and “confuse the street with striptease”. Wearing ample black robes, Father Chaplin did not explain what sort of dress code he advocated for women.

His remarks prompted feminist petitions and a public outcry.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Chechen President Backs Dress Code Proposed by Moscow Patriarchate

The Russian Orthodox Church floats the idea of a national dress code against sleazy women, and gains only one supporter: Chechen President Kadyrov. Public opinion criticises the Church for interfering in people’s private life.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — Controversy still rages in Russia following a statement by Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations, who called on Russian women to dress more modestly to avoid becoming victims of sexual violence. Online and in print, comments and condemnations have multiplied against the so-called “Orthodox dress code”. Editorial writers and public opinion have slammed the Moscow Patriarchate for interfering in people’s private lives, with many people noting that Russia is a secular state.

Controversial Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a Muslim, raised even more eyebrows by publicly endorsing the Orthodox clergyman’s appeal, something unhelpful for the Orthodox Church’s crusade in favour of a “dignified dress”. In Chechnya, Kadyrov set up a “morality police” that stops women not dressed according to Muslim rules. Local witnesses said police punish unveiled women by throwing paint at them.

Appeal for a national dress code

According to Chaplin, Russian women dress like strippers, wear makeup like clowns, and sometimes show an attitude that is so enticing that it can lead to sexual violence. By describing women’s clothing as “too uninhibited”, the representative of the Patriarchate said he hoped for the introduction of a national dress code in schools, public buildings and companies.

“Some people confuse the street for a strip club,” the clergyman said. “A woman who is underdressed or made up like a clown will not find a man to share her life, a man with an ounce of intelligence and self-respect,” he added.

Human rights organisations reacted immediately to the statement. In a letter against Chaplin’s remarks signed by 700 people and addressed to the Moscow Patriarch Kirill, Liudmilla Alekseyeva, head of the Moscow chapter of the Helsinki group, described the clergyman’s words as a breach of people’s right to privacy, which is banned by the federal constitution.

The issue went viral on websites and blogs with people asking whether the Scriptures include a dress code or wondering if Russia would become as rigid and intransigent as Muslim countries in matters that touch the private sphere.

“An appeal to be modest and wear a dignified dress is not an attempt to infringe upon women’s rights,” said President Kadyrov, who also criticised Russian television for showing “naked women everywhere” in lieu of “concerts of folk music”.

“Once upon a time, the world admired Russian culture for people like Tolstoy; now we have opened the doors to a soulless Western lifestyle,” he added.

Women’s dress is not the only issue recently raised by the Orthodox Church. Last week, proposals were presented in parliament to exclude abortion from insurance coverage and increase the cost and red tape for women seeking an abortion.

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

South Asia

Indonesia: Extremists Demonstrate Against the Opening of the Yasmin Church in Bogor, West Java

Indonesia’s Supreme Court ruled that Christians have the right to use a site they own for religious functions. Local authorities, who had stopped church construction in 2008, are now criticised for not implementing the court ruling, allowing Islamic extremists to patrol the site.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Islamic extremist groups are still trying to prevent the Protestant Christian Church (GKI) from opening its church at Taman Yasmin, an area in Bogor (West Java). Despite a Supreme Court ruling on 14 January authorising Protestants to use their church, extremists continue to demonstrate against it, threatening its members. They allege that Christians have been involved in forced conversions. The church is still closed and local authorities have not yet rescinded the ban order they slapped on the building.

“We have prepared two official letters, calling on Bogor major to publish the Supreme Court’s ruling for everyone to read, in print and electronic media, so that no one can take the law in their own hands,” a Church leader told AsiaNews.

The issue began in February 2008 when local authorities stopped the construction of the GKI church at Taman Yasmin in response to a complaint from the Bogor Islamic Community Association (FUI), which claimed that local Christians did not have the necessary papers to use the site as a place of worship.

After two years of legal battles, the Indonesian Supreme Court ruled on 9 December 2010 that the GKI had the right use the building for its religious functions. However, extremists rejected the sentence. FUI accused Christians of forced conversions and issued a letter calling on all Muslims in Bogor to gather in front of the Protestant church to prevent Sunday mass. So far, Bogor authorities have not yet implemented the court ruling.

