Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110209

Financial Crisis
»Biggest Scam in World History Exposed
»Derivatives: The Real Reason Bernanke Funnels Trillions Into Wall Street Banks
»Deutsche Börse in Merger Talks With NYSE
»Eurozone Debt Crisis: The Calm Before the Storm
»Greece: “Troika” In Athens to Verify Austerity Plan
»Greece: House Prices to Fall 15% in Next Two Years
»Howard Dean Declares it is the Job of Government to Redistribute Our Wealth
»Italy: UniCredit’s Italian Business ‘Lost 50 Million Euros’
»Italy: Saudi Arabia: Cost of Living +5.3% in Jan on the Year
»Qatar Bans Islamic Financing in Traditional Banks
»Spiegel Interview With Pimco CEO El-Erian: ‘Germany Finds Itself in a Very Delicate Situation’
»Editorial: Obama’s Jihadist Coverup
»George Soros’ Plot to Control State Supreme Courts
»New York Congressman Resigns After Internet Postings
»Obamacare Advocate: Make Refuseniks Wear Gold Stickers
Europe and the EU
»Assange Case Triggers Rape Debate in Sweden
»Italy: Ruby Trial Request to be Filed Wednesday
»Italy: Fiat CEO Headquarters-Transfer Remarks Prompt Meeting With Berlusconi
»Lord Stern: West Must End Hesitation Over Climate Change
»Naples Museum Requests Asylum in Germany
»Netherlands: Minister: Scrapping Ham From Menu Not Islamisation
»Netherlands: School Muslim Headscarf Ban, Only if Education Under Threat
»No Street, No Square, No Respect: What Does Berlin Have Against Ronald Reagan?
»UK: Archbishop Backs Axe Killer: Dr Rowan Williams Says Prisoners Should Get the Right to Vote After Campaigner John Hirst’s Boasts
»UK: David Cameron’s Scapegoating of Muslims Will Have a Chilling, Toxic Impact
»UK: Muslim Threat to Sue David Cameron for Libel
»UK: Tooting MP Sadiq Khan Standing by Islamic Extremism Row Remarks
»UK: Teenage Thug Who Fractured Samantha Sadler’s Skull With Brick Fined Just £200
»UNESCO’s Wind Turbine Problem
»United Nations Wants More German Soldiers
»Wines: France: Large Crowds at Arbois’s Percee Du Vin Jaune
»Bosnia: Council of Europe, Extreme Ethnic Divisions
North Africa
»Algeria: Protests in Numerous Towns
»Egypt: Telecoms Billionaire Calls for ‘Marshall Plan’
»Egypt: Al Qaeda Members Among Jail Escapees, Suleiman
»Iraqi Al Qaeda Calls for Prison Breaks in Egypt
»Mubarak Rejects Offer of Medical Treatment in Germany
»Srdja Trifkovic: Beware the Neocon Advocacy of Egyptian Democracy
»The Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi/Arab Plots to Exterminate Jews
»The Revolutionaries’ Fervour is Also Their Weakness
»Tunisia: Armed Forces Call Up Reservists
»US Congress Warns Against Muslim Brotherhood Role in Egypt
»WikiLeaks: Egyptian ‘Torturers’ Trained by FBI
Israel and the Palestinians
»Israel Rejects William Hague’s ‘Belligerent’ Claim
»Jimenez Heckled by Settlers in Hebron, “Antisemitic”
»NBC’s Engel Finds Muslim Brotherhood is ‘Akin to Hamas, ‘ But Omits That Hamas is Terrorist Group
»WikiLeaks: Suleiman Told Israel He Would ‘Cleanse’ Sinai of Arms Runners to Gaza
»William Hague Could be Right. So Could Netanyahu. But They Shouldn’t be Arguing in Public
Middle East
»A Friendship of Values, Not Convenience
»Democracy and the Middle East: George W. Bush’s Liberal Legacy
»Dutch Seek Jordan’s Clarification of Wilders Position
»Egypt: Gas Pipeline Halted, Heavy Economic Toll on Israel
»Jordan: Tribal Leaders Criticise Queen’s Political Role
»Jordan PM Names Islamist, Leftists to New Cabinet
»Middle East Peace Process ‘At Threat’ From Egypt Turmoil
»Northern Iraq Attacks Kill 10
»Qatar: Doha Debates; Freedom of Expression Only in English
»Turkey: Strasbourg Report Against Ankara, Minorities Censured
»Turkey: Male Member of Clan Draws Attention to Dangers of Polygamy
»WikiLeaks: Hosni Mubarak Told US Not to Topple Saddam Hussein
»WikiLeaks: Mohamed Elbaradei Was ‘Too Soft on Tehran’
South Asia
»Afghan Insurgents Target Moderate Islamic University
»Kill Osama Bin Laden ‘Plot’ Rumbled
»Pakistan Cabinet Resigns
Far East
»China Buying More and More in Europe
»Black SC Lawmaker: Immigrants Are Hardest Workers
»Netherlands: Record Number of Immigrants in 2010
»Risk of Terror ‘Infitration’ From Tunisia Escapees
Culture Wars
»Outrage Over Swedish Teens’ Sex Dream Essays
»UK: Letters: More Division Over Multiculturalism
»Tiny Satellites for Democratic Access to Space
»Translation of Important Muslim Brotherhood Book: Jihad is the Way

Financial Crisis

Biggest Scam in World History Exposed

The greatest scam in history has been exposed — and has largely been ignored by the media. In fact, it’s still going on.

The specifics of a secret taxpayer funded “backdoor bailout” organized by unelected bankers have been revealed. The data release revealed “emergency lending programs” that doled out $12.3 trillion in taxpayer money ($16 trillion according to Dr. Ron Paul) — and Congress didn’t know any of the details.

According to the Public Record:

The Federal Reserve was secretly throwing around our money in unprecedented fashion, and it wasn’t just to the usual suspects like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, etc.; it was to the entire Global Banking Cartel. To central banks throughout the world: Australia, Denmark, Japan, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, England … We are talking about trillions of dollars secretly pumped into global banks, handpicked by a small select group of bankers themselves. All for the benefit of those bankers, and at the expense of everyone else.”


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Congressman (TX) Dr. Ron Paul about these secret “backdoor bailouts” that amount to a staggering $16 trillion. (To get a better idea of just how much money this is, see What Does a Trillion Dollars Look Like?)

An AMAZING fact: The Federal bailout is more than the cost of the First World War, the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Marshall Plan, the New Deal, the Invasion of Iraq, and landing on the moon COMBINED!

And, with this bailout Obama has nearly created more debt than ALL the previous presidents COMBINED.

Dr. Paul is now the Chairman of the Congressional subcommittee overseeing the Federal Reserve, which as you may know, is a private entity yet largely responsible for our economic policies.

The Federal Reserve has now handed out multi-trillion dollar bailout packages to banks and big industries, and now, finally, people are starting to demand to know where all that money actually went—which is largely how Dr. Paul came to be the Chairman of this subcommittee in the first place.

To get answers, Dr. Paul, along with his son, has introduced legislation to enable an audit of the Federal Reserve. When asked what he thinks the audit might reveal, he says:

“The reason to have an audit is to find out what they’re hiding. The information they’re most protective of are the details of where many trillions of dollars used in the bailout went, and what the collateral was.”

The Federal Reserve has also been extremely protective of information dealing with foreign central banks. However, according to Dr. Paul, preliminary figures show the Federal Reserve has engaged in some $16 trillion-worth of transactions, one-third of which were with banks overseas.

As Dr. Paul points out, there’s no doubt that foreign banks have been major recipients of Federal Reserve funds.

“We want to know the details of what the agreements were,” Paul says, “and whether any of that money will be recouped.”

He also points out that an audit could reveal information that no one ever dreamed of, that the Federal Reserve never thought they’d be forced to reveal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Derivatives: The Real Reason Bernanke Funnels Trillions Into Wall Street Banks

I’ve written this analysis before. But given the enormity of what it entails, it’s worth repeating. The following paragraphs are the REAL reason Bernanke does what he does no matter what any other media outlet, book, investment expert, or guru tell you.

Bernanke is printing money and funneling it into the Wall Street banks for one reason and one reason only. That reason is: DERIVATIVES.

According to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s Quarterly Report on Bank Trading and Derivatives Activities for the Second Quarter 2010 (most recent), the notional value of derivatives held by U.S. commercial banks is around $223.4 TRILLION.

Five banks account for 95% of this. Can you guess which five?


Of course, Bernanke tells the public and Congress that the reason we need low interest rates is to support housing prices. He doesn’t mention that $188 TRILLION of the $223 TRILLION in notional value of derivatives sitting on the Big Banks’ balance sheets is related to interest rates.

Yes, $188 TRILLION. That’s thirteen times the US’ entire GDP, and nearly four times WORLD GDP.

Now, of course, not ALL of this money is “at risk,” since the same derivatives can be traded/spread out dozens of ways by different banks as a means of dispersing risk.

However, given the amount of money at stake, if even 4% of this money is “at risk” and 10% of that 4% goes wrong, you’ve wiped out ALL of the equity at the top five banks.

Put another way, Bank of America (BAC), JP Morgan (JPM), Goldman (GS), and Citibank (C) would CEASE to exist.

If you think that I’m making this up or that Bernanke doesn’t know about this, consider that his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, knew as early as 1999 that the derivative market, if forced into the open and through a public clearing house, would “implode” the market. This is DOCUMENTED. And you better believe Greenspan told Bernanke this.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Deutsche Börse in Merger Talks With NYSE

Deutsche Börse and NYSE Euronext said on Wednesday they are in “advanced discussions” to merge and create the world’s largest stock exchange operator by revenues and profits.

“This transaction creates a group that is both a world leader in derivatives and risk management and the premier global venue for capital raising,” the firms said in a joint statement.

“The global capital markets would benefit from the creation of the most efficient, transparent and well-regulated markets for issuers and clients around the world.”

The announcement came hot on the heels of the London and Toronto stock exchanges unveiling a landmark merger, creating one of the world’s biggest trading platforms that will dominate the raw materials and energy sectors.

Shares in Deutsche Börse were suspended before the announcement while NYSE Euronext soared by close to 20 percent.

Deutsche Börse’s market value is €11.3 billion ($15.5 billion) and NYSE Euronext $9.2 billion, based on Friday prices.

It is not the first time that the German firm, which operates the Frankfurt stock exchange, has attempted to go down the aisle with Euronext. Its earlier advances were spurned, however, and in 2007 Euronext merged with the NYSE.

Deutsche Boerse also tried and failed three times to buy the London Stock Exchange (LSE).

Under the all-share deal being discussed by Deutsche Börse and NYSE Euronext, the German firm’s shareholders would hold 59-60 percent in the new company and those of NYSE Euronext 40-41 percent.

NYSE Euronext’s equities markets, which include the New York, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam stock exchanges, represent one third of world equities trading, the most liquidity of any global exchange group.

The combined group would offer clients “global scale, product innovation, operational and capital efficiencies, and an enhanced range of technology and market information solutions,” the statement said.

The companies expect to achieve savings of €300 million ($410 million).

In addition, they hope to generate “substantial” extra revenues from clearing services, product innovation and cross-selling opportunities between their global cash and derivatives businesses.

The combined group would have dual headquarters in New York and Frankfurt. Chairman would be Reto Francioni, based in Frankfurt, and chief executive Duncan Niederauer in New York.

They cautioned that they could give no assurances that any agreement would be reached nor that if an agreement was reached, that a transaction would be completed.

Markus Huber, analyst at ETX Capital, cautioned that the deal could fall foul of competition watchdogs given the scale involved.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Eurozone Debt Crisis: The Calm Before the Storm

After taking a relentless pounding from the markets last year, the eurozone is breathing easier these days, but analysts warn it may just be the calm before another storm for the debt-stricken bloc.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Greece: “Troika” In Athens to Verify Austerity Plan

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 7 — Today is to see the beginning of an inspection by the “troika” in Greece to check up on the implementation of austerity measures, while numerous protests are underway in the country against the drastic measures that Athens has been forced to introduce to put its finances in order. The mission by the “troika” — International Monetary Fund inspectors, European Union experts and those of the European Central Bank — will be looking closely at reforms in the healthcare sector and pension funds, the state of public finances, the struggle against tax evasion and salaries in the public and private sectors. The inspection is set to conclude by the end of the week, and will be followed by the drawing up of a report on the basis of which a decision will be made as to the assigning of the fourth tranche of aid scheduled for the month of March, as part of a 110-billion-euro package granted last May to save the country from economic collapse. According to Finance Ministry sources, the programme of meetings between those representing the “troika” and various ministries and state officials will not be made public due to concerns over growing protests and tension within the country against the European Union and the IMF.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: House Prices to Fall 15% in Next Two Years

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 9 — Home prices in Greece are expected to fall by 15% in the next two years, Fitch Ratings said on Tuesday, as ANA reported.

The credit-rating agency, in a survey, said higher interbank rates and fiscal-consolidation measures would raise the percentage of borrowers who would be unable to repay their mortgage loans. “It seems that a rising number of borrowers delaying payment of their mortgage loans will end up in a higher number of non-performing loans,” Fitch said in the report.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Howard Dean Declares it is the Job of Government to Redistribute Our Wealth

In the shocking video you are about to watch, Howard Dean declares that it is the job of the government to redistribute our wealth. Not only that, he says it in such a way that indicates that he believes that such a notion should be obvious to anyone with half a brain. Well, while it is true that the United States has become a highly socialized nation, the reality is that this is not what the founding fathers intended. The founders intended for us to live in a land where we would have enough freedom and enough liberty to be able to work hard and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They did not intend for a gigantic federal government to take huge amounts of money from one group of people and give it to another group of people. In any nation where a large scale redistribution of wealth is happening, the incentive to work goes right out the window. Pretty soon you end up with an entire class of people that have learned how to “make a living” by being a parasite of the government, and that is not good for any economy.

If our founding fathers were alive today, they would be horrified by what we have turned into. In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following…

“To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it.”

