Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110211

Financial Crisis
»CBO Director Says Obamacare Would Reduce Employment by 800,000 Workers
»Egypt Crisis Puts Spotlight on Weakness in US: El-Erian
»Energy Budget Calls for Cuts in Several Programs
»Israel: First Sign of Crisis; Rising Prices, Risk of Strikes
»Navy Spent $450,000 on Super Bowl Flyover Over Shut Roof
»Senator Warns That Deficit Will Bring a Collapse
»The Value of Islamic Finance is Expected to Surge
»Turkey: Egypt Turmoil Pushes Bond Yield Up to 7-Month High
»UK: Inflation Fears as Factory Price Rises Hit Two-Year High
»UK: Kenneth Clarke: Worst of Cuts ‘Has Yet to be Felt’
»UK: Labour Ministers ‘Leant on IMF’ To Disguise Devastating Truth of Pre-Credit Crunch Economy
»Dangerous Gardasil Vaccine Could Become Mandatory
»Lawmakers Fret About Islamist Rise in Egypt
»Militant Islam Creeping Into Mainstream
»Mitt Romney Fends Off Accusations of ‘Flip Flopping’
»NASA Rocket to Bear Name of Egyptian Woman Killed in Anti-Govt Protests
»No Signs of Intelligence
»Peddling Islamic Extremism
»Pentagon’s Prediction Software Didn’t Spot Egypt Unrest
»Reelection Slogan for Obama & Co: We Bring Down Governments?
»Texas Senate Honors Islamic Cult Leader — Aka the Turkish Khomeini
»The Muslim Brotherhood Gets a PR Makeover From the Obama Administration
Europe and the EU
»Banned Hate Preacher Still Broadcasting to British TV After ‘Jews Are Enemy of Islam’ Claim
»Britain in the EU: This Must be the End
»Britain and Multiculturalism: David Cameron’s Muddled Speech on Multiculturalism
»Ford Sues Ferrari for ‘Copying’ F150 Race Car Name
»France: Ministers’ Vacations, New Guidelines From Sarkozy
»France’s First ‘Saviour Sibling’ Stirs Ethical Debate About Biotechnology
»Greece: Fresh Clashes Over Keratea Rubbish Tip
»Italian Women to Stage Anti-Berlusconi Rallies
»Italy: Frattini Says Ruby Case Could Go to Human Rights Court
»Netherlands: Anti-Jewish Slogans During Dialogue Ramble
»Netherlands: PVV Leader in Senate Will Also Have Two Jobs
»Nicolas Sarkozy Joins David Cameron and Angela Merkel View That Multiculturalism Has Failed
»Nicolas Sarkozy Declares Multiculturalism Had Failed
»Notorious Bulgarian Ethnic Turk Busted in Belgium
»UK: ‘Cut Price’ Contract Killer Who Bungled Two Hits and Then Shot Dead Innocent Bystander Admits Murder
»UK: ‘We Expect Better From the Oldest Democracy’: Brussels Bites Back After Defiant MPs Reject Votes for Prisoners
»UK: ‘Evil and Cowardly’ Brothers Jailed for 46 Years for Killing Two Children and Mother in House Blaze Sparked by Car Loan Feud
»UK: A Bomb Factory in Our Back Yard
»UK: Baby P Doctor Struck Off After Failing to Spot Abused Boy Had Broken Back
»UK: Couldn’t Prosecute Satan! Retired Sergeant Takes a Swipe at the Crown Prosecution Service
»UK: English Defence League Site Pulled Offline After Defacement
»UK: If Strasbourg Has Its Way, We Will All End Up as Prisoners
»UK: MPs Kick Out ECHR Ruling on Prisoners
»UK: Named and Shamed: The Police Forces ‘Using Gobbledygook to Bury Bad News in Lengthy Statements’
»UK: Specialist Police Squad Investigate Assault, Harassment and Stolen Goods Haul at Westminster
»Bosnia: UN Prosecutors Demand Tough Sentences for Six Croats on Trial for Crimes Against Humanity
»Bosnian Police Raid Homes of Wahabi Islam Followers Suspected of Terrorist Activities
North Africa
»A Talk With Tunisia’s Islamist Leader, Back Home After 21 Years in Exile
»Algeria: 25,000 Policemen at Saturday’s Protest in Algiers
»Algeria: Long Lines at Petrol Stations, People Stockpiling
»Algeria Police Deployed Ahead of Banned Democracy Rally
»Beware the Brokering of Egypt’s Elbaradei
»Blame the Muslim Brotherhood
»Egypt: Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to Join Second Round of Talks With Govt
»Egypt: Military Promises to End 30 Years of Emergency Law
»Egypt: Telecoms Billionaire Urges Protesters to Trust Army and Go Home
»Egypt’s Army Backs Mubarak Rule Despite ‘Day of Rage’
»Egypt: Google Manager Ghonim, Situation Out of Our Control
»Egypt: Mubarak Resigns, Power to Armed Forces
»Egypt: Army to Guarantee Transfer of Power, Elections
»Egypt: Mubarak Steps Down, Celebrations in Tahrir Square
»Egypt: Steady as She Goes
»Egypt Protests: Forget Facebook Idealists It’s Brotherhood We Should Fear
»Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda
»Hosni Mubarak Resigns: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Hails ‘A New Middle East’
»Hosni Mubarak Resigns: How and When Will the Country Transition to Democracy?
»Hosni Mubarak Resigns: International Community Facing Tough Questions
»Hosni Mubarak Resigns: Switzerland to Freeze Assets of Ousted Ruler
»If This is Young Arabs’ 1989, Europe Must be Ready With a Bold Response
»Mubarak Steps Down, Ceding Power to Military
»Mubarak Slammed U.S. In Phone Call With Israeli MK Before Resignation
»U.S. Preparing Aid Package for Egypt Opposition
Israel and the Palestinians
»Obama, Soros Create ‘Palestine’
Middle East
»Jordan: Islamist Movement Protests Near Egyptian Embassy
»Yemen: Frattini: Support Regime to Fend Off Terrorist Risk
»Yemen Minister: No Interference, Complicates Situation
»Yemen: Preparations for ‘Friday of Rage’ In the South
»Russian Chiefs Riveted as Regimes Unravel
South Asia
»Caroline Glick: As the Lies Come Crashing Down
»Fears for Man Who Filmed Indonesian Religious Riots
»How Pakistan Could be Made to Pay for an American Killer
»In Malaysia, Youth Group to Educate Against Valentine’s Day
»Indonesia: Muslim Violence: Civic Society, Christian and Muslim Leaders Against Yudhoyono
»Indonesia: Police Ban Inter-Faith Gathering in Central Java After Sectarian Violence
»Indonesian Cleric’s Trial Puts Focus on Rising Militancy
»Pakistan: Police to Charge US Official and Suspected Spy With Murder
Far East
»China: Plastic Rice Made in Taiyuan
»China Gains Chokehold Over U.S. Defense
Sub-Saharan Africa
»105 Die in Fighting Between South Sudan Army and Rebels
»Five Dead in Sectarian Attack in Central Nigeria
»Italy: North African Unrest Sparks ‘Grave Migrant Crisis’
»Man Charged With 3 Counts of Murder in Va. Attacks
»Serbia: Number of Asylum Seekers Increases, Media
»Tunisia: 1,000 Illegal Immigrants Headed for Italy, Press
Culture Wars
»California Wants Lesbians as Mandatory ‘Role’ Models
»The Tenth Parallel, By Eliza Griswold
»UK: ‘Jungle Drums’ Zealot: How an Innocent Phrase Sparked a Politically Correct Witch-Hunt
»UK: Counter-Terrorism Projects Worth £1.2m Face Axe as Part of End to Multiculturalism

