Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110127

Financial Crisis
»Davos WEF 2011: Sarkozy Says France and Germany Will ‘Never Let the Euro Fail’
»Exchange Rates and Reserve Currencies: China Plans Path to Economic Hegemony
»Inflation Could Reach 5pc Within Months, Warns Bank of England
»Italy is Global Recovery Straggler, Say Employers
»Ron Paul Hits Fed With Audit Plan
»Spain: Clampdown on Unlisted Savings Banks
»Spain: Fitch: Doubts Persist on Financial System
»UK: Anger as Government Announces Sell-Off of England’s Public Forests to Raise £250m
»Caroline Glick: The Aim of Blood Libels
»Google Comes Under Fire for ‘Secret’ Relationship With NSA
»Iranian Book Celebrating Suicide Bombers Found in Arizona Desert
»Obama’s State of the Soviet Union
»Pushback Against Stealth Jihad: Florida Atlantic U. Muslim Professor Copped a Reduced Sentence on Assault and Battery Charges
»S.C. Sen. DeMint Aims to Repeal ‘Obamacare’
»School Defends Experiment to Separate Black Students in a Bid to Boost Their Academic Results
»Targeting ‘Obamacare, ‘ GOP Pushes Nullification
»Three SEIU Locals — Including Chicago Chapter — Waived From Obamacare Requirement
Europe and the EU
»Archontiko Dig Bears Witness to Rich Warrior Society
»Belgium: Royal Mediator Resigns Again
»Copenhagen Terror Suspects Kept in Custody
»Italy: Ruby ‘Storm Will Pass’ Says Premier
»Italy: Cuffaro: Cassation Confirms 7-Year Term, Risk of Prison
»Italy: Marcegaglia Slams Government Inaction Over Past Six Months
»Italy: Berlusconi in Live Clash With Lerner
»Italy: NTV Reporter: Change Perception of Arab World
»Netherlands: VVD in the Hague Wants Ban on Low Skilled Newcomers
»Netherlands: Amsterdam Terror Suspects Can be Sent to Belgium
»Stanford Archaeologist Shows How the Romans Made Pottery in Britain
»Switzerland: Left-Wing Activists Claim Responsibility for Small Explosion at Davos Hotel
»UK: Butcher Slit the Throat of His Love Rival With a Foot-Long Knife
»UK: Fatwa Against Theresa May: Scotland Yard Investigates Islamic Poster Campaign Targeting Home Secretary
»UK: Grandmother, 64, Fined £50 After Picking Up a Cigarette Packet Cellophane
»UK: Loss of Nimrods ‘Puts Special Forces at Risk’
»UK: School Teacher ‘Lived Secret Double Life as Cocaine Baron’, Jury Told at Drugs Trial
»UK: Theatre Show About the Suffolk Strangler’s Killing Spree to be Staged
»UK: Twenty Murderers and 109 Rapists and Robbers on the Run After Blundering Authorities Fail to Send Them Back to Jail
»UK: White Man With Short Hair and Stubble is Issued Provisional Driving Licence… Featuring a Photo of Burka-Clad Asian Woman
»Albania: Berisha: Police to Defend Govt Offices From Criminals
»Berisha and Rama, Eternal Contenders in a Divided Albania
»Serbia: Average Salary in December Totals Eur380
Mediterranean Union
»UFM: Secretary General Masadeh Throws in the Towel
North Africa
»Al Ahram: Europe Has Turned Its Attention to the East
»Al-Azhar Suspends Dialogue With Vatican, Holy See Wants to Maintain Ties
»Algeria: Driving Licence No Longer Revoked to Avoid Protests
»Algeria: Reports of Imminent Government Reshuffle
»Ben Jelloun: Create Independent Mediterranean Like EU
»Ben Jelloun: Gaddafi Clownish Leader
»Ben-Eliezer: Mubarak Regime, Peace Will Endure
»Egypt: White House, U.S. For Universal Rights of Egyptians
»Egypt: Stability Needed for Mideast, Italy’s Undersecretary
»Egypt: Violent Clashes in Sinai, Motorway Blocked
»Egypt: Protests in Ismailia, Assiut and Alexandria
»Egypt: El Baradei Arrival, Cairo Airport in State of Emergency
»Egypt: Ben Jelloun: Talk With the Muslim Brotherhood
»Egypt: People’s Protests as Seen by the Daily Papers
»Egypt: El Baradei: Ready to Govern
»Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood: Let West Respect People’s Choice
»‘The Era of Paralysis in Egypt Has Ended’
»Tunisia: Squatters Occupy 500 Homes in Tunis Area
»US Envoy: It’s a Tunisian Matter, We Are Not Referee
»Why Egypt Regime Can Weather the Storm
Israel and the Palestinians
»Abu Mazen: Peres Phone Call, Counter Al Jazeera Attack
»Four Palestinians Suspected of Killing U.S. Tourist
»Israeli Minister: Hezbollah Agents Entering Gaza
»Palestinian Authority Tells Britain it Wants to Question Former MI6 Officer
»Secret Files: Al Jazeera Studio Attacked in Nablus
Middle East
»Christianity ‘Could Vanish From Middle East’
»Controversial Turkish Television: Magnificent No More
»‘Darwin Talk’ At Turkish School Goes to Court, Sparks New Debate
»Jordan: Steep Drop in Agricultural Exchange With Israel
»Large Protests Staged Against Yemen President
»Lebanon: Hezbollah Lead Thickens Storm Clouds
»Radical Islam Has Transformed Turkey
»Saudis Discover New Funding Channels for Taliban, Al Qaeda
»Secret Files: PNA ‘Unmasks’ Qatar
»Tens of Thousands Demonstrate for Ouster of Yemen’s President
»‘Valley of the Wolves’ is Just a Movie, Turkish Ministry Says
»‘Valley of the Wolves’ Controversy
»Yemen: Thousands of Protesters Urge President to Go
»Yemen: Protests in Sanaa and Other Cities Against Saleh
»Behind the Moscow Airport Attack: Russia’s Brutal Policies
»Black Widow Attempted New Year Moscow Attack But Blew Herself Up by Mistake
»Moscow Bomber ‘Was Islamist Militant From North Caucasus’
»Russians Name Muslim Convert as Prime Suspect for Airport Bombing
South Asia
»Afghanistan: Stoned to Death With Her Lover: Horrific Video of Execution of Girl, 19, Killed by Afghan Taliban for Running Away From Arranged Marriage
»American Embassy Official in Pakistan Kills Suspected Armed Robbers
»EU-Uzbekistan: Our Man in Tashkent
»Italy: Govt Engaging ‘Constructively With Pakistan to Safeguard Christians’
»Pakistan: Supreme Court Petition Urges Martial Law in Southern Port City
Far East
»China Plans a New Mega City: Population, 42 Million
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ethiopia: Muslims Post Death Threats of Doors of Christian Homes
»Border Authorities Arrest Controversial Muslim Cleric East of San Diego
»Purgatory in Provincial Germany
»Turkey to EU: No Visa-Free, No Clampdown on Migrants
Culture Wars
»UK: Pair Charged With Stirring Up Homophobic Hatred
»Islam and Demography: A Waxing Crescent
»Muslim Population Growth to be Twice as Fast as Non-Muslims’ — Study
»Will There be a Chocolate Drought? World’s Supply of Sustainable Cocoa Could Run Out by 2014
»World’s Muslim Population to Hit 2.2bn by 2030

Financial Crisis

Davos WEF 2011: Sarkozy Says France and Germany Will ‘Never Let the Euro Fail’

Addressing the World Economic Forum in Davos, he told speculators to be prepared for big losses if they bet against the euro. “[Germany’s] Chancellor Merkel and myself will never — do you hear me, never — let the euro fall,” he said.

“The euro is Europe. And Europe spells 60 years of peace. Therefore we will never let the euro go or be destroyed… To those who bet against the euro, watch out for your money because we are fully determined to defend the euro.”

President Sarkozy’s intervention comes with the single currency under greater strain than at any time in its short history. Davos has been abuzz with talk of a two-speed Europe, with billionaire investor George Soros warning that the “euro could possibly fall apart” under the strain.

Greece and Ireland are implementing painful pay cuts and other deflationary measures because they can not devalue, while Germany powers ahead. Ken Rogoff, the Harvard economist, has suggested Greece should be allowed to fail in an orderly fashion because its debts are insurmountable.

However, President Sarkozy said: “To imagine that we might pull out shows a complete misunderstanding of the European psychology. It has to do with our identities as Europeans.”

His comments were echoed by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, also at Davos, who said: “We have a problem of some signatures, not of signatures of the euro area as a whole.” In Mr Sarkozy’s remarks to the conference, he also called for a new international monetary system to replace the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944. “Who could say the world today is anything like the world we had [then],” he said.

He demanded a greater role in world affairs for China. “Special Drawing Rights [the IMF’s international reserve currency] were created 42 years ago. SDRs are backed by a basket of currencies. Is the Chinese currency there? Of course not. Is that right?”

In comments that may aggravate his US counterparts, Mr Sarkozy added that China should not be castigated for building up a strong export market. “How could we possibly criticise a country for wanting to export, as that’s what we all want to do,” he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Exchange Rates and Reserve Currencies: China Plans Path to Economic Hegemony

China would like to make the yuan one of the world’s anchor currencies, forcing other countries to maintain reserves of Chinese money and providing significant advantages for Beijing. Yet the country cannot continue to keep the value of its currency artificially low if it hopes to become the world’s dominant economic power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Inflation Could Reach 5pc Within Months, Warns Bank of England

chief Mervyn King Britain’s “uncomfortably high inflation” is of more concern to the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) than the surprise fall in gross domestic product, Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, has said.

Mr King warned that inflation was likely to rise to between 4pc and 5pc over the next few months, before falling back next year. He said that inflation has climbed to its current level of 3.7pc because of rising import and energy prices and taxes, and that these factors had squeezed real take-home pay by around 12pc.

In a speech in Newcastle that included references to both Ken Dodd and Leo Tolstoy, Mr King said the shock 0.5pc fall in GDP over the fourth quarter of 2010 served as a reminder of his comment last year that the recovery would be “choppy”. But he added: “Of more immediate concern to the MPC is that we are experiencing uncomfortably high inflation.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy is Global Recovery Straggler, Say Employers

Growth struggling to pass 1.1% of GDP, claims Confindustria

(ANSA) — Rome, January 26 — Industrial employers’ association Confindustria sounded an alarm about the state of the nation’s economy Wednesday, saying Italy was a straggler in the global recovery.

“The global recovery is once again vigorous, but… Italy is not keeping up the pace,” Confindustria’s Study Centre said in a report.

“Italy is struggling to go beyond growth of 1.1 GDP,” it said, adding that industrial production was 17.8% down on pre-recession levels.

The report comes after Confindustria chief Emma Marcegaglia blasted the centre-right government at the weekend for its allegedly inadequate handling of the country for the last six months.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s administration was on the verge of collapse in the second half of last year after a split with House Speaker Gianfranco Fini and his loyalists.

Berlusconi narrowly survived a confidence vote in the House in December but the government has been thrown into fresh turmoil by a probe into allegations the premier paid to have sex with an underage prostitute.

Confindustria’s Study Centre said the recovery was being spearheaded by the emerging economies, above all in Asia, and by Germany and the United States, but added that it was weak in several other eurozone countries as well as Italy.

Its picture was not totally bleak though, as the report said there are signs things will pick up for the Italian economy in the first half of this year, with the help of exports to revived economies in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ron Paul Hits Fed With Audit Plan

‘I am optimistic about our prospects for full and complete report’

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has launched his expected campaign, as the new chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy and Technology, to audit the Federal Reserve, that secretive, private organization that runs the U.S. monetary supply.

His plan isn’t new, and even with Republicans in the minority in the U.S. House a year ago, he collected support from some 320 members — a majority — of the House.

An announcement from his office today confirmed that HR 459, “The Audit the Fed Bill,” has been introduced to the 112th Congress. The announcement said it is very similar to HR 1207 from last year, and “calls for a full and complete audit of the Federal Reserve by the Government Accountability Office.”


“The relationship between the Fed and unemployment may be one of my first hearings. In mid-February, I hope to hold hearings relating to how the Federal Reserve is really the cause, not the salvation, of our unemployment problems. I want to have a serious conversation about the business cycle and how the Fed creates the business cycle. It is responsible for the slumps because they are a consequence of bursting bubbles. It’s popular to talk about unemployment, but no one explains why people are unemployed — how it happened. If we don’t deal with the monetary system — how it contributes to unemployment — how can we ever solve the problem,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Clampdown on Unlisted Savings Banks

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — The bill that is about to be passed by the Spanish government could ask unlisted savings banks to boost their core capital ratio to greater than the 8% required for listed financial firms, to possibly “between 9% and 10%”. The announcement was made today by Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Economy Elena Salgado in statements to TVE. The mergers of the rural savings banks, which will not be able to reach the required levels by the month of September for all intents and purposes will be nationalised. Meanwhile, according to sources in the group cited by the media, Caixa Catalunya, created by a merger between the Tarragona and Manresa savings banks, had 12.774 billion euros exposed to real estate and construction markets at the end of 2010, amounting to 23% of its credit portfolio in the private sector. Loans whose collection is in doubt amount to 1.794 billion euros, with 14% in default; this figure increases to 3.457 billion euros in the real estate and construction business and triples the amount initially agreed upon in the sector. Catalunya Caixa has assets of 76.649 billion euros and at the end of September 2010 had a core capital ratio of 6.3%. The group received 1.2 billion euros in public aid from the Fund for Ordered Bank Restructuring and assured that its deposits cover about 84% of its loans. The group formed by the merger of Caixa Nova and Caixa Galicia said today that its exposure to the real estate and construction markets amounted to 11.150 billion euros at the end of 2010, equivalent to 21.8% of its credit portfolio in the private sector. Problematic loans for the group amount to around 2.557 billion euros, with defaults totalling 22.7% in this segment. Caixa Galicia also adds another 1.911 billion euros in substandard loans to this figure, which could degenerate into insolvency and losses. Possible defaults in the real estate and construction sector reportedly amount to 4.438 billion euros. The financial group has overall assets of 75.604 billion euros and at the end of July had a core capital ratio of 6.4%, which is lower than the 8% level set as the new minimum by the Bank of Spain. The group also received aid of 1.2 billion euros from the Fund for Ordered Bank Restructuring. Also in this case, their deposits reportedly cover 84% of their loans, according to the group.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Fitch: Doubts Persist on Financial System

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — Increasing the required core capital ratio for the savings banks is a correct measure to take, but it does not eliminate the doubts on Spain’s financial system, according to Fitch rating agency, cited by Expansion. The economic daily reports that the September deadline indicated in the plan announced by the government by which the banks and rural cooperative banks must have core capital ratios of at least 8%, is too far away. Today Second Deputy Premier and Minister of the Economy Elena Salgado said that the unlisted savings banks will have their core capital targets increased to 9% or 10%. Fith believes that the programme does not introduce sufficient stimulus to create interest in the private sector to invest into the savings banks. The Ministry of Economy predicts that most of the 20 billion euros needed by the sector for recapitalisation will come from private investments; but the rating agency believes that there are still many doubts about the quality of the assets, especially regarding the savings banks, for them to be enticing to private investors.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Anger as Government Announces Sell-Off of England’s Public Forests to Raise £250m

The biggest ever sell-off of Britain’s woods was unveiled by the Government today — sparking the prospect of a rebellion by Liberal Democrat MPs.

Under plans, hundreds of square miles of publicly owned forest will be sold to landowners and firms on 150-year leases.

But the government insisted the sale would allow communities continued access and greater involvement in their woodlands.

Under proposals put out for consultation, commercially-valuable forests would be leased out for 150 years, allowing the government to impose conditions on timber companies to protect public access and maintain management standards.

It is expected the sales of up to half the public estate could raise between £140 and £250million.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Caroline Glick: The Aim of Blood Libels

For Israelis, the American Left’s assault on Sarah Palin and the conservative movement in the wake of Jared Loughlin’s murderous attack in Tuscon, Arizona was disturbingly familiar.

Just as the American leftist media and political leadership immediately sought to blame Palin, the Tea Party and conservative media personalities for Loughlin’s actions, so in 1995, their Israeli counterparts accused the Right — from then opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu, to rabbis to the two million Israelis who protested against the so-called “peace process” with the PLO — of responsibility for Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.

Just as Palin and her fellow conservatives are accused of inciting the schizophrenic shooter to pull the trigger, so Netanyahu and his fellow rightists were accused of inciting the sociopathic Yigal Amir to plot and carry out his crime…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Google Comes Under Fire for ‘Secret’ Relationship With NSA

Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group largely focused in recent years on Google’s privacy practices, has called on a congressional investigation into the Internet giant’s “cozy” relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration.