The sad truth is that democracy starts to break down once people start realizing that they can vote themselves money out of the national treasury. In fact, that is a very large part of what politics in America is all about today. Politicians are constantly promising what they are “going to do” for various groups of people.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: UniCredit’s Italian Business ‘Lost 50 Million Euros’

Milan, 8 Feb. (AKI) — UniCredit, Italy’s largest bank, lost 50 million euros last year in Italy on 9.78 billion euros in revenue, according to a Tuesday report in financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

Citing a presentation by general manager Roberto Nicastro, the Milan-based bank this year aims to earn 594 million euros on revenue totaling 10.12 billion euros.

Operating costs were 5.65 billion euros last year, according to the report.

The company will announce 2010 results on 23 March.

UniCredit is merging seven units in Italy into the central bank. Internationally, it aims to boost its business by expanding in central and eastern Europe.

The company operates in 22 European countries and 50 countires worldwide.

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

Italy: Saudi Arabia: Cost of Living +5.3% in Jan on the Year

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Driven up by an increase in the cost of fuel, rent and water, the general index for the cost of living in Saudi Arabia rose by 5.3% in January compared with the same month of last year. This was reported on the Al Arabiya site, which noted that six of the main product groups making up the index saw substantial rises. The renovations, rent, fuel and water group rose by 8.3%, beverages and food by 6.8%, transport and telecommunications by 1.8%, healthcare by 1.3%, education by 0.6% and other products and services by 8.1%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Qatar Bans Islamic Financing in Traditional Banks

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 7 — In order to avoid financial overlays, the Qatari central bank has decided to ban all the country’s traditional banks from engaging in Islamic-style banking activities. According to a report in the daily newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, the move comes as a surprise and it could encourage similar moves in other countries around the region.

Although the decision has immediate effect, sources very close to the Central Bank are stating that traditional Qatari banks will have until December 31 to effect definitive closure of their Islam-inspired activities.

The decision has seen the price of shares in National Qatar Bank, one of the Gulf region’s largest institutions, lose 4.8 per cent.

On the other hand, shares in banks exclusively dedicated to Islamic trading have risen sharply with record levels of deposits as activities are transferred from the traditional rivals.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spiegel Interview With Pimco CEO El-Erian: ‘Germany Finds Itself in a Very Delicate Situation’

The European Union is still struggling to find a long-term strategy to deal with the crisis that has befallen its common currency. SPIEGEL spoke to Pimco CEO Mohamed El-Erian about how Greece can get back on its feet, the fine line Germany is treading and why the US, despite high debt, is in better shape.

SPIEGEL: Mr. El-Erian, Pimco is the world’s largest bond investor, with over $1 trillion in assets. A lot of that money is invested in government bonds. Are you an unflinching optimist?

El-Erian: When investors from all over the world entrust us with their savings and retirement funds, they rightly expect us to manage risk and look for opportunities all over the world. There are some very healthy countries that are running surpluses and are net creditors. But then we have certain other countries that have suffered a severe shock to their public finances and now face sovereign risk issues.

SPIEGEL: We can think of quite a few of those. The United States, for example, as well as many European countries …

El-Erian: The US is today running a budget deficit of 10 percent of gross domestic product and has seen its debt-to-GDP ratio soar by 20 percentage points in under two years, which is unprecedented during peacetime. At the same time, the US still benefits from being the provider of the world’s reserve currency and the deepest and most liquid financial markets. In Europe, some countries, such as Greece, have a public debt crisis because of fiscal imprudence. Others, like Ireland, face challenges because they used the public sector balance sheet to assume someone else’s debt, namely that of the banks.

SPIEGEL: Pimco is in regular contact with governments around the world. How would you advise, for example, a Spanish finance minister?

El-Erian: I think it was my colleagues in London who met with him and his delegation, and they did so at the request of the Spanish authorities.

SPIEGEL: How many finance ministers have called you recently?

El-Erian: Some do, as do some central bankers from around the world. The typical question we get asked is this: “What does it take for Pimco to make long-term investments in our country.” The answer is always the same: an outlook of high and sustainable growth.

SPIEGEL: And your people then tell the Spanish finance minister: “Sorry, but your bonds are too risky for us.”

El-Erian: We are very cautious about exposures to Greece and Ireland. Spain is under more active discussion, with a lot depending on how they deal with the problem of the cajas (savings banks).

SPIEGEL: Will countries like Greece actually be able to pay back their debts?

El-Erian: Countries like Greece have to deal with their debt overhang, and they must do so in a timely manner. They face the typical debt trap: a situation where the existing stock of debt is so large that new investors are discouraged from coming into the country with new funds. It’s like having a very large, dark storm cloud hanging outside your house. You will not go out; you will wait until it passes. I remember how I reacted to the announcement of Greece’s rescue package almost a year ago. Having worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for 15 years, I had never seen as ambitious a fiscal adjustment program as what the Greek government is trying to do. However, even if they delivered on this adjustment, their debt to GDP would go up from 114 percent of GDP to almost 150 percent. This is what a debt trap looks like. At 150 percent, the stock of debt chokes growth and employment. And if you don’t have growth and employment, the population will not be able to sustain this.

SPIEGEL: Are you expecting a haircut for Greece, a forced elimination of some of its debt?

El-Erian: Right now we do not think that Greece has in place a policy approach that allows it to deliver high growth and overcome its debt overhang. What we’re waiting for is a stronger response that goes from liquidity support to both liquidity and solvency support. Then there would be many possibilities.

SPIEGEL: Germany could help Greece pay down its debt.

El-Erian: One possibility is that the European Union helps with the debt overhang by refinancing existing debt with grants. That substitutes expensive funds for free money. Another possibility is to impose a haircut on creditors. There is also the approach whereby the EU helps Greece buy back its debt at a discount. The SPIEGEL reported that this was being planned in Brussels and Berlin.

SPIEGEL: Could that really work?

El-Erian: It could be a helpful solution if it can be done on a large enough scale. But, again, this substitutes private debt for public debt. At the end of the day, the question is: Can you reduce the debt stock by enough and who carries the burden?

SPIEGEL: Would a 10 percent debt reduction be enough?

El-Erian: No. At a first level of analysis, it should be targeted at a debt stock that’s below 90 percent of GDP.

SPIEGEL: If Europe were to reduce Greece’s debts from the current level of 140 percent of GDP down to 90 percent, would that be enough to convince financial markets to start investing in Greek bonds again?

El-Erian: It would certainly help. Critically, it’s going to be a judgment as to whether that’s enough to allow the economy to grow again in a sustainable fashion.

SPIEGEL: Won’t investors cry foul if there is a major haircut and they can’t recoup their full investment?

El-Erian: It depends how it’s done. You have certain countries, Uruguay, for example, where the market embraced market-based debt reduction. The critical thing is to do it in a way that promotes growth and employment, removes uncertainty and is thus a win-win situation. If, however, you do it like Argentina in 2001 in a very disorderly fashion, it’s a lose-lose situation.

SPIEGEL: Some critics argue that Pimco’s global influence has become too great.

El-Erian: We spend a lot of time at Pimco analyzing trends. We share our analyses with the public. We are lucky that people are interested in what we say and some give us feedback and test our ideas. This process triggers a tremendous amount of analytical and intellectual interactions that enable us to develop our thinking further. We believe strongly that sound analysis and thought leadership are key to Pimco’s success.

SPIEGEL: One could also say, more bluntly, that you have the ability to direct markets in a fashion that is beneficial for you…

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


Editorial: Obama’s Jihadist Coverup

A Senate investigation has found that the November 2009 Fort Hood massacre was predictable and avoidable, something that was obvious to anyone except members of the Obama administration. Worse, the White House still refuses to admit that a jihadist terror attack took place on the Army base.

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee recently concluded a year-long look into the circumstances of the domestic terror incident that took 14 lives. The committee report concluded that the Department of Defense and the FBI “collectively had sufficient information to have detected [Major Nidal] Hasan’s radicalization to violent Islamist extremism but failed both to understand and to act on it.”

The systemic failures are alarming. Hasan openly discussed justifications for suicide bombings with other officers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and gave a briefing on Islam which reflected his extremist views. He questioned whether his oath to the Constitution had greater weight than his fealty to Islam. When some of his fellow officers reported his dangerous views, correctly describing him as a “ticking time bomb,” they were told that having Hasan around was beneficial because he provided first-hand insights into the worldview of violent Islamists. By this twisted reasoning, every unit deploying to Afghanistan should reserve a billet for a jihadist-in-training.

The FBI detected that Hasan was communicating with Anwar al-Awlaki, the senior al Qaeda operative currently being hunted in Yemen. Hasan sent 18 emails over six months between December 2008 and June 2009, asking the radical cleric things like when jihad is legitimate and whether it is permitted to kill innocents in a suicide attack. He wrote that he “couldn’t wait” to have discussions with Awlaki “in the afterlife.” Armed with such intel, most terrorism analysts would reasonably suppose Hasan was a jihadist preparing for martyrdom. The FBI, however, concluded this outreach to al Qaeda was “legitimate research on terrorism and Islam” and dropped the case without interviewing Hasan or any of his coworkers. Had G-men followed up, the Senate report concluded, Hasan would have been discharged from the Army and 14 of his victims would be alive today.

Despite so many clear warning signs, Hassan was passed through the system. No officials would take the appropriate, necessary action. The reason for their gross negligence was political correctness. The system turned a blind eye because Hasan was a Muslim, and making an accusation against a follower of Islam is a career-ender in the Obama administration. Rather than touch this third rail, officials washed their hands of the problem even though Hasan openly expressed extremist views that bordered on treason.

The White House response to the Fort Hood massacre is a textbook study in denial and coverup. The Obama administration refused to admit it was a terrorist attack, calling it instead an example of “violence in the workplace.” The Army’s official “force protection” report whitewashed the incident and avoided any reference to Hasan’s jihadist motivations. The message to the federal bureaucracy was that even when blood is spilled, even when a soldier slaughters his fellow troops with a cry of “Allah akbar,” official silence will be maintained. Radical Islam is the hatred that dare not speak its name…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

George Soros’ Plot to Control State Supreme Courts

Without notice or fanfare by the news media, multi-billionaire George Soros financed a $45 million campaign to reshape state supreme courts.

The first step in the Soros backed scheme is to keep conservative judges off the courts by taking judicial selection decisions away from American citizens and handing them over to “merit” boards stacked with legal special interests, according to a conservative political consultant.

The second step is to gag any conservative judge who happens to slip by with phony demands to recuse him/herself, claims Peter Schuyler, a former Senate staffer and college professor.

In each instance, the goal is not to produce fairer, more accountable courts, but to impose the Left’s agenda on unwilling voters,“ said Schuyler.

Most Americans understand that the purpose of State Supreme Courts is not, and should not be, to advance political views or a social agenda. The purpose of appellate and high court is to insure that laws do not violate state constitutions or the U.S. Constitution, and that the law is applied as intended by the nation’s Founding Fathers.

Legal scholars who are considered Constitutionalists believe that if a higher court becomes stacked or more political, the Constitution is likely to take a back seat to the political whims of black-robed lawyers, a situation that could very well jeopardize Americans’ constitutional rights.

“This Soros scheme to stack states’ higher courts must be met with great concern by anyone who believes in the principles laid out in the U.S. Constitution, which was written so that all citizens could easily understand what actions government could or could not take. It wasn’t written to inform the ruling class what actions citizens could or could not take,” said political strategist Mike Baker.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New York Congressman Resigns After Internet Postings

Representative Chris Lee of New York, caught in the midst of a scandal involving a shirtless photo he reportedly sent to a woman on the Internet, has stepped down, according to a senior Congressional official.

Mr. Lee, a Republican, notified the Republican Speaker of the House of his decision in a letter he sent this afternoon after the scandal erupted.

[Return to headlines]

Obamacare Advocate: Make Refuseniks Wear Gold Stickers

A leading advocate of Obamacare told NPR yesterday that Americans who refuse to pay for health care should be forced to wear gold stickers on their foreheads and refused emergency hospital treatment, in a chilling throwback to how Jews were persecuted by being made to wear yellow stars by the Nazis during the occupation of Europe.

In an article carried on the NPR website entitled Alternatives To Mandating Insurance? Maybe, Dr. Len Nichols, Professor of Health Policy and Director of the Center for Health Policy Research and Ethics at George Mason University, and a staunch advocate of mandatory health care, came up with a novel idea “to make the consequences of not having insurance even more dramatic.”

For example, he says, perhaps if people don’t buy insurance when it is first available, “if you ever try to buy insurance again, you’ll have to pay three times the market price, and we will put a gold sticker on your forehead and say to all hospitals, ‘You do not have to treat this person; this person has forfeited their right to uncompensated care.’ “ (Click here for audio).

Given the brazen insensitivity of the comment, NPR presenter Julie Rovner immediately tries to downplay its vulgarity, insisting, “Nichols is only half serious about that gold star.”

But even “half-serious” is bad enough. Imagine if somebody like Rand Paul had said that opponents of a policy he advocated should be forced to wear gold stickers — the backlash from the establishment neo-lib media would be horrific, and Paul would be castigated as a neo-nazi thug, but when a liberal makes such a remark, it’s all fine and dandy.

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Assange Case Triggers Rape Debate in Sweden

The case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden over rape allegations, has prompted a growing debate on the “grey zones” of the country’s sexual assault legislation.

While Assange’s defence team and commentators around the world have found fault with Sweden’s legislation and suggested the alleged victims’ claims might be politically motivated, the debate in Sweden has been more sympathetic to the women.

“It’s clear that the previous power balance — where a number of cultural personalities vouched for Assange’s innocence and the women were considered suspect — has been flipped around,” Hanne Kjöller, an columnist with Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter daily wrote Tuesday.

She insisted the preliminary investigation files leaked onto the internet last week “clarified the picture significantly,” claiming the files provided “evidence to support the women’s claims while Assange stands alone with his version.”

Aaron Israelson, editor in chief at the Nyheter 24 (news 24) website, meanwhile pointed out the investigation files especially showed the case “clearly deals with grey zones.”