A local Christian leader, who asked his name be withheld for security reason, said Christians “do not want any more lies from the government.” In fact, he wonders whether any one in Indonesia can uphold the law.

President Yudhoyono has come under harsh criticism in recent weeks from inter-faith groups who accuse him of hiding the many episodes of religious intolerance by Islamic extremists.

Stung by his critics, the president on 18 January urged religious leaders to meet his ministers to discuss the matter.

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

Pakistan: Former Intelligence Agent’s Death in Captivity Causes Unease

Islamabad, 24 Jan. (AKI — The death in captivity of former Pakistani intelligence official Sultan Amir Tarar almost a year after he was kidnapped by militants has caused unease among officials and the militants themselves, a prominent analyst told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Nothing is clear so far. But it looks like he died, apparently from cardiac arrest as he was a heart patient,” prominent expert on Pakistani tribal affairs Rahimullah Yousufzai told AKI.

Tarar, who was known as Colonel Imam, died of a heart attack ten months after being abducted by militants in the northwest North Waziristan tribal region, a senior Pakistani government official was quoted in media reports as saying on Monday.

“Nobody is ready to speak about the Imam’s death. The Pakistan Taliban (TTP) did not accept any responsibility and the government is also tight lipped,” Yousufzai maintained.

He said that Tarar’s death in captivity will have come as a great shock for the militants and may have angered Afghan Taliban commanders.

Tarar helped the Taliban rise to power in Afghanistan, has worked for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency and cultivated close ties with the Taliban.

Hayat said militants are asking for more than 200,000 dollars to return Tarar’s body. His family had agreed to pay a ransom for his release. But the government refused to free Taliban prisoners in exchange for Tarar’s release — the Taliban’s main demand.

“Now they didn’t get any money and at the same time, Imam’s death may have caused fury from Afghan Taliban commanders like Jalaluddin Haqqani, who had personal relations with Colonel Imam and repeatedly urged the TTP leaders to release him,” Yousufzai said.

Tarar was one of four people abducted by militants during a visit to North Waziristan. The other hostages were former ISI official Khalid Khawaja and a British journalist and documentary-maker Asad Qureshi and his driver.

Khawaja was shot dead by the militants and Qureshi was released, allegedly, after paying a ransom. His driver, Rustam Khan, was also freed.

Mullah Omar, the leader of Afghan Taliban, made repeated appeals for the release of Tarar, who trained him and other Afghan Mujahadeen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Tarar was Pakistan’s consul general in Afghanistan’s Herat province in the mid-1990s during the Taliban’s rise to power.

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

Far East

China’s New World Order

By all appearances, Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington last week changed little in the lopsided American-Chinese relationship. What we have is a system that methodically transfers American jobs, technology and financial power to China in return for only modest Chinese support for important U.S. geopolitical goals: the suppression of Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. American officials act as though there’s not much they can do to change this.

It’s true that the United States and China have huge common interests in peace and prosperity. Two-way trade (now about $500 billion annually) can provide low-cost consumer goods to Americans and foodstuffs and advanced manufactured products to the Chinese. But China’s and America’s goals differ radically. The United States wants to broaden the post-World War II international order based on mutually advantageous trade. By contrast, China pursues a new global order in which its needs come first — one in which it subsidizes exports, controls essential imports (oil, food, minerals) and compels the transfer of advanced technology.

Naturally, the United States opposes this sort of system, but that’s where we’re headed. Clashing goals have trumped shared interests.

Start with distorted trade. The New York Times recently reported that Evergreen, a maker of solar panels, is shutting its Massachusetts factory, moving production to a joint venture in China and laying off 800 U.S. workers. Despite $43 million in Massachusetts state aid, Evergreen’s chief executive said that China’s subsidies — mainly low-interest loans from state-controlled banks — were too great to pass up.

Thus subsidized, Chinese solar panel production rose fiftyfold from 2005 to 2010, reports GTM, a market analysis company. Cheap bank loans to solar companies total about $30 billion, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be repaid in full, notes GTM analyst Shyam Mehta. “It could be free money,” he says. China’s share of global production jumped from 9 to 48 percent. In 2010, about 95 percent of China’s solar panels were exported.