In a letter sent Monday, Consumer Watchdog asked Representative Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to investigate the relationship between Google and several government agencies.

The group asked Issa to investigate contracts at several U.S. agencies for Google technology and services, the “secretive” relationship between Google and the U.S. National Security Agency, and the company’s use of a U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration airfield in California.

Federal agencies have also taken “insufficient” action in response to revelations last year that Google Street View cars were collecting data from open Wi-Fi connections they passed, Consumer Watchdog said in the letter.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iranian Book Celebrating Suicide Bombers Found in Arizona Desert

EXCLUSIVE: A book celebrating suicide bombers has been found in the Arizona desert just north of the U.S.- Mexican border, authorities tell Fox News.

The book, “In Memory of Our Martyrs,” was spotted Tuesday by a U.S. Border Patrol agent out of the Casa Grande substation who was patrolling a route known for smuggling illegal immigrants and drugs.

Published in Iran, it consists of short biographies of Islamic suicide bombers and other Islamic militants who died carrying out attacks.

According to internal U.S. Customs and Border Protection documents, “The book also includes letters from suicide attackers to their families, as well as some of their last wills and testaments.” Each biographical page contains “the terrorist’s name, date of death, and how they died.”

Agents also say that the book appears to have been exposed to weather in the desert “for at least several days or weeks.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s State of the Soviet Union

When the applause had died down and the softly glowing screen of the teleprompter faded to black, the echoes of the Leninist cadences of Obama’s State of the Union address, ‘We must out-educate, out-compete, and out-innovate the rest of the world’, ‘We have broken the back of the recession’ and ‘We can’t win the future with a government of the past’ suggest that we are now living in a land without history.


As usual, the slogan du jour comes from the dictionary of the left. ‘Winning the future’ was a common slogan on the left. While it was belatedly used by Newt Gingrich, it was most commonly employed in the 20th century by Communists and the far left. Two time Lenin prize winner, Danilo Dolci used it as the theme of one of his addresses. Jesse Jackson made use of it during his presidential campaign. Max Lerner gave a number of talks on ‘Winning the Future’. Mandella threw it in there. Most notably it was used by Lenin, ‘Our hopes must be placed on the young. We must win the youth if we are to win the future.’

Pandering to the teacher’s unions

The thrust of Obama’s agenda follows Lenin’s. The old jobs are gone. We must prepare for the future by educating our youth. The sturm und drang of the ‘We Musts’ quickly becomes an argument for pandering to the teacher’s unions. Only by empowering the teacher’s union will we be able to compete with China. But China isn’t strong because of its teachers, but because it has no independent unions, no minimum wage, no pollution laws and nothing to get in the way of the terrible machine of its industry. The People’s Republic of China is not beating us in science or math, but in manufacturing cheap products with an undervalued national currency.

Handing out free educations to beat China is like going to college to fight a bear. Not only will it not improve your bear fighting skills, it actually gives the bear the upper hand. American math and science degrees are used to do research whose practical applications take the form of products manufactured in China. Even if all 300 million Americans all go to work as researchers, we are not going to ‘out-compete’ and ‘out-innovate’ by ‘out-educating’ Americans. Russia has the highest percentage of college degrees by population in the world. China has the lowest. These figures have little to do with their economic success.


One of the more surreal moments in the address came when Obama mentioned Kathy Proctor, a 55 year old woman who after losing a job in the future industry is now a second year student at a community college working toward a biotechnology degree. Her plan is to become a biofuels analyst. This is not how a genuinely productive country is run. It’s not how we’re going to beat China

I can’t imagine a worse model for American workers than a 55-year-old woman amassing unknown amounts of student debt for a job in an industry that doesn’t exist except as a government subsidized program. Even if Obama succeeds in obtaining more ethanol subsidies and some biofuels company decides to hire Kathy to be their biofuels analyst, her job will only exist because of the billions poured into subsidizing the educations and industry that make it possible. A job and an industry that would not exist without those subsidies. This is not how a genuinely productive country is run. It’s not how we’re going to beat China.

If you’re following Obama’s curve ball so far, the plan is to fund education for entirely new industries. The same clean energy industries he wants to subsidize. All in the name of innovation. But this isn’t innovation, it’s central planning. The Obama administration has decided which industries to promote. It will use taxpayer money to subsidize those industries. It’s a great plan aside from one small hitch, what if those industries don’t succeed? That’s the fallacy of central planning. It all looks good on paper. But paper isn’t life.


China’s clean energy industry is heavily subsidized by the government. Obama wants us to follow suit. But China’s export market for wind turbines and solar panels is us. What is our export market? Mostly Western countries which will also begin subsidizing their own clean energy industries. If every country subsidizes its own clean energy manufacturing, then there is no export market. Only a giant scam. Another closed loop of central planning as governments mandate the use of solar panels and wind turbines, and then subsidize solar panel and wind turbine manufacturing. Again this is not innovation. It’s money being moved around at the expense of jobs and innovation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pushback Against Stealth Jihad: Florida Atlantic U. Muslim Professor Copped a Reduced Sentence on Assault and Battery Charges

Florida Atlantic U (FAU) and Boca Raton Mosque leader Professor Bassem Alhalabi was given a reduced sentence, yesterday, after he pled guilty to assault and battery charges arising from an incident at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee on Muslim Capitol Day March 11th, 2010. Alhalabi accosted in separate assaults investigative journalist and chairman of Americans Against Hate, Joe Kaufman and videographer J. Mark Campbell of the Florida Security Council (FSC) and was arrested by Capitol police. FSC sponsored security briefings on March 10th and 11th regarding the backgrounds and activities of Muslim Capitol Day sponsor, United Voices for America (UVA)and its organizer, Ahmed Bedier of Tampa. FSC and various Act for America Chapters also protested Muslim Capitol day events…

[Return to headlines]

S.C. Sen. DeMint Aims to Repeal ‘Obamacare’

Sen. Jim DeMint planned to introduce a bill on Wednesday that he said will serve as the main Senate Republican legislative vehicle for repealing Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

DeMint, a Greenville, S.C., Republican elected to his second term in November, said 31 of the Senate’s 47 GOP members had signed on as cosponsors of his measure, and that he expected more to add their names.

“There is just strong unity in the Republican Party that we need to repeal this and start over with the right ideas,” DeMint told McClatchy on Tuesday. “We just need to remind people that more and more economists are saying this is a fiscally dangerous law.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

School Defends Experiment to Separate Black Students in a Bid to Boost Their Academic Results

A high school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is defending its decision to segregate its students by race and gender.The scheme, at McCaskey East High School, separates black students from the rest of the school body, and then further breaks it down into black females and black males.The separation is only for a short period — six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month — but it naturally drew criticism for bringing back the awful memory of racial segregation. Today the school’s principal defended its policy. Bill Jimenez said the school noticed that black students were not performing as well as other students, and that research had shown that same-race classes with strong same-race role models led to better academic results. Mr Jimenez admitted that no other students were divided by race at the school, but he added that academic data dictated the school take a different approach with its black students. He told ‘One of the things we said when we did this was, “Let’s look at the data, let’s not run from it. Let’s confront it and see what we can do about it”.’

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Targeting ‘Obamacare, ‘ GOP Pushes Nullification

BOISE, Idaho: Republican lawmakers in nearly a dozen states are reaching into the dusty annals of American history to fight President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Idaho representatives on Wednesday introduced a measure in committee that hinges on “nullification” — Thomas Jefferson’s 18th-century doctrine that purported to give states final say in constitutional matters, instead of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alabama, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas and Wyoming are also weighing its merits.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Three SEIU Locals — Including Chicago Chapter — Waived From Obamacare Requirement

Three local chapters of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose political action committee spent $27 million supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, have received temporary waivers from a provision in the Obamacare law.

The three SEIU chapters include the Local 25 in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Archontiko Dig Bears Witness to Rich Warrior Society

Archaeologists unearth another 37 burials at the 20-hectare cemetery site in northern Greece

A fresh trove of ancient evidence attesting to the long, rich history of the region of Pella in northern Greece has been uncovered during recent archaeological excavations at the vast cemetery site of Archontiko, Pella.

Archaeologists Anastasia and Pavlos Chrysostomou, of the 17th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, report that another 37 burials dating from the late Iron Age to the early Hellenistic period (circa 650-280 BC) have been exposed during the 2010 season, according to a statement released by the Culture Ministry on September 20, 2010.

Investigation of the 20-hectare cemetery site, located 5 km west of Classical-Hellenistic Pella — the capital of ancient Macedonia from circa 410 BC, has been ongoing since at least the summer of 2000, when the first warrior burials containing gold-decorated armor, weapons, and many other high-status funerary gifts were discovered. To date, with only about 5 percent of the site excavated, a total of 1,004 graves have already been found, including 259 from the Late Iron Age, 475 from the Archaic period, 262 from Classical and early Hellenistic times, and eight of unknown date.

Archontiko contains the cremated and inhumed remains of men, women and children buried with diverse collections of grave goods that indicate Macedonian culture had already attained a high level of development some two centuries before the time of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

Of the latest 37 graves to be opened, six belong to the Late Iron Age (circa 650-580 BC) and contained a variety of ceramic vases and metal objects. Thirty-one burials date to the Classical and Hellenistic periods (5th-3rd century BC). Sixteen of these graves belonged to well-to-do Macedonian men and women buried with distinctive assemblages of personal and precious items. Men were laid to rest with iron weapons (spearheads and knives), metal jewelry (fibulae, rings), gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, iron strigils, bronze coins and ceramic vessels. Women were buried with metal jewelry (earrings, mouth coverings, necklaces, fibulae, buckles, rings), gilded bronze wreaths of myrtle, bronze coins, glass and ceramic vessels, ceramic busts and figurines, and knucklebones. Women of particularly high status had their graves adorned with iron knives, metal jewelry (diadem strips, mouth coverings, earrings, fibulae, rings, bracelets), amber beads, ceramic figurines and busts, and especially bronze, ceramic, faience and glass vessels. The remains of one young female, who had been cremated, were discovered in a ceramic box (pyxis) beside gold, silver and iron jewelry, a gold mouthpiece, and a unique miniature glass amphora intended for perfume.

Particularly remarkable are the graves of nine male warriors, including one that dates to circa 650 BC. This dead man, buried in a manner worthy of a celebrated hero, was interred with a bronze helmet adorned with gold strips; iron weapons (a sword with a gold-covered handle, two spearheads, four knives); a golden ring; a golden mouthpiece; gold hand coverings decorated with impressed spirals and gorgons; gold shoe covers decorated with golden strands; gold strips that once adorned the funeral shroud; three iron fibulae (one with gold on its head); iron models of a two-wheeled farm cart, furniture and roasting spits; and numerous other objects including molded ceramic vessels that depict a ram and a seated figure of Hades. With the excavators noting that this latest ceremonial helmet is the 404th helmet to have been found at Archontiko in Pella, it seems the site still has many secrets and rich details to tell about ancient Macedonian life and death.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Belgium: Royal Mediator Resigns Again

(AGI) Brussels — The chances for Belgium to solve its political and institutional crisis receded further as former deputy prime minister, Johan Vande Lanotte, resigns again. Belgium has been without a government for more than seven months. The royal mediator had been appointed by King Albert II last October to find a solution between Belgium’s seven main parties.

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

Copenhagen Terror Suspects Kept in Custody

The three men from Sweden who are suspected of planning a terrorist attack against Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen will remain in custody for at least another four weeks.

They will also be kept in isolation, the court decided in Glostrup, Denmark. Prosecutor Helene Schröder’s demand that the men should remain in custody for another four weeks was granted by the court.

Heavily armed police in bulletproof vests guarded the district court in Glostrup where the detention deliberations were held, according to news agency TT on Thursday.

Visitors who wished to follow the open parts of the hearing had to undergo extensive security controls and were forced to deposit both computers and telephones. The men, who were arrested on December 29th, have consistently denied the charges.

None of the suspects spoke during the hearing, carried out with a Swedish interpreter, Schröder told TT. She added that given the present situation, it is very difficult to estimate how long the investigation will take.

The requirement for continued isolation is because the case involves a serious crime, she explained.

“It is because the crime is so serious in nature. We do not want information to either leak in or out of jail,” said Schröder.

The investigation is being conducted with close contact with Swedish police and prosecutors.

“The cooperation is going very well. We have worked together on many major investigations now and have started to get a feel for each other’s legal systems,” said Schröder.

Lawyer Charlotte Møller Larsen is defending one of the suspects. The man spoke with her, but otherwise remained silent during the hearing.

“He says that he is innocent and he has no explanation as to why he was in Denmark at the time,” she said.

She also attempted to remove the condition for detention in isolation, but was unsuccessful.

“It is a tough strain to sit isolated, but he is managing it well,” said Møller Larsen.

It is unlikely that any extraditions will take place at the present time, neither of the three men detained in Denmark to Sweden or the man who currently held in Stockholm to Denmark, according to Schröder.

None of the three suspects’ friends or relatives were present. However, there was a massive police presence in place.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby ‘Storm Will Pass’ Says Premier

Premier confident after witnesses tell of ‘innocent’ parties

(ANSA) — Rome, January 26 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday voiced confidence that a storm over his alleged use of an underage prostitute called Ruby and alleged misuse of power to cover the affair up would blow over.

“The storm will pass, partly because of the enormous abuses committed by the (Milan) prosecutors,” the premier told an overnight meeting of his People of Freedom (PdL) party executive, according to sources present.

Berlusconi vowed to bolster his majority after a wafer-thin House confidence-vote win in mid-December and avoid early elections, the sources added.

The premier, who denies wrongdoing and says he is the victim of leftist magistrates who should be “punished” for “spying” on him, has been fighting back after prosecutors presented a near-400-page report to the House backing their request to search his accountant’s office.

In a defence document filed with the House Tuesday, 29 witnesses described parties at Berlusconi’s Milan villa as “innocent” and sex-free.

Ruby, who was 17 when she met the premier, said she told him she was 24 and the granddaughter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The premier mentioned this when phoning Milan police in May to see if she could be released after an unrelated accusation of theft, a call prosecutors claim amounted to abuse of power.

Ruby, whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, has described money received from the premier as a gift and said he “never laid a finger on her”.

Prosecutors claim their wiretap evidence contradicts this.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday echoed the premier’s confidence that the “media-hyped” tempest would blow itself out.

“It will be a boomerang after so much mud-slinging against the premier,” he said.

A weekend poll showed support for the PdL inching up.

Analysts say Berlusconi would be re-elected if there was a snap vote now, two years before elections are due to take place.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Cuffaro: Cassation Confirms 7-Year Term, Risk of Prison

(AGI) Rome — The Court of Cassation confirms the 7-year sentence for ex governor of Sicily Cuffaro. The former regional president was found guilty of aiding and abetting the Mafia and violation of the confidentiality of investigations. As this is the definitive sentence in the case, Cuffaro is now in danger of going to prison.

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

Italy: Marcegaglia Slams Government Inaction Over Past Six Months

“This government’s ability to carry through the reforms needs to be verified, otherwise other choices will have to be made”

MILAN — Confindustria chair Emma Marcegaglia attacked government economy policy during an interview with Fabio Fazio on the Che tempo che fa talk show.

INSUFFICIENT ACTION — “In the early months of the crisis, the government kept public accounts under control and we’ve seen what happened in Portugal and Spain. But now more is required. For the past six months, the government’s action has not been sufficient”, said Ms Marcegaglia. According to the employers’ association supremo, “Italy has to focus on growth and get back to producing prosperity for everyone but instead there is a complete lack of concern. They talk about everything else but this”. Ms Marcegaglia went on to say that Italy is “still growing too little”, referring to the latest Bank of Italy estimates on the economy. “This means”, she said, “not being able to absorb unemployment and not increasing consumption and wages. It means less prosperity, less solidarity and less care. Lack of growth turns people nasty. It’s a moral and ethical issue, as well as an economic one”, adding that, “It will have to be verified over forthcoming weeks whether this government is capable of carrying forward the reforms, otherwise other choices will have to be made”.

TREMONTI — “A new prime minister has to have a majority in Parliament and has to be indicated by the electorate, a point I agree on. If circumstances enable Tremonti to meet these conditions, then why not?” said Confindustria chair Emma Marcegaglia in answer to a question from Fabio Fazio on the possibility of economy minster Giulio Tremonti taking over from Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister.

IMAGE ABROAD — “The image that emerges from the foreign press is not positive for Italy. When I’m abroad, I always stress that there is another Italy that goes to bed early, gets up early, works, produces, invests, undertakes enterprises, makes an effort and is insufficiently promoted”, Ms Marcegaglia pointed out.