“The two women who went to the police with the accusations against Assange, they didn’t perceive him as threatening … but on the other hand they were offended and felt he didn’t respect their integrity,” he told AFP.

The leaked files for instance detail how one of Assange’s alleged victims, described in British courts as Miss W woke up to find Assange having sex with her without a condom after she had repeatedly insisted he use one.

“‘She asked immediately: are you wearing anything?’ and he answered ‘you’,” the files showed.

“She told him ‘You better not have HIV,’ and he answered ‘Of course not’.” After that, Miss W. allowed the intercourse to continue.

The Local reported back in December that details of the case had spurred freelance journalist and author Johanna Koljonen to describe a similar experience she had had on Twitter, sparking a massive debate on the “bedroom grey zones” on the microblogging site under the hashtag #prataomdet (#talkaboutit).

Koljonen has said she started discussing the issue shortly after Assange was taken into custody in Britain in December on an international arrest warrant related to the Swedish allegations.

She wrote a column in Dagens Nyheter explaining how she had been “tweeting with a friend on the Assange case and bedroom grey zones” when she was reminded of a similar experience she had had when she was younger.

“It hit me, I tweeted, that there is a structural problem in rape legislation,” she wrote in a column, explaining how it was difficult to draw the boundaries of assault.

“We have to talk about it,” she tweeted.

Hundreds of people pitched in with their own detailed descriptions of negative experiences in the “grey zone”, and mainstream media, internet sites and blogs followed, with the debate merging into a broader public discussion on what constitutes sexual assault and rape.

“It can be very difficult to talk about such things, but it is very important we learn to do so,” added Israelson, one of many in Swedish media to blog on the phenomenon.

The hashtag “was valuable in its own right, regardless of the whole Assange case and whether he is innocent or not,” said Rebecka Aahlund, a freelance journalist who recently authored a column describing the phenomenon as “a door-opener for talk about sex.”

“But #prataomdet came as a wakeup call of sorts at a time when people were speculating on the case and there were a bunch of strange rumours flying around about the women,” who made the allegations against Assange, she told AFP.

“The most common kind of sexual assault is among people who know each other… and to open up a discussion around that is really important,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ruby Trial Request to be Filed Wednesday

Berlusconi denies using underage prostitute

(ANSA) — Rome, February 8 — Milan prosecutors probing Premier Silvio Berlusconi for allegedly using an underage prostitute called Ruby said Tuesday they will file a request for the premier to stand trial on Wednesday.

Milan Chief Prosecutor Edmondo Bruti Liberati said the request for an immediate trial will be made after a meeting later on Tuesday at which prosecutors will decide whether the premier should at the same time face charges of allegedly abusing his power in getting Ruby out of police custody following an unrelated theft accusation.

Last week Bruti Liberati had said the trial request would be presented on Monday or Tuesday.

A preliminary judge is expected to weigh the evidence for about five days after the request before deciding whether the premier should stand trial over allegations that he has described as absurd.

Bruti Liberati said the trial request does not regard any “second injured parties” apart from Ruby, which was seen as an indication the charges will not relate to another girl cited in the probe, Brazilian Iris Berardi, who like Ruby was 17 when she allegedly stayed at the premier’s villa.

Italy has been in a state of shock since prosecutors said last month that they were investigating allegations Moroccan belly dancer Ruby was aged 17 when she was among a number of alleged prostitutes to take part in alleged sex parties at one of the premier’s homes lasy year.

Berlusconi and Ruby, who has since celebrated her 18th birthday and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, both deny ever having sex.

The premier says he is being persecuted by biased prosecutors and is planning to resurrect wiretap legislation to prevent the kind of mass titillation and trial by the media he says has happened in the Ruby case and others.

He says prosecutors have also tried to bring him down with a long series of corruption charges, none of which have ever led to a definitive conviction, sometimes after elapses in the statute of limitations or law changes passed by his government.

Berlusconi also plans to revive a trial cap which critics say is aimed at protecting him from prosecution after the Constitutional Court last month removed his latest judicial shield, which had stopped three corruption trials in Milan moving forward.

The premier has scorned calls to resign over the Ruby furore, the latest in a string of sex scandals to hit him.

He has vowed his centre-right government will press on with a reform agenda including fiscal federalism and plans to boost growth to 3-4% within five years, despite having a thin majority in the House after splitting with Speaker Gianfranco Fini last year.

Bruti Liberati confirmed Tuesday that Berlusconi’s lawyers may seek to show Ruby was not underage but 18 when she went to the premier’s house.

The doubt about the teen’s age stems from the fact that she gave her date of birth as being November 1 1991, not 1992, in a police statement in 2009 to report a stolen bag.

That would mean she would actually be 19 now, and therefore was not underage last year.

Il Giornale, a daily newspaper owned by Berlusconi’s brother, reported Tuesday that the defence team will make a request to Morocco for her original birth certificate.

If they show she is a year older than previously thought, it would put Berlusconi in the clear, rendering the accusations that they had sex of no criminal relevance. Using prostitutes is legal in Italy as long as they are at least 18, but having sex with an underage prostitute carries a jail term of up to three years.

However, their attempts to show Ruby is a year older may be compromised by the fact they gave November 1 1992 as her date of birth in defence papers calling on parliament to reject a request by investigators to search the offices of Berlusconi’s accountant last week.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Fiat CEO Headquarters-Transfer Remarks Prompt Meeting With Berlusconi

Rome, 8 Feb. (AKI) — Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is due to meet with Fiat’s chief executive on Saturday to discuss recent comments by the company’s chief executive officer about moving headquarters to the United States.

During a recent visit to San Francisco, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne reportedly raised the possibility of merging Fiat and Chrysler’s headquarters in the US after the Italian carmaker merges with the American automobile manufacturer based near Detroit, Michigan.

Last month Fiat raised its stake in Chrysler from 20 to 25 percent with an option to go up to 51 percent.

Italian finance minister Giulio Tremonti is also expected to attend the 12 February meeting, along with industry minister Paolo Romani, labour minister Maurizio Sacconi and cabinet undersecretary Gianni Letta.

Marchionne has pledged to invest around 20 billion euros over the next few years to double Fiat’s car production in Italy. But he has outraged labour unions by threatening to withhold investment and move production abroad if workers failed to agree to new more flexible work practices.

“On Saturday, I will ask Marchionne to commit to investing in our country and remain with head and heart” in Italy, Romani said Monday evening.

Fiat is Italy’s largest manufacturer.

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

Lord Stern: West Must End Hesitation Over Climate Change

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Prince Charles and Lord Stern were among the prominent speakers in the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday (9 February) who warned Europe and its Western allies against a slowdown in the fight against climate change.

Current economic difficulties presented an opportunity not a hurdle to move towards a low carbon economy, said Lord Stern, an economist at the London School of Economics who authored an eponymous report in 2006 on the costs of climate change.

“The case for urgent action is not just powerful, its also attractive,” he said, adding that emerging countries such as China had increasingly grasped this while others, like the US, were moving backwards.

To contain the global temperature rise to two degrees and prevent mass migrations across the planet, emissions needed to be priced at a higher level, energy grids upgraded and a greater amounts of money spent on research and development, said the economist, calling the changes a “new industrial revolution.”

“But if you look back, previous industrial revolutions brought two, three or four decades of strong growth, with huge investment returns for the pioneers,” he added.

“The Chinese five-year plan outlines seven key industries such as clean technology and bio-energy, they are moving very strongly for the industries that will lead this new revolution.”

Britain’s Prince Charles hit out at climate sceptics who sought to use the current economic turmoil as a reason to slow progress towards a greener economy.

“Their suggestion that hundreds of scientists around the world … are somehow unconsciously biased creates the implication that many of us are secretly conspiring to undermine and deliberately destroy the entire market-based capitalist system,” he said.

“I would ask how these people are going to face their grandchildren and admit to them that they failed their future; that they ignored all the clear warning signs by passing them off as merely part of a ‘cyclical process’.”

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso conceded that fighting climate change had fallen down the agenda in recent years as governments struggled with weak budgets and high unemployment.

In March the commission is due to publish an Energy Efficiency Plan, together with a 2050 low carbon roadmap and a white paper on transport.

EU policy makers have repeatedly called on member states to step up efforts to reach the EU’s 20 percent energy efficiency target by 2020, but have shied away from making the target binding in the same way that EU renewable and emission targets are.

Commission officials are also currently mulling plans to produce a specific list of resource efficiency targets this summer which could ultimately be tied to similar restrictions on member state debt and deficit levels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Naples Museum Requests Asylum in Germany

After years of mafia threats and what he sees as official indifference, the director of a contemporary art museum near Naples has had enough. In a letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he has requested asylum for his museum — and says his entire staff is prepared to move to Berlin if she agrees.

Like many in and near Naples, Antonio Manfredi, the director of the Contemporary Art Museum of Casoria (CAM), lives in fear. Threatening phone calls, vandals and not-so-subtle warnings — the local mafia organization, the Camorra, has left little doubt that he is on their radar. What truly frightens him, though, is just how horribly Italy treats its artistic and cultural treasures.

And now, he has decided to call wider attention to his plight. At the beginning of this month, he mailed an official letter to Angela Merkel’s Chancellery in Berlin requesting asylum for his entire museum. The letter was sent in both Italian and German, and copies were forwarded to the German Embassy in Rome, as well.

“If the Italian government isn’t capable of taking care of its cultural treasures, then let another country do it,” Manfredi told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “This is a warning scream from Italian art to the world.”

The stunt seems to have had an effect. Since the letter went out on Feb. 1, a number of Italian newspapers have published stories about his letter and foreign news media have likewise begun to take an interest. Locals, Manfredi says, have been stopping by the museum to express solidarity.

‘Very, Very Mad’

Ominously, however, Manfredi has yet to hear anything from local politicians. “The mayor,” he says, “is very, very mad at me.”

That, though, was perhaps to be expected. Manfredi, now 50, founded his museum in 2005 with much of its funding coming from the municipality. Within three months, however, public backing dried up and those officials who approved the grant had been replaced.

Having grown up in Casoria himself, Manfredi immediately suspected that the mafia was behind the funding cut. Indeed, in October of that same year, the Casoria city council was dissolved for the second time in six years on suspicion that it had been infiltrated by the Camorra.

Manfredi, however, resolved to go on. “I wanted to continue,” he said. “But I realized that no town, no region and no state would help me.”

Since then, with the help of local donors and volunteers, the museum has collected roughly 1,000 pieces of contemporary art from around the world, including photographs, sculptures, video installations and paintings. It is also used as a space for performance pieces. “People usually tell me that the space seems very Berlin,” he says.

There is, however, a decisive difference. The exhibitions at the museum deal with all manner of relevant cultural issues — from paedophilia to urban decay. In addition, though, the presence of the mafia in daily life is far from taboo. After six immigrants from West Africa were shot down in Naples — allegedly by the Camorra — in September 2008, for example, the museum hosted “AfriCAM,” an exhibition on immigration. There has also been “CAMorra,” a 2008 show on the local mafia.

A Black Doll

Shortly afterwards, the vandalism and telephone threats started. Gates and doors at the museum showed signs of break-in attempts and security cameras were stolen. And then there was the black doll someone laid outside the museum’s front gate following the AfriCAM exhibit.

“The mafia doesn’t need to say outright ‘We are going to kill you!’“ Manfredi explains. “They are very subtle. You might receive a message saying you should give some thought to hiring a private security company. If you live here, you know that’s a strong threat.”

Manfredi turned immediately to the police when the threats started, but he says they did nothing. And the warnings haven’t stopped…

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

Netherlands: Minister: Scrapping Ham From Menu Not Islamisation

THE HAGUE, 09/02/11 — Home Affairs Minister Piet Hein Donner has rejected suggestions that the fact the police in Gelderland are not served pigmeat any more is an illustration of Islamisation of Dutch society.

The province’s corps is no longer served any ham rolls, according to local newspaper De Gelderland. This meat is not ‘halal’ for Muslims. Party for Freedom (PVV) MPs Geert Wilders and Hero Brinkman had complained to the minister about this “example of unacceptable Islamisation of the Netherlands.”

According to the Christian democratic (CDA) minister, there is no question of this. In a letter to parliament, he writes that the ‘halal lunch packages’ are only an ‘organisational measure’. Because a number of people “for whatever reasons do not eat pigmeat,’ it was simply easier to scrap ham from the menu.

“Possibly the same could happen if the number of vegetarians increases enormously,” according to the CDA minister. “This would not be evidence of vegetarisation of Dutch society either.”

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

Netherlands: School Muslim Headscarf Ban, Only if Education Under Threat

Religious schools in the Netherlands may not ban Muslim pupils from wearing headscarves simply if it contradicts their core values, the cabinet said on Tuesday in answer to questions from the anti-Islam PVV.

‘The freedom of education refers primarily to the process of giving education. Special schools can place demands on the participation in that education, if this is necessary to realise their core values,’ home affairs minister Piet Hein Donner and education minister Marja van Bijsterveldt said in a statement.

In addition, the argument that the wearing of headscarves shows a lack of equality between men and women gets equally short-shrift from the ministers. ‘Fashion dictates all sorts of differences between the way men and woman dress,’ the ministers said.

Meanwhile, a Muslim girl at the centre of a row over her headscarf at a Catholic school in Volendam has agreed to cover her head in the assembly hall and in school corridors only, the Telegraaf reports…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

No Street, No Square, No Respect: What Does Berlin Have Against Ronald Reagan?

Compared to Kennedy, Berlin has shown very little pride in a man who gave what some consider to be one of the most important speeches in the city’s history two and a half decades ago. On June 12, 1987, Reagan implored: “Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Two and a half years later, on Dec. 22, 1989, the Soviet leader allowed precisely that to happen. The Wall was opened, as was the Brandenburg Gate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop Backs Axe Killer: Dr Rowan Williams Says Prisoners Should Get the Right to Vote After Campaigner John Hirst’s Boasts

The Archbishop of Canterbury today said prisoners should get the vote, backing an axe killer whose campaign has been endorsed by European courts.

John Hirst, who hacked his landlady to death, yesterday boasted that he was on the verge of forcing the Government to ‘wave the white flag of surrender’, as MPs prepare to vote on the move tomorrow.