With details changed, similar stories apply to many industries. The undervaluation of China’s currency, the renminbi, by 15 percent or more magnifies the advantage. Jobs shift to China from factories in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Next, consider technology transfer. Big multinational firms want to be in China, but the cost of doing so is often the loss of important technology through required licensing agreements, mandatory joint ventures, reverse engineering or outright theft. American software companies estimate that 85 to 90 percent of their products in China are pirated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopian Christians Told to Convert to Islam, Or Die

According to a news release from International Christian Concern (ICC), Christians in the Ethiopian city of Besheno are being harassed and physically abused after Muslims posted notices on the doors of Christian homes warning them to convert, leave the city or face death.

Three Christian leaders were forced to flee while two Christians have been forced to convert to Islam, said the ICC report. In the Muslim majority city, the entire evangelical Christian community consists of about 30 believers.

The ICC says that Evangelist Kassa Awano remains in critical condition after Muslims attacked him on November 29, 2010. A few days after the attack, nearly 100 Muslims surrounded a vehicle carrying Christian leaders on their way to negotiate for peace with Muslim leaders. Two men, Tesema Hirego and Niggusie Denano, were seriously wounded, and the other leaders suffered minor injuries. On January 2, Muslims assaulted Temesgen Peteros with a knife after he testified about the attacks on these Christians in court.

Christians in Besheno have been targeted by Muslims for many years. On May 21, 2004, Muslims murdered the 7 year-old daughter of Evangelist Tesfaye Hobe. Muslims continuously attack Christians for listening to Christian songs and watching Christian videos.

“We ask for our constitutional right [to freedom of religion] to be respected. We want this inhumane act to stop. We are unable to live in our own city due to the inhumane acts,” one of the Christian leaders who fled the city told ICC.

The ICC report said “The local Muslim officials of the city refuse to protect the Christians. The officials ignore their appeals for justice, declining repeated requests for the building of a place of worship and a cemetery. On January 19, a Christian mother was forced to bury her deceased daughter in a town more than 20 miles from Besheno, due to the absence of a cemetery for Christians.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Time for a Right-Wing Party in South Africa

Time for a right-wing party

by Chris 2011-01-25 15:00

I think we need a right-wing affiliated party in South Africa. If one looks at the current political landscape, the ANC and the DA are dominant. However, both of these parties are left-of-centre. In fact if one reads the political manifestos of both parties, they are remarkably similar in numerous aspects, including affirmative action and BEE. One could actually say that the main difference between the DA and the ANC is solely based on the effectiveness of service delivery rather than anything else. Some people will argue that the Freedom Front Plus is a right-wing party. While that may be true, it is far-right and more focused on a Afrikaner homeland than anything else. Isn’t time for South Africa to have a political party that represents capitalism and big business? A party that does not believe in the welfare state and which minimises state intervention in the economy?

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Employment: Come back to Germany, Pepe

In one corner — Germany, in search of skilled workers to feed its recovery. In the other, a Spain in crisis, where young graduates have no future. As in the sixties, a new flow of economic migrants might be making their way north.

Rafael Poch-de-Feliu

In the time of Alfredo Landa, the hero of the film “Come to Germany, Pepe” massive Spanish emigration to Germany in the sixties drew in the peasants of Galicia, Extremadura and Andalusia. But Germany today needs Pepes without berets: it needs them with qualifications and a diploma. At least, so says a German report that could provide food for thought to the media at the upcoming Spain-Germany summit in Madrid on February 3.

The phenomenon is grounded in reality. Germany has a recognised shortage of qualified technicians. But could this fact act as a palliative for Spanish unemployment, as happened in the sixties? What’s immediately striking is that the situations are not comparable.

In Madrid, a government at a low ebb

In 1960 Spain signed an agreement on labour contracts with West Germany’s vast industrial sector, at the heart of the “German miracle” — contracts that were managed by the Spanish Institute of Migration. By 1973 more than half a million Spanish had emigrated to Germany. Of these, about 80 percent returned home. The phenomenon brought in foreign currency for Franco’s Spain and filled the manual labour shortages in the Germany of that era. The world of today is very different.