Financial Crisis

CBO Director Says Obamacare Would Reduce Employment by 800,000 Workers

Testifying today before the House Budget Committee, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf confirmed that Obamacare is expected to reduce the number of jobs in the labor market by an estimated 800,000. Here are excerpts from the exchange:…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt Crisis Puts Spotlight on Weakness in US: El-Erian

The lack of a flight to the US dollar and Treasurys during the crisis in Egypt is a warning sign that investors are moving away from traditional American safety plays, Pimco’s Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC.

Since the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak hit a tipping point in late January, the dollar has changed little—slumping initially and on a slight uptick in the past few trading sessions. Treasurys, meanwhile, have sold off sharply, sending yields to their highest levels since April 2010.

At another time, such geopolitical turmoil might have sent investors flocking to the traditional safe-haven plays, but that has not been the case so far.

“Had you asked me 19 days ago what happens to the dollar if we have the sort of developments we had, I would have told you the dollar would be stronger,” said El-Erian, co-CEO at the company that runs the largest bond fund in the world. “With the exception of three days, the dollar has weakened during that period. You are seeing a reassessment of the standing of the US dollar and the US Treasury market has the flight to safety, the flight to quality.”

Another reason the market hasn’t flocked to safety is that Egypt doesn’t represent major systemic concerns, he added.

The US should consider the lack of a move into traditional US assets as “a warning that if we don’t get our house in order we will no longer command the global standing” in currency and debt markets, El-Erian said.

However, should the situation escalate and start spreading through the region, that could change.

“If we get widespread violence in the streets you will get a massive risk-off trade,” El-Erian said. “You will see equities sold off, oil go up and you will see a Treasury rally. The reason you would see that is people would start extrapolating the geopolitical risk and reassess the Middle East as a whole.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Energy Budget Calls for Cuts in Several Programs

Washington (AP) — The Obama administration will propose making a big cut to fossil fuel research and closing two facilities.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined those cuts, as well as a big increase for clean energy, in a blog post Friday.

Chu says that the budget would cut the Office of Fossil Energy by 45 percent, or $418 million. The budget would also save $70 million by reducing funding for the hydrogen technology program in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel: First Sign of Crisis; Rising Prices, Risk of Strikes

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 9 — Israel, which until now has been relatively shielded from the international economic crisis, is starting to feel its effects as well. The greatest impact is on the cost of living, with a sudden spike in tariffs and prices for staple goods which in these days are giving way to widespread protests against the government led by Benyamin Netanyahu and which have already driven the Country’s largest union to threaten, after years, a general strike.

Starting today the premier called a series of meetings within the government and majority (which have been extended to the unions as well) to try to defuse the situation. The point is to come up with emergency measures to deal with the most frequent problems. But the situation is still tense and the demands appear contradictory, while the minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz, the main person targeted by protesters and the press in these days, is forcibly absent: yesterday he missed the International conference in Herzliya, during the night he collapsed and was admitted to hospital for medical exams.

And the controversy rages on. Today during a radio interview Ofer Eini, head of Histadrut, the historical Israeli central union which used to be extremely powerful and still represents the main workers’ union, stated that “A large amount of Israelis believe that the government must adjust its aim and change its economic policy”. The union believes that the major issue is the cost of living and the purchasing power of wages, which in recent months have been heavily affected by increases ranging from 10% (bread) to 134% (water) and are also impacted by the cost of public transportation and taxes: local taxes, national taxes, indirect taxes.

Within the government majority, the premier’s party (Likud, liberal-nationalist right wing) is however demanding that all emergency measures do not affect the middle class, its traditional reservoir of votes. Meanwhile the groups of the religious Jewish right wing are raising barricades against any potential cut to contributions to religious bodies.

The respected governor of the Bank of Israel, Israeli/American economist Stanley Fisher, the creator in recent years of the macroeconomic stabilisation of Israel, instead warned the government about potential “populist measure”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Navy Spent $450,000 on Super Bowl Flyover Over Shut Roof

The U.S. Navy has been criticised for spending almost half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money on a flyover at the Super Bowl — while the stadium roof was closed.

The estimated $450,000 expense was for four fighter jets that flew from Virginia to Texas and over the retractable roof of Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.

As it was broadcast on screens at the Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, spectators inside the stadium got the same view as people watching the five-second shot at home.

The $450,000 figure was based on the aircraft’s operational cost, the time it took pilots in the F-18 jets to fly the mission and a backup plane, according to official data.