Hundreds are expected to vote against it as Tory backbenchers stage a revolt

The leader of the Church of England Dr Rowan Williams today said that prisoners should keep their dignity — and that their rights should not be put in ‘cold storage’ while they are behind bars.


Priti Patel, a Tory MP who has launched a national petition against giving prisoners the vote, described Hirst’s comments as outrageous.

‘This illustrates the fundamental problem here — why are we looking to give dangerous convicted criminals like this the freedom to vote?’ she asked.

‘It is not for a convicted criminal with the help of European judges to be bullying our Parliament. It makes a mockery of everything we do in Parliament.

‘We have to stand up to Europe on this and defend the sovereignty of Parliament from people like this and unelected judges in Strasbourg.’

[Comments: Does the Queen have the power to remove this pathetic excuse for an Archbishop?]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: David Cameron’s Scapegoating of Muslims Will Have a Chilling, Toxic Impact

In parts of Britain, Muslims are effectively under siege. They are routinely spat at and abused in the street. Over the past couple of months there have been arson and other attacks on mosques in Hemel Hempstead, Leicester, S

horpe, Stoke and Kingston, as well as desecration of a Muslim graveyard and fire-bombing of a halal shop.

Most of these outrages weren’t even reported in the national media, let alone the occasion for a supportive visit from a government minister. As elsewhere in Europe, far-right organisations such as the British National party have increasingly switched the focus of their hatred from Jews and migrant populations in general to Muslims. More than half the “significant demonstrations” in the past 18 months, according to the Inspectorate of Constabulary, were mounted by the English Defence League, which only targets Muslims, smashing shop windows and assaulting passers-by whenever it manages to break through police lines in mainly Muslim areas.

As the Conservative party chairwoman Sayeeda Warsi said last month — and was roundly abused for doing so — Islamophobia has also “now crossed the threshold of middle-class respectability”. It is the last socially acceptable form of bigotry, often dressed up in the clothes of liberalism.

So when the EDL organised a “homecoming” march last weekend in Luton, did the prime minister use the opportunity to condemn the racially inflamed provocation of a gang of Muslim-baiters and show solidarity with fellow British citizens under threat? Not a bit of it. He didn’t even mention what was going on in Luton. Speaking the same day in Munich, of all places, he turned his fire instead on “Islamists”, “state multiculturalism” and “non-violent extremists” in the Muslim community.

Muslims must embrace “British” values of freedom, democracy and equal rights, he declared, as if the vast majority didn’t do so already. Jihadist terror attacks were not driven by British and US wars in the Muslim world, he insisted — in the face of his own intelligence reports — but by an “extremist ideology” rooted in problems of “identity”.

And, grotesquely comparing non-violent Islamists to “rightwing fascists”, he warned that there would be a strict checklist of Muslim bodies the government would not now work with or fund (including the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain). He did criticise Islamophobia, but that passing comment was drowned out by the drumbeat of condemnation targeted at Muslims and their political organisations.

Not surprisingly his speech has been hailed by the far right. The BNP leader Nick Griffin called it a “huge leap for our ideas into the political mainstream”. EDL activists, who constantly echo the established political and media discourse about “extremism”, and “Islamism”, were jubilant that Cameron had “come round to our way of thinking”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Threat to Sue David Cameron for Libel

A SENIOR Muslim leader at one of Britain’s largest mosques is threatening to sue David Cameron for libel over his recent criticism of Islamic extremism.

Mohammad Naseem, chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque, revealed that he was consulting lawyers.

He took exception to a suggestion by the PM that some worshippers at the mosque believed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US were part of a Jewish conspiracy.

Mr Cameron cited the Birmingham mosque, attended up to 20,000 worshippers on holy days, as an example of one place where extremist ideas could be spread.

He said in an interview at the weekend: “You have to confront the extremism itself.

“You have to say to the people in Birmingham Central Mosque, or wherever, who are saying 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy, that that is not an acceptable attitude to have.

“We don’t tolerate racism in our society, carried out by white people, we shouldn’t tolerate extremism carried out by other people.” His remarks followed his controversial speech in Munich on Saturday arguing that multi-culturalism had been a failure in Britain and calling for a bigger effort in tackling the ideology of Islamic extremism. But his singling out of the Birmingham mosque has angered Dr Naseem. He said: “I have just instructed the mosque’s solicitors to take appropriate action. We will be taking advice about libel action.” Mr Cameron has highlighted extremist attitudes among parts of Birmingham’s Muslim community before…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Tooting MP Sadiq Khan Standing by Islamic Extremism Row Remarks

A political row over Islamic extremism rumbled on this week when Tooting’s MP insisted a speech made by David Cameron about multiculturalism was “unwise”.

The spat erupted after Sadiq Khan accused the Prime Minister of “writing propaganda for the English Defence League (EDL)” by making a speech on Saturday claiming that multiculturalism in Britain had “failed”.

Mr Cameron told an audience in Germany the Government should no longer tolerate and engage with extremist groups whose members did not believe in crucial western and British values.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, he said: “Let’s properly judge these organisations… do they believe in universal human rights — including for women and people of other faiths?

“Do they believe in equality of all before the law?”

His remarks, which came on the same day the EDL — an anti-Islamist street protest movement — had arranged a march in Luton, prompted a fierce reaction from Mr Khan, who branded the Prime Minister a far-Right “propagandist”.

In response to Mr Khan’s comments, Tory co-chairman Baroness Warsi called for an immediate apology.

She said: “For Sadiq Khan to smear the Prime Minister as a right-wing extremist is outrageous and irresponsible.

“David Cameron has made it clear that he wants to unite Britain around our common values and he has done so in measured language.

“Extremism and Islam are not the same thing.”

But this week, a seemingly unrepentant Mr Khan said: “The Conservatives are trying to create an artificial row with me because they realise now that they have been embarrassed by the timing of Cameron’s speech.

“On the day that the EDL are marching through Luton and making British Muslims fear to step outside their own homes, it was highly unwise for the PM to make a speech like this spun the way it was.

“Clearly his speech contradicts what Baroness Warsi said two weeks ago and the fact that it has been welcomed by Nick Griffin and members of the EDL tells its own story.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Teenage Thug Who Fractured Samantha Sadler’s Skull With Brick Fined Just £200

[Comments: WARNING: Graphic photos.]

A teenage yob who scarred a promising young athlete for life when he threw a brick through a car window into her face has been fined just £200.

Heptathlete Samantha Sadler, 17, was returning home from training in the back seat of the Nissan Micra when the thug launched the missile from close range.

Blinded by pain as blood poured from her face, Samantha’s only thought was that her dreams of competing for England lay in shreds.

The blow left Samantha, who was also a model until the attack, with a fractured skull, broken nose and fractured eye socket — and she still has double vision eight months on.

Her family has reacted with fury after the 14-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was handed a 12-month referral order and fined £200 by magistrates, in Runcorn, Cheshire, after admitting assault.

Samantha’s father Phillip, 49, said: ‘It’s no deterrent. He has got away with it. We are both appalled by the outcome. We think the case was poorly handled.


She added: ‘I was in hospital for four weeks and missed a month of school and loads of important athletic competitions.

‘I had a 10-hour operation the day before my 17th birthday. The surgeons have been amazing.

‘I still have double vision and have to have another operation on my nose.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UNESCO’s Wind Turbine Problem

Mont-Saint-Michel’s World Heritage Status Under Threat

The French island abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel is at risk of losing its World Heritage Status because of plans to build wind turbines that could blight the spectacular view. Campaigners are up in arms, but French President Nicolas Sarkozy is determined to turn France into a world leader in wind power.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

United Nations Wants More German Soldiers

United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon has called on Germany to provide more soldiers for its international peacekeeping missions.

The UN leader said that Germany, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the next two years, has taken on more responsibility for international security and the promotion of human rights.

“We are hoping for stronger German support,” he told the German news agency DPA.

Ban said the UN was thankful for the more than 200 soldiers that Germany has provided for missions such as those in Lebanon or Sudan.

Overall there are than 120,000 UN peacekeepers involved in 15 missions around the world. The general-secretary said the need for more soldiers is increasing constantly.

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

Wines: France: Large Crowds at Arbois’s Percee Du Vin Jaune

(ANSAmed) — ARBOIS (FRANCE), FEBRUARY 7 — A huge number of people were seen among the streets of Arbois, the wine capital in the Jura region for this edition of the Percée du Vin Jaune, marking the latter’s success. The winding alleyways of this small Franche-Comté village were literally invaded by visitors, crowding in to be present at this event for the drawing of this golden hued wine — the pride of the production of this, the smallest vineyard in the world — last weekend , with organisers putting the number at about “60,000 people” in attendance. Following mass and a lengthy procession, the 220-litre durmast barrel containing the 2004 dated wine (aged for 6 years and three months in barrique) was drawn (percée) and then offered to the huge number of visitors from across France. “It went well beyond our expectations”, was the satisfied comment by the president of the XV edition of the Percée, Jean-Michel Petit.

“53,000 glasses of wine sold and 50,000 tickets,” he underscored, “are the very best type of business card. It was a true frenzy, so much that in mid-afternoon the organisers considered closing the gates.” “The Percée is a popular event, as well as a cultural and historical one,” said Arbois mayor Bernard Amien to ANSAmed.

“This is the adopted city of Louis Pasteur, a chemist of international fame.” It was here — he noted — that the scientist stayed every summer and worked in his laboratory, where he conducted important studies on wine fermentation. “For us,” the mayor continued, “this event has first and foremost cultural value.” And to bear witness to this fact was especially the presence of the general director of Paris’s Institut Pasteur, Alice Dautry, given the title of Vin Jaune ambassador after having drawn the wine of 2004 vintage. Another first for this year’s Percée was the auctioning off of 314 bottles of Arbois wine from 1774 (from the Vercel producer), which brought in 57,000 euros. The starting price had been 5,000 euros which, in just over 8 minutes, rose to a figure ten times higher. Buying it was a Swiss collector, Pierre Chevrier, who said that “it will not be a relic, but an important bottle to savour”. Among the ten wine cellars open to the public was La Cave de la Reine Jeanne, which was built for the queen of France Jeanne de Bourgogne in 1322. Today, in the ‘cave’ of what was in those times a hotel built for the queen under the evocative ogive vaults of the XIV century, bottles of an important winemaker, Stephane Tissot, age. The 2012 edition will be held in Ruffey sur Seille.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Council of Europe, Extreme Ethnic Divisions

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 9 — Bosnia is still a country that is sharply divided along ethnic lines. Different elements strengthen this division, including the education system and political rhetoric. This was the description given by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its most recent report on the Balkan nation. The ECRI, which operates under the Council of Europe, stressed the fact that currently the Constitution allows only members of the three constituent populations (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) to run for election to the House of Peoples and to hold the office of president, in absolute violation of the principles set forth by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report also discusses how very few local governments have reached the 3% quota of seats destined for minorities as required by law. The ECRI criticised the role played by important politicians in instigating virulent nationalist rhetoric that fuels divisions between the majorities and minorities present in the country. The Commission also reports that from the information they have gathered, actions by local politicians are ethnically motivated and this is taking place with impunity. The ECRI also reports that violent attacks have been carried out against places of worship and official property of the three official religions, events that the police and politicians have often downplayed. Finally, the ECRI also criticised the practice of creating schools and health care centres for individual ethnic groups. In these types of health care centres, personnel of only one ethnicity are hired and controversial ethnic symbols are displayed This, according to the ECRI, are some of the factors that are making it difficult for members of the minorities who fled during the conflict in the 1990s to return.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Protests in Numerous Towns

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 8 — Tension is mounting in Algeria ahead of the protest planned in Algiers on Saturday, despite the order forbidding the event repeated several times by the authorities. While the protest’s organisers, trade unions, associations and political parties, together forming the “collective for democracy and change”, continue to gather support, protests and skirmishes took place in a number of towns across the country today. Trouble was reported in Annaba, but also near Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou in the region of Kabylia.

In the city of Annaba, 600 kilometres east of Algiers, the online Algeria press reports that around a hundred unemployed young men protested outside the city’s prefecture and in the streets. Yesterday, in the nearby town of Sidi Ammar, seven men without jobless inflicted knife wounds upon themselves and threatened a group suicide during a protest outside the town hall.

In the Berber region of Kabylia, scuffles were reported between police and protesters in Naciria, near Boumerde’s. “During the afternoon, around forty young unemployed people blocked the motorway” and set tyres alight, local sources told ANSA. Riot police cleared the roads a few hours later.

The motorway leading to Algiers was also blocked near Kabylia’s main city, Tizi Ouzou, by another group of protesters demanding an improvement to living conditions in their village.

In the same area, near Bouira, El Watan reports that the inhabitants of the village of Raffour also took to the streets. In the last few weeks, around twenty people have attempted to set themselves on fire. Three have died from their injuries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Telecoms Billionaire Calls for ‘Marshall Plan’

(AKI) — Egypt will recover from its current political and economic paralysis and attain democracy, according to Telecoms billionaire magnate Nagib Sawiris. But Sawiris called for a large-scale plan to regenerate the country, along the lines of the United States’ multi-billlion dollar post-World War II Marshall Plan.

“Europe, the US and the Gulf states must help Egypt. If as I believe, it is going to have a democratically elected government, these countries must launch a ‘Marshall’ plan worth billions of dollars and create employment for our young people,” Sawiris told Italy’s Corriere della Sera daily in an interview on Tuesday.

The Marshall Plan channelled 13 billion dollars of technical and financial aid to Europe’s war-ravaged economies between 1948 and 1952. The aid came on top of the 12 billion dollars the US handed to Europe from the end of the Second World War in 1944 until the start of the plan.

“That’s how we can ensure stability. The unrest in Egypt has been stoked by oppression and by poverty. It’s a class struggle against an autocratic regime,” said Sawiris.

As well as mobile phone operator Wind — one of Italy’s largest — Sawiris controls international telecommunications company Orascom Telecom, which operates mobile telephony networks in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, North America and Asia

Egypt has for the past two weeks been hit by anti-government protests aimed at ousting president Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for almost 30 years and who is blamed by protesters for widespread poverty, corruption and police brutality.