Germany is not going through any “miracle”, but has been able till now to maintain significant growth thanks to exports. It does, however, have a significant shortage of skilled workers. Against this backdrop Germany’ Federal Employment Agency (BA) has just released a ten-point plan to resolve the problem.

The focus of the plan is on improving education and promoting the integration of women into the workforce. Both tacks would result in an increase of several million jobs by 2025. Better integration of women into the workforce could fill three million full-time jobs alone, some estimates suggest. However, the problem will not be resolved without resorting to immigration, notes Raimund Becker, a member of the board of the BA, in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. According to Becker, Germany will have to import 800,000 foreigners. >From there, the data is linked to two political demands.

In Madrid, that of a government at a low ebb whose sovereignty is hostage to the European authorities and that needs to send out some message of hope with respect to employment policy. In Berlin, that of an administration losing prestige in Brussels for its selfish and arrogant policy but which sees no harm in tossing out lifelines to the profligates from the south, half-drowned and with little relish for the diktat of German austerity. The needs of both governments collide at the bilateral summit in Madrid. According to Der Spiegel, the issue will be high on the agenda on February 3.

Thousands of young Spaniards in Berlin

The German offer of employment is addressed not to Spain, but to all those European countries plunged most deeply in difficulties, including those brains going to waste in eastern Europe. The Spanish government, which is not contesting the German diktat and has confined itself to raising only mild objections in Berlin, will receive this reprieve like the first rains in May. But what is it really worth?

The emigration to Germany of young Spaniards with college degrees is already a reality. There are thousands of them in Berlin, usually employed in precarious part-time jobs. So when deputy parliamentary spokesman of the German CDU, Michael Fuchs declared that “in southern and eastern Europe there are plenty of young people out of work”, it was hardly the discovery of sliced bread.

What is clear is that Germany wants to change the migration table: fewer peasants from Anatolia (Turkish “Pepes”, more or less), and more graduates without a future from Spain, Greece and eastern Europe. That’s a lot of people for the few thousand jobs to go around between now and 2025. Instead of “Come to Germany, Pepe”, we might instead be looking at a remake of Luis García Berlanga’s “Welcome, Mr. Marshall” (1952) on the vain hopes raised by the prospect of the Marshall Plan coming to a tiny Spanish village. Welcome, Mister Müller?

Translated from the Spanish by Anton Baer

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

Italians Living Longer, Having Fewer Children

Immigrants provide infusions of youth, survey shows

(ANSA) — Rome, January 24 — Italian grandparents may be living longer, but they have fewer grandchildren to dote on. As Italy’s fertility rate continues to sink and deaths exceed births for the fourth consecutive year, Italy depends increasingly on its immigrant population for infusions of youth, according to a demographics report by the Italian statistics agency ISTAT.

In 2010, there were 30,200 more deaths than births, marking a demographic deficit that appears to be gaining momentum. In 2009, deaths exceeded births by 22,800, a dramatic number compared to pre-economic crisis 2008, when Italy saw deaths outnumber births by 8500. In 2007, there were just 6,900 more deaths than births. ISTAT did not indicate when this trend began.

The numbers say death is not gaining ground as much as birth is losing it. Births in Italy sank 2.1% over 2009 to a total of 557,000, a low last seen in 2005. Not surprisingly, fertility rates also sank. Women in Italy had an average of 1.40 children in 2010, versus 1.41 in 2009, and 1.42 in 2008.

Despite these sobering figures, Italians are living longer: men lived an average of 79.1 years, a gain of 0.3 years over 2009; women lived an average of 84.3 years, or 0.2 years longer than the previous year. They are also growing as a proportion of the population. Italians aged 65 and over make up 20.3% of the population, versus 18.4% in 2001.