But the Navy said the only costs of the trip that it recorded were the fuel expenses of $109,000 and the flyover provided good publicity to help military recruitment.

However military aviation expert Jay Miller has questioned the expenditure.

He said: ‘What’s the military exercise that’s involved unless you’re trying to pinpoint a target? And a big coliseum’s your target destination?’

But military officials added that the flyover was part of a training exercise that gave pilots the experience with instruments and communication that they needed for missions…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Senator Warns That Deficit Will Bring a Collapse

‘When your debt equals Gross Domestic Product you approach the point of no return’

WASHINGTON — A plan to cut $500 billion from the nation’s spending probably should be considered just a start, according to Sen. Rand Paul, who addressed the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

“When your total debt equals our Gross Domestic Product you approach a point of no return,” he told the audience. “And we’re quickly approaching that point.”

He condemned plans by the Obama administration to “freeze” spending as out of touch.

“The president of the U.S. has announced he wants to freeze spending … over five years he’s going to add $3.8 trillion to the debt,” Paul said. “It’s unacceptable.”

He continued that the Republican proposals need much more work, too.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Value of Islamic Finance is Expected to Surge

(AKI) — Islamic finance and banking is worth around 1 trillion dollars and is destined to grow more than 4 times the rate of conventional investing, according to analysts at Deloitte & Touche.

The international financial adviser expects the industry to surge 28.6 percent a year and have a value totalling 5 trillion dollars in 2016. By comparison, growth in conventional finance is forecast by Deloitte & Touche to grow 6.6 percent per year during the same period.

Other financial forecasts are more conservative. Credit Suisse expects Islamic finance to be worth 3 trillion dollars in 2016, while McKinsey Global Institute says growth depends on the price of oil.

Islamic finance should be worth 1.8 trillion dollars in 2020 if the average cost of oil is 30 dollars per barrel, according to McKinsey. Its worth would climb to 5 trillion dollars if a barrel of oil went for an average of 100 dollars, the company says.

The Islamic finance industry was not affected by the economic crisis nearly as much as conventional investing, thanks to the price price of oil.

Islamic investing refers to a system of financial activity consistent with the principles of Islamic or Sharia law.

It requires ‘social responsibility’ and a high level of transparency.

Sharia law forbids the payment of interest on loans, although it allows administration fees to be charged for financial services.

Investments in bonds, mortgages and derivatives are banned.

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

Turkey: Egypt Turmoil Pushes Bond Yield Up to 7-Month High

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, FEBRUARY 10 — The yield on Turkey’s benchmark November 7, 2012 bond has increased to 8.65% mainly caused by political tensions in Egypt, making it the highest in the last seven months, as daily Today’s Zaman reports. Global economic developments, central bank policies and a declining inflation trend has pushed the benchmark bond yield to 8.65%.

This makes the benchmark bond yield the highest in the last seven months. The previous month, the bond yield fell to a historic low of 6.86%. Ata Yatirim (Investments) chief economist Nurhan Toguc told the Anatolia news agency that the increase was mainly caused by political tensions leading to money outflows from the country to developing countries and added that she does not see any domestic issue causing the rise in the benchmark bond yield.

“From one side oil prices are rising, which increases the budget deficits of countries like Turkey. This development puts pressure on the interest rates on these bonds, leading to a rise,” Toguc said. “I do think that the current [benchmark bond yield] level will be the highest in the near future. But if the tensions move to other developing countries like India and China, in line with the rising food prices and global unemployment, risk appetite could increase, resulting in more money outflows from these countries, pushing interest rates up.

But, by only analyzing the current rise in the benchmark bond yield, I can say that this could be the highest level we can experience in the short term.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Inflation Fears as Factory Price Rises Hit Two-Year High

Input prices at factories rose 13.4pc in the year to January — the strongest rise since October 2008 — driven by the soaring cost of oil and other imports, the Office for National Statistics reported. Factories feeling the squeeze accelerated rises in their own prices, raising them 1pc in just a month, double the average forecast, and 4.8pc in the past year, which was the highest since May. If the sector passes on a bigger slice of its price pressures to its customers, the effect threatens to feed into the wider economy and the headline inflation rate, analysts warned.

“January’s producer prices figures provide a timely reminder that, despite yesterday’s decision to keep rates on hold, the risk of a near-term hike in interest rates remains very much alive,” said Samuel Tombs, UK Economist at Capital Economics.

Analysts had been expecting the annual pace of input price rises to stick at December’s already alarming 12.5pc figure, which was revised upwards to 12.9pc.

The monthly leap between December and January was 1.7pc, reflecting the oil price and the increasing cost of imported metals and other materials.

However, Andrew Grantham, an economist at HSBC, said the main surprise was the surge in output prices.

These “factory gate” prices showed a hefty rise even when volatile items such as food and fuel were stripped out, he said, as chemicals and clothing prices also rose significantly…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Kenneth Clarke: Worst of Cuts ‘Has Yet to be Felt’

The Justice Secretary says David Cameron and the Coalition should brace themselves for serious political “difficulty” when the true impact of the austerity drive is realised.

In a grim assessment of the “calamitous” state of the economy, the former chancellor says he does not envisage “a quick rebound”. This puts him at odds with the Treasury, which believes the return to growth will be swift after the last quarter’s shock fall. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, he says: “One reason we’re going to get some political difficulty is that [while] the public knows we’ve got to do something about it, I don’t think Middle England has quite taken on board the scale of the problem. “That will emerge as the cuts start coming home this year. We’ve got to get on with it [but] it’s going to be very difficult. If someone says it’s not as bad as all that, I say [they] just don’t realise the calamitous position we’re in.”

Middle-income earners already face rises in the cost of living, widespread wage freezes and poor returns on their savings. Many believe that they are already suffering because of cuts, even though the vast majority have yet to be implemented…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour Ministers ‘Leant on IMF’ To Disguise Devastating Truth of Pre-Credit Crunch Economy

Labour ministers put pressure on international inspectors to ‘tone down’ warnings about the precarious state of the economy before the financial crisis, according to a devastating report.