The unrest was estimated to have cost Egypt an average of 310 million dollars per day in lost economic activity, with its tourist industry among the worst hit.

“The losses have been heavy and correspond to around 10 percent of economic output, “ said Sawiris, the only businessman who took part in initial talks between the government and the opposition on Sunday.

“Tourism, the finance and property sectors have been hit hard,” he added.

Mubarak said neither he nor his unpopular son Gamal will run for the presidency in September polls. But with apparent US backing, he has refused to resign immediately claiming he needs to oversee the transitional period until elections to avert “chaos”.

Protesters in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square — the focus of the recent unrest — have called for a new push to oust Mubarak, a move opposed by Sawiris, who fears the military or the banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could fill a resulting power vacuum.

“Many, including me, do not want to see Mubarak stand down now,” he stated.

“If a referendum were held today, the results would surprise many people,” he claimed.

“Before Mubarak goes, it’s essential to amend the constitution, otherwise Egypt will plummet into a legal limbo which the Muslim Brotherhood and the army could take advange of.

“Both of these hypotheses are unacceptable,” he concluded.

Nearly 300 people have been killed across Egypt in the unrest which began on 25 January, according to human rights groups and the United Nations. Around 1,400 have been injured in the protests, according to the UN.

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

Egypt: Al Qaeda Members Among Jail Escapees, Suleiman

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 9 — A number of jihadist militants under Al Qaeda are among the thousands of prison inmates who have escaped from Egyptian jails during the public disorder seen over the past few weeks, according to Egypt’s vice president Omar Suleiman. Speaking to journalists, Suleiman said that Egyptian security and intelligence forces had “carried out remarkable efforts to obtain the extradition to Egypt of (Islamic) militants from abroad,” members of “jihadist organisations.with links to external leaders, especially Al Qaeda.” Suleiman added that they were combatants who had not renounced their ideology or violence. Now, said the Egyptian vice president, “much time will be needed to get them back into jails.” Meanwhile, the Iraqi branch of Al Qaeda has called on Egyptian demonstrators to wage a holy war and bring in a government based on Koranic law, according to the American Centre for the Surveillance of Islamic sites (SITE). A statement released by the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) was posted yesterday evening on a jihadist forum. The message stated that the “march of jihad” has begun in Egypt and that “the gates to martyrdom are open”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraqi Al Qaeda Calls for Prison Breaks in Egypt

Al Qaeda’s Iraq-based arm called on Egyptian Muslims to free all prisoners from their nation’s jails, issuing an appeal for holy war as Cairo said Islamist militants had already escaped during anti-government turmoil.

The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) attacked the Egyptian government for failing to implement strict Islamic law, and said it was better for Muslims to die fighting their government rather than live under its rule.

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said on Tuesday that militants linked to al Qaeda were among the thousands of prisoners who escaped from jails last month during the unrest triggered by a popular uprising.

The ISI’s “War Ministry” called on Egyptians to free more prisoners. “Don’t rest until you have rescued them all, then destroy them (the prisons) with the aid of God, so that not a single stone remains standing,” it said in a statement which was posted on Islamist websites on Tuesday.

The ISI’s links to Egyptian militants and the strength of its influence are unclear, but some analysts said the group may have inspired a deadly attack on an Egyptian church last month.

The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation seen as Egypt’s largest opposition group, renounced violence decades ago and has warned that government efforts to stamp out its influence could push some towards more radical ideas.

Calling for a holy war against Egypt’s government, the ISI said: “If the people of Islam die trying to reach this goal, it is better for them than having a tyrant who rules them with laws other than God’s Sharia law.”

“Here is the market of jihad, and all the reasons to facilitate it in your home. The doors of martyrdom have opened.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mubarak Rejects Offer of Medical Treatment in Germany

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has rejected an offer to put him up in a German luxury clinic to provide him with a dignified exit from power. He doesn’t need medical treatment, his vice president said. US and German conservative politicians had been floating the possibility of a hospital stay.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Srdja Trifkovic: Beware the Neocon Advocacy of Egyptian Democracy

It is essential to take William (“Bill”) Kristol seriously. He has been so utterly wrong on so many things (America’s ability to run the world, NATO, Turkey, the Balkans, Chechnya, Iraq, Sarah Palin, Russia, Iran, Georgia, John McCain, missile defense . . . ) that his pronouncements merit respect. Being consistently wrong—in the fleeting guise of things measurably empirical, that is—they contain a deeper wisdom. Kristol’s “analysis” is the equivalent of Tetzel’s dropping penny: The form may seem inane, but the message reverberates in faraway places.

Bill Kristol matters, so please bear with me and endure the longest quote I’ve ever copied to these pages over the past decade, because a mere hyperlink won’t do:…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Nazi/Arab Plots to Exterminate Jews

Like many leaders today, Hitler knew how to use every crisis as an opportunity to grab more power. So did his anti-Semitic Muslim partners during Word War 2: Mohammad Haj Amin al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem) and the rising Muslim Brotherhood. Both aimed to eradicate Israel and radicalize the Middle East and North Africa. Their followers have come a long way!

Today, their grand target is America. As we are told in a Muslim Brotherhood document titled, ‘An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,’

“The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”‘

1920. Mohammad Haj Amin al-Husseini, soon to be Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, prompted the first large-scale pogrom against Jewish settlers in Palestine. Thousands of innocent Jewish settlers (along with their moderate Muslim neighbors) were slaughtered.

1920s. Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded during the 1920s [some point to 1928] by Hassan Al Banna, a young Egyptian schoolteacher who admired Hitler and was captivated by his message. According to John Loftus, a former prosecutor with the US Justice Department, Al-Banna was so persistent in his “admiration of the new Nazi Party that in the 1930s Al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood became a secret arm of Nazi Intelligence.”

Today, we know that the Muslim Brotherhood has been spreading its ideology through Europe and America as well as the Arab world. It’s ultimate goal is global Islamic theocracy. In the article, “Muslim Brotherhood; not quite the YMCA,” Bill Randles gives us a glimpse of its violent history, ideology and influence:

[Return to headlines]

The Revolutionaries’ Fervour is Also Their Weakness

When I practised Islam, I remember praying alone as a chore: I would perform my ablutions, shroud myself and spread my little prayer mat, face Mecca and go through the obligatory series of bows and prostrations. My thoughts would soon wander away but it was obligatory and the prayer-enforcers in my family would notice if I didn’t. So I went through with it.

The experience was very different, however, when I went to mosque. There I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other women; all shrouded, on a wall-to-wall mat; below us the men were assembled in even larger halls; we faced Mecca and went through the movements of submission. This time I felt a sense of animation. At the end of the recitation we all sang — aaaaammmmeeeennn!!!. My heart throbbed. I was in the crowd of the faithful. I felt its power.

Watching the images of the masses in Cairo I can imagine the strong sense of unity they feel. Many western television viewers also identify with the thousands who have taken to the streets — not only in Egypt, but in Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen and elsewhere — to call for an end to authoritarian rule. Innumerable commentators have drawn analogies with the revolutions that swept eastern Europe in 1989.

This is to miss the profound difference between the western and the Muslim crowd. The people taking to the streets in north Africa and the Middle East have many motivations. But nothing unifies them more than the mass prayer of their religion — particularly the Friday prayer. It is the mosque as much as the street that is key to understanding this uprising.

Nearly all religions rely on crowd cohesion, but Islam is exceptionally good at doing so. None of the despots of the Muslim world who emerged in the era of decolonisation dared to challenge the crowd of the faithful. They purged the Muslim Brotherhood, killed their leaders and imprisoned them by condemning them as the perverters of the true faith. But the mosque was sacrosanct. That is why for so long it has been the only place of association for the Arab masses. That, of course, is why the most effective political force in the Arab world has for years been Islamism.

Those who look forward to a 1989-style outcome — a peaceful transition to a secular, multi-party democracy — should remember how little experience the proponents of secular democracy have. The Muslim Brotherhood has been around since 1928, and draws on a 1,400-year-old tradition of submission.

The problem with political Islam was something identified by Elias Canetti in his classic Crowds and Power. “Believers,” he says, “yearn for God’s force; His power alone does not satisfy them; it is too distant and leaves them too free. The state of continuous expectation of command, to which, early in life, they surrender themselves for good and all, marks them deeply and also has a momentous effect on their attitude to other people.”

The Mubaraks and Gaddafis of the Middle East are not an anomaly; they are the product of structural lack of freedom inherent in the crowd culture of the Islamic world. In this culture submission is instilled early on. If you are not allowed to talk back to your father, or teacher, or clergyman, submission to state tyranny becomes almost second nature. In such a setting, the methods to empower oneself — indeed to survive — are conspiracy, manipulation, intrigue and bribery. Those aspiring to positions of power fear that sharing it will weaken them and lead to humiliation. So once a position is achieved it is made permanent, from the lowliest bureaucrat to the president.

A culture that elevates individual submission oscillates between periods of apathy and occasional bouts of revolt. Arab leaders either rule for life, grooming their sons for succession, or end up having to flee.

So what can today’s Muslim crowds do to avoid the fate of all those mice who thought they glimpsed freedom but were in fact mere playthings of the cat?

The protesters must begin by acknowledging the factors that create an environment where tyrants thrive. For too long, outside forces have been the scapegoats of the Arab street. It is easy to blame the Zionists and America. It is harder to admit one’s own shortcomings.

But today’s crowds also need to articulate what they want. A participant in Egypt’s mass protests was asked on the BBC to comment on the leaderless quality of the demonstrations (February 4). His answer — “We don’t need a leader” — baffled the interviewer and no doubt most western viewers.

His aversion to leadership is understandable in the light of past Arab regime changes. Here, men who arrive as liberators have a way of morphing into dictators until the time when another man mobilises the masses to liberate the nation from their ex-liberator. The new man then rebuilds the old infrastructure of spies and torture chambers.

But is it realistic to have a leaderless revolution? In my view it is not. In the absence of leadership — which means not just one man but a legitimate command structure, as well as some kind of explicit manifesto — these protests will never achieve the truly revolutionary changes we saw in Europe in 1989.

Instead we shall see chaos and instability followed by a new era of authoritarianism; a brief democracy followed by a coup or a sharia government led by the Brotherhood…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Armed Forces Call Up Reservists

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 7 — A communiqué from Tunisia’s Defence Ministry announces taht it has recalled NCOs and service personnel from the Navy, Air force, Administration and those who retired due to seniority of service in the period 2006-2010.

There has also been a recall for conscripts in the Navy, Air Force and the Army for General Headquarters of military security and of Munitions and Armaments from the fourth quarter of 2008 and the whole of 2009. Reservists are required to present themselves at regional recruitment and mobilisation centres on February 16.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Congress Warns Against Muslim Brotherhood Role in Egypt

Members of the US Congress warned about the risk posed by the Muslim Brotherhood’s participation in a new Egyptian government Wednesday and scolded the Obama administration for suggesting an openness to the Islamic group having some role in its composition.

“The Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with driving these protests, and they and other extremists must not be allowed to hijack the movement toward democracy and freedom in Egypt,” declared Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, at the start of a hearing Wednesday.

Ros-Lehtinen referred specifically to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs’ statement last week that a more representative Egyptian government should “include a whole host of important non-secular actors” and reports that the White House was reexamining its position on dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Gibbs said Wednesday that he was not “aware of” any contacts between US officials and representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood as America reaches out to opposition groups pushing for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and broad democratic reforms.

“I am skeptical about the Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to democracy,” said Howard Berman, the HFAC ranking member, at Wednesday’s hearing, pointing to its past use of violence and former members who are involved with Al Qaida. Despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s pronounced commitment to democratic rule, Berman stressed, “even if that’s true, we shouldn’t fool ourselves.”

Even in a democratic government, he warned, “There is every reason to believe it will try to influence the Egyptian government in ways that undermine US interests and that will make Egypt a regressive, less-tolerant place.”

The hearing was held as Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with members on Capitol Hill as part of a visit to Washington and New York. It was the first high-level discussions between the two countries since the crisis in Egypt erupted, a major topic addressed between the two sides.

Barak was also scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon in a three-way White House conversation.

Ahead of the meeting, Gibbs said the consultations were “regularly scheduled meetings,” but declined to address their substance.

On Capitol Hill Barak met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House foreign operations appropriations subcommittee…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Egyptian ‘Torturers’ Trained by FBI

According to leaked diplomatic cables, the head of the Egyptian state security and investigative service (SSIS) thanked the US for “training opportunities” at the FBI academy in Quantico, Virginia. The SSIS has been repeatedly accused of using violence and brutality to help prop up the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. In April, 2009, the US ambassador in Cairo stated that “Egypt’s police and domestic security services continue to be dogged by persistent, credible allegations of abuse of detainees.

“The Interior Ministry uses SSIS to monitor and sometimes infiltrate the political opposition and civil society. SSIS suppresses political opposition through arrests, harassment and intimidation.” In October, 2009, “credible” human rights lawyers representing alleged Hizbollah detainees provided details of the techniques employed by the SSIS. The cable states: “The lawyers told us in mid-October that they have compiled accounts from several defendants of GOE [Government of Egypt] torture by electric shocks, sleep deprivation, and stripping them naked for extended periods.

“The lawyers believe the accounts to be credible.” A dispatch in January, 2010, states: “While the GOE and its supporters claim that police brutality is unusual, human rights lawyers believe it continues to be a pervasive, daily occurrence in prisons, police station and interior ministry state security headquarters.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Israel Rejects William Hague’s ‘Belligerent’ Claim

Mr Hague, who is visiting the Middle East, called for greater urgency from Israel to revive peace talks but the tone of his remarks drew a rebuke from Israeli diplomats.

Western governments do not share Israel’s assessment that any government that emerges from the uprising will seek to undermine Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state.

While there is broad acceptance that President Hosni Mubarak could remain in office until September as a transition to democracy is engineered, there is little sympathy with Israel’s view that he must be shored up at all costs.