Immigrants are propping up Italy’s population, conceding a glimmer of population growth and far more babies than Italy otherwise would have had. The population grew by 0.0043% in a year to 60.6 million residents in Italy as of January 1, 2011, thanks mainly to immigrants who, at an average age of 31, are far younger than their Italian counterparts. Foreign-born mothers accounted for 18.8% of all births in the country in 2010, whereas foreign-born residents make up just 7.5% of the population. Ten years prior, in 2000, non-citizens only contributed 6.4% of total births.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Immigrants Boost Population to Over 60.6 Mln Says Central Statistics Office

(AKI) — Italy’s population stood at 60,601,000 in on 1 January 2011, an increase of 261,000 people over the past year due mainly to immigration, according to the central statistics agency Istat.

The number of foreign residents increased by 0.5 percent in 2010 to 4,563,000 foreign residents or 7.5 percent of Italy’s population compared with 7.0 percent in 2009, Istat said.

The immigration boom is continuing despite the economic crisis in Italy — this is one of the most interesting aspects of the data,” Istat researcher Marco Marsili told Adnkronos International (AKI).

The average age of immigrants is 31.1 years old, almost 70 percent are aged 39 or younger and over one-fifth (22 percent) are under 17, according to Istat.

Immigration was helping counterbalance Italy’s ageing populaion and declining birthrate, Istat aid.

The number of Italian citizens decreased for the fourth consecutive year in 2010 by 67,000 to 56,038,000.

In 2010, for the fourth year running, there were more deaths in Italy than births — 30,200 — and there were 12,200 fewer births than in 2009.

The average number of children born per woman also declined in 2010 to 1.40 from 1.41 in 2009, Istat said.

Meanwhile, average life expectancy at birth was 79.1 for men and 84.3 for women in 2010, an increase of 0.3 and 0.2 respectively compared with 2009, said Istat.

“Italy has an increasingly elderly population,” it noted.

On 1 January, 2011, people aged 65 and over made up 20.3 percent of the population, and over three-fifths (65.7 percent) were aged 15-64. Just 14 percent of people were under 15 years old, Istat said.

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

Jimmie Akesson: Swedish Immigration is ‘Extreme’ [Video]

Last year the Sweden Democrats won 20 seats at the national election, allowing them to enter parliament for the first time. The party wants large cuts to be made to the number of immigrants entering Sweden but is accused by opponents of being xenophobic and anti-Muslim.

The Sweden Democrats leader, Jimmie Akesson, says immigration policy has created “parallel societies” in Sweden where immigrants from the Middle East and Africa have become segregated and haven’t “assimilated” into Swedish culture…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Former Asylum Seeker Living for Free in £1.2m Taxpayer-Funded Mansion is Charged With Benefit Fraud

A former asylum seeker living in a £1.2million house paid for by the ­taxpayer has been charged with ­benefit fraud.

Toorpakai Saiedi, 37, a mother of seven originally from Afghanistan, is accused of obtaining ­thousands of pounds to which she was not entitled.

Mrs Saiedi attracted headlines just over two years ago when it was revealed she was living in luxury in an imposing seven-bedroom house in West London.

At the time she was receiving £170,000 a year in benefits, including an astonishing £150,000 paid to a private landlord for the rent of the property — equivalent to £12,500 a month.

Now Mrs Saiedi has been summonsed to appear before magistrates charged with housing benefit and council tax fraud.

It is alleged she had an undeclared bank account into which she received a secret income of around £16,000 a year.

This would have reduced the amount of ­housing benefit she was able to claim.

In all, she is alleged to have received around £30,000 in benefits to which she was not entitled, between 2007 and last year.

Mrs Saiedi claimed asylum after coming to Britain in 2001 with her children, a year after her husband Haji Rahmat Shah Saiedi, 47, had arrived in London.

Their home has two large reception rooms, one featuring an enormous plasma TV, two kitchens, a dining room, a breakfast room, three shower rooms and a 100ft garden.

When the huge scale of her benefits was first revealed in 2008, the family allowed a newspaper to look around the property.

The visit revealed evidence of ­expensive games consoles, including a £160 Nintendo Wii and £250 Play­station 3, top-of-the-range mobile phones and two laptop computers, worth around £350 each.

At the time, Mrs Saiedi’s son Jawad, a student who admitted he spent most of his time driving around in cars and playing snooker, said: ‘When the ­council chose to put us here we did not say no. If someone gave you a lottery jackpot, would you leave it? When I heard how much the council was paying, I thought they were mad.’