The International Monetary Fund, the global financial watchdog, told the last government as early as 2004 that it was borrowing and spending too much money.

But the advice was rejected by Treasury officials who told the watchdog to water down its public criticisms of tax and spending policies.

The findings came in a report from the IMF’s Independent Evaluation Office which exposed a series of astonishing failures in the run-up to the crisis.

The report found that information was withheld from the IMF and the public by the British authorities, Fund officials were intimidated, and regulators at home and abroad failed to spot serious risks in the banking system and the economy.

It will make uncomfortable reading for current shadow chancellor Ed Balls, who was a powerful figure at the Treasury at the time.

It will also be a blow to Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was an economic advisor to then Chancellor Gordon Brown in 2004 and 2005.

The Conservatives claimed it was ‘incredibly telling’ of the way the Treasury operated with Mr Balls and Mr Brown at the helm.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Dangerous Gardasil Vaccine Could Become Mandatory

Even as stories continue to surface about young girls who have suffered a host of side effects, including death, after taking the Gardasil vaccine, the drug still has not been tested for or proven as cancer-preventing. And now ObamaCare is calling for mandatory vaccinations and proof of updates in order to get healthcare.

The vaccine is promoted as a protection against various types of cancer thought to be caused by the HPV virus, but none of the active ingredients have been approved under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Public Health Service Act, or the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act, according to their application for patent, reported the PPJ Gazette for Feb. 6, 2011.

In 2007, after the FDA’s 2006 approval of the drug, Judicial Watch posted reports of the adverse effects of the drug on its website, and President Tom Fitton said, “The FDA adverse event reports on the HPV vaccine read like a catalog of horrors. Any state or local government now beset by Merck’s lobbying campaigns to mandate this HPV vaccine for young girls ought to take a look at these adverse health reports.”

Sales of the drug began to drop in 2007, as reports of adverse reactions persisted. According to LibertyNews Online:

…the CDC had posted hundreds of adverse events, seizure, headache, dizziness, weakness, balance difficulty, disorientation, slurred speech, weakness, tiredness fatigue, oral blisters and sores, rashes, fever, paralysis, vomiting, blurred vision, and death.

Despite the hundreds of reports of the drug’s injurious effects, the drug’s manufacturer, Merck, is waiting for FDA approval to make the vaccination a mandatory one for boys, too, as a preventative for a form of anal cancer. And the company still cannot point to a single test that proves either the link between HPV and cervical cancer, nor one that proves Gardasil will prevent cancer, according to Cynthia Janek, reporting on her study of the issue in Renew America.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lawmakers Fret About Islamist Rise in Egypt

No sooner had Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on Friday than the chairwoman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee warned against letting the Muslim Brotherhood emerge as a powerful force.

The comments by Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen reflect anxiety in Congress that Islamist extremists might turn a key U.S. ally into an opponent that would harbor militant groups bent on harming America and tearing up Cairo’s peace deal with Israel.

“We must also urge the unequivocal rejection of any involvement by the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremists who may seek to exploit and hijack these events to gain power, oppress the Egyptian people, and do great harm to Egypt’s relationship with the United States, Israel, and other free nations,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.

She said the United States must focus on helping create conditions for a “calm and orderly transition process toward freedom and democracy in Egypt.”

Other U.S. lawmakers did not explicitly warn against the Muslim Brotherhood, which Mubarak’s government had banned and demonized as seeking to install a Sunni theocracy. But many in Congress expressed concerns about what may be coming next in Egypt, saying they hope an Iranian-style Islamist revolution will not follow the current turmoil…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Militant Islam Creeping Into Mainstream

In a class I taught a few months before 9/11, I made a conceptual distinction between a democracy and a theocracy. As an example of theocracy, a religion-based government, I cited the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which claimed to follow the harsh, strict rules of Islamic law (the Sharia). Unexpectedly, a student stood up, pointed an accusing finger at me and angrily shouted, “You are forbidden to say anything about Muslims or Islam. You are a Jew!” Hence, my first personal encounter with militant Islam.

Now, 10 years later, we mark the anniversary of the ghastly, transformative events that occurred the day Saudi adherents of militant Islam violently attacked our country. Since then, militant Islam has become a mass movement virtually everywhere. It mainly threatens both Christians and Jews and in particular, Israel.

Of the 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, cumulative evidence suggests that although violent jihadists (or Islamic “holy warriors”) may be comparatively few in number, sympathies for their terrorist and genocidal ambitions may lie in far greater numbers. In fact, some members of the U.S. Congress are determined to hold hearings this year to assess the gathering Islamic threat.

Although there is clearly a profound, growing threat today from militant Islam, often centering its violent jihadist venom against Israel, some Muslims say they bear no ill will toward the Jewish people. They claim that classical or genuine Islam professes a peaceful, tolerant attitude toward co-existence with Jews and other non-Muslims. The plausibility of this claim hinges on a distinction between classical Islam and militant, jihadist Islam.

However, evidence shows there is generally a lengthy history of degradation of Jewish people in Muslim lands, despite some brief periods of peaceful coexistence. There exist too many passages in Islam’s holy literature and too much ill treatment against Jews to abide any defensible, enduring distinction between classical and militant Islam concerning Islam’s vision of the Jews.

Islamic militancy and its genocidal anti-Semitism predate the 1948 founding of Israel by more than two decades. A few Muslim scholars such as Yale’s Prof. Bassam Tibi associate the Islamization of anti-Semitism with the beginnings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s. (Al Qaeda and Hamas are two of its offshoots.) The writings of its founder Hassan al Banna and its leading ideologue, the so-called philosopher Sayyid Qutb, are the primary inspirations behind the currency of Islamist Jew-hatred today. In the oft-quoted words of Brotherhood member Yussuf al Qaradawi, a commentator on the Arabic TV station Al Jazeera, “There is no dialogue between us and the Jews except by the sword and the rifle.”

In addition, there is a basis in the Koran, Islam’s holy book, for the argument that once Muslims have governed a land, it is theirs to hold forever. If the land formerly known as Palestine was once controlled at any time by Muslims (such as it was under the Ottoman Empire), in this view it always belongs rightfully and eternally to its Islamic claimants. The land must be retaken and Islam reestablished.