FIAT — The Confindustria chair then said that the contract approved by Fiat workers at Mirafiori does not represent the end of the national labour contract. “So far we’ve had a one-size-fits-all logic. Today, that no longer works”. In future, there will be more cases like Mirafiori and Fiat but “there will be companies that continue to have a national contract, perhaps trimmed down”. The Confindustria chief said that the main thing was “to find a way for every company, through union relations, to boost its competitiveness because today there is greater variation in what has to be done, because the world is different”.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Berlusconi in Live Clash With Lerner

Premier attacks: “You are disgusting. A televisual bawdy-house”. Lerner replies: “You have insulted us enough. That’ll do now”

MILAN — “A disgusting programme with vile, obscene, repugnant presentation. A bawdy-house”. It was almost midnight on Monday and the prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, was laying into l’Infedele, Gad Lerner’s show on La7. Mr Berlusconi had made an unscheduled live phone call to the programme and after exchanging helloes tore straight in. “They phoned me to invite me to tune into l’Infedele. I am watching a disgusting programme with vile, obscene, repugnant presentation”.

Gad Lerner’s reply was equally robust: “You have already insulted us enough. Why don’t you go and see the judges instead of being offensive?” The prime minister, however, would not be stopped and the high-octane exchange continued. Mr Berlusconi accused Mr Lerner of putting forward “false, distorted suppositions, far from the truth”. Mr Lerner tried a formal approach: “As you are my prime minister, I invite you to moderate your language”. Mr Berlusconi, however, would have none of it and launched into a passionate defence of Nicole Minetti, the dental hygienist that he parachuted onto the electoral list of regional president Roberto Formigoni at the last Lombardy administrative elections. Ms Minetti is now under investigation for inducing, and complicity in, prostitution in the “Rubygate” inquiries.

The prime minister told Mr Lerner that “Nicole Minetti is a splendid person: intelligent, competent and serious”, saying that “she graduated with top marks and is a native speaker of English”. Mr Lerner asked whether that was sufficient to “sidestep working her way up the political ladder”. Tempers were running high and both men’s voices were raised. Among the snatches of sentences, Mr Berlusconi could be heard to say something about the “so-called ladies present in the studio”. That was when a furious Gad Lerner came back to say that “the ladies are not so-called and if you call them so-called you are a boor”. The two were now exchanging insults and Mr Berlusconi concluded in this fashion: “I cordially invite the honourable Zanicchi to get up and leave this incredible televisual bawdy-house”. Ms Zanicchi stayed in her seat. The show ended and press agencies circulated the first releases about the prime minister’s on-air incursion. A week ago on 18 January, Mr Berlusconi attempted to intervene on the Ballarò programme but presenter Giovanni Floris, “bearing in mind how it went on recent occasions”, refused to take the live phone call, inviting the PM to appear as a studio guest.

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: NTV Reporter: Change Perception of Arab World

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27- “We need to change the Western perception of the Arab world and the role of the media is crucial in achieving this”, said Seyda Canepa, reporter for NTV Turkey in Rome. She made her remark during the conference “The Mediterranean network, the challenge of the future”, in progress in Rome. “We are going through a difficult stage and the role of the media has never been this important. But I believe that we should do more study to better understand what is happening in these countries. We often read in the newspapers these days about an ‘Arab spring’, which will have a domino effect. But perhaps it would be better to take it easy to see what impact these developments will really have”, Canepa continued.

“These is a suffering population, cases of furious protests.

I would like to see an in-depth analysis in the Western papers to better understand what is happening in the region. Ansamed is deeply interested in cultural exchange and Promos as well with initiatives for exchange with journalists. This is crucial particularly because it addresses the young. Perceptions change, unlike what people in the West believe”. The NTV reporter also mentioned Turkey’s accession process to the EU: “Politics have had an impact on what the newspapers have written. Why is Europe convinced that our country should not join the EU? Certainly not only the media are to blame for this, Turkey as well hasn’t done much in this sense”. The journalist concluded that “I would like to see not only the negative things that happen here”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: VVD in the Hague Wants Ban on Low Skilled Newcomers

The VVD in The Hague wants to follow Rotterdam and stop newcomers with low incomes and few skills from moving to the city, according to a party policy document published on Tuesday.

In particular, the party wants to introduce language requirements for people hoping to move into housing corporation homes.

‘I don’t want any culture lessons and stimulating community feeling,’ VVD city councillor Arjen Lakerveld said. Instead the council should ‘target policy at practical steps which stimulate people to work and learn the language. That is integration,’ he said.

Violent crime

The VVD also wants to ban people who have come into contact with the police in connection with violent crime or causing a public nuisance from moving to the city.

Earlier, Lakerveld told the Telegraaf the arrival of more immigrants is damaging the city. ‘We are not doing well in the statistics. We are peaking in terms of crime and urban deprivation,’ he was quoted as saying.

The Netherlands already has laws which allow a council to ask for government permission to put income demands on people seeking to move to a certain area. ‘We want to do this in the entire city. If this is not acceptable, then in certain areas,’ the councillor told the Telegraaf.

The VVD is part of the coalition which runs The Hague city council.


A year ago, Rotterdam was given permission to extend its ban on low income families moving into certain parts of the city for a further 18 months at least.

This means people who want to rent a house in one of the four neighbourhoods must either have a job, a pension or a student grant. The rule does not apply if people have already lived in the city for six years.

According to Nos television, Tilburg and Den Bosch have similar projects.

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

Netherlands: Amsterdam Terror Suspects Can be Sent to Belgium

Three Dutch Moroccans wanted in Belgium on terrorism charges, can be deported, Amsterdam district court ruled on Thursday.

The three Amsterdammers are said to be part of a terrorist work which was planning an attack on unspecified targets in Belgium. All three deny any involvement.

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

Stanford Archaeologist Shows How the Romans Made Pottery in Britain

What the Romans in Britain lacked in aesthetics they more than made up for in efficiency — and a Stanford researcher shows how they did it by recreating and firing a kiln based on the late Iron Age and Roman models in Britain.

By Cynthia Haven

In the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall, Roman soldiers defended their empire’s northern borders in Great Britain, passed the time in their bathhouses and inevitably drank a lot of wine. They also made an awful lot of pots.

But how? Melissa Chatfield, a research fellow in ceramic geoarchaeology, was determined to find out. Hence, way out on the edge of the Stanford campus, a narrow column of pale smoke rose behind the Stanford Community Farm building last weekend.

The source was a 5-foot-high grass mound atop a 12-foot-square wooden box. It was modeled on several ancient kilns in England dating to the first century B.C. and the early Roman kilns that followed. Chatfield and her crew had been creating the mound for six weeks.

Climb up on the wet grass and peer down into the hole: About 40 pots glowed in the orange flames in the interior of the kiln, lined with granite cobbles.

“We’ve been burning for an hour and a half, and we’re up to 50 degrees Celsius,” Chatfield said early Friday afternoon. “We’re heading up to just below boiling.”

Chatfield is a veteran of such replication efforts. In November 2009, she spearheaded an effort to recreate 16th-century Incan pottery. Last year saw replication projects for the ceramics of Neolithic Turkey and the pottery of the Pueblo and Anasazi.

The weekend project is linked with Stanford’s archaeological endeavor in Binchester, England, at the first century Roman fort called Vinovium. It is one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world.

The fire in the kiln burned for 19.5 hours, ending in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Since 2007, Stanford has been in a partnership with Durham University to excavate the fort and Binchester, with its rich archaeological record going back to the Iron Age. Pottery shards are among the finds.

“We learn loads from observing how clays respond to heat, things that modern ceramics studies has bypassed on its way to high-fired materials,” Chatfield said.

The efforts tell us much about the nexus of geology and technology.

“What we’ve learned from the suite of replication events on campus is that the firing technologies evolved to fit the materials,” Chatfield said.

The effort also helps trace the influence and intermingling of cultures, “such as European and indigenous encounters in Peru or the Romans entering Iron Age Britain,” she said.

Even before Emperor Claudius’ invasion of Britain in A.D. 43, pottery was Britain’s most imported item, even ahead of food. Britain’s own pots were dun-colored, with an emphasis on heavy jugs, unlike the more refined and decorated terra cotta Samian ware imported from Gaul.

So why were the English pots so utilitarian? Were they cheaper to make this way? Was it easier to import the fancy stuff than create it? Was this the best that could be done in local conditions? Or did the soldiers simply not bother with aesthetics?

These are the questions Chatfield is hoping to explore with more replications…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Switzerland: Left-Wing Activists Claim Responsibility for Small Explosion at Davos Hotel

Left-wing activists claimed responsibility for a minor explosion on Thursday at a hotel in Davos, close to where top executives and world leaders were meeting, but nobody was hurt.

Swiss prosecutors said they were investigating the explosion, implying that there might be a criminal motive, but they declined to give further details.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Butcher Slit the Throat of His Love Rival With a Foot-Long Knife

A trained butcher who slit the throat of his love rival, leaving him to bleed to death in an alleyway, was today found guilty of his murder.

Saheel Ahmed, 24, left the home of the defendant’s estranged wife in Blackburn, Lancashire, in the early hours of June 22 last year.

The victim screamed and fled for his life when Naeem Butt, who had lay in wait for Mr Ahmed, pounced on him.

Butt, 38, severed his victim’s jugular vein with a foot-long knife and then stabbed him forcefully six times.

The killer then left the scene in Warrington Street and called a taxi to his address in Johnston Street.

He changed out of his bloodstained clothes but left a pair of jeans behind with blood that matched Mr Ahmed’s.

Later the same morning he boarded a train from Manchester to Edinburgh and went on the run for two weeks as he shaved off his beard in a bid to evade the police.

He was arrested after CCTV images of him captured on the rail journey were released by detectives.

Mr Ahmed, who was married himself, had been having an affair with Butt’s wife Shakra Ali.

The jury in Butt’s trial at Preston Crown Court was not told that Butt had a previous conviction for assaulting his wife in July 2009.

He pleaded guilty to that offence after telling police he still loved her despite her having a number of affairs.

Butt chose not to give evidence in his defence of the murder allegation as his barrister told the jury there were ‘considerable gaps’ in evidence in the case.

Butt will be sentenced at Preston Crown Court tomorrow.

Despite trying to avoid police, Butt was caught on CCTV at Manchester Picadillly train station after his sick crime

Detective Superintendent Neil Hunter, from Lancashire Constabulary’s Force Major Investigation Team, said: ‘This was a particularly tragic case in which a young member of the local community was brutally murdered.

‘The level of violence used was incomprehensible and Naeem Butt deserves to spend a very long time behind bars.

‘The murder was born out of a combination of factors, including rage, jealousy, revenge and also an element of honour…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Fatwa Against Theresa May: Scotland Yard Investigates Islamic Poster Campaign Targeting Home Secretary

Posters issuing a fatwa against Theresa May have appeared in South London, prompting an investigation by Scotland Yard.

The Metropolitan Police are seeking the source of the Wild West-style posters, which claim the fatwa has been issued ‘for the abduction, kidnapping and false imprisonment’ of various radical clerics.

A fatwa can — but not always — be interpreted as an incitement to kill, and is an order issued by scholars in the Islamic faith.

In Sunni Islam a fatwa is considered non-binding, while in Shia Islam it could be considered by an individual as binding.

The posters appeared at the same time as the Home Secretary announced in Parliament yesterday controversial reforms of control orders for terrorism suspects.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Grandmother, 64, Fined £50 After Picking Up a Cigarette Packet Cellophane

A grandmother was treated ‘like a criminal’ after being fined £50 for littering as she bent down to pick up a wrapper she had dropped.

Lesley Apps, 64, was also threatened with legal action if she failed to pay the on-the-spot fine handed out by a council official.

But she has refused to pay as she claims she was actually picking up the rubbish at the time and says she is now living in fear of debt collectors visiting her home.

Mrs Apps said she had just stopped at her local newsagent to buy a packet of cigarettes and had accidentally dropped the cellophane wrapper on the floor.

A female council officer approached her as she was bending to pick it up and told her she was littering, she said.

Despite Mrs Apps’ insistence that she was picking the wrapper up, the officer issued her with a £50 on-the-spot fine which she refused to pay.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Loss of Nimrods ‘Puts Special Forces at Risk’

Special forces’ lives will be put at risk if the Government continues with its destruction of the £4 billion Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, commanders have said.

SAS soldiers have told The Daily Telegraph that the aircraft’s ability to be “extremely adaptable” meant it had played a key role in Afghanistan and would be a “major asset” in future counter-terrorism operations.

It can also be disclosed that the security services were “deaf and blind” after the July 7th bombings in 2005 until the sophisticated communications suite onboard Nimrod aircraft arrived overhead.

Senior Special forces officers have said the country’s security forces were struggling to function with a jammed mobile phone network until they got one of the aircraft overhead to act as a communications relay.

The news comes as the Government has vowed to press ahead and destroy the fleet of nine brand new Nimrod MRA4s despite a letter to The Daily Telegraph from former defence chiefs saying it would leave a “massive gap” in Britain’s security.

Private contractors have already cut up two of the £400 million although demolition work came to a temporary halt at BAE Systems Woodford airfield yesterday over safety fears from hazardous waste.

But there was a growing public outcry over the planes’ destruction with the MoD accused of rushing the decision.

Jim Murphy, the shadow defence secretary said: “Communities up and down the country will be deeply concerned at the warning by senior military figures that Britain has been left at risk.”

But Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said: “National security is not endangered. We must always take account of cost, but we take account of risk first.”

The Nimrods were first deployed at the start of the Afghanistan campaign help with special forces communications and spying on Taliban positions.

Dai Douglas, a former RAF flight sergeant who flew in the early Afghan missions, said: “Without our support for special forces lives would almost certainly have been lost on the ground mainly because no one could communicate over the mountainous terrain.”

It is understood that Nimrods, that carried special forces liaison officers, have developed techniques with their equipment that can be highly effective in counter-terrorist operations. The MRA4 were to become operational as party of the security cover during the 2012 Olympics.

Robin Horsfall, a former SAS soldier, said: “Nimrod is like having a massive computer stuck up overhead overlooking everything and giving commanders a complete picture of the battlefield down to individual patrols. “Nimrod will be a grave loss especially to SF (special forces).

“We are now soldiering by accountants. They will balance the books even if it risks soldiers’ lives.”

The military and MPs are lobbying the Coalition to at least put the aircraft’s destruction on hold until a proper risk assessment has been made.

But the MoD has ignored a request to delay the destruction until the Commons Defence Committee has had a chance to assess the impact of their loss.

Madeleine Moon, a Labour MP and a senior member of the committee, has written to the Prime Minister urging him to halt the destruction “immediately”.

She told David Cameron: “At the very least, the Committee should have the opportunity to fully scrutinise the potential impact of the decision as part of their forthcoming inquiry into the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

“It is imperative that you give the matter your urgent attention, and give serious consideration to suspending the decommissioning of the fleet to allow time for this scrutiny to take place.”

Mr Cameron was told the decision was “short-sighted” and had failed to grasp “capability gaps and security risks”.

The MP told The Telegraph: “We are taking a risk for our national security for sake of Treasury engineered cuts and it is wrong. This unique capability will be gone forever. We are making the wrong decision here.”

           — Hat tip: A. Millar[Return to headlines]

UK: School Teacher ‘Lived Secret Double Life as Cocaine Baron’, Jury Told at Drugs Trial

To his pupils he was just an ordinary teacher working in a busy secondary school.

But in reality Mohammed Sarwar was living a double life as a cocaine baron, a court was told.

As the alleged mastermind behind a major drugs gang he supplied large quantities of cocaine to dealers across a a major British city.

A jury heard he employed a staff of drivers who acted as drug couriers carrying up to a kilo of the Class A drug at a time to supply dealers across Manchester.

Nicknamed ‘The Teacher’, Sarwar, 30, acted as ‘managing director’ of the operation, issuing instructions and rules to his couriers, it was alleged.

Manchester Crown Court heard the father-of-one was strict with his workers, insisting they did not use drugs themselves and that they always looked smart and presentable.

The tutor, who taught at the 953-pupil Burnage Media Arts College in Manchester, is alleged to have orchestrated a ‘large-scale commercial enterprise’ selling cocaine and cannabis which included using a prison warder to supply drugs to inmates inside a jail.

He was arrested in 2009 following a police operation which bugged his car and kept his movements under surveillance.

Richard Vardon, prosecuting, said: ‘‘The conspiracy to supply cocaine was extremely well-organised, a large-scale commercial enterprise generating considerable profit for those involved.