Mr Hague said he objected to the timing of a statement from Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, that he would “reinforce the might” of Israel as he warned the nation to be ready for “any outcome” from the Egyptian protests.

Nevertheless Israel said it could not ignore the risks posed to it by the collapse of the Mubarak regime.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Jimenez Heckled by Settlers in Hebron, “Antisemitic”

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 8 — The Spanish Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, has been greeted by a barrage of whistles from a group of Jewish settlers in the city of Hebron, where she is on an official visit. So reported El Pais online. Jimenez was wandering this morning with her delegation through the streets of the old town, which has been renovated with funds from the Spanish Cooperation Agency, when she was heckled near the Tomb of the Patriarchs by a dozen settlers parading a banner with the words “Over 500 years ago, Spain chased the Jews away to Hebron, now the question is is if it wants to kick us out of Hebron”. The group of settlers followed the Spanish Minister through the streets to cries of “Go home, anti-Semite” and “nazi”, proffering a number of other insults as they went. David Wielder, a settler official in the West Bank city, used a loudspeaker to accuse Jimenez of supporting Palestinian terrorism. The Spanish Minister acknowledged that “everyone is free to express their own opinion”.

After her visit to the West Bank, Jimenez is due back in Jerusalem on the second day of her official visit to Israel, where she is due to hold a press conference in the afternoon, before a visit to the Holocaust Museum and a meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, and the Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

NBC’s Engel Finds Muslim Brotherhood is ‘Akin to Hamas, ‘ But Omits That Hamas is Terrorist Group

On Tuesday’s NBC Nightly News, after anchor Brian Williams asked correspondent Richard Engel to respond to concerns about the radical nature of the Muslim Brotherhood that have been expressed by former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Engel asserted that the movement is “not al-Qaeda, it’s not the Taliban,” but, as he went on to compare the group instead to Hamas, partly because they “wear business suits,” he neglected to point out that Hamas is itself a terrorist organization.

He related that the organization is “anti-American, it’s anti-Israel, but it wouldn’t kick all the Christians out of this country.”

When Williams brought up the Muslim Brotherhood, he posed the question: “And the Speaker (Gingrich) said that they were enemies of civilization. He said it’s in their own creed. I know for many years you lived and worked alongside members of the Muslim Brotherhood there in Cairo. Tell us your knowledge of this group.”

Engel responded:

The group has about 20 to 40 percent support in the country. It’s not al-Qaeda, it’s not the Taliban. They do support Islamic law, but the people who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood wear business suits. It’s much more similar to, it’s much more akin to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It’s anti-American, it’s anti-Israel, but it wouldn’t kick all the Christians out of this country, but it would definitely take a more anti-American line…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Suleiman Told Israel He Would ‘Cleanse’ Sinai of Arms Runners to Gaza

The news is more evidence of the close ties between Israel, the United States and Mr Suleiman, who is tipped to replace Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s president.

The close relationship has emerged from American diplomatic cables leaked to the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph. Mr Suleiman is Israel’s preferred candidate to replace 82-year-old Mr Mubarak. A secret hotline between Mr Suleiman and the Israelis was said to be “in daily use”, according to US diplomatic cables. The pledge to cleanse Sinai was made by Mr Suleiman to Yuval Diskin of the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) after he complained about the smuggling of weapons across the border with Gaza. According to a cable sent in November, 2007, Mr Diskin met Rob Danin, the US deputy assistant secretary of state, and Mark Kimmitt, the deputy assistant defence secretary, in Tel Aviv and told them that the Sinai peninsula had now become a “weapons and explosives warehouse” for operations in Gaza, Egypt and Israel.

The cable said: “Diskin told Danin and Kimmit [sic] that the ISA had, on several occasions provided Omar Suleiman, chief of Egypt’s intelligence services, with detailed intelligence on the names of smugglers. “In 2005, Diskin said he met personally with Suleiman in Egypt, at which time Suleiman promised personally to take responsibility for ‘cleansing the Sinai’.”

The cable continued: “Despite these promises and Israeli offers to initiate joint operations, Diskin said Egypt has not acted to eliminate the smuggling networks. In Diskin’s view, there is a core policy problem in that the Egyptians saw themselves as the primary mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, and are careful not to alienate either side.” Mr Suleiman worked hard to position himself as the main Egyptian link with Israel. According to the cable, he was blocking attempts by the Israelis to form links with other members of the Cairo government. This was, according to Mr Diskin, because of Mr Suleiman’s “desire to remain the sole point of contact for foreign intelligence”. The efforts paid off. In 2008, Mr Suleiman was named as Israel’s preferred successor to Mr Mubarak and the new secret direct hotline was in daily use. By early 2009, Dan Harel, deputy chief of staff at the Israel Defence Staff, was reporting that “on the intelligence side under Suleiman co-operation is good”.

A cable reported: “Co-operation against smuggling is better with Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman than it is with Egyptian Military Commander Field Marshall Tantawi.” In May, 2009, in a meeting with the Americans, Mr Suleiman was telling them of how Egypt had made the border with Gaza more secure. This included “destroying tunnels, and erecting underground metal barricades”, although he “acknowledged that the smuggling could never be fully stopped”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

William Hague Could be Right. So Could Netanyahu. But They Shouldn’t be Arguing in Public

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister, has been watching the crowds at Tahrir Square — and they’re not reminding him of his Woodstock years. Mr Netanyahu struck a grim note at a meeting with Egyptian legislators on Tuesday, warning that Islamists could “exploit their influence to gradually take the country into a reverse direction”. Egypt, Mr Netanyahu warned, could end up going the way of Iran, “where calls for progress will be silenced by a dark and violent despotism.” Mr Netanyahu’s lack of faith in people power has earned him a reprimand from William Hague, the Foreign Secretary — and threatens to spark off the latest in a depressing series of Britain-Israel spats. Behind their ill-tempered exchange lie serious questions about middle-east geopolitics: just how should the world deal with the dramatic events unfolding in Egypt?

The dispute began, as so many modern diplomatic confrontations have tended to do, with an ill-timed newspaper interview. The Foreign Secretary was asked about Mr Netanyahu’s call for Israelis to prepare themselves for “any outcome” in Egypt. Mr Hague responded that this “should not be a time for belligerent language.” Israel’s attitude, to talks with Palestinians, Mr Hague went on, was creating problems. Israel’s government is, predictably enough, irate. A spokesperson retorted: “voices are [being] heard calling for a freeze or cancellation of a 30-year old peace agreement. This talk is obviously a cause for concern.” The great diplomatic art of textual obfuscation skilfully hides what the fight is about: the prospect of an Islamist takeover in Egypt, and what the West should do about it.

For days now, we’ve been told Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood are responsible actors. Bruce Reidel, whose opinions have weight in the White House, has argued that the West “should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won’t be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy.”

If this is true, Mr Netanyahu is indeed being paranoid. But is it true? The proposition that Israel can be sanguine about the Brotherhood would be more persuasive if it wasn’t for the plain words of the Brothers themselves. The organisation’s draft 2007 platform — no text of the final document seems available — bars women and non-Muslims from becoming president of Egypt. It calls for the re-examination of the peace treaty with Israel and the institution of a religion-based constitutional order.

Youssef al-Qaradawi, the Brotherood’s influential Qatar-based ideologue whose sermons have been broadcast to thousands at Tahrir Square, has among other things supported the stoning of homosexuals and the killings of Israeli children, on the grounds that they will grow up to be soldiers.

Iran’s al-Alam television recently carried an interview with Muhammad Ghanem, the Muslim Brotherhood’s representative in London, telling us that Egypt needs to start “preparing for war with Israel.” Muhammad Badee, the Brotherhood leader who is being marketed as a responsible partner for democratic political partnership in Egypt proclaimed the day isn’t far when “the stones or the trees will say: ‘Oh Muslim! Oh servant of Allah! There is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.” “Our revival, majesty, and glory,” he went on, “depend on the return to righteousness, which will only be achieved through resistance and the support of [resistance] in every way — with money, arms, information, and self [sacrifice].”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

A Friendship of Values, Not Convenience

By Daniel Gordis

FOR decades Shimon Peres, now Israel’s president, has spoken of his country’s yearning for a “new Middle East,” one in which Israel is at peace with its neighbors, regional economies cooperate and the conflict with the Palestinians is finally set aside. Now, with Egypt’s government on the edge of collapse, Israel is suddenly faced with a “new Middle East” — and Israelis are terrified.

Many Westerners believe that the events in Egypt are a disaster for the Jewish state. Its most important regional ally faces possible chaos and an Islamist takeover. Add to this King Abdullah II’s recent dismissal of his cabinet in Jordan (the only other Arab country that has signed a peace treaty with Israel), Hezbollah’s quiet coup in Lebanon last month, a resurgent Syria and an increasingly Islamist Turkey, and you can understand why many Israelis feel surrounded, as they did decades ago.

In the short run America faces an uncomfortable choice. It can support Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, who is at least marginally pro-Western and has maintained the cold peace with Israel initiated by his predecessor, Anwar el-Sadat. But Mr. Mubarak is also a ruthless despot. Alternately, Washington can support the democracy movement, but with the knowledge that democracy could bring anti-Western, anti-Israel and possibly Islamist leaders to power.

In short, none of the parties vying for control of Egypt share America’s fundamental values of genuine democracy, a free press, women’s rights and minority protections.

But the threat of chaos, and even Islamist rule, might have a silver lining. It is all the more obvious that there is only one country in the region that has the same values as America: Israel. If America reacts to recent events by increasing its support for those who share its values, it could reassure a suddenly surrounded Israel and perhaps even move the peace process with the Palestinians forward.

Until now the central pillar of President Obama’s strategy for restarting peace talks has been to pressure Israel to cease building settlements. Settlements may or may not be wise, but where has the equivalent pressure on the Palestinians been?

The administration has failed to insist that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even though Israel has recognized the national aspirations of the Palestinian people. And Mr. Obama has allowed the Palestinian flag to fly in Washington, a symbolic signal of support for Palestinian statehood. All without the Palestinians making any concessions.

As a result, the United States has unwittingly created disincentives for the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel…

[Return to headlines]

Democracy and the Middle East: George W. Bush’s Liberal Legacy

A Commentary by Jan Fleischhauer

Suddenly it seems everyone knew all along that President Mubarak was a villain and the US, who supported him until recently, was even worse. However it was actually former President George W. Bush who always believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and was broadly ridiculed by the Left for his convictions.

The West, it seems, is guilty. It is good to get that cleared up. Wherever there is an outpouring of public rage, as is happening now in the Arab world, censure must fall on America, the great Satan. The US is always in the dock. When indignation is required, one simply cannot go wrong by blaming the US. And Israel too of course, but only as a follow-up by those in enlightened circles who like to take history into consideration.

The current accusation is that the US supported the corrupt regime in Egypt and thus betrayed its values.

Aside from the fact that the Germans never have to resort to abandoning their principles because they do not play any significant role in foreign affairs, it must be said that this is, unfortunately, the way realpolitik operates. Whoever represents the interests of the free world cannot be too choosy about his allies or he could end up alone.

The free world has fewer friends outside Europe than it would care to admit. It would obviously be desirable to work exclusively with governments who share our democratic beliefs. That would only leave Israel in the region that we are currently watching with such fascination, as only Israel guarantees full, Western human rights to its citizens, including women, homosexuals and dissidents. But somehow that would also not be right.

A Shift in Liberal Sympathies

The sympathies of many honorable, left-thinking people do not currently lie with the Israelis, who grant the Arab inhabitants in their midst much more freedom than all the neighboring states combined. Astoundingly, their sympathies lie with the Muslim Brotherhood in the surrounding countries, a movement that hates homosexuals, keeps women covered and despises minorities. This is puzzling.

One would surely have been inclined to believe the accusations earlier if the outrage over Dictator Hosni Mubarak and his despotic regime had emerged before now.

There has not been one trace of a report about the dark side of the now-faltering Egyptian regime by the largest German TV stations, ARD and ZDF. And what exactly do they mean by “dictator”? Isn’t the man still respectfully called “President Mubarak” in the German press, from the left-leaning Die Tageszeitung to the center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung? It seems that realization can come late in journalism as well, and all the more forcefully as a result.

Now there are demands for a value-driven foreign policy, which resolutely stands up for global human rights. That sounds good — indeed, who could argue with such a policy? What is strange, however, is that the same people who are vehemently demanding more idealism were, until very recently, chastising the US for turning away from the principles of realpolitik.

Bush’s Belief in Islamic Democratization

Painful as it may be to admit, it was the despised former US President George W. Bush who believed in the democratization of the Muslim world and incurred the scorn and mockery of the Left for his conviction.

Everyone was sure — without knowing any Muslims — that the Western model of democracy could not be applied in a backward society like Iraq. Everyone knew that the neo-conservative belief in the universal desire for freedom and progress was naïve nonsense. It is possible that the critics were right, albeit for the wrong reasons. The prospect of stability and order seems to be at least as important to many people.

We can only hope that the desire for freedom will triumph in the end. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have also put the blame on the US and Israel, though in the reverse order. To them, Mubarak is a “Zionist agent” and should therefore be destroyed like the Zionists; next in line are the “helpers” from the US.

As for the actual revolution, it appears that the Arab youth are not taking to the streets to burn US flags and call for the death of Israel, but to overthrow their own government.

It remains to be seen how long that continues.

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

Dutch Seek Jordan’s Clarification of Wilders Position

THE HAGUE, 09/02/11 — Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, in a meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan, has requested clarification on the court case that hangs over Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders’ head in that country.

A court case against the PVV leader for incitement to hatred and insulting the prophet Mohammed in his short anti-Islam film Fitna has already been underway for months in Jordan. The case was brought by radical Muslims.

Wilders had asked the minister before his visit to Jordan to ask the Jordanian regime to definitively halt the “idiotic court case.” After the meeting in the palace in the capital of Amman, Rosenthal declined to disclose how the king responded. He will however tell Wilders shortly what was exchanged at the meeting.