Radical Islamist ideologists believe Judaism and its various political and religious institutions are expressions of cosmic evil that must be confronted and destroyed. The exponents of classical Islam counter by stating that Islam is neither anti-Semitic nor genocidal.

However, there appears to be ample evidence in the Koran for a scriptural basis for the ill will often shown both Jews and other non-Muslims (like Christians). Indeed, many Muslim schools (madrassas), mosques, and some national leaders in predominantly Muslim lands — and now also in Europe and the U.S — preach contempt for all non-believers, especially Jews because they refuse to accept Islam’s prophet as their own. For instance, they typically charge the “faithless” Jews with the betrayal of both the prophets of Christianity (Jesus) and of Islam (Muhammad).

Finally, an assessment of the mostly tragic historical fate of Jews in Muslim Arab lands since the origin of Islam in the seventh century may further weaken the assumed difference between classical and militant Islam…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mitt Romney Fends Off Accusations of ‘Flip Flopping’

The former Massachusetts governor mocked Mr Obama for adopting new centrist rhetoric in last month’s State of the Union speech. “What we were hearing was not just a new and improved Barack Obama,” he claimed in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. “It was an entirely different Barack Obama.” He added, to laughter, that Mr Obama went from a slogan of “Change you can believe in” to a new one of “Can you believe this change?” The problem for Mr Romney, viewed by some senior party figures as the front-runner in a crowded, diverse and undeclared Republican field for 2012, is that he has been accused of much the same thing. During the 2008 presidential race, one of the key factors in his defeat for the Republican nomination at the hands of John McCain was the claim he shifted positions with the wind.

Mr Romney has now seemingly cemented that impression by rewriting key passages of his book “No Apology” for the new paperback version, adopting harder-line stances against Mr Obama and the economic stimulus. When the book, widely viewed as a campaign manifesto, was first released a year ago Mr Romney wrote that the economic stimulus package would “accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery, but not as much as it could have”.

In the new edition, he brands it “a failure” and declares: “This is the first time government has declared war on free enterprise.” Mr Romney’s spokesman said that the changes were a natural reflection of the passage of time and the many things that had happened during the second year of the Obama administration. But the changes could damage Mr Romney because they reinforce an existing impression of him as a “flip flopper”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

NASA Rocket to Bear Name of Egyptian Woman Killed in Anti-Govt Protests

Cairo, 10 Feb. (AKI) — The United States space agency NASA has okayed the naming of one of its spaceships after a young Egyptian woman killed in late January during an anti-goverment protest, according to Egyptian daily Al-Masry-al-Youm.

The paper quoted Essam Mohamed Haji, a young researcher at NASA as saying on Thursday he had received approval to put the young woman Sally Zahran’s name on a spaceship heading for Mars.

Zahran, a 23 English graduated and translator died after she was beaten about the head on 28 January with a truncheons during clashes with security forces in in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag. Anti-government protesters claim her killers were thugs in the pay of police.

“This is the least we could provide to Egyptian youth and revolutionaries. This step represents transferring the dreams of Egyptian youth from a small stretch of earth to the enormous expanse of space,” said Haji was cited as telling Al-Masri Al-Youm by phone from California.

Egypt on Thursday entered it 17th day of unrest, with many thousands of people taking to the streets in the capital, Cairo and filling its central Tahrir Square.

Doctors, bus drivers, lawyers and textile workers were on strike in Cairo on Thursday, with trade unions reporting walkouts and protests across the country.

The protesters have vowed to keep up their revolt against authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, who they want to leave office immediately.

Around 300 people have been killed in clashes with security forces and over 1,400 have been injured since the unrest began on 25 January against Mubarak, who took power in 1981 and whom they blame for widespread poverty, corruption and police brutality.

Mubarak, a staunch ally of the west, has said he will not run for another presidential term in elections due in September, but the anti-government protesters want more rapid political and economic change.

He has come under increasing pressure from the US to speed the transition to democracy. CIA director Leon Panetta, in testimony before an intelligence committee of the US legislature on Thursday said there was “a strong likelihood that Mubarak will step down this evening.”

State television interrupted all programming to present a message from the high council of the Egyptian armed forces that promised to to take “necessary measures to protect the nation,” the military also said it would “support the legitimate demands of the people” and remain in “continuous session”.

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

No Signs of Intelligence

After the CIA director began reporting intelligence he obtained from his TV set and the Director of Intelligence claimed the Muslim Brotherhood was a secular organization, it’s obvious that there isn’t a trace of intelligence in the Obama Administration.

To recap Obama’s foreign policy triumphs, he snubbed England, tried and failed to intimidate the little country of Honduras, picked a fight with Israel over some houses in Jerusalem, tried to budge China on its currency and got nowhere, got played by Russia on the START treaty and now helped overthrow a pro-American government in order to replace it with an anti-American government. It seemed impossible that anyone in the White House could ever top Carter—but Barack Hussein Obama has done it in only 2 years. What he will do in his remaining time doesn’t bear thinking about.

American prestige is at its lowest point in history. Our allies don’t trust us. Our enemies are slapping us around

Even if the American people manage to drive him out of the White House in 2012, he will leave behind an ugly mess to clean up. American prestige is at its lowest point in history. Our allies don’t trust us. Our enemies are slapping us around. The United States was fortunate to have a Reagan to replace Carter, a strong leader who restored and burnished the nation’s standing. The situation wouldn’t have been salvaged nearly as well if Howard Baker or George H.W. Bush had won instead. A Republican who ran for the presidency in 2008 only had to carry on, but in 2012 he will have clean up duty. And there’s no telling how much he will have to clean up. We will need a strong leader who can think on his or her feet, and has the courage to make a clean break with the last 4 years.


Evil is all that Obama believes in

At CPAC, Rick Santorum said that he thinks, Obama doesn’t believe in evil. I think he’s wrong. Evil is all that Obama believes in.