‘At the centre of this organisation is Sarwar. He was known by his nicknames, Baz, Bazza, but he was also known as ‘The Teacher’, for that was his occupation.’

Mr Vardon said that as well as supplying cocaine across Manchester, Sarwar was also involved in a conspiracy to supply cannabis to inmates at HMP Forest Bank in Salford.

The court heard one of his former couriers, Ben Davidson, 24, agreed to testify against him.

Mr Vardon said: ‘His evidence from the inside is vital in prosecuting such an organised criminal group.

‘He’s chosen a difficult road as someone who has informed. He will be regarded by those in the dock as a grass or other such unpleasant names.’

The former warehouseman told the court he was recruited into the gang when he lost his job and could not pay his rent.

He said: ‘It was a silly decision. Looking back on it, I’d looked at a lot of my friends driving about in £54,000 cars. I was struggling to get work, getting treated badly by employers, I suppose I got greedy and I needed a house.’

Mr Vardon said Davidson began work as a courier and soon became a valued member of the gang.

He calimed that Mohammed Sarwar trusted him to collect high value packages, including kilos of pure cocaine.

Davidson said he was provided with the rent money, a wage, a work phone (which he was told to dispose of every two to three days) and a rental car.

He said: ‘I took drugs, mostly cocaine, to dealers in the Longsight, Levenshulme, Moss Side and Wythenshawe areas.’

The court heard that, as part of his job, Sarwar gave him a set of rules to follow.

Mr Davidson told the court: ‘He had rules, like tactics on how to evade capture. He said, “always be discreet, blend in, be presentable.

‘ “Don’t smoke cannabis, don’t register anything to your home address, no bill-paying, no registering on the electoral roll. If you’re caught, always say ‘no comment’ and never give your home address if stopped.”‘

He also claimed he handled sums of up to £100,000 for the gang and supplied a prison officer at HMP Forest Bank with cannabis and mobile phones allegedly at Sarwar’s instruction.

Davidson, formerly of Stalybridge, has admitted drug offences.

Sarwar of Ladybarn, Manchester, pleads not guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine and supplying cannabis to inmates at HMP Forest Bank prison in Salford .

Others facing charges are Davidson’s mother, Leonie Barnes, 47, Imran Khalique, 29, Asim Bashir, 22, Ali Rehman, 24, Leanne Bryan, 27, Zeeshan Jameel, 24, and Ali Khan, 22, who all deny conspiracy to supply cocaine.

The case continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Theatre Show About the Suffolk Strangler’s Killing Spree to be Staged

A stage musical about the Suffolk Strangler’s murders of five prostitutes in Ipswich is to be staged by a top London theatre.

The National Theatre insisted London Road, a documentary musical about Steve Wright’s brutal killings of the sex workers in 2006, would ‘not be sensationalist in any way’.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Twenty Murderers and 109 Rapists and Robbers on the Run After Blundering Authorities Fail to Send Them Back to Jail

Twenty murderers and more than one hundred murderers and robbers are among more than 1,000 released prisoners on the run after the authorities failed to track them down.

According to new figures released by the Ministry of Justice hundreds of the wanted criminals, who have had their licences revoked either because they returned to crime or breached the conditions of their release, have been on the run for years.

In all, 20 murderers, nine rapists or attempted rapists and 100 robbers remain free.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: White Man With Short Hair and Stubble is Issued Provisional Driving Licence… Featuring a Photo of Burka-Clad Asian Woman

When Scott Allen received his provisional licence through the post, he realised something was not quite right.

While the bearded white 27-year-old’s name, address and birthday was all correct, the photograph showed a picture of an Asian woman in an hijab.

The green card, which had been issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), also contained the signature of an unknown person — presumed to be the woman in the traditional Muslim head dress in the picture.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Albania: Berisha: Police to Defend Govt Offices From Criminals

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, JANAURY 27 — An opposition protest will be held in Tirana tomorrow, a week on from violent clashes in which 3 protesters were killed. The Albanian Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, has said that “the police and the republican guard will defend the institutions, with respect for the law, if criminals attempt to enter government offices as they did last Friday”.

Berisha was speaking from the government buildings where he this morning received the families of policemen who were involved in last week’s anti-government protest.

After the clashes on January 21, the Prime Minister has decided in the last few days to reward police and members of the republican guard involved that day with an extra month’s pay, and four for those injured in the clashes.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berisha and Rama, Eternal Contenders in a Divided Albania

(ANSAmed) — ROME — It could be an understatement to say that the tension that is being felt since the start of the year in Albania is simply the last chapter of a story that sees the prime minister, Sali Berisha, duel with the leader of the socialist opposition and mayor of Tirana, Edi Rama. The protests, police reactions, deaths, attempted attacks on government buildings are part of a script written months ago that was carried out as expected. But the street demonstrations tried to step things up by asking for change on the doorstep of the Albanian establishment.

Choosing one of the two sides (protesters or the establishment) could be a mistake in assessing the situation in Albania, which still has not managed to get rid of the poison of the communist regime that polluted the Albanian society and people by creating a regime where hate and suspicion left traces that are still apparent today, born out of a police system where everyone was involved and no one could feel left out.

The explosion of freedom, which followed Hoxha’s fall, was so loud that the Albanian people found themselves involved in a hard to run democracy, soon falling prey to a class of profiteers and fraudsters who sucked the blood of an entire Country, leaving it fully bankrupt and driving thousands of people to try to escape poverty by crossing the sea over to Italy. Today, two decades later (more than a generation away), those who experienced Hoxha’s extreme communism still cannot remove it from their thoughts. The younger generation, which are now the majority, never knew it and still look to the West as an example and not only as a destination. Sali Berisha and Edi Rama are political opposites but, in the same way, still embody a way of doing politics capable of dividing in two a Country where those in power (in any area, at any level) are always viewed as suspicious.

They are two strong characters that are playing a politically hazardous game, because it casts doubts over Albania’s capability of becoming a full member of Europe. The three casualties of the incidents in Tirana bloodied the streets of the capital city, and even the main road to Europe, but the two ‘duellers’ Rama and Berisha are apparently unaware of this. It is the same Europe that made efforts to bring the socialists back to parliament from the Aventine they entrenched themselves in so as to show a conflictual face of the Country. An illusion that only lasted for a few months because, since the protesters took to the streets again, Berisha and Rama set aside their European plans to bring conflict back to the Country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Average Salary in December Totals Eur380

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, JANUARY 25 — The average net salary in the Republic of Serbia in December 2010 amounted to RSD 39,580 (around EUR380), which is an increase of 14.9% in nominal terms and a 14.1% increase in real terms compared to the average salary in November 2010, the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia stated, reports Tanjug news agency.

The average tax and contributions deducted salary in December 2010 increased by 7.6% in nominal terms, and decreased by 2.5% in real terms compared to December 2009.

The average net salary in the period January — December 2010 increased by 7.6% in nominal terms and 0.7% in real terms compared to the same period in 2009.

The average gross salary in Serbia in December 2010 amounted to RSD54,948 (around EUR528) and compared to the average salary in November 2010 it increased by 14.8% in nominal terms and 14% in real terms. The average gross salary in the period January — December 2010 increased by 7.5% in nominal terms and 0.6% in real terms compared to the same period in 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

UFM: Secretary General Masadeh Throws in the Towel

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JANUARY 26 — The Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UFM), Jordanian Ahmad Jalaf Masadeh, has today resigned from his post, just one year after his appointment. In a communiqué sent today to the 43 countries from both shores of the Mediterranean, which are part of the UFM, Masadeh explains the reasons behind his resignation as substantially due to the paralysis of the Union, the functioning of which has often been blocked above all due to tensions between Arabs and Israelis, which have made the operational start-up of the body difficult. The UFM was set up in 2008 following a proposal by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Born from the remnants of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (or Barcelona Process), started in Barcelona in 1995, its headquarters are based at the Palace of Pedralbes in Barcelona.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Al Ahram: Europe Has Turned Its Attention to the East

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — Europe has turned its back on the southern shore of the Mediterranean to turn its gaze to the East. This is the opinion held by the deputy editor of the Egyptian daily paper Al Ahram, Mohamed Sabreen, speaking at the conference entitled “The Mediterranean Network, the Challenge of the Future” which is underway in Rome. “Europe,” he said, “is interested in the Mediterranean basin only when something bad happens and this conveys the wrong message: we are interested in you because you are a source of troubles.” According to the deputy editor of one of Egyptian major daily papers, “it is no secret that when it was decided that extremist elements would not be tolerated in Arab societies, the western world agreed to welcome them. I’m talking about people like Bin Laden.” The countries of the southern shore “are paying the price of selfish politics by Europe,” Sabreen went on. “On the other hand, you can’t pick and choose your neighbours. We and Europe will always be neighbours, we must accept the need to be led by good intentions and not by a stereotyped idea.” “Muslims are not aliens from outer space,” concluded the Al Ahram deputy editor.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Al-Azhar Suspends Dialogue With Vatican, Holy See Wants to Maintain Ties

Decision taken in response to the pope’s criticism of the treatment of Copts in Egypt

The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, and members of the Islamic Research Academy have decided to suspend all dialogue with the Vatican due to Pope Benedict XVI’s negative comments on the condition of Egyptian Christians.

The decision was announced today following an emergency meeting during which the academy’s members voted unanimously on the suspension for an indefinite period.

The decision is a response to the pope’s reference to the discrimination endured by Coptic Christians in Egypt. The pope’s comments followed the Two Saints Church bombing in Alexandria on New Year’s Eve.

Mohamed Tahtawi, the Azhar’s official spokesperson, refused to comment on the decision to Ahram Online, saying it was self-explanatory.

The Vatican however said Thursday it wanted to continue its bi-annual meetings with Egypt’s chief centre of Sunni Islamic learning, Al-Azhar, after it accused the pope of attacking Islam and suspended diplomatic ties.

“The pontifical council for inter-religious dialogue’s line of openness and desire to dialogue is unchanged,” said Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi.

Lombardi added that the council was “in the process of gathering together the necessary information in order to understand the situation well.”

An advisor to Sheikh Ahmed criticised remarks by the pontiff as interference in internal affairs.

“The pope has repeatedly alleged that non-Muslims are being persecuted in Muslim countries in the Middle East region, which is far from the truth and is an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of Islamic countries,” Sheikh Mahmoud Azab said in remarks carried by the official Mena news agency.

The sheikh has been involved in a war of words with the pope over his comments since the attack three weeks ago.

During his New Year’s Mass in the Vatican, the pope had called for the “concrete and constant engagement of leaders of nations” to protect Christians in the Middle East, in what he termed a “difficult mission.”

In the wake of rising tension and “especially discrimination, abuse and religious intolerance which are today striking Christians in particular, I once again launch a pressing appeal not to give in to discouragement and resignation,” the pope added.

Pope Benedict said the attack was “yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt … effective measures for the protection of religious minorities”.

The remarks prompted Cairo to recall its envoy to the Vatican on 11 January.

“Egypt will not allow any non-Egyptian faction to interfere in its internal affairs under any pretext,” the foreign ministry said. “The Coptic question is specifically an internal Egyptian affair.”

El-Tayeb described the pope’s statements as an “unacceptable interference in Egypt’s affairs.”

“I disagree with the pope’s view, and I ask why did the pope not call for the protection of Muslims when they were subjected to killings in Iraq?” he asked at the time.

Al-Azhar’s Center of Dialogue, established in July 2010, has entered into accords with the Vatican and other churches.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Driving Licence No Longer Revoked to Avoid Protests

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 27 — Today the Algerian press reports that attempts are being made to cool down the tensions and avoid all protests in Algeria, where the revocation of driving licences for many offences has been stopped. In a confidential letter of January 15, Premier Ouyahia reportedly asked to “limit the revocation of driving licenses only to very serious offences”, writes Le Temps, “due to the efforts made to control the situation after the latest protests staged in the country”. According to the online media, Ouyahia also ordered other measures meant to “absorb the people’s anger”, including the suspension of clearing out or demolishing illegal houses and of tax inspections. Moreover, orders have reportedly been issued to avoid any shortages of mass consumer goods and of money in the post offices, and the sale of petrol in jerry-cans has been forbidden to limit the risk of suicide. At least 13 people set themselves on fire in the country in the past two weeks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Reports of Imminent Government Reshuffle

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, JANUARY 27 — There are growing reports from Algeria of a government reshuffle, which is also due to involve the Prime Minister, Ahmed Ouyahia.

The Algerian press says that the move is supposed to show the population that change is afoot, after the latest protests in the country, as well as to avoid a potential “Tunisia effect”.

While El Watan refers to insistent reports that last night paralysed the offices of all newspapers as they waited for an important announcement from state television, Le Temps says that a government reshuffle is imminent.

The newspaper says that the reshuffle was scheduled for last Tuesday but was postponed. Three quarters of government minister’s are likely to be phased out, the same source indicates. As well as Prime Minister Ouyahia, who it is thought will be replaced by the current Energy Minister, Youssef Yousfi, the Interior Minister, Dabo Ould Kablia, is also thought to be concerned by the move.

Others, meanwhile, are reporting a return of Ahmed Benbitour, while the former Prime Minister, Abdelaziz Belkhadem, told the El Khabar newspaper that there would be no reshuffle.

El Watan asks why these reports are emerging. Is it an attempt to sound out public opinion or are they taking time to find the right people at such a delicate time?

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ben Jelloun: Create Independent Mediterranean Like EU

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “The future of our Mediterranean, in my personal view, is an area that will take a lot of work to make it an independent economic democratic ‘entity’, as has been done for the European Union”. This statement was made by Tahar Ben Jelloun in his speech at the conference “The Mediterranean network, the challenge of the future”, in progress in Rome. “We must focus on the Union for the Mediterranean, not on the model that was proposed by France, which failed despite all good intentions”, Ben Jelloun added. “We have to create a Mediterranean area without police dictatorships, where the wealth of the countries is made available to the people. There is no reason why the revenues should fill the pockets of individuals instead of benefiting the people. We cannot close our eyes to the respect for human rights to favour economic interests”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ben Jelloun: Gaddafi Clownish Leader

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “Not only Italy, but also France and Spain have had to witness the distressing, ridiculous, shameful folklore spectacle that is performed each time a clownish leader moves abroad”, said the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun. He was referring to the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in his speech at the conference “The Mediterranean network, the challenge of the future” which was opened today in Rome.

The spectacle, the writer continued, has nothing to do with “the Mediterranean values, but finds its origin in the star-like whims of people who paint their hair to look younger”. People in Libya, Ben Jelloun explained, “have nothing to say about the matter, the country has been standing still since 1969”.

“Nobody knows what is really happening in Libya, but Berlusconi, Sarkozy and Zapatero have supported this clownish person in some way because of the country’s gas and oil”, the writer concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ben-Eliezer: Mubarak Regime, Peace Will Endure

“I have no doubt that the situation in Egypt is under control,” Labor MK Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

“The intelligence services, which are sophisticated, expected this after what happened in a different situation in Tunisia. [Mubarak] is allowing people to let off steam. He hasn’t used police. It’s all under control. I believe in complete faith that it won’t be a problem.”

Ben-Eliezer, a former defense minister, is considered the Israeli politician closest to Mubarak.

What would it mean for Israel if Mubarak would fall?

“Our relations with Egypt are strategic and intimate. Both of our leaderships have an interest in quiet and peace even if it is a quiet peace. The peace of Egypt has passed many tests of survival and many crises, and today it is just as much an Egyptian interest as it is ours,” Ben-Eliezer said.

Is our peace treaty with Egypt in jeopardy in the post- Mubarak era?

“There is no doubt that Mubarak is Sadat’s successor. Anyone who comes after him will be tested to see if he has the same strategy. It’s sensitive and fragile. If Mubarak prepares properly and ensures the army backs his successor, the peace will continue.”

Is Mohamed ElBaradei a serious threat to Mubarak and is he a problem for Israel?

“I won’t say he is not serious. But there is no leadership to the anti-Mubarak camp. If he goes with the opposition, it means endorsing the Islamic rhetoric. We have an interest in the Mubarak regime continuing.”

Are the chances of Mubarak’s son Gamal taking over harmed by the rioting?

“Hosni Mubarak’s power comes from the army just like he does.