Rosenthal also discussed with the king the position of the PVV, which ‘tolerates’ the minority cabinet of VVD and Christian democrats (CDA). The king was told that the PVV does not support the cabinet’s foreign policy. “I did not need to tell the king much, because he was already perfectly well-informed.”

The minister also discussed the peace process in the Middle East and the role of the European Union in this with Abdullah II.

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

Egypt: Gas Pipeline Halted, Heavy Economic Toll on Israel

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 9 — Israel is feeling an economic impact of a million and a half dollars per day due to the suspension of gas supplies from Egypt caused by an explosion over the weekend which — in the middle of the Egyptian revolt — damaged the Sinai gas pipeline. Reports were in today’s newspaper Haaretz, which cited the estimates by the general director of the Infrastructure Minister Shaul Zemach. The government said that Israel has dealt with the incident by making use of alternative sources and without any form of energy rationing. However, the use of other fossil fuels — such as diesel and mazut — entails an increase in costs to “ten times higher than that of gas”, underscored Zemach, expressing the hope that the Sinai gas pipeline will be up and running as normal by next week, according to expectations. This is especially because over the past few months the country has for the first time felt the effects of the international economic crisis, between an increase in prices and tariffs and growing social protest. The Sinai gas pipeline provides Israel with over 40% of the country’s requirements. The recent explosion, which some have said was an attack, in reality damaged only the branch towards Jordan and Syria, but led Egyptian authorities to halt the entire plant as a precautionary measure: thereby suspending the flow even towards the desert and the underwater Al-Arish-Ashdod section which runs to Israele.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Tribal Leaders Criticise Queen’s Political Role

(ANSAmed ) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 9 — Important Jordanian tribal members have used a petition to call on King Abdallah II to put an end to the political role played by his wife Rania, the latest challenge to the king who is already dealing with the repercussions of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt which last week drove him to appoint a new prime minister.

The 36 who signed the petition criticised the Palestinian origins of the queen and accused her of using state funds to promote her image abroad without concerning herself over the difficult conditions in which the kingdom’s citizens are living in. Those signing the text belong to the conservative tribes of the east bank of the Jordan (Transjordan), the main support base for the Hashemite kingdom, and are in opposition to Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who make up the majority of the about 7 million inhabitants of the country. According to the petition, Rania “is creating power centres in her interest, which contrast with the agreements between the kingdom’s government, and (the queen) constitutes a danger to the nation, the structure of the State , its political structure and the institution of the throne.” “Neglecting to address what is contained in this statement will lead us to a situation similar to what has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and which will happen in other Arab countries,” added those signing the document, insisting that the legitimacy of the Hashemite monarchy — which lays claim to descending from the prophet Mohamed — depends on support from the tribes of the East Bank. The petition is the bitterest personal attack on the queen since during a football match fans from the East Bank chanted slogans denigrating her Palestinian origins and urging the king to divorce her.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan PM Names Islamist, Leftists to New Cabinet

Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit named a new cabinet including an Islamist and five leftists on Tuesday following the dismissal of the previous government by King Abdullah II earlier this month. The new 26-member line-up, which was sworn in, includes independent Islamist Abdelrahim Akur, who is a former leader of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, as head of the ministry of Islamic affairs and awqaf (endowments).

It also includes five ministers who are considered close to the left — Hussein Mjalli, who becomes justice minister, Mazen Saket (political development), Tarek Massarweh (culture), Samir Habashneh (agriculture), and newspaper editor Taher Adwan (information). From the centre of the political spectrum, Hazem Kashuh was tasked with the municipal affairs portfolio.

Kept on from the previous government were the incumbent ministers for foreign affairs, the interior, planning, water and finance. The opposition Islamic Action Front — political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood — gave the new government a cautious response after rejecting an offer at the weekend to join the new government. Its leader Hamzeh Mansur told AFP the new line-up — which includes two women — was “just like its predecessors… but we will wait and see what it does before making a judgement.”

Bakhit, 64, tasked with a wide range of political and economic reforms, had made a point of consulting widely on the formation of his new government after the king dismissed his predecessor Samir Rifai, 43, on February 2 in the face of street protests fanned by the examples of Tunisia and Egypt…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East Peace Process ‘At Threat’ From Egypt Turmoil

The Foreign Secretary said Israel’s negative reaction to the turmoil in the Arab state is poised to exacerbate tensions and stall the already struggling peace talks.

Speaking as he began a tour of north Africa and the Middle East that will see him visit five countries in three days, he said the peace process risked becoming a “casualty of uncertainty in the region”. Mr Hague added that despite the opportunity for countries like Tunisia and Egypt after their huge protests, there remains a “legitimate fear” that the Middle East peace process will lose momentum. He accepted there were differences between the Government and both Israel and Washington on the need to reinvigorate peace talks quickly. He told the BBC: “Amidst the opportunity for countries like Tunisia and Egypt, there is a legitimate fear that the Middle East peace process will lose further momentum and be put to one side, and will be a casualty of uncertainty in the region.

“Part of the fear is that uncertainty and change will complicate the process still further. That means there is a real urgency for the Israelis and the United States.”

“Part of the fear is that uncertainty and change will complicate the process still further. That means there is a real urgency for the Israelis and the United States.”

His comments came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded aggressively to the calls for change in Egypt, pledging to “reinforce the might of the state of Israel” regardless of how the situation is resolved.

Mr Hague said: “This should not be a time for belligerent language. It’s a time to inject greater urgency into the Middle East peace process.” He voiced concerns that, without immediate action, “within a few years, peace may become impossible”.

Writing on Twitter, he added: “Time for bold leadership on Middle East Peace Process from the US & equally bold steps by Israelis and Palestinians”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Northern Iraq Attacks Kill 10

Violence in northern Iraq killed 10 people on Wednesday, eight of them in near-simultaneous car bombings blamed on Sunni militant group Ansar Al-Islam.

Dozens more were wounded in the triple blasts in the ethnically-divided northern oil hub of Kirkuk which is at the centre of a territorial dispute between Iraq’s central government and the north’s autonomous Kurdish region.

“We are certain that this terrorist group, Ansar Al-Islam, is behind this attack,” Kirkuk province police chief Major General Jamal Taher Bakr told AFP.

“Our security forces will punish that group, because they have targeted all the people of Kirkuk. They are trying to raise sectarianism but they will fail, as they failed before.”

In a separate attack in Tal Afar, a town with a large Shiite Turkmen community west of the main northern city of Mosul, a roadside bomb killed two soldiers and wounded as many, an army officer said. Bakr said the three explosions in Kirkuk, which struck at 10:25 am (0725 GMT), killed eight people and wounded 104.

The police chief said the three blasts included a car bomb driven by a suicide attacker which struck the offices of militiamen loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of regional president Massud Barzani. He said the second car bomb struck a police patrol in the same west Kirkuk neighbourhood as the first, while a third vehicle packed with explosives detonated nearby, targeting the convoy of a senior police officer…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Qatar: Doha Debates; Freedom of Expression Only in English

(ANSAmed) — DOHA, FEBRUARY 9 — The Doha Debates lay claim to being a bastion of freedom of expression in the heart of the Arab world, but to take part there is a single, essential prerequisite: speak English. The project began six years ago as the idea of the well-known former BBC journalist Tim Sebastian, who on a trip to Doha suggested to Sheika Mozah, the Qatar Emir’s wife, to take part in the funding of a completely independent TV programme open to students in which once a month — in the presence of such illustrious guests as Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres and Mohamed ElBaradei — issues seen as taboos in the Arab and Muslim worlds would be dealt with: from women’s rights to Al Qaeda, the Iranian nuclear energy programme, the thorny conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the internal one between Hamas and Fatah. Censorship and the lack of freedom of expression are a blight which Arabs and Muslims have long been accustomed to dealing with. To face up to this serious problem the Doha Debates were created, funded directly by the Qatar Foundation, the extremely powerful organisation with links with the Emir, and broadcast once a month on BBC World, as well as other broadcasters in Pakistan, Bosnia and the US. “The first entirely uncensored forum in the Arab world”, “Opening the minds of a closed region” are only a few of the slogans used for the initiative. According to those in charge of it, potentially having access to the project are 400 million households across the world, and Sebastian himself has called it a “small island of freedom of expression within the vast sea of censorship”. “This,” ANSA was told by Tanya Sakzewski during a meeting in the Doha offices of the Qatar Foundation, “is a unique project based on total editorial freedom. Here students from many countries in the Arab and Muslim worlds can express themselves freely and debate on the most controversial issues, oftentimes in the presence of well-known figures, with the guarantee that nothing can happen to them.” “Here people feel free to ask questions,” Sakzewski said.

Taking part are mostly students from the large international community in Doha, most of whom with links to Education City, an impressive and futuristic complex at the edge of the city in which some of the most important Western Universities have set up branches: from Georgetown (US) to France’s Hec. Young polyglots with a high cultural level, therefore, most of whom are very rich and are part of their country’s elite, who have come from countries such as Bahrain, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. Taking part is easy: one must only send an email to the production offices and the 350 places for students are handed out on a first come first served basis. Every appointment corresponds to a single question, such as “Has the time come to engage in talks with Al Qaeda?”, “Is the war on terrorism becoming a war on Islam” and “Have Muslims failed in combating extremism?”. The debate ends with a survey in which young people are invited to respond either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The only limit is the fact that it all happens in English, and therefore remains off-limits to most of the Muslim world, which does not have the good fortune to speak the language of Shakespeare. It is a problem with the production offices claim to have partially resolved by creating an internet site in Arabia with subtitles, which has been inaugurated in Pakistan and Bosnia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Strasbourg Report Against Ankara, Minorities Censured

(ANSAmed) — STRASBOURG, FEBRUARY 8 — The Turkish authorities are continuing to abuse the terms of the country’s penal code, in particular article 301, in order to punish those who peacefully express their positions and opinions on minorities present in the country. This is one of the findings in the latest report on Turkey by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), which has been published today.

The European Council organisation also expresses its concern for the situation of Kurds, Roma and asylum seekers, as well as for the ongoing discrimination against certain religious minorities.

In terms of the abuse of the current laws, the report highlights that the peaceful expression of a minority’s identity seems to be perceived as a threat to the unity of the Turkish state. The ECRI says that the penal code is used to incriminate those who publicly defend the interests of minorities and reports that public officials who express themselves in Kurdish also risk censure. The study also reveals that the application of the current anti-terror laws exposes some groups, especially underage Kurds, to a higher risk of human rights violation.

The organisation focusses on the living conditions of both the Kurdish minority and the Roma people, saying that children belonging to the two groups have the lowest rate of school attendance in the country. The ECRI also concentrates on the respect of religious freedom in classrooms, reporting that religious education is still essentially centred on the principles of Sunni Islam.

Also featuring in the report are problems stemming from the fact that all children are forced to swear daily oath ending with the words “happy are those who can call themselves Turkish”. Although the Turkish authorities say that the oath has no ethnic, linguistic or religious connotations and serves to strengthen the idea of citizenship, the ECRI says that many minorities see it as a denial of the added value that their diversity represents.

Finally, the ECRI condemns the lack of a detailed law on the right of asylum, and denounces a series of other shortcomings both in the application of enforced tests and in the procedure followed, which for instance fails to protect asylum seekers against arbitrary detention by the authorities.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Male Member of Clan Draws Attention to Dangers of Polygamy

His grandfather married five times, his father three, but his uncle holds the record: 18 wives, to be exact. In his book ‘Standing Tears of Aga,’ Hamit Izol, a leader of the Izol clan of about 200,000 people, brings the problems of polygamy to the public’s attention through the story of his uncle’s son who has three wives. Divorce is not allowed in the clan, and the old traditions even lead brothers to killing each other, says Izol. Things are changing though. ‘Nowadays polygamy is considered shameful in our clan,’ he says

Hamza Izol, a member of an eastern clan, where polygamy was perceived as natural, lives in the Mediterranean city of Mersin with a single wife, saying new generations are no longer finding polygamy acceptable.

Remziye is the first wife of Dervis Aga (aga meaning clan leader) and Keje is his second. Because both are dominant figures and Dervis Aga suffers some weaknesses, the children of both wives grow up hating each other. Unable to resist the pressure from his mother and thinking his father has been unfair to his mother and his siblings, Bedir, son of Remziye, kills his father, stepmother Keje and stepsiblings. Feeling victorious, Remziye keeps her promise and paints henna up to her elbows (a sign of rejoice of vengeance) even before burying the dead.

Changing only names, Hamza Izol, has turned his family’s tragedy into a novel. “In many other clans in the eastern city of Urfa, brother kills brother too often. One of the most important reasons why I wrote the book is to bring this danger to the public’s attention,” Izol said.

‘I only wrote about his nine wives’

One of the main characters of the book is Bozan Aga, the father of Dervis.

“Bozan Aga is my uncle. Actually he has 18 wives, but I chose to mention in the book only about his nine wives who gave him children. I just wanted to make it more believable,” said Izol, adding that one of the reasons for polygamy is that women do not live long enough. He doesn’t deny, however, his father was a womanizer. “He even had a child at 70-something. Actually he is fair to his women. He places each wife in a village along with their children. The wife becomes the head of the village and their children are the landlords. After that, he might not see that woman at all or only on religious holidays if he wants to. He is living with his last wife now.”

‘In order to be the last one, a woman accepts to be the second’

“In the expectation of being the last woman of a man, she accepts being the second,” said Izol, explaining the situation from the perspective of women. “The first wife cannot say anything when the second wife comes. Second wives are generally seen in wealthy families. Since a woman is weaker than the man she marries, she cannot object to the second woman.”

His mother was the first wife of his father, who has three wives total.

“My grandfather was poor. He didn’t want to allow my mother’s marriage with my father at first, thinking ‘If he gets a second wife, I cannot stop him.’ But my father kidnapped my mother. Later on, my father had a second wife, although he was very much in love with my mother. The brothers of my mother then kidnapped her. My three siblings and I were left alone with our stepmother for a while, but my grandfather sent my mother back home for our sake,” said Izol.

He said after his mother returned she told her husband that from that moment forward he would just be like a brother to her.