Since arriving in Britain, the family have lived in several properties, all paid for by local authorities — first in a three-bedroom terrace house in Enfield, North London, and then in a five-­bedroom semi in Ealing.

Their current seven-bedroom property, in Acton, West London, is owned by Ajit Panesar, who bought it in March 2008 for £1.2m.

He said of the rent he receives: ‘I have done nothing wrong. I can’t help it if the law says I should get paid the amount of money.’

The Coalition has said it will overhaul the scheme — the Local Housing ­Allowance — that has allowed Mrs Saiedi to live in luxury.

From April, a limit will be introduced so the maximum rent that can be claimed by someone on housing ­benefit and paid to a private landlord will be £400 a week.

A spokesman for Ealing Council said Mrs Saiedi has been charged with three counts of making false representations to the local authority with a view to obtaining housing and council tax benefit.

She also faces one count of making false representations to the Department for Work and Pensions with a view to obtaining income support.

She is due to appear before Ealing magistrates on Thursday.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Carnegie Touts Green Credentials of Genghis Khan for Slaughtering 40 Million People

Environmentalists are promoting a new historical hero in the fight against global warming, none other than Mongol warlord Genghis Khan, with the Carnegie Institution touting the emperor’s green credentials because his empire slaughtered no less than 40 million people — an act that helped lower carbon emissions and keep the planet cool.

No, this isn’t a spoof or a satire, the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology has actually released a report that cites Khan’s exemplary environmental record as a suitable yardstick for future “land-use decisions”.

“Genghis Khan’s Mongol invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries was so vast that it may have been the first instance in history of a single culture causing man-made climate change, according to new research out of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology,” reports Mother Nature Network.

“Unlike modern day climate change, however, the Mongol invasion actually cooled the planet, effectively scrubbing around 700 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere.”

Without getting into the details of the fraudulent causative link between CO2 emissions and temperature increases (the relationship is actually inverse), the fact that Khan achieved this by invading and slaughtering the inhabitants of entire towns and villages in China, Korea, the Caucasus, Central Asian countries, and substantial portions of modern Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East, is not seen by Carnegie as a negative course of action.

Indeed, Carnegie lauds the fact that Khan’s actions were more successful than the Black Death in depopulating agricultural areas and allowing the land to return to forest so more trees could soak up CO2.

“We found that during the short events such as the Black Death and the Ming Dynasty collapse, the forest re-growth wasn’t enough to overcome the emissions from decaying material in the soil,” explained Julia Pongratz, who headed the Carnegie Institution research project. “But during the longer-lasting ones like the Mongol invasion… there was enough time for the forests to re-grow and absorb significant amounts of carbon.”

Using the “knowledge we have gained from the past” in studying the positive impact of Khan’s role in slaughtering 40 million people in cold blood, Pongratz says the research will be utilized to “make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle.”

“We cannot ignore the knowledge we have gained,” she added, clearly entertaining the arcane and barbaric notion that massive programs of bloody depopulation should have any place in 21st century thinking.

Emperor Khan is a perfect compliment to new green guru, and former serial killer mastermind, Charles Manson, who also now preaches the need to slaughter millions of people in the name of saving planet earth from his California prison cell.

Indeed, numerous other prominent leaders of the man-made global warming movement openly advocate neo-fascism, the end of freedom, programs of mandatory euthanasia and sterilization, as well as simply killing huge amounts of people in the name of lowering CO2 emissions.

We literally have mad scientists being funded by the biggest universities and NGO’s on the planet to push monstrous programs of mass genocide under the guise of population control.

- In his new book, author and environmentalist Keith Farnish called for acts of sabotage and environmental terrorism in blowing up dams and demolishing cities in order to return the planet to pre-industrial society. Prominent NASA global warming alarmist and Al Gore ally Dr. James Hansen endorsed Farnish’s book.

- James Lovelock, top environmentalist and creator of the Gaia hypothesis, told the Guardian last year that “democracy must be put on hold” to combat global warming and that “a few people with authority” should be allowed to run the planet.