Gamal continues in his path and he is a brilliant guy. His future depends on how his father prepares the army to support him.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: White House, U.S. For Universal Rights of Egyptians

(ANSAmed) — NEW YORK, JANUARY 26 — Regarding the situation in Egypt, the U.S. are in favour of the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, according to the stance taken today by the White House, which made an appeal to “all parties” in Egypt to abstain from violence. “The United States,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs in a statement, “support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the right of the freedom of expression, association and assembly .” “The Egyptian government,” added Gibbs, “has an important opportunity to respond to the aspirations of the Egyptian people and to pursue the political, economic and social reforms that can contribute to the prosperity of Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance towards these objectives.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Stability Needed for Mideast, Italy’s Undersecretary

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 26 — “Egypt remains calm on the outside but this can change any minute”, said Foreign Undersecretary Stefania Craxi in Chamber during an emergency briefing on the situation in Egypt. “Italy”, she continued, “joins forces with those who ask for moderation. The goal of stability in Egypt, our important partner and vital protagonist of the Middle East peace process, remains in the heart of Italy”.

Observing that what is happening in Egypt these hours “is very similar to the situation in Tunisia”, the Undersecretary pointed out that “no Italians are involved in the clashes”, and that the Italians in Egypt have been “invited to be cautious by the Cairo embassy through text messages”. She added that the Italian ambassador has “held a security briefing with local Italian entrepreneurs” this morning. Craxi specified that “it is too early to say whether we are in the final stage of a protest that started out of sympathy with the neighbouring countries or if this is only the first stage of demonstrations. Certainly, the slogans against President Mubarak are an absolute novelty, as well as the fact that State television has shown footage of the demonstrations”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Violent Clashes in Sinai, Motorway Blocked

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — Violent clashes are in progress, in which shots are fired as well, in Sinai, around 10 kilometres from Gaza. The news is reported by local sources who explain that there are around ten thousand demonstrators, who have also blocked the international motorway between Egypt and Israel. Local sources report that El Sheikh Zouayed between El Arish and Rafh looks like a battlefield. All shops are closed and demonstrators and police are shooting at each other. Also in Ismaelia violent clashes have been reported between hundreds of protesters and police forces, in which stones are thrown. Thirty people have been arrested, local sources say. In Suez demonstrators have tried to set fire to a police station.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Protests in Ismailia, Assiut and Alexandria

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — Protests are sweeping through Egypt. A demonstration has been reported in Assiut, in Upper Egypt, where several thousand people are protesting peacefully. There have been clashes, however, in Ismailia, where demonstrators and police have been involved in violent exchanges. Police have managed to disperse protesters, who have said that they will soon return to the streets.

Meanwhile, another demonstration has begun in Alexandria.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: El Baradei Arrival, Cairo Airport in State of Emergency

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — The authorities of the international airport of Cairo this morning announced the state of emergency due to the announced arrival from Vienna, at 7.15 pm local time (6.15 pm in Italy) of Muhammad el Baradei, leader of one of the opposition parties and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A large Egyptian police force will be deployed early this afternoon near and inside the airport’s arrival terminal 3.

“Any illegal action will be repelled”, is written at the bottom of the statement released by the authorities of the international airport of Cairo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Ben Jelloun: Talk With the Muslim Brotherhood

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — “Today it is difficult to imagine Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood. It is necessary to holds talks with them and to listen to them.” This is what has been said by writer Tahar Ben Jelloun in his speech at the conference entitled “The Mediterranean Network, the Challenge of the Future” which is underway in Rome.

With regard to a reality like the Muslim Brotherhood, he said, “the bogeyman can’t be brandished,” added Ben Jelloun, “Al Qaeda has nothing to do with the values of Islam,” “they are terrorists and criminals.” Maintaining, as happened over the last twenty years in Tunisia, that President Ben Ali “carried out a role of defence against Muslim extremism is a demagogic argument,” said the writer. “You can’t accept a police dictatorship for fear of seeing extremism rise to power,” he concluded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: People’s Protests as Seen by the Daily Papers

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — The protests that have been flaring up in Egypt over recent days are being reported on extensively by local daily papers which are reporting in detail on what is happening and what could be the potential situations in the not-so-distant future. Al Ahram, the most important and highest-selling daily paper in the country, headlines on the deaths (4) of on the number of injured demonstrators (118) and police officers, stating that around 100 people have been arrested in Cairo and the Egyptian governorates. In addition to reporting on the incidents from a local news point of view, Al Masry Al Youm also reports on the reasons that have pushed demonstrators to return to the streets, even though they are aware that they will come up against the police. Al Hayat headlines generically on incidents that are continuing, associating the headline on the domestic issues with what is happening in Tunisia. The analysis by Asharq al Awsat on what is happening is interesting: “demonstrations continue and the party in power understands the young people’s demands.” The paper also investigates what is the real role of the Muslim Brotherhood in the people’s protests.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: El Baradei: Ready to Govern

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — Mohammed El Baradei, former head of the international atomic agency and one of the best known leaders of Egypt’s opposition, stated that he was ready to come into power should the people ask him to do so. The report was made by TV network Al Arabiya.

The Arab network, during a brief flash that added no further details, reported the following: “ElBaradei: ready to assume power during a transitional period, should the people ask for it”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood: Let West Respect People’s Choice

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JANUARY 27 — “We have been ready for some time now, and our requests to all sides are clear. We shall take part en masse tomorrow and don’t ask us where this mobilisation is going to lead. We do not know. Only God knows”. This statement comes from an interview given to ANSA by the spokesperson for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Essam Eryan, speaking on the eve of a huge anti-government mobilisation planned for tomorrow, the Muslim day of prayer. But how will the Movement behave after tomorrow’s demonstrations? “Every political solution is being studied. We shall follow events and on this basis we shall see how we should act. We are not ruling out anything, not even our participation in a government of national salvation”. As for the statements made by Muhammad el Baradei, one of the “lay” opposition leaders, who said that he was prepared to take over power on a temporary basis “if the people ask him to do so,” Eryan said he was “astonished”. “I know nothing of this,” he said, “I shall wait to hear these words from Doctor Baradei himself, as I shall be meeting him soon after his arrival”. And as for the Western ministries worried at the prospect of “the Muslim Brotherhood taking over power,” Eryan was dismissive: “Let the West think first of all about respecting the freedom and the democratic will of the Egyptian people.

Instead of imposing political agendas and priorities on Muslim countries, Europe and the United States should look to encouraging movements for self-determination in the region”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘The Era of Paralysis in Egypt Has Ended’

Demonstrations are continuing in Egypt on Thursday, while leading pro-reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei is due to land in Cairo. With unrest spreading from Tunisia to Egypt, the German press wonders if the Arab world is seeing a transformation similar to that experienced by the former Soviet bloc in 1989.

Leading pro-reform advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei is due to land in Egypt on Thursday and will take part in a big anti-government protest on Friday, the Egyptian weekend. The former head of the IAEA, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, launched a campaign for change last year and could become a figurehead for the protest movement. “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,” he told SPIEGEL in an interview published this week. “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.” Also waiting in the wings, however, is the influential Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group with a strong support base across the Arab world. It is the biggest opposition group in the country and maintains a vast network of Islamic charities, which has won it support amongst the poor.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Squatters Occupy 500 Homes in Tunis Area

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 25 — More than five hundred council-house type residences, whose construction has either been finished or is close to completion, at Cité Nour Jaâfar (Gammarth), Sidi Hassine and Fouchana, all on the outskirts of the city of Tunis, have been occupied by squatters. This statement has come from, Salah Besbe’s, who is Chair of the Société nationale immobilière de Tunisie (SNIT). Mr Besbe’s pointed out that many of these homes had already been sold. The flats concerned are low-price single-person or collective accommodation (costing around 39,000 dinari, or 20,000 euro).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Envoy: It’s a Tunisian Matter, We Are Not Referee

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JANUARY 26 — During a press conference held today at the US Embassy in Tunis, the US envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, repeatedly underlined that “this is a Tunisian matter” for which “the US feels admiration and from which it draws great inspiration, so much so that Tunisia was mentioned in President Obama’s State of the Union speech,” he said, “but we are not referees in this matter.” “I’m here to congratulate the Tunisian people,” said Feltman, whilst he answered with a decisive “no” to the question as to whether there had been a request from Washington for the departure of the former President of Tunisia, Ben Ali. “The United States is with the Tunisian people,” said the US envoy, favourably looking upon “the steps made by the national unity government” in the perspective of a process that will bring about elections marked by “free and just inclusion.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Why Egypt Regime Can Weather the Storm

This week tens of thousands swamped the heart of Cairo, Alexandria, and other major Egyptian cities, facing down anti-riot police, to demand cheaper food, better services, and substantial changes to the regime’s modus operandi.

With five dead, more than 100 injured, and the police resorting to tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, most observers are examining whether the Egyptian regime will be able to contain the situation and suppress the protests without even more significant bloodshed. Two factors suggest continued tension and further challenges to the regime. First, the Egyptian state’s institutional framework is at its weakest point since the coup/revolution of 1952 that created the Egyptian republic. The delicate balance that the regime has nurtured, between the rise of the liberal capitalists within the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and the traditional power and influence of the military and security establishment, seems to be under strain. The center of gravity and decision-making has shifted from the long-established anchors of stability toward inexperienced new economic and financial players.

The ascent of the new capitalists gave rise to the second factor: an unexpected solidarity between the politically active — who see the influence of the new capitalists as a blurring of the lines between power and wealth — and the disenfranchised poor, who as a result of successive financial reform measures, face severe economic pains. The situation is made more acute by a youth unemployment rate of more than 15% (in an 80 million population, 40% of whom are under 30 years old)…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abu Mazen: Peres Phone Call, Counter Al Jazeera Attack

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JANUARY 26 — The President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, today phoned Shimon Peres to pass on his condolences for the death a few days ago of the Israeli President’s wife, Sonia.

During the conversation, Radio Jerusalem reports, Peres expressed his satisfaction at the “resoluteness” displayed by Mahmoud Abbas in light of recent revelations by the Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, aimed at discrediting the Palestinian leader’s image. Peres, the radio station said, declared that “Al Jazeera’s attempts to delegitimise the PNA and its leaders must be repelled”.

“We will not allow the peace process to be killed off,” Mahmoud Abbas said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Four Palestinians Suspected of Killing U.S. Tourist

JERUSALEM, Jan 26 (Reuters) — Four Palestinians have been arrested and charged with the murder of an American tourist and attempted killing of another woman, both of whom were stabbed in December while hiking near Jerusalem, police said on Wednesday.

“It was politically motivated,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, announcing the arrests and indictments.

He said the four Palestinians had also been charged in Jerusalem District Court with the murder in February of an Israeli woman in the same area near the occupied West Bank.

The body of Kristine Luken, a member of an evangelical group that promotes Christianity among Jews, was found on Dec. 19 in a forested area outside Jerusalem.

Her hiking companion, Kaye Wilson, a Briton who immigrated to Israel, said at the time that she and Luken, a U.S. citizen, were attacked and stabbed by two Arabic-speaking men. Wilson played dead and later alerted police.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israeli Minister: Hezbollah Agents Entering Gaza

Israel’s minister of strategic affairs said Thursday the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group has infiltrated agents into the Gaza Strip to train Palestinian militants.

Gaza is ruled by the Hamas militant group, which, like Hezbollah, is sworn to Israel’s destruction.

The minister, Moshe Yaalon, Israel’s former military chief of staff, told reporters that “Hezbollah experts can get into the Gaza Strip, like the Iranian rockets are coming to the Gaza Strip.” He said Hezbollah militants can go from Lebanon to Sudan, then to Egypt and on to Gaza.

Israel charges that archenemy Iran sends rockets and other weapons to Gaza militants, smuggling them into the seaside strip through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

Yaalon said Hezbollah has a special unit, called 1800, to deal with the Palestinian militants. He said the Lebanese guerrillas also operate in the West Bank, paying militants.

Yaalon offered no evidence to support his claims.

Israel has long accused Hezbollah and its Iranian backers of supporting Palestinian militants, but officials have said little about an actual physical presence of Iranian-backed militia in Gaza.

Hamas has often denied that foreign forces are in Gaza. On Thursday, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called Yaalon’s claim “fabricated,” and said “all the factions in Gaza are Palestinians.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Authority Tells Britain it Wants to Question Former MI6 Officer

The Palestinian Authority has told Britain it wants to question a former MI6 officer suspected of involvement in the leaking of over 1,000 confidential documents relating to the peace process.

Alastair Crooke, who worked for British intelligence for over 30 years, was named as one of three western nationals the Palestinians want to appear before a committee of inquiry.

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, said his arrest was not being sought, nor was he being accused of any crime.

Palestinian officials have not disclosed what role they suspect Mr Crooke may have played in the leaking of the documents, which have been released in tranches this week by Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based television network.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Secret Files: Al Jazeera Studio Attacked in Nablus

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 26 — Armed Palestinian militias today damaged a television studio in Nablus (West Bank), which was hired by the Qatar broadcaster Al Jazeera to record an interview with a well-known opponent of PNA President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), the Palestinian political commentator Abdel Sattar Qassam.

The militias — who probably have ties with Al Fatah — did not find professor Qassam when they arrived at the studio, and decided to damage the equipment. Al Jazeera’s offices in Ramallah (West Bank) were attacked two times in the past days by protesters. PNA leaders accused Al Jazeera yesterday of trying to destabilise the regime of Abu Mazen by publishing documents which are partly authentic together with many “counterfeit or completely forged” documents.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said today that he thinks his life “is now at risk” due to the revelations made by Al Jazeera. A leader of Al Fatah claimed today that he has documents that show that Qatar has betrayed the Palestinian cause when it informed the United States in 2001 that a ship was headed for Gaza carrying a substantial load of weapons to be used in the intifada.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Christianity ‘Could Vanish From Middle East’

Christian communities could disappear from the faith’s birthplace in the Middle East because of persecution and low birth rates, the Council of Europe’s parliament warned Thursday.

“The Assembly is convinced that the loss of Christian communities in the Middle East would also endanger Islam as it would signal the victory of fundamentalism,” a resolution approved by the 318-member body said. It condemned the October 2010 massacre of worshippers in the Syriac Catholic cathedral in Baghdad and the January 2011 suicide bombing in a Coptic church in Alexandria as two “particularly tragic” events in a growing number of attacks on Christian communities worldwide. The representatives from the 47 member states said the co-existence of religious groups was a sign of pluralism and an environment favourable to the development of democracy and human rights. Relations between Christian communities in the Middle East and the Muslim majorities have not always been easy, the assembly said, while public authorities in some Muslim countries have not always conveyed the right signals about other religious communities in these countries. It called for a Council of Europe strategy to enforce freedom of religion — including the freedom to change one?s religion — as a human right.

Member states should also promote educational material which addressed anti-Christian stereotypes and bias as well as “Christianophobia” in general, the assembly said.

They should also insist on a “democracy clause” when making agreements with third countries, and take account of the situation of Christian and other religious communities in their political dialogue with these countries.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Controversial Turkish Television: Magnificent No More

SULTAN Suleiman the Magnificent, who earned his moniker for taking the Ottoman empire to the apogee of its glory in the mid-16th century, is widely regarded as sacred in Turkey. No matter that he had his own son murdered, among several dastardly deeds. Modern Turks like to boast of his armies reaching the gates of Vienna and to refer to him as the “lawgiver”. A British historian, Jason Goodwin, writes that Suleiman was “majestic enough to stock his court with an unusual number of buffoons, dwarves, mutes, astrologers, and silent janissaries” and that he ruled so long “that he became something of an Ottoman Queen Victoria.”

In recent weeks Suleiman has been at the centre of a new row that pits secular Turks against Muslim conservatives. The cause was a televised drama series, replete with scenes from the royal baths and the harem, which chronicled Suleiman’s military and sexual exploits. Pious Turks were incensed by scenes of Suleiman lusting over his most coveted queen, Roxelana, and drinking goblets of wine.

Bulent Arinc, deputy prime minister in the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) government, called for the series to be scrapped. “It shows him in his harem, fond of drinking and in certain scenes that I cannot find words to express,” Mr Arinc complained. Halit Ergenc, who played Suleiman, was inundated with hate mail and death threats.

The state media watchdog, RTUK, says that it has received a record number of complaints about the series. It even issued a warning to the channel responsible, Show TV, that it was clashing with the “national and moral values of our society”. Members of the overtly Islamist Saadet party, chanting Allahu akbar (“Allah is great”), staged protests outside Show TV’s headquarters in Istanbul. Yet, as Meral Okay, one of the scriptwriters, commented, “the children of the Sultan were not conceived by pollination…he did have a sex life and a family.” At least the controversy boosted the show’s ratings to record heights.

Fervent Islamists tout the Ottomans as the antithesis of Ataturk, who abolished both the Sultan and the caliphate. Moreover, in his last years Suleiman turned religious. Mr Goodwin writes that Suleiman “dined off earthenware platters, and fostered the triumph of Orthodox Islam…but when the Austrian ambassador took leave…it was scarcely a living being he described but a metaphor of empire rotting and majestic, fat, made up, and suffering from an ulcerous leg.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

‘Darwin Talk’ At Turkish School Goes to Court, Sparks New Debate

A warning issued to a primary school teacher for talking about Darwinian evolutionary theory during class has sparked a debate over whether education in Turkey is becoming more religious.