The alliance between Western leftists and regional Islamists is threatening to dramatically change the Middle East. Soros and his ilk are carrying on the work of the Soviet Union. The new “people’s revolutions” toppling regimes no longer come from Moscow, instead they come from 1060 Fifth Avenue and 175 Rue de la Loi. The Soviet Union has fallen, but there are successors carrying on its work, from the Red Baroness Ashton to Soros.

Carter’s man, Zbigniew Brzezinski pushed the Green Belt strategy against the USSR. The Obama Administration appears to have picked it up, but it is no longer directed against the Soviet Union. It exists for its own sake. Islam not as a weapon, but Islamism for the sake of Islamism. Because it is held to be a good by men who don’t know what good is. Who believe reflexively in evil.

The least that any responsible administration should do is make it clear that no Egyptian government that incorporates or allies with the Muslim Brotherhood will receive any aid. But the Obama Administration actually supports a political role for the Muslim Brotherhood.


No mention is made of the rights of Egypt’s Christians. Instead it’s suggested that they should be happy that the protesters and their violence didn’t further endanger them.

A single cautionary note comes from the Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein

“The current situation for the Copts stinks, but [longtime Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak is the best of the worst for us,” said the Rev. Paul Girguis of St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church in Fairfax County, which has about 3,000 members. “If Muslim extremists take over, the focus will be extreme persecution against Copts. Some people even predict genocide.”

Arguably the genocide has already begun. The Christians of the Middle East are an interruption in the narrative of Muslims who want to wipe out all traces of other peoples and religions from the region.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Peddling Islamic Extremism

When America’s top intelligence officer calls the Muslim Brotherhood a “largely secular” organization, it’s appropriate to wonder what the intelligence community is doing with its generous budget. The spooks might get a clue get from the organization’s name, if nothing else.

The White House is engaged in a full-court press to sell the idea that there is nothing to worry about if Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood takes power. On Thursday, Director of National IntelligenceJames Clapper said in testimony to the House Intelligence Committee that the Muslim Brotherhood “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.” He added that they “have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera.” Nothing to worry about according to the intelligence chief, just a public spirited band of community organizers.

Propaganda aside, the Muslim Brotherhood is anything but secular. Founded in 1928 by Islamist radical Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood has worked to realize their dream of establishing hard-line shariah law in Egypt and export their extremist views globally. The brotherhood’s most influential thinker was Sayyid Qutb, the godfather of contemporary jihadism and a preeminent theorist of Islamic revolution. The brotherhood has been an illegal political party for decades and has had to steer clear of openly advocating violence. This is typical of underground parties that seek to coexist with strong-armed regimes. Those radicals who have preached and openly practiced violence, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, have been ruthlessly suppressed. Either way, whether extremist Islam is imposed by force or realized by the ballot, it’s a threat to U.S. interests and the cause of human rights.

The Muslim Brotherhood is doing its part to distract attention from its agenda, issuing a statement claiming they want to work for an Egypt that represents everyone, Muslims, Coptic Christians, secularists and so forth. Such smoke and mirrors go against every aspect of their program but it reveals a modus operandi that is common for extreme revolutionary movements that need to temporarily hide the extent of their intentions to gain power.

The Muslim Brotherhood is employing the “united front” strategy — most notably used by Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin — in which a small but committed band of extremists makes common cause with larger, more moderate groups in order to gain entree into the halls of power. Once part of the ruling order, the extremist faction then proceeds to subvert from within, gaining more influence by degrees until the time is ripe for a full implementation of their revolution. Then, it’s murder and mayhem to get their way. This was how the Bolsheviks — who, like the Muslim Brotherhood, were a small, radical and ruthless part of the political scene — managed to seize power nine months after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini also used this technique to consolidate power after the downfall of the Shah…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pentagon’s Prediction Software Didn’t Spot Egypt Unrest

In the last three years, America’s military and intelligence agencies have spent more than $125 million on computer models that are supposed to forecast political unrest. It’s the latest episode in Washington’s four-decade dalliance with future-spotting programs. But if any of these algorithms saw the upheaval in Egypt coming, the spooks and the generals are keeping the predictions very quiet.

Instead, the head of the CIA is getting hauled in front of Congress, making calls about Egypt’s future based on what he read in the press, and getting proven wrong hours later. Meanwhile, an array of Pentagon-backed social scientists, software engineers and computer modelers are working to assemble forecasting tools that are able to reliably pick up on geopolitical trends worldwide. It remains a distant goal.

“All of our models are bad, some are less bad than others,” says Mark Abdollahian, a political scientist and executive at Sentia Group, which has built dozens of predictive models for government agencies.

“We do better than human estimates, but not by much,” Abdollahian adds. “But think of this like Las Vegas. In blackjack, if you can do four percent better than the average, you’re making real money.”

Over the past three years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has handed out $90 million to more than 50 research labs to assemble some basic tools, theories and processes than might one day produce a more predictable prediction system. None are expected to result in the digital equivalent of crystal balls any time soon.

In the near term, Pentagon insiders say, the most promising forecasting effort comes out of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. And even the results from this Darpa-funded Integrated Crisis Early Warning System (ICEWS) have been imperfect, at best. ICEWS modelers were able to forecast four of 16 rebellions, political upheavals and incidents of ethnic violence to the quarter in which they occurred. Nine of the 16 events were predicted within the year, according to a 2010 journal article [.pdf] from Sean O’Brien, ICEWS’ program manager at Darpa.

Darpa spent $38 million on the program, and is now working with Lockheed and the United States Pacific Command to make the model a more permanent component of the military’s planning process. There are no plans, at the moment, to use ICEWS for forecasting in the Middle East…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Reelection Slogan for Obama & Co: We Bring Down Governments?

Director and editor of ‘The Third Jihad: Radical Islam’s Vision for America’ Wayne Kopping writes: “It was the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood that inspired Osama bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The Muslim Brotherhood ideology lies at the heart of the Hamas charter that calls for the derailing of any Israel-Palestinian peace process and the destruction of Israel. And the Muslim Brotherhood ideology promulgates the fatwas (religious edicts) of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, who deems it a religious duty for Muslims to fight Americans in Iraq.” However, Obama’s and his Clapper want us all to now believe the MB no longer supports violence or its perverse religion. Note: It’s frightening to realize that even I seem to know more about Islamic terrorists than our ostensible Director of National Intelligence.