- During a speech to the Texas Academy of Science in March 2006, biologist Dr. Eric R. Pianka advocated the need to exterminate 90% of the world’s population through the airborne ebola virus. The reaction from scores of top scientists and professors in attendance was not one of shock or revulsion — they stood and applauded Pianka’s call for mass genocide.

- Professor David Shearman, MD, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, University of Adelaide, who worked as an assessor for the United Nations IPCC, recently called for democracy to be replaced with an eco-dictatorship where enslaved masses are ruled over by an “elite warrior leadership” and forced to adhere to a new green religion. Shearman has also demanded that Americans pay a carbon tax of more than $18,000 dollars for each child they have.

- Finnish environmentalist guru and global warming alarmist Pentti Linkola has publicly called for climate change deniers to be “re-educated” in eco-gulags and that the vast majority of humans be killed with the rest enslaved and controlled by a green police state, with people forcibly sterilized, cars confiscated and travel restricted to members of the elite. Linkola wants the last 100 years of human progress to be “destroyed”.

- The current White House science czar John P. Holdren also advocates the most obscenely dictatorial, eco-fascist, and inhumane practices in the name of environmentalism. In his 1977 Ecoscience textbook, Holdren calls for a “planetary regime” to carry out forced abortions and mandatory sterilization procedures, as well as drugging the water supply, in an effort to cull the human surplus.

- Top environmentalist organization 10:10, which is funded by massive corporations as well as the British government, produced an ad campaign last year in which children who disagreed with taking steps to lower their CO2 output were murdered in an orgy of blood and guts.

- Another environmentalist organization funded by oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell, recently produced an ad that depicted a future eco-fascist hell where car use will be heavily restricted, CO2 emissions will be rationed, meat will be considered a rare delicacy, the state will decide your career, and only the mega-rich elitists enforcing all these new rules and regulations will be exempt from them. The campaign promoted a future world in which people who resist the state controlling every aspect of their existence will be forced to live in squalid ghettos while the rest of the population will be tightly controlled in high-tech prison cities.

In a May 2009 confab in London, a gaggle of rich “philanthropists,” including David Rockefeller, Ted Turner, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and George Soros met to discuss ways of “solving overpopulation”.

[Return to headlines]

Gay University Leaders Form Group to Advocate Advancement

Chuck Middleton is bearded, bald, gay — and the president of Chicago’s Roosevelt University.

He’s among about 30 gay and lesbian university leaders who have formed the group LGBTQ Presidents in Higher Education to advocate for the advancement of gays to leadership positions.

In an online video for the group, which also features Raymond Crossman, president of Chicago’s Adler School of Professional Psychology, Middleton describes himself as an “out, bearded, bald, gay president” with a sense of humor.

It’s no joke that while universities are often perceived as liberal places to work and study, the president’s job is often inaccessible for gays or lesbians, the group says. University presidents are appointed by trustee boards, and the job includes plenty of fund-raising and networking with a spouse or partner. Historically, there have been few openly gay university presidents.

“I don’t think that universities are internally as progressive as people externally might think,” Middleton said. “Universities are pretty conservative.”

Crossman said when he started at Adler eight years ago, he and Middleton were among a handful of university presidents who were out of the closet. As more universities promoted gays into leadership jobs, the time was right to come together to try to break the “pink ceiling,” he said.

“It seemed like there was a critical mass and it was the right time in the academy to get together and potentially form an organization,” Crossman said.

Presidents’ partners are included in the group because of the public role they can play on a college campus, Crossman said.

“It’s not simple to negotiate,” Crossman said. “The spouses do have roles on school campuses, and there are different issues than there are for heterosexual couples. They might get a different reaction than the wife of a straight man gets.”

Crossman said trustees at Adler knew he was gay from the start and that his partner is “an important part of the community here.”

Middleton said the emergence of LGBTQ President in Higher Education group was part of a growing acceptance of gays in a variety of areas.

“You see it in debates about marriage, don’t ask, don’t tell being repealed, adding us to anti-hate crime legislation,” he said. “It’s all about inclusiveness.”

           — Hat tip: Freyja’s Cats[Return to headlines]