“The real motive behind the warning is the conflict between those who are trying to build education on a religious basis and those looking to scientific origins,” Zübeyde Kiliç, head of Education and Science Personnel Union, or Egitim-Sen, a trade union defending the rights of teachers and contemporary education, told daily Radikal on Monday. She said a law case would be opened in the administrative court to annul the warning soon.

Süleyman Biçer, who has been teaching for more than 14 years, received a warning for talking about Darwinian evolutionary theory in response to a question posed by one of his students. Biçer, a teacher at the Mamak Trade Chamber Elementary School in Ankara, replied to a question from one of his students on the subject of whether human beings came from monkeys. The teacher reportedly told the class how human beings and other species have evolved over many years.

Following the class, the student reportedly told his parents about the remarks, leading the mother of the fifth-grade student to file a complaint against Biçer, claiming that the teacher had told students that monkeys were human beings’ ancestors and that he had also read the Bible during class. The student’s mother petitioned the Provincial Education Directorate, leading the Mamak Provincial Education Directorate to launch an investigation into the claims, with nine of Biçer’s 42 students called to testify.

After three of the students confirmed that Biçer talked about Darwin during the class, a report was prepared by officials indicating that Darwin’s evolutionary was not officially in the fifth-grade curriculum. Evolutionary theory does not even figure in eighth-grade curriculum, the report said. Biçer received a warning from the school administration.

“The teacher did not lecture about Darwinian theory. He replied to a question,” Kiliç said. “We want students who question everything but we issue warnings to teachers just because they stepped out of the lines of the curriculum.”

The debate on Darwinian theory is not something new. In early 2009, a huge uproar was caused when the cover story of a publication by Turkey’s Research and Science Council, or TÜBITAK, was pulled allegedly because it focused on Darwin’s theory of evolution. The incident led to intense criticism and resulted in finger-pointing by various officials of that publication and its parent institute. A few months later, the same article appeared as the publication’s cover story.

Kiliç believes the reason behind these moves is that the Education Ministry favors the creationist approaches and refutes the Darwinian theory of evolution. Education Ministry officials were not available for comment.

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

Jordan: Steep Drop in Agricultural Exchange With Israel

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JANUARY 27 — Jordan’s imports of fresh agricultural products from Israel fell by 7,000 tonnes in 2008 and by 800 tonnes in 2010. This is according to the Al Hayat newspaper, which quoted a study by the union of Jordanian farmers. The study shows that exports from Jordan to Israel also fell significantly, from 20,500 tonnes in 2008 to 5,000 tonnes in 2010.

As well as the existence of high-quality Jordanian products, the drop in figures can also be put down to the growing refusal of Jordanian consumers to buy Israeli goods, according to the secretary of the union of Jordanian farmers, Abdelhadi Alfalahat.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Large Protests Staged Against Yemen President

More than 10,000 people took to the streets of Yemen yesterday as to demand that its pro-Western president gives up power.

Despite a pervasive police presence, up to 16,000 demonstrators moved from the University of Yemen to the centre of the capital, Sana’a.

Banners demanded the president abandon changes to the consitution that would grant Mr Saleh another ten years in power.

“If the (ruling) party doesn’t respond to our demands, we will escalate this until the president falls, just like what happened in Tunisia,” said Ayub Hassan, a protestor.

However the demonstrations ended quietly as the protestors devolved into small groups to chew qat, the narcotic-like local drug, in the late afternoon.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Hezbollah Lead Thickens Storm Clouds

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Halfway through January, at the end of a lengthy stand-off that has left Lebanese institutions paralysed for months, the pro-Iranian Shia movement, Hezbollah, has finally succeeded in sinking the “national unity government”, ousting the Sunni pro-Western Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and ensuring that President Michel Suleiman entrusted the task of forming a new government to a politician that meets with its approval, the Sunni billionaire Najib Mikati.

But contrary to past experiences, the result appears to have been reached down political avenues, even though Hezbollah boasts an arsenal of military equipment far superior to that possessed by the Lebanese army.

The Parliament majority gained by Hariri and his “March 14” coalition at the 2009 local elections has been eroded in the last few weeks, during which time one of his closest allies, the Druze leader Walid Jumblat, has changed tack amid the crisis and declared his support for “Syria and the Resistance”, in other words Hezbollah. In an interview, he reveled that he had “toiled long and hard to regain the faith of Syria and Hezbollah”. As a result, he added, “I must no longer do stupid things. I can’t afford to”.

Mikati also comes from the ranks of the majority, but has accepted his name being put forward by Hezbollah, saying that he is ready “to work for all the Lebanese people”, despite accusations of “betrayal” levelled against him by Hariri, who believes that Mikati wants to pave the way for “Iranian safeguarding” of Lebanon.

Since Mikati’s position was made official on January 25, many have said that the balance of power in Lebanon has shifted inexorably towards Syria and Iran, at the expense of Saudi Arabia and the United States. “A government led by Hezbollah will clearly have an impact on our bilateral relations,” was the reaction of the American Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, casting doubt over the financial and military aid supplied to Beirut by Washington, which considers Hezbollah a terrorist organisation. As time as passed, however, America’s stance has softened, with the spokesperson for the State Department, Philip Crowley, conceding that “the formation of the government in Lebanon is a Lebanese decision, but one that must not be reached through threats and violence”.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has kept a low profile, content with warning its citizens not to travel to Lebanon because of the sometimes violent protests staged by supporters of Hariri in Sunni strongholds after Mikati was entrusted with the formation of a government. Shia groups have avoided the violence, which has led the two major Saudi-owned pan-Arab newspapers, Al Hayat and Asharq Al Awsat, to severely criticise Hariri.

In this context, Mikati has begun the task of forming the new government, which he believes should still be one of “national responsibility”, but which will be scrutinised over the very issue that has led to the crisis: the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the special court set up by the UN to investigate the murder in 2005 of the former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, the father and political predecessor of Saad.

On January 17, the chief prosecutor of the tribunal, which is based in Holland and chaired by the Italian judge Antonio Cassese, handed over its initial findings to the judge for preliminary investigations, who in turn has up to ten weeks to decide if there is enough evidence to trigger a trial. Reports emerged some time ago, suggesting that some members of Hezbollah are suspected of involvement in the killing.

But the Shia movement considers the STL to be “an instrument of Israel and the United States” and has demanded that Lebanon put an end to its collaboration with the court. It has also said that is ready to “cut off the hands” of anyone who tries to arrest its members. Hariri is not prepared to accept this intransigent position, as a result of which storm clouds continue to gather over Lebanon.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Radical Islam Has Transformed Turkey

It should come as no surprise that Turkey — while attempting to absolve itself of blame for the aggressive use of a flotilla to deliver supplies to the Hamas enclave in Gaza — is again the hub for a new effort to resupply the terrorist group (“Flotilla report clears Israel; new blockade break planned,” Geopolitics, Monday).

In contrast to the previous Turkish government, which considered Israel a friend, the current regime under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has turned virulently anti-Israel with its support not only for Iran, but Hezbollah and Hamas.

It is time that the United States recognizes the profound change in the current government for what it is — a fundamentalist Islamic nation — and act accordingly. Israel is now aware of the Turkish government’s policies. The United States should realize that Turkey is no longer an ally but a nation that has joined hands with our enemies…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Saudis Discover New Funding Channels for Taliban, Al Qaeda

In August last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak was not happy with Saudi Arabia. He complained that the Saudis appeared to be funding an opposition candidate, Anwar Ibrahim, in upcoming elections. What’s more, the Malaysian authorities suspected two senior Saudi princes of involvement. The Saudis launched an investigation, and uncovered something very different — and more alarming. A secret report seen by CNN concludes: “There is no evidence any Saudi official ever supported Anwar Ibrahim” and “claims of support from the Saudi royals named in the initial report [names redacted] were found to be without basis.”

But the investigation found that hundreds of millions of dollars of Saudi money had been funneled to leading Islamist politicians and political activists overseas. It also found that al Qaeda and the Taliban were still able to use Saudi Arabia for fund-raising, despite numerous measures to choke off those sources of cash. According to a Saudi source who is not authorized to speak publically, “People close to the senior leadership of the Taliban live in Saudi Arabia and send money back” [to the Taliban]. Today he estimates the money reaching al Qaeda is “in the region of tens of thousands of dollars possibly hundreds of thousands.” The nine-page summary of the secret report states that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist political group present in many Muslim countries, was trying “through its many affiliated charities and organizations — often with the funding of unwitting private Saudi citizens — to spread its influence by providing support for candidates in Islamic democracies.”

According to the report the payback was simple. “Once in power these candidates are expected to further the Brotherhood’s goals.” Al Qaeda was able to benefit from these secret funding mechanisms, according to the source, because some in the Muslim Brotherhood had “historic sympathies and connections” with members of the terror group — dating back to when Saudi Arabia and the CIA covertly funded the Afghan mujahideen to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The connections meant that money in Muslim Brotherhood hands was “occasionally” given to al Qaeda, the source said. The report reveals a complex web of Islamic charities and banks — often involved in funding legitimate humanitarian projects — as unwitting facilitators of the illicit transfers. And it says that over several decades “a handful of Saudi and other Arab individuals and organizations” were supporting “the same groups that Arab, U.S. and European governments have long suspected of having close ties to extreme militant organizations that have been accused of supporting terrorist activities around the world.”

The problem facing Saudi authorities is huge, the source told CNN. “Eighty-six percent of all Islamic charities are based in Saudi Arabia” making “monitoring all their activities difficult.” The problem was compounded by several other factors, he said. Saudi Arabia “has the world’s fourth largest migrant workforce, 7 million legal workers, 3 million illegal.”

Many of them use unregulated Islamic Hawala money transfer banks where a deposit in one country can immediately be picked up in another with no paper trail to trace it. The Hawala networks were identified by the U.S. Treasury Department last year as a significant channel for funding the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Funds are also collected from innocent unsuspecting pilgrims on the Hajj that attracts millions of Muslims to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site every year. The report says Saudi Arabia has made a major effort “to block terrorist financing” that has been “monumental in scope and far reaching in their success.” But it concluded: “Increased diligence and efforts are warranted.”

The Saudi source tells CNN that the country still has a fundamental problem which shows how money channeled through the Muslim Brotherhood could evade detection for so long and why al Qaeda can still get funding from the desert Kingdom…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Secret Files: PNA ‘Unmasks’ Qatar

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JANUARY 26 — The Qatar network Al Jazeera is pointing the finger at the leaders of the PNA and the two parties are involved in a distant battle. The television network has revealed a series of documents it obtained indirectly, explaining that the Palestinian leaders have given in on important issues for the Palestinian cause during their negotiations with Israel. After claiming yesterday that the information of Al Jazeera is “distorted and fake”, today the PNA counterattacked claiming that the leaders of Qatar are to be blamed for the role they played in the affair of the commercial ship ‘Karina A’ by the end of 2001 and early in 2002.

The website Ynet writes, quoting al-Fatah leader Bassam Zakarne, that it was the emir of Qatar who told the United States (and, indirectly, Israel) that the ‘Karina A’ was transporting weapons to the Palestinian militias which are fighting in the intifada. The ‘Karine A’ was intercepted at sea by the Israeli navy and forced to enter the port of Eilat (Red Sea). Fifty tonnes of Iranian weapons were found on board of the ship — including Katyuscia rockets and mortars — addressed to the forces of PNA President Yasser Arafat. Arafat’s personal credibility reportedly collapsed in the eyes of the United States and Israel after this incident.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tens of Thousands Demonstrate for Ouster of Yemen’s President

The protests led by opposition members and youth activists are a significant expansion of the regional unrest sparked by the Tunisian uprising.

Reporting from Cairo — The unrest in the Middle East spread to impoverished Yemen on Thursday as tens of thousands of protesters angry over unemployment and political oppression marched through the capital against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Instability in Yemen is a major concern for Washington, which has been working with Saleh’s government to defeat an entrenched Al Qaeda network that claimed responsibility for last year’s attempted bombings of planes over U.S. airspace. Officials fear anarchy in the country would give militants a strategic base in the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa.

Saleh, whose widely corrupt government has ruled Yemen for 32 years, has been unable to stem unemployment and improve education, healthcare and sanitation in the region’s poorest nation. Anger has been steadily growing against him, especially from young activists and tribal leaders. He also faces an intensifying secessionist movement in the south.


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“We will not accept anything less than the president leaving,” independent parliamentarian Ahmed Hashid told the Associated Press.

Some protesters joked that Ali should “go the way” of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, who fled his country after weeks of mounting protests.

“I helped the students in organizing sit-ins after the Tunisian revolt,” Tawakul Karman, an activist recently released from jail after organizing demonstrations, told The Times. “There have been daily protests in Sana. I was arrested for a day because of the demonstrations and let out yesterday. The student protests will for sure continue.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

‘Valley of the Wolves’ is Just a Movie, Turkish Ministry Says

The Foreign Ministry has said Germany’s postponing the opening of the new Turkish production “Valley of the Wolves: Palestine” because of its alleged anti-Israel content is baseless and that the film is “ultimately” just a film.

“We learned about Germany’s decision from the press. First of all we have to see the content of the film and the reasons for the postponement. Then we can make an overall consideration,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Selçuk Ünal told reporters Wednesday.

The film was produced by a private company, Ünal said, adding that he was not familiar with its content.

The story traces fictitious events regarding Israel’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid flotilla that was blockaded by the Israeli military.

“Valley of the Wolves: Palestine” has drawn criticism from both German and Israeli politicians, and its German premiere, planned for International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday, was initially pushed back by distribution company Pera Films. However, Germany’s film control association has announced that it has stopped the release of the movie.

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

‘Valley of the Wolves’ Controversy

‘Anti-Semitic’ Turkish Blockbuster Denied Release in Germany

The Turkish film series “Valley of the Wolves” is not known for its delicacy. Now, distribution of the most recent movie in the series has been blocked in Germany. The flick, critics say, is anti-Israeli and its scheduled release date, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, is insensitive.

Few would accuse the “Valley of the Wolves” Turkish film and TV series of being overly sensitive. The formula is simple: Turks are honorable and courageous; action hero Polat Alemdar, played by Turkish movie star Necati Amazbased, can do no wrong; Americans are suspect; and Israelis — well, Israelis are inhuman and brutal.

Now, the newest installment — a film based on the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists to Gaza in May 2010, which resulted in the deaths of nine Turks on board the ship — has proven too much for Germany’s film classification board, the FSK. The board has temporarily blocked the movie’s release in Germany, and it remains unclear under what conditions the picture might be shown at all.

Of particular concern are allegations that Israel and Israelis are portrayed negatively in the film. Furthermore, the planned release date of Jan. 27, which is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, is seen as insensitive.

“To release a film like this on such an important day of remembrance is beyond tasteless and insensitive to the feelings of the victims,” said German parliamentarian Philipp Missfelder, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

‘I Have Come to Palestine’

The FSK has so far refused to grant the film, called “Valley of the Wolves Palestine” a youth rating certificate, which automatically places it in the adult category. German law forbids adult-rated films from being marketed using posters and other forms of public advertising. The film board will meet again on Thursday to review the decision. Should it be upheld, the movie’s distributor, Pera Film Ltd., would be able to appeal to the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons.

A Pera spokesperson declined to comment on Wednesday, saying the company would wait for the FSK ruling scheduled for Thursday. She said Pera would abide by the decision to postpone the release date.

The film’s plot centers around superhero Alemdar’s hunt for the commander who ordered the raid. It involves Israelis planning the creation of a “Great Israel” and, in one scene, shows an Israeli soldier questioning Alemdar about why he came to Israel. “I have not come to Israel,” the hero responds. “I have come to Palestine.”

In another scene, an Israeli soldier threatens Alemdar by saying: “Know that you can’t escape our promised lands!” The hero says in response: “I don’t know where you were promised … but I promise you it’s graves!”

Sharp Criticism

The film is a spin-off of the Turkish television series “Valley of the Wolves,” which, due to its depiction of Israel, caused a diplomatic tiff between Israel and Turkey last year. The TV show and the movies it has spawned have also been sharply criticized within Turkey and in other countries.

Kerstin Griese, a German parliamentarian with the center-left Social Democrats, called the movie “problematic, because it glorifies violence and anti-Israeli sentiment.”

The 2006 film “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” directed by Osman Sinav, was the most expensive movie ever made in Turkey and was a box office smash. The blockbuster was based on the real-life arrest of a Turkish special unit by US troops in Iraq.