And—in the meantime—as I and others have reported, the Obama regime has been heavily involved in working to bring the Mubarak government to an end and to replace it with the terrorist MB group. As reported by Judi McLeod, in 2009 Obama’s Code Pink and his friends and benefactors terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were in Egypt “coincidentally.” Training sessions for a revolution, perhaps?


In his article “Soros-paid Scribes Cover Their Tracks in Egypt” Kincaid writes: “WND’s Aaron Klein has #broken the news that the Soros-led International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a 2008 report urging Egyptian government acceptance of the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood.” One way or another, it looks like all roads lead to the Soros-Obama team.

The evidence directly implicating corrupt US leaders (including John Podesta) and the Soros-Obama & Co team in heavily assisting (if not fomenting) and training the opposition (Muslim Brotherhood) to the Egyptian government toward bringing it down (undoubtedly for profit?) appears to be piling up— higher and higher.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Texas Senate Honors Islamic Cult Leader — Aka the Turkish Khomeini

Texas is messin’ with us.

(The Corner) — According to Today’s Zaman, a newspaper owned by followers of the Islamist cult leader Fethullah Gulen, the Texas Senate passed a resolution praising Gulen after Gulen and his followers sponsored several educational centers in Texas. Gulen lives in a militia compound in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and has a history of inciting violence. His organization also repeatedly publishes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Good job, Texas. Hope your dignity was worth the cash.

The resolution honoring the Turkish Khomeini was sponsored by these (apparently clueless) senators: Lucio (D), Fraser (R), Huffman, Nelson (R), Van de Putte (D).

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Muslim Brotherhood Gets a PR Makeover From the Obama Administration

Unsavoury organisations usually pay large amounts of money to glitzy PR firms to improve their public image. In the case of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood however, the Obama administration has offered its services for free. US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave an extraordinary testimony on Thursday before a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, where he described the Islamist group as a peaceful, “largely secular” organisation that “eschewed violence.” In Clapper’s words:

“The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ … is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam… there is no overarching agenda, particularly in the pursuit of violence…”

You can watch the video of Clapper’s testimony here. After the remarks sparked outrage, the DNI issued a statement clarifying them, but to little avail. As former US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton put it on Fox News, the comments were “perhaps the stupidest statement made by any administration in U.S. international history.” Over at National Review, terrorism expert Andrew McCarthy described Clapper’s intervention as “willful stupidity”, a rather generous assessment:

This is the Muslim Brotherhood whose motto brays that the Koran is its law and jihad is its way. The MB whose Palestinian branch, the terrorist organization Hamas, was created for the specific purpose of destroying Israel — the goal its charter says is a religious obligation. It is the organization dedicated to the establishment of Islamicized societies and, ultimately, a global caliphate. It is an organization whose leadership says al-Qaeda’s emir, Osama bin Laden, is an honorable jihad warrior who was “close to Allah on high” in “resisting the occupation.” The same leader who insists that “the history of freedom is written not in ink [i.e., constitutions] but in blood [i.e., jihad].” And, as my friend Cliff May asked in another piece at NRO: Who are you going to believe? DNI Clapper or the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Supreme Guide,” Muhammad Badi, who said it was his hope and plan to raise “a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life”? Kamal al-Halbavi, a senior member of the Brotherhood, was probably just kidding around when he told the BBC the other day that he hoped Egypt soon would have a government “like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad.” (These guys just have a wicked sense of humor.)

The Muslim Brotherhood is bad news. It is a dangerous anti-American and anti-Semitic movement with a brutal Islamist ideology and extremely close links to terrorist groups such as Hamas. Clapper’s remarks were a bizarre whitewash of the organisation, and yet another embarrassing gaffe by an Administration that increasingly specialises in them.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Banned Hate Preacher Still Broadcasting to British TV After ‘Jews Are Enemy of Islam’ Claim

A radical preacher banned from entering the country may now lose the platform to broadcast messages of hate to British television screens.

Zakir Naik — who has claimed that “every Muslim should be a terrorist” — was banned from coming to Britain last June by Theresa May in one of her first major acts as Home Secretary.

But eight months on, the 45-year-old cleric is still a key figure in a company that holds an Ofcom-approved licence for Peace TV.

Now, the broadcasting watchdog has confirmed it is investigating the satellite channel, broadcast in English and Urdu, after receiving a complaint from a viewer over its extremist messages.

Programmes on Peace TV have included praise for “mujahideen” fighting British troops in Iraq, labelled Jews as an “enemy of Islam” and made claims about the 9/11 terror attacks being an “inside job”.

Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former shadow minister for security, said: “The Home Secretary dealt with Naik extremely effectively. I think she will be furious to discover he still has a licence to spread his poison on satellite television. Ofcom should revoke it immediately.”

Naik was banned from entering the country after it was judged that his presence was “not conducive to the public good”.

The decision, later upheld by the High Court, was based on a sermon the Mumbai-based preacher had posted on the internet during which he said “every Muslim should be a terrorist”.

Naik has also been filmed saying: “There are many Jews who are good to Muslims, but as a whole the Koran tells us, as a whole, they will be our staunchest enemy.”

During the court case, lawyers for the Home Office also suggested that Naik’s sermons broadcast in India acted as inspiration for the terrorists behind the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

In his appeal against Ms May’s decision, held last November, the cleric’s lawyers revealed Naik was director and chairman of Universal Broadcasting Corporation Ltd, a company registered in Britain.

UBCL owns a subsidiary firm, Lords Production Ltd, which has held the broadcasting licence for Peace TV since 2007. In a further twist, the High Court papers name Naik as the chairman of a charity, the Islamic Research Foundation International, which appears to provide funding for Peace TV.

Latest accounts lodged with the Charity Commission show IRF received £1.5 million in donations in 2009; of which £1.25 million was used to “support Peace TV”. Under Naik, who is founder and president of the channel, it has broadcast a range of anti-Semitic and anti-Western programmes. Hannah Stuart, of the Centre of Social Cohesion, said: “Zakir Naik has been excluded from the UK — to allow him to continue broadcasting here makes a mockery of that decision.”