“She was 30 at the time and did not sleep with my father after that day,” Izol said. “His official wife was his second wife and we were registered as her children. There were big fights. My father’s second wife did not want my mother around. This is typical of second wives anyway. The last one does not accept the previous one. Still, my mother was always obedient. She was even cleaning their bathroom. She never bad-mouthed my father. For his third wife, my father’s excuse was that his wives were getting old and could not serve him well.”

Izol, 58, currently lives with his wife in the Mediterranean city of Mersin. He has 10 siblings, the youngest being 10 years old.

‘I married my cousin’

Izol, likewise, had to get married at an early age according to traditions.

“When we were engaged, I was in the eighth grade and my wife-to-be was three years younger than me. As my father’s butcher told me, ‘You are getting engaged,’ I said ‘Uncle Zübeyr, am I a man now?’ He responded ‘Look how tall you are! Of course you are a man.’ We married when I graduated from high school. She is the daughter of my uncle. We grew up in the same house. I woke up one day and saw that I was married to my cousin, so to speak. “

Izol said he sees himself as a very fortunate man and that he is happy with his wife. He said if he were born a second time, he would’ve married his wife again.

Polygamy is weakening and educated people play a role in breaking up the tradition, said Izol, adding that polygamy is considered immoral now.

“My generation, except a few children of my uncle, is monogamous. And men in the village who have two wives are not welcomed. Our family suffered a lot because of polygamy. People should take us as an example. If a man wants to marry a second woman, he should first get divorced from his wife.”

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

WikiLeaks: Hosni Mubarak Told US Not to Topple Saddam Hussein

By ignoring his advice and invading Iraq, Mr Mubarak warned that the Americans had managed to increase the threat posed by Iran. Mr Mubarak made the comments during a breakfast meeting with US congressmen at the presidential palace in Cairo in December, 2008. He told one of the delegation, Sen Byron Dorgan, that the US needed to “listen to its friends” in the region.

“When George Bush Senior was president, ‘he listened to my advice. But his son does not’,” he said, according to a US cable sent on Jan 14, 2009. It continued: “Mubarak said that when President Bush Sr had called and asked what Mubarak thought about invading Iraq to get to rid of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war, Mubarak had told him not to because ‘you won’t be able to get out and you will drown in Iraq’. Mubarak said he had tried to convey the same message to the current administration, only to be ignored.

“‘I told (Vice President) Cheney three or four times’ that Iraq needed a strong leader and that it would be unwise to remove Saddam Hussein; doing so would only ‘open the gate to Iran.’ Unfortunately, he said, the vice-president did not listen to his advice.” The cable continued: “By making these mistakes, the US has empowered Iran, whose goal, according to Mubarak, is ‘to control the entire region’. He [Mubarak] added that Iran is waiting for the US to leave Iraq in order to ‘fill the vacuum’ and emphasised that Iran is the source of funds for many extremist groups in the region, such as Hizbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Mr Mubarak also complained that the Bush administration had pushed Egypt too hard to “open up” politically…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

WikiLeaks: Mohamed Elbaradei Was ‘Too Soft on Tehran’

Officials feared that Mr ElBaradei, who at the time was head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was “just going through the motions” with Iran and was failing to investigate fully its suspected nuclear programme.

In October, 2007, US diplomats were briefed by officers from Israeli Defence Intelligence that Mr ElBaradei saw himself as a “peacemaker” who was surrounded by staff who “do not wish to challenge him”. The cable states: “ElBaradei sees himself as a peacemaker akin to the Dalai Lama. He urged the US to take measures to ‘chip away’ at the staff bolstering his ‘supreme confidence’.

“He [the Israeli official] stressed that it would help if the US and other countries explained to ElBaradei that he might embarrass the IAEA and undercut his legacy in the long run.”

US officials harboured similar concerns. In January, 2009, Mr ElBaradei admitted that, without a wider political agreement, the agency would be unable to inspect Iran and Syria’s nuclear capabilities. The cable states: “ElBaradei repeated his view that, while the IAEA will ‘do its job’ and ‘go through the motions’ in Iran and Syria, he did not believe either issue would progress except as part of a wider political package.”

The US was unimpressed. The cable states: “Our diplomacy should remain geared to ensuring that others remain similarly engaged and that Board members make clear to the DG that he [ElBaradei] must do more than ‘go through the motions’. On both files, Syria in particular, we need to keep pounding the theme that the IAEA’s institutional credibility is at stake.2011

“Unfortunately, ElBaradei is likely to remain part of the problem, rather than solution, if he becomes increasingly unwilling toward the end of his term to hold in check his proclivity to take a NAM-like view on key issues like the Middle East and fuel assurances.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Insurgents Target Moderate Islamic University

An Islamic university in eastern Afghanistan established by Cambridge University’s Muslim chaplain has been bombed by insurgents, in an apparent attempt to snuff out its efforts to provide a moderate religious education to young Afghans.

The Jamiyat’al-Uloom’al-Islamiya in the once peaceful city of Jalalabad was attacked on Tuesday evening, when a powerful bomb hidden near the entrance buckled heavy metal gates and destroyed nearly all the building’s windows. Several students and staff were wounded by flying glass, but no one was seriously hurt.

The university was established in 2009 by John Butt, an Englishman who converted to Islam in 1970 and has worked for decades in the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan as a journalist and religious scholar. The 69-year-old also serves as Cambridge University’s Muslim chaplain.

The city was struck by three other bombs on Tuesday, including an attack on a bus carrying policemen and the son of a leading political family in the province. The rash of bombings reflects the growing clout of militants in a prosperous trading town which also suffered a series of mysterious bomb attacks on music shops last year.

Butt studied at the influential Deoband madrasa in India after converting to Islam in 1970 and proudly calls himself a “Taliban”, which, he points out, simply means “religious student”.

However, the moderate brand of Islam promoted by the white mullah from England is regarded as a threat in militant circles and in recent weeks the university had been receiving “night letters” of the sort routinely used by insurgents to intimidate people.

Butt said the notes accused the university, and three other local madrasas, of “spreading western propaganda and poisoning the minds of the young generation in Afghanistan”.

The notes also said the institution was trying to “sideline jihad with our emphasis on the peaceful propagation of the word of God”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Kill Osama Bin Laden ‘Plot’ Rumbled

TERROR leader Osama bin Laden has escaped a US plot to bomb him in his hideout, it was claimed yesterday.

Supporter Abu al-Fatah claimed the al-Qaeda chief had foiled a US mission to track him in his lair.

He claimed a computer memory stick containing interview questions sent to Bin Laden contained a tiny tracking beacon.

Its signals would have helped America target his location with an accurate unmanned drone attack.

Al-Fatah says the chip was discovered when Bin Laden’s security scanned the USB stick. He said: “The US forces used a device that could transmit signals to a satellite for conducting an air strike on Bin Laden. They discovered a 5mm chip in a USB device meant to reach our leader for an interview.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Cabinet Resigns

A slimmer ministerial team will be appointed in its place, according to Yousuf Raza Gilani, the country’s prime minister, who received the resignations on Wednesday.

However, the plans to reduce the number of cabinet ministers and junior ministers from 60 to 40 have been criticised by analysts as a political stunt rather than real economic reform.

“This move may be good for politics or to make headlines but not really for the economy as the government has to make a more concerted effort in order to build up its credibility,” said Asif Qureshi, director at Invisor Securities.

“It’s an eye wash. We actually need to see something, as in what and who is being inducted.” Pakistan was already struggling with a debt crisis even before its struggling economy was lashed by monsoon rains last year, causing an estimated $10bn of damage.

Foreign aid has been slow in coming, because of concern about the government’s ability or inclination to push through financial reform…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Buying More and More in Europe

Long known for its record export sales throughout Europe, new research suggests China is becoming an increasingly important buyer of eurozone goods, replacing Switzerland as the region’s third most important customer.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Black SC Lawmaker: Immigrants Are Hardest Workers

COLUMBIA, S.C. — An African-American lawmaker in South Carolina said Tuesday that stricter illegal immigration laws would hurt the state because blacks and whites don’t work as hard as Hispanics.

State Sen. Robert Ford made his remarks during a Senate committee debate over an Arizona-style immigration law, eliciting a smattering of nervous laughter in the chamber after he said “brothers” don’t work as hard as Mexicans. He continued that his “blue-eyed brothers” don’t either.

Once his ancestors were freed from slavery, he said, they didn’t want to do any more hard work, so they were replaced by Chinese and Japanese.


He recalled to senators that four workers in the country illegally showed up on his lawn and finished mowing, edging and other work in 30 minutes that would take others much longer, and only wanted $10 for the job. He went on to say he recommended the workers to his neighbors, and one local lawn care businessman lost work — a story one senator remarked was hurting, not helping, his case.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Record Number of Immigrants in 2010

THE HAGUE, 10/02/11 — Immigration to the Netherlands hit another record high last year. On 1 January 2011, the Netherlands had a population of 16.7 million, 80,000 more than a year earlier, the Central Bureau for Statistics (CBS) reported yesterday.

In 2010, 150,000 immigrants came to the Netherlands, 3,000 more than in 2009, the previous record year. The increase in the number of immigrant begun in 2007 thereby continued at the same pace. The growth is mainly in the number of immigrants from both the new and old EU member states.

After three years of declines, emigration also picked up in 2010. This continually lies at a lower level than immigration. Some 118,000 people left to live abroad, 6,000 more than in 2009. The main increase was in people born in the Netherlands or another EU country.

Net immigration was slightly lower than in 2009 at 32,000, and natural growth also slowed somewhat, to 48,000 persons. The number of residents in all provinces either increased or remained about unchanged.

In 2010, 184,000 children were born and 136,000 people died. Compared with 2009, the number of births was slightly lower due to a decline in the number of people in their 20s and 30s, and the number of deaths went up slightly due to an increase in the number of old people.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Risk of Terror ‘Infitration’ From Tunisia Escapees

Released terrorists may pose as asylum seekers says Maroni

(ANSA) — Imperia, February 9 — There is a risk that escapees from Tunisia’s jails after last month’s ouster of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali may swell the ranks of terrorists coming to Europe as would-be political refugees, Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Wednesday.

“We are very worried about the flight of criminals from prisons in Tunisia because of the risk of terrorist infiltration among the Tunisians who want to come to Europe in the guise of political refugees,” Maroni said on a visit to this northwestern Italian city, answering a question on Italo-French cooperation against organised crime.

He said Italy had “proof” of the phenomenon and had raised its guard on crossings from Tunisia.

Maroni also said the Italian government had been in touch with the new Tunisian authorities “to put together the best possible strategies” to weed out terrorists from bona fide asylum seekers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Outrage Over Swedish Teens’ Sex Dream Essays

A class of grade eight students in southern Sweden was asked to write essays about their sexual fantasies and experiences for a school assignment.

“Just the thought that a teacher would sit and ask about their sexual fantasies makes me sick,” one parent told the local Ystads Allehanda newspaper.

The comments came after a class consisting primarily of 14-year-old students from the Kastanje school in Tomelilla received a rather unusual writing assignment for their Swedish lesson.

Entitled “The First Time” (Första gången), the assignment instructed students to imagine they were talking to a close friend and write about the past sexual escapades they might divulge in confidence.

Other options included making up a story about their first sexual experience, writing about the first time they had sex or how they hoped their first time would be.

Getting high marks required writing at least a half page and with “passion,” according to the parent. The assignment made several students so uncomfortable, they told their parents about the request to write sexually themed essays.

“Can they really do this? As a parent, it doesn’t feel right and it irritates me that we’re talking about a graded assignment in a Swedish-language lesson,” said the parent, who wished to remain anonymous.

A teacher from the school expressed surprise that the assignment had upset parents, claiming that most students appreciated the exercise, which was part of a cooperative effort between the biology, sex and well being, and Swedish-language departments.

However, Maria Ahnlund told the newspaper she took the criticism “very seriously” and said she would review the assignment next year to see if there is a more “neutral” approach to the topic.

A spokesperson for teachers’ union Lärarförbundet emphasised the importance of addressing student concerns.

“Obviously, if students feel like the assignment violated their privacy, that criticism must be taken seriously,” Lärarförbundet spokesperson Claes Nyberg told The Local.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

UK: Letters: More Division Over Multiculturalism

We believe David Cameron’s statement that multiculturalism has failed was a dangerous declaration of intent (Blaming the victims, Editorial, 7 February). His speech was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1978 statement that Britain was “being swamped by alien cultures”. He has branded Britain’s Muslims as the new “enemy within” in the same way as Thatcher attacked the miners and trade unions.

David Cameron is attempting to drive a wedge between different communities by linking Britain’s multicultural society with terrorism and national security. His speech was made on the same day as the English Defence League brought its bigotry and violence to the streets of Luton. Mr Cameron’s aim is simple as it is crude — to deflect the anger against his government’s cuts from the bankers and on to the Muslim community. The prime minister is aping attacks by other European leaders like France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who passed legislation banning the veil, and Angela Merkel, who has also made statements denouncing multiculturalism in Germany. We believe our multicultural society and the respect and solidarity it is built on is a cause for pride, and reject any moves by this government to undermine and destroy it.

We must not allow this coalition government to turn the tide back to the days when it was acceptable, through ignorance and fear, for people with a different religion, culture or skin colour to be scapegoated and treated as inferior or outsiders (see the petition here).


[DF — signed by Muslims and leftards]

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Tiny Satellites for Democratic Access to Space

A space science mission can cost hundreds of millions dollars, but a new breed of low-cost satellites called CubeSats lowers the price tag to $100,000, helping bring in an open-source, DIY culture to spaceflight

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Translation of Important Muslim Brotherhood Book: Jihad is the Way

In his book, Jihad is the way, Mashhur explains the fundamental concepts of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology. Mashhur’s teachings encompass subjects such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal of establishing an Islamic state, world domination under Islam, the public and personal religious duty of military Jihad, and the warning not to rush to Jihad until it is prepared and timed for maximum benefit. Click to view full translation in PDF

PMW has selected the following quotes from Jihad is the way to illustrate central ideas of Muslim Brotherhood ideology. PMW’s translation of the book follows below.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]