In the film, Alemdar charges in to avenge the humiliation of his countrymen and much carnage ensues. The film’s anti-American and anti-Jewish sentiment caused outrage when it was released in Germany in 2006.

The bad guys were played by B-listers Billy Zane, as a US commander, and Gary Busey, as a Jewish US army doctor involved in organ trafficking. Cinemaxx, one of Germany’s largest cinema chains, eventually pulled the film from its screens. It remains to be seen whether German cinemas will screen the latest in the series.

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

Yemen: Thousands of Protesters Urge President to Go

(AKI) — Tens of thousands of Yemenis took to the streets of their capital, Sanaa, on Thursday, urging the country’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh to end his 32-year rule and step down, according to reports.

Yemeni opposition members and youth activists gathered in four parts of the city, including Sanaa University, chanting anti-government slogans.

“Enough being in power for [over] 30 years,” protesters shouted during the demonstrations.

They also referred to the ouster earlier this month of Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, saying he was “gone in just [over] 20 years”.

Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress, meanwhile, held counter marches attended by thousands of the government’s backers. Saleh’s weak central government has tried to defuse simmering tensions by denying opponents’ claims he plans to install his son as his successor and by raising salaries for the army.

“No to toppling democracy and the constitution,” the president’s supporters said in their banners, cited by Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East with 40 percent of Yemenis living on less than two dollars a day. More than two-thirds of the population under the age of 24.

A young Yemeni man, Fouad Sultan, doused himself in petrol and set himself alight in the southern port city of Aden late on Wednesday to protest the high prices and poverty in which he and his family were living, Yemeni website al-Masdar reported. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

Sultan’s friends said he had been inspired by the unemployed Tunisian university graduate, Mohammed Bouaziz, who set himself on fire in mid-December, sparking the deadly Tunisian revot and Ben Ali’s flight.

Mass anti-government protests have also been taking place in Egypt this week in which at least four people have been killed in clashes with police and up to 1,000 arrested. President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal haas fled to Britain, according to a report Tuesday on Arabic website Akhbar al-Arab.

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

Yemen: Protests in Sanaa and Other Cities Against Saleh

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JANUARY 27 — In the wake of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of people have taken to the streets of Sanaa and other cities in Yemen today, to support opposition demands for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to resign.

In the capital where protests began a few days ago, at least 10,000 people gathered outside the university this morning , with many chanting slogans like “The Tunisian President left after 20 years, 30 in Yemen is enough”. President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, was re-elected in September 2006 for a new term ending in 2013.

Another march took place in a central area of Sanaa and was joined by thousands of people.

Press sources say that protests have also taken place today in the cities of Aden and Taiz, while the opposition has threatened to organise similar action in other governorates around the country. In Taiz, as in Sanaa and Aden, demonstrators were protesting against not only Saleh, but also the corruption of public administration and against the government itself, with explicit references to the situation in Tunisia.

A local journalist told the Yemen Times that the protests in Aden began a few days ago and had almost always been held at night, so as to make it more difficult to photograph demonstrators, who on several occasions have thrown stones at security forces.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Behind the Moscow Airport Attack: Russia’s Brutal Policies

The terrorist attack at the Moscow airport on Jan. 24 was horrific, murdering dozens of innocent civilians. It is probably linked to Chechnya or the surrounding areas in the Caucasus, from which so many such attacks have emanated. Russia has been the site of the largest number of serious terrorist attacks over the past decade (excluding Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, which are really war zones). Why? The answer to this question sheds a sorry light on Russia’s counterterrorism strategy. In fact it is a case study in how not to fight Islamic terrorism.

It’s now conventional wisdom that Moscow faces a brutal Islamic terrorist movement, bent on jihad, unwilling to compromise and determined to inflict pain on Russians almost as an end in itself. That’s the view presented by Russian officials and accepted by Western leaders. Over the past decade, George W. Bush and Tony Blair reacted to terrorist incidents in Russia by quickly condemning them and describing them as instances of Islamic terrorism, tied to al-Qaeda and its fanatical vision. This unthinking acceptance of the Russian narrative allowed Moscow to respond with brutal violence, often against innocent civilians and without prompting international criticism.

A little history provides a different perspective. Chechnya’s struggle against Russia, at root, has nothing to do with Islam. About 200 years ago, the Russian empire began a war of colonial expansion in the tiny area called Chechnya. After resisting for several bloody decades, the Chechens were forcibly incorporated into the empire in 1859. As soon as the Czar’s rule ended in Moscow, the Chechens began clamoring for independence, which they were granted in 1918.

By 1920, Lenin had invaded the region and brutally suppressed the independence movement and all subsequent revolts. But the problem did not go away, so Lenin’s successor, Josef Stalin, applied an even more brutal solution. In 1944 he deported most of the Chechen population — nearly half a million people — to central Asia and burned their villages to the ground. Still, the Chechens retained their identity and national desires, so in the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev allowed them to return to their homeland.

In 1990, as the Soviet Union was collapsing, a national convention of all Chechen political groups united in a call for immediate independence from Moscow. In response, the Russian government invaded Chechnya. Over the course of the past two decades, it has fought two ferocious wars, killed tens of thousands of Chechen civilians and razed large parts of the republic, flattening its capital, Grozny. Moscow finally subdued Chechnya and installed as President a pliable local warlord, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose regime has managed to make Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst list of the most repressive governments on the planet. As Russia’s brave human-rights organization Memorial concludes in a 2009 report, “in Chechnya there has formed a totalitarian regime based on violence … and fear.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Black Widow Attempted New Year Moscow Attack But Blew Herself Up by Mistake

The unnamed woman, who is thought to be part of the same group that struck Moscow’s Domodedovo airport on Monday, intended to detonate a suicide belt on a busy square near Red Square on New Year’s Eve in an attack that could have killed hundreds.

Security sources believe a spam message from her mobile phone operator wishing her a happy new year received just hours before the planned attack triggered her suicide belt, killing her but nobody else. She was at her Moscow safe house at the time getting ready with two accomplices, both of whom survived and were seen fleeing the scene. Islamist terrorists in Russia often use cheap unused mobile phones as detonators. The bomber’s handler, who is usually watching their charge, sends the bomber a text message in order to set off his or her explosive belt at the moment when it is thought they can inflict maximum casualties.

The phones are usually kept switched off until the very last minute but in this case, Russian security sources believe, the terrorists were careless.

The dead woman has not been identified. Her handler, a 24-year-old woman from the internal Muslim Russian republic of Dagestan, has been named as Zeinat Suyunova. Her husband is apparently still serving time in jail for himself being a member of a radical Islamist terror group. Security sources believe the new year’s eve bomber and the airport bombers may have been members of a suicide squad trained in Pakistan’s al-Qaeda strongholds which was sent to the Russian capital in December to target the city’s transportation system…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Moscow Bomber ‘Was Islamist Militant From North Caucasus’

The suspected mastermind of the Moscow airport bombing is thought to belong to a local Islamist militant group in the North Caucasus, security sources say.

Police are urgently seeking information about Vitaly Razdobudko, a 32-year-old ethnic Russian man who converted to Islam. He is a native of Russia’s volatile Stavropol region which is located around 800 miles south of Moscow, close to the Muslim internal republics of Chechnya and Dagestan.

An alleged member of a radical Wahhabite terror group called the Nogai Jamaat, he is suspected of being one of the bloody attack’s main organisers. Some sources have suggested he may also have personally taken part in the attack. The bombing, at Moscow’s busy Domodedovo airport, left 35 people dead.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russians Name Muslim Convert as Prime Suspect for Airport Bombing

Security sources have named an ethnic Russian Christian who converted to Islam as the prime suspect in Monday’s deadly suicide bombing at a Moscow airport.

Sources close to the investigation said that Vitaly Razdobudko, a 32-year-old from the southern Russian city of Stavropol, was being sought in connection with the attack, the Kommersant newspaper reported yesterday. It is not known whether Razdobudko is suspected of being the actual suicide bomber or an accomplice.

Razdobudko went missing in October last year, with his wife, according to police sources in Stavropol. He is believed to have been an Orthodox Christian, of Slavic appearance, who later converted to Islam.

The bomb, which ripped through the arrivals hall of Domodedovo Airport on Monday afternoon, killed 35 people including one Briton and left 180 injured. Russian authorities have released little information, and eyewitness accounts diverge wildly. Some speak of a male suicide bomber, some of a female bomber; in some testimonies, the bomber detonated a suicide vest, while in others the bomb was in a suitcase.

The first official statement about the attack came yesterday afternoon, when a representative of Russia’s Anti-Terror Committee denied that security services had learnt of a possible attack before Monday, and attacked journalists for speculating on who might have been behind the blast. “Only the Investigative Committee can say what and how things happened, and everyone else should be silent,” a spokesman for the committee said.

The Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who in the aftermath of the attack said that “revenge is inevitable”, has already said that the attack had no links to Chechnya. Russia’s Islamic insurgency has in recent years spread across the North Caucasus region to neighbouring republics. It is nominally controlled by Doku Umarov, the self-styled “Emir of the Caucasus”, but experts believe that different groups function autonomously in different regions.

In this case, suspicion has fallen on a cell called the Nogai Brigade, which is thought to operate around Stavropol and in the northern part of neighbouring Dagestan. Police said they were looking for 10 members of the group, which is also suspected of being behind a failed attack on New Year’s Eve, when a female suicide bomber was believed to be preparing to attack crowds of Russians celebrating the New Year on Manezh Square near the Kremlin.

Instead she blew herself up during the day in a Moscow suburb. Police think the bomb was detonated accidentally, probably by a mobile phone.

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Russia believes the airport attackers may have been trained at al-Qa’ida camps on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistani media yesterday quoted sources in the country’s intelligence agency saying that officers from Russia’s security service, the FSB, had asked their Pakistani counterparts for information and support…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Stoned to Death With Her Lover: Horrific Video of Execution of Girl, 19, Killed by Afghan Taliban for Running Away From Arranged Marriage


“Anyone who knows about Islam knows that stoning is in the Koran, and that it is Islamic law. There are people who call it inhuman — but in doing so they insult the Prophet. They want to bring foreign thinking to this country”

Horrific video footage has emerged of Taliban insurgents stoning a couple to death for alleged adultery in northern Afghanistan.

Hundreds of villagers can be seen on the video standing around as 19-year-old Siddqa, is buried up to her waist in a hole in the ground.

Two mullahs pass sentence before the crowd begins to throw rocks at her head and body as she desperately tries to crawl free.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

American Embassy Official in Pakistan Kills Suspected Armed Robbers

A US embassy employee shot dead two motorcyclists after they pulled a pistol on him in traffic, sparking angry anti-American protests in the Pakistani city of Lahore.


Aslam Tarin, Lahore’s police chief, said the American had stopped at a traffic signal when the two men drove up alongside on a motorcycle.

Mr Tarin said the embassy official saw one of the men pull out a pistol, after which he “fired in self-defence.” One motorcyclist died instantly and another in hospital. Two pistols were recovered at the scene.


Anger grew during the evening and the brother of one of the dead said he would demand his killer was hanged. Large protests were predicted for the funerals which will coincide with Friday prayers.

Muhammad Shahid, a 28-year-old protester at the scene, said: “We will not allow Americans to do whatever they want in our country. First, they were killing innocent Pakistanis in drone attacks in tribal areas and now they have also started killing people in cities.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

EU-Uzbekistan: Our Man in Tashkent

When talking to dictators, Europe applies a double standard: quick to snap at Lukashenko of Belarus, it plays much nicer with Karimov of Uzbekistan, as it did with Ben Ali. But is it really worth the trouble? asks political analyst Bruno De Cordier.

Bruno De Cordier

The Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov is expected in Brussels on 24 January for meetings with the Council of the EU, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and NATO. A contrast greater than that between the consideration shown to Karimov and the pariah status reserved for other autocrats such as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko (and who are not even among the “worst”), is hard to grasp.

The media paid little attention to the story, but in March 2007 Uzbekistan had its own version of Mohammed Bouazizi, the unemployed young Tunisian who set himself on fire last December. Hadisha Aripova ran a small market stall in the town of Djizak. After police confiscated her goods, she set herself on fire in despair. If the horrifying end of Aripova failed to spark widespread protests like those in Tunisia, there was a reason: just two years earlier hundreds of protesters had been killed by the elite troops of Karimov in Andijan, another Uzbek city. The social circumstances in Uzbekistan that contributed to the incident remain unchanged.

One of the most sinister police states of Eurasia

In 1989 Islam Karimov became head of the Communist Party of what was then still Soviet Uzbekistan. Following independence in late 1991, he led one of the most sinister police states of Eurasia. The key sectors of the economy, from cotton and natural gas down to local markets, are in the hands of the president’s family, his entourage and their local satraps, who abuse state organisations and the justice system to get ever tighter grips on their monopolies. The majority of the population lives a reality never shown to the many tourists who swoon at the architecturally historic Samarkand or to the well-shepherded delegations of foreign diplomats.

Following the Andijan massacre the EU imposed an arms embargo, and various officials of the security services were barred from entering Europe. But that wasn’t taken too seriously. And now comes the boss himself. His country is loaded with oil and natural gas. The true extent of the country’s reserves makes up part of that smokescreen that has enveloped the regime for years, to fool the outside world into believing that it needs Uzbekistan and the regime more than the other way around. What’s more, the regime has made itself indispensable in the so-called war on terror.

The myth of “constructive cooperation”

Like Ben Ali in Tunisia, Karimov has quietly reaped the benefit of the doubt as he keeps at least the “Islamists” under wraps. But the armed Islamist groups that popped up from time to time after the late 1990s had virtually no support among the population. Many of those targeted by the “anti-terrorist policy” of Karimov are Muslims who are weary of the social situation or practising Muslims whom the busybody regime considers “too religious”.

Uzbekistan is also a vital link along the supply route to NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. While cooperation with the Uzbek regime is far from smooth, the Tashkent regime is exploiting its strategic importance as much as it can, especially as the convoys through Pakistan are being increasingly targeted by the Taliban.

The populace and public opinion in Uzbekistan and Eurasia is taking less and less seriously the claim that the EU and the West in general can have a positive influence on the Karimov regime through “constructive cooperation”. While some quarters within the EU have expressed in private some discomfort vis-à-vis the arrival of Karimov, and although there will necessarily be some friction over human rights, the fact is that he is being received. And his regime will not fail to broadcast his visit as a bend of the knee and a sign of recognition. Some hope that Karimov, who is 73, will shortly relinquish power voluntarily, and that the best course until then is to maintain contact with Uzbekistan. From this point of view, the current attitude vis-à-vis Karimov remains defensible. Everything depends on how the transition, which will happen sooner or later in Uzbekistan, plays out. Karimov may hang on for years yet, and he has proved himself a wily master at mystifying foreign contacts, which says more about them than about Karimov himself. But can the EU play the same “realist policy” cards if things fail, after all, to turn out as it hopes?

From Uzbekistan

European leaders complicit with Karimov’s brutality

“The EU’s reputation as a trusted guarantor of human rights and freedoms will be further compromised by José Manuel Barroso’s decision to meet one of the world’s most brutal dictators, Uzbek President Islam Karimov,” remarks Galima Bukharbaeva, the editor of the independent Uzbek news site Uznews in an opinion piece published by Süddeutsche Zeitung. “The Uzbek President’s power is sustained only by his incredibly brutal treatment of his own people, and it is this brutality that has kept him in office and enabled him to enter into partnerships with Western governments. If EU leaders continue to work with Karimov under these conditions, they themselves will become responsible for the crimes of his regime,” points out the journalist, who lives in exile in Berlin.

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

Italy: Govt Engaging ‘Constructively With Pakistan to Safeguard Christians’

Rome, 26 Jan. (AKI) — Foreign minister Franco Frattini said Wednesday that Italy is working “constructively” with Pakistan to safeguard Christians and other religious minorities and amend the Sunni Muslim-majority country’s blasphemy laws.

“We are working constructively with Pakistan’s authorities on the protection of the Christian minority and other religious minorities and on modifying the law which punishes blasphemy,” said Frattini.

He was speaking at the foreign ministry in Rome to representatives of rights groups which have formed the ‘Italy for Asia Bibi: freedom justice and human rights’ committee’.

Asia Bibi is a Pakistani Christian mother-of-five who was in November 2010 sentenced to death in eastern Pakistan for blasphemy, sparking an international outcry.

Bibi’s case also highlighted deepening divisions between liberals and conservatives in Pakistan. Religious parties have staged mass protests against a bill seeking to end the death penalty for blasphemy.

The late governor of Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, Salman Taseer, was shot dead in early January by a bodyguard after he opposed the blasphemy law and appealed to Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari to save Bibi’s life.

Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for Bibi to be spared. And in a speech on religious freedom earlier this month, the pontiff urged that Pakistan’s blasphemy law be repealed.

No one in Pakistan has yet been executed under the law, which sanctions the death penalty for those convicted under it.

Muslims have also been convicted of blasphemy under the law, which opponents say it is used to settle personal scores and disputes between sects and encourages Islamist extremism.

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

Pakistan: Supreme Court Petition Urges Martial Law in Southern Port City

Karachi, 27 Jan. (AKI) — A petition seeking the handing over of Karachi to the armed forces following months of sectarian violence in the southern port city was filed in Pakistan’s Supreme Court’s Lahore registry on Thursday, DawnNews reported.

The petition, filed by one Rana Ilumddin, stated that to ensure the security of the innocent citizens of Karachi, it had become necessary to call the armed forces in aid of the civil authorities to help flush out criminals.

The petition further requested that armed forces should be called in for a period of three months to restore law and order and re-establish peace in the city.

The petition stated that Karachi’s security situation was worsening and that was reflecting badly on the country’s economy.

The petition requested the court to direct the government to hand the city over to the armed forces to eliminate the criminal elements.

This was the second such petition to be filed in the Supreme Court in January 2011. One petition, filed by Advocate M. Tariq Asad, requested the court to direct the government to impose a state of emergency in Karachi and eliminate criminals with assistance from the armed forces.

Hundreds of people have died and hundreds more have been injured in bombings and targeted killings in Kararchi over the past five months.

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

Far East

China Plans a New Mega City: Population, 42 Million

A city the size of Switzerland? If China gets its way, yes.

Some ambitious apparatchiks in southern China want to combine 9 cities to create an urban area the size of New Jersey and Vermont combined.

The plan, announced in state media, would unite several existing cities in the prosperous Pearl River Delta region, including Guangzhou (12 million), Shenzhen (8.6 million), Dongguan (6.9 million) and six smaller cities. Together, these cities already account for about 10% of China’s economy, the Telegraph notes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia: Muslims Post Death Threats of Doors of Christian Homes

Believers told ‘convert to Islam, leave city or face death’

Officials in the south Ethiopian city of Besheno are looking the other way as Muslim mobs in the city put death threats on the doors of Christian villagers, according to organizations that work in the area.

The door-mounted death threats are only the latest incidents in a series of acts of intimidation that include taking away church property, beating evangelists and killing family members.

International Christian Concern’s Jonathan Racho says the list of violent acts against Christians is growing.

“Christians in the southern Ethiopian city of Besheno are being harassed and physically abused after Muslims posted notices on the doors of the Christian homes, warning the Christians that they had to convert to Islam, leave the city or face death,” Racho stated.

“This is a very serious threat against Christians where the majority in this city are Muslims,” Racho added.

[See article for an audio file of interview.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Border Authorities Arrest Controversial Muslim Cleric East of San Diego

U.S. border authorities have arrested a controversial Muslim cleric who was deported from Canada to Tunisia three years ago and was caught earlier this month trying to sneak into California inside the trunk of a BMW, according to court documents.

Said Jaziri, the former Imam of a Muslim congregation in Montreal, was hidden inside a car driven by a San Diego-area man who was pulled over by U.S. Border Patrol agents near an Indian casino east of San Diego. Jaziri allegedly paid a Tijuana-based smuggling group $5,000 to get him across the border near Tecate, saying he wanted to be taken to a “safe place anywhere in the U.S.”

The arrest marks the unexpected resurfacing of the 43-year-old cleric, whose protracted legal battle to avoid deportation drew headlines in Canada. A Tunisian immigrant, Jaziri was deported for failing to disclose a criminal conviction in France while applying for refugee status in the mid-1990s.

But Jaziri’s supporters said he was targeted for his fundamentalist views: Jaziri backed Sharia law for Canadian Muslims and led protests over the publication of the prophet Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Purgatory in Provincial Germany

Life Behind Bars Drives Asylum Seekers to Desperation

Asylum seekers come to Germany hoping to find freedom and prosperity. Instead, they often end up in soul-destroying detention camps in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do except wait to be deported. But the system suits many in Germany very well.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Turkey to EU: No Visa-Free, No Clampdown on Migrants

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Turkey is happy to sign a migrant readmission deal with the EU, but expects the Union to start talks on visa-free travel if it wants to see a clampdown on people sneaking into Greece, a senior diplomat has said.

Noting that the EU has lifted visa requirements for “remote countries,” such as Paraguay and Uruguay, and started visa-free talks with Moldova, Russia and Ukraine, but not Turkey, Ankara’s chief negotiator on EU accession, Egemen Bagis, said: “It’s time to put an end to this nonsense.”

Speaking at a gathering of EU officials and diplomats at the European Policy Centre think-tank in Brussels on Thursday morning (27 January), Mr Bagis lambasted the EU for calling on Ankara to stem irregular migration from Africa and Asia while giving it nothing on visas.

“We’re willing to help the EU, but it’s also a matter of taxation,” he said, referring Turkish tax income used to fund the anti-migrant operations. “When our citizens are insulted on a daily basis in the consulates of EU states [when they apply for visas], one may ask the question as to why we should help the EU with their problems, when we are treated this way. Turkey is not an emirate, public opinion does matter. We need to see some good will from the side of the EU.”

Mr Bagis questioned the value of a Greek plan to build a 12km-long anti-migrant wall on its massive sea and land border with Turkey. “Greece can do whatever it wants on its territory, but there’s also a whole Aegean Sea to take care of,” he said.

He added that the EU is focusing too much on border security instead of tackling the top cause of irregular migration in source countries: poverty. “When people are desperate and hopeless in their own country, they will do anything to get out. If we stop them, they will go to Ukraine and Belarus. In the end, they will find a way to get into the EU,” he said.

Mr Bagis noted that 70,000 people were detained in 2010 trying to get into the Union.

The EU and Turkey on Thursday agreed a common text on readmission of irregular migrants — a pre-condition for starting visa-free talks in future. “We’ll sign the readmission agreement without having free travel into the EU first, but at least the European Commission should be given a mandate to start visa-free regime talks with Turkey,” he noted.

The Turkish diplomat described his country as a “hub of peace, a hub of energy, a hub of power.”

“When France was busy deporting Roma, we were organising a big conference and our Prime Minister publicly apologised for having ignored their problems for so long. We now have housing and education programs being put in place for them,” he said.

He added that objections by some EU countries to Turkey’s influence-building in the Middle East and Russia are hypocritical: “We’re increasing trade relations with Iran, but France is increasing them even more. We do businesss with Russia, but so does Italy.”

He also repeated Turkey’s mantra that France, Germany, Greece and Cyprus are unfairly blocking EU accession talks.

With Turkish soldiers occupying the northern part of the divided island of Cyprus in a decades-long stand-off, Mr Bagis accused Cypriots of ill-will, citing the example of a Turkish basketball team which was bullied by Greek Cypriot supporters after a game in Cyprus. “This is not the mentality to reach a solution with,” he said.

What Brussels thinks

EU officials privately see the Bagis rhetoric as a negotiating tactic. “Whenever you negotiate with the Turks, you get the feeling that they are trying to get one over on you,” one commission contact said.

For her part, EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom favours a swift visa-free deal.

Earlier this month, she wrote in her blog: “The road to visa liberalisation is tough and filled with clear requirements and criterias, but other countries have succeeded and I see no reason why Turkey shouldn’t be able to. It would also give us an important push forward in our co-operation.”

In her official reaction to Thursday’s readmission agreement, she said its upcoming signature, expected in February, will “open up new perspective” for visa-free talks.

In an insight into EU politicking on Turkey, a freshly leaked US cable shows the level of frustration with Cyprus among pro-Turkish EU countries. It is dated 2004, but remains relevant due to Cyprus’ ongoing blockade of the Turkish accession process.

The dispatch cites senior Dutch officials as saying that Cyprus uses Turkey as a “card” in internal EU politics and urges the US to put the squeeze on Nicosia.

“What does Cyprus have these days, besides the Turkey card?” the Dutch officials — Rob Swartbol, Pieter de Gooijer and Hannie Pollmann-Zaal — told the US ambassador in The Hague. “Pollman hoped that powers outside the EU will pressure [then then Greek president] Popadopolous to support Turkish accession, using whatever psychological, political, or other means that might work.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Pair Charged With Stirring Up Homophobic Hatred

Legislation banning homophobic material was introduced in March 2010 Two men from Derby have been charged with stirring up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

It is the first such prosecution since laws outlawing homophobia came into force in March 2010.

Razwan Javed, 30, and Kabir Ahmed, 27, will appear before magistrates on Friday.

The charges relate to a leaflet, The Death Penalty?, which was distributed outside the Jamia Mosque in Derby in July last year.

The leaflets were also posted through letterboxes in the city.

Mr Javed and Mr Ahmed have both been charged with distributing threatening written material intending to stir up hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyer Sue Hemming said: “This is the first ever prosecution for this offence and it is the result of close working between the Crown Prosecution Service and Derbyshire Police.

“Following complaints from the public, Derbyshire Police mounted a thorough investigation.

“We have carefully reviewed the evidence provided by the police and are satisfied that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to charge these men.”

           — Hat tip: 4symbols[Return to headlines]


Islam and Demography: A Waxing Crescent

ARE Muslims taking over the world, or at a minimum, transforming Europe into Eurabia? Whatever your hopes or fears for the future of the world’s religions, a report published this week has plenty to stoke them. “The Future of the Global Muslim Population”, produced by the Pew Research Centre, a non-profit outfit based in Washington, DC, reckons Muslim numbers will soar from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.2 billion by 2030. In other words, from 23.4% to 26.4% of the global total.

At the heart of its analysis is the ongoing effect of a “youth bulge” which peaked in 2000. In 1990 Islam’s share of the world’s youth was 20%; in 2010, 26%. In 2030 it will be 29% (of 15-to-29-year-olds). But the Muslim world is slowly heading towards paunchiness: the median age in Muslim-majority countries was 19 in 1990. It is 24 now, and will be 30 by 2030. (For French, Germans and Japanese the figure is 40 or over.) This suggests Muslim numbers will ultimately stop climbing, but later than the rest of the world population.

The authors call their calculations demographic, not political. Drawing on earlier Pew research, they say conversion is not a big factor in the global contest between Islam, Christianity and other faiths; the converts balance out. Nor do they assess piety; via the imperfect data of the United Nations, the European Union and national statistics, they aim simply to measure how many people call themselves Muslim, at least culturally, if asked.

New numbers, they say, will change the world map. As Indonesia prospers, its birth rate is falling; South Asia’s remains very high. By 2030, 80m extra mouths in Pakistan will boost its Muslim numbers to 256m, ousting Indonesia (with 239m) as the most populous Islamic land. India’s Muslim minority will be nearly as large at 236m — though growth is slowing there too. And in 2030 India’s Muslims will still constitute only a modest 15.9% of that country’s swelling total, against 14.6% now.

The report asserts no causal link between Islamic teaching and high fertility rates, although it notes that poverty and poor education are a problem in many Muslim lands. In Muslim countries such as Bangladesh and Turkey, it observes, the lay and religious authorities encourage birth control. Better medical care and lower mortality boost poor-country population numbers too.

Some bleak findings concern Nigeria, where Muslim numbers are seen rising to 117m in 2030 from 76m now, edging up from 47.9% to 51.5% of the population. Illiteracy among Nigerian women of child-bearing age is three times as high among Muslims (71.9%) as among others (23.9%). Two-thirds of Nigerian Muslim women lack any formal education; that goes for just over a tenth of their non-Muslim sisters. The fertility rate is between six and seven children per Muslim woman, versus five for non-Muslims. It is hard to prove that these factors are related, but they do seem to form a pattern.

Eurabian nights

The total Muslim share of Europe’s population is predicted to grow from 6% now to 8% in 2030: hardly the stuff of nightmares. But amid that are some sharp rises. The report assumes Britain has 2.9m Muslims now (far higher than the usual estimates, which suggest 2.4m at most), rising to 5.6m by 2030. As poor migrants start families in Spain and Italy, numbers there will rocket; in France and Germany, where some Muslims are middle-class, rises will be more modest — though from a higher base. Russia’s Muslims will increase to 14.4% or 18.6m, up from 11.7% now (partly because non-Muslims are declining). The report takes a cautious baseline of 2.6m American Muslims in 2010, but predicts the number will surge by 2030 to 6.2m, or 1.7% of the population — about the same size as Jews or Episcopalians. In Canada the Muslim share will surge from 2.8% to 6.6%.

How will liberal democracies accommodate such variety? The clarity of a written constitution may give America an advantage over many European countries, where unwritten custom has more sway. Jonathan Laurence, an Islam-watcher and professor at Boston College, thinks Europe could rise to the challenge, but failure is also easy to imagine. Europe’s Muslims should, by 2030, have become articulate and effective political bargainers. But with nativism on the march, it is also highly possible that Muslims will come to feel they have less in common with their fellow citizens than with their growing band of co-religionists elsewhere.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Muslim Population Growth to be Twice as Fast as Non-Muslims’ — Study

THE world’s Muslim population will grow twice as fast as the non-Muslim population in the next 20 years, when Muslims are expected to make up more than a quarter of the global population, a study published Thursday predicts.

Using fertility, mortality and migration rates, researchers at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life project a 1.5-percent annual population growth rate for the world’s Muslims over the next two decades, and just 0.7 percent growth each year for non-Muslims.

The study, called “The Future of the Global Muslim Population,” projects that in 2030 Muslims will make up 26.4 percent of the world’s population, which is expected to total around 8.3 billion people by then.

That marks a three-percentage-point rise from the 23.4-percent share held by Muslims of the globe’s estimated 6.9 billion people today, the study says.

More than six in 10 followers of Islam will live in the Asia-Pacific region in 2030, and nuclear Pakistan, which has seen a rise in radical Islam in recent months, will overtake Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

In Africa, the Muslim population of the sub-Saharan country of Nigeria will be greater than that of Egypt in 20 years, the study projects.

And in Europe, Pew predicts the Muslim population will grow by nearly a third in 20 years, from 44.1 million people, or six percent of the region’s inhabitants in 2010, to 58.2 million or eight percent of the projected total population by 2030.

Some European Union (EU) countries will see double-digit percentages of Muslims in their population by 2030: Belgium’s Muslim population is projected to rise from six percent to 10.2 percent over the next 20 years, while France’s is expected to hit 10.3 percent in 2030, up from 7.5 percent today.

In Sweden, Pew predicts Muslims will comprise nearly 10 percent of the population compared to less than five percent today.

Britain’s Muslim population is predicted to rise from 4.6 percent to 8.2 percent by 2030, and 9.3 percent of the population of Austria is forecast to be Muslim by then, compared to less than six percent of residents of the alpine country now.

Russia, which is not a member of the EU, will continue to have the largest Muslim population in absolute terms in Europe in 2030, with 18.6 million Muslims or 14.4 percent of the total population of the vast country.

The United States, meanwhile, is projected to have a larger absolute number of Muslims by 2030 than any European countries other than Russia and France, but proportionally, Muslims will make up a much smaller percentage of the population of the United States than they do in Europe.

The Muslim share of the US population is projected to grow from its current level of less than one percent to 1.7 percent by 2030, making Muslims “roughly as numerous as Jews or Episcopalians are in the United States,” the study says.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Will There be a Chocolate Drought? World’s Supply of Sustainable Cocoa Could Run Out by 2014

The world faces a chocolate ‘drought’ over the next few years, an expert warned yesterday.

Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are grown, has ‘significantly’ depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.

Many have fled the West African country, while fair trade training programmes have also come to a halt.

Fairtrade training programmes have ground to a halt because of the danger farmers face in rural areas.

The situation is already affecting chocolate manufacturers, who are facing the highest cocoa prices for over 30 years.

Prices jumped by 10 per cent this month alone. Analysts are predicting they could soon hit $3,720 per metric tonne — a level last seen in January 1979.

It follows a curb on international cocoa exports initiated earlier this week by the country’s new president, Alassane Ouattara.

Angus Kennedy, the editor of Kennedy’s Confection and a leading British chocolatier, said chocolate producers are facing ‘one of the biggest challenges to hit the industry in recent history’.

‘Supplies of sustainable cocoa are set to run out, it’s that simple,’ he said…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

World’s Muslim Population to Hit 2.2bn by 2030

(AGI) Rome — Projections by the Forum on Religion and Public Life, rank the world’s Muslim population at 2,2bn by 2030.

Italy is among the European countries likeliest to witness a stark rise in its Muslim population (+102pc over the space of the next 2 decades, totalling c. 3.2m, from a curent 583k).

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