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We are in the middle of an investigation about Peace TV. Ofcom will not tolerate extremism on British television, and transgressors will be dealt with.”

A Peace TV spokesman said: “We have received no complaints in the last two years. As far as we are aware there is no Ofcom investigation. We are currently appealing Theresa May’s decision in the Court of Appeal.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Britain in the EU: This Must be the End

EUROPE was given a stark warning of the depth of Britain’s fury with EU interference and meddling last night.

In a historic Commons decision, MPs overwhelmingly rejected proposals to give prisoners the vote.

They voted by a margin of more than 10 to one against bowing to a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights. The moment of defiance, after decades of submitting to EU institutions, was being seen as a turning point in the battle for British independence from European edicts, judges and bureaucracy.

The move will put pressure on David Cameron, however. Tory MP Philip Hollobone said: “This is a clear indication of the will of Parliament and the Government ignores it at its peril.” A total of 234 MPs voted against the Strasbourg court ruling while just 22 MPs backed it…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Britain and Multiculturalism: David Cameron’s Muddled Speech on Multiculturalism

IN THIS week’s print column, I look at the fuss—still rumbling on—caused by David Cameron when he gave a speech on multiculturalism and British Islam at the Munich Security Conference on February 5th. The column argues that the speech is not as ferocious as either its critics or cheerleaders seem to think. From the left, the prime minister stands accused of “writing propaganda” for the far right. Voices on the right claimed Mr Cameron had declared the end of multiculturalism, full stop, with the Daily Telegraph headlining its report: “Muslims must embrace British values”.

The bad news is, I think the speech was seriously muddled and as a result unconvincing, for reasons set out below.

I also think something else, though, which did not fit in the print column. I think that Mr Cameron, a man of strikingly good manners most of the time, forgot his natural courtesy. For starters, I agree with critics who say it was clumsy to give what was essentially a domestic speech about Muslims in Britain at an international security conference, as if implying that the presence of Muslims on British soil was essentially a question of national security and counter-terrorism.

Speaking to one MP last night, he suggested that Mr Cameron was trying rather crudely to position himself as an ally of the German chancellor Angela Merkel (who was at the Munich conference) and the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, both of whom have come out swinging against multiculturalism in recent months. I think there is a lot to that. Indeed, in a sort of inter-governmental relay race, on Thursday evening Mr Sarkozy told French television he agreed with Mr Cameron that multiculturalism had “failed”.

Read in full, Mr Cameron’s speech was actually more subtle than the rather crude rhetoric of either Mrs Merkel or Mr Sarkozy. He was at pains to say that piety and extremism were two separate things, and that to talk about the idea of an inclusive British national identity open to all.

At one point on TF1 last night, Mr Sarkozy seemed to suggest that French Muslims questioned the idea of young girls going to school, as if they were the Taliban. Not for the first time, he also echoed complaints first made by the far-right National Front, in this case the idea that it is un-French to pray in the street. Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the National Front (who also opportunistically praised Mr Cameron’s speech this week, to Downing Street’s dismay) recently compared Muslims praying in French streets with German occupiers. Mr Sarkozy avoided that degree of bone-headed bad taste, but did say: “We don’t want people praying ostentatiously in the street in France,” though mosques, he conceded were a “normal” part of life.

The problem for Mr Cameron is that very few people read speeches in full, as he well knows. And this is where his manners failed him. Because lots and lots of people who read only the media reports of his speech came away with the impression that he had said multiculturalism had failed. In fact he was more careful/tricksy than that, talking about the “failed policies of the past” at one point, and at another point talking about the problems with what he mysteriously called “the doctrine of state multiculturalism”.

And among the people who came away with that impression were some of the moderate Muslims working in Britain to try to promote the good thing that they consider to be multiculturalism: meaning, simply, a mutual respect between different cultures…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Ford Sues Ferrari for ‘Copying’ F150 Race Car Name

US giant says Italian carmaker mimicking name of pick-up

(ANSA) — New York, February 10 — The Ford motor company has filed a suit against Ferrari in Detroit claiming the Italian carmaker has breached copyright law in naming its new Formula One race car the F150, virtually the same as the US giant’s popular F-150 pick-up truck.

The suit also accuses Ferrari, which picked the name for the 150th anniversary of Italian unification this year, of “Internet piracy”, Ford said in a statement.

The grounds for this latter charge were not immediately clear. Ford said they had asked Ferrari to change the car’s name but the Italian company had been slow in getting back to them.

This left Ford “no alternative but to take legal action to protect this important brand”.

“F-150 is an important and steady brand and the name of its highest-selling pick-up model in the F series, the most sold truck in America in the last 34 years,” it said.

“This hard-won brand is now seriously threatened by the adoption of the name F150,” it said. Ferrari is owned by the Fiat group, which took over Chrysler in 2009 and is one of Ford’s major competitors on the American market.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Ministers’ Vacations, New Guidelines From Sarkozy

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 9 — Following in slew of controversies over the vacations to Tunisia and Egypt taken by Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and Premier Francois Fillon, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has prescribed some new guidelines on the issue.

A statement from Elysee Palace explained that the president has asked all ministers to “prioritise France” when choosing their vacations and from now on to submit invitations abroad to the prime minister.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France’s First ‘Saviour Sibling’ Stirs Ethical Debate About Biotechnology

The country’s first “saviour sibling”, a healthy boy whose discarded umbilical cord will help heal one of his two siblings from a genetic blood disease, has brought complicated ethical issues over biotechnology to the forefront in France.

France’s first so-called “saviour sibling” was born in a hospital in the Parisian suburb of Clamart in late January, doctors announced Tuesday. The baby, whose blood stem cells will help cure one of his siblings from a severe genetic blood disease, has also opened a new front in the bioethics debate in France.

Born to parents of Turkish origin and named Umut Talha (Turkish for “our hope”), the child was conceived under circumstances that would have been unthinkable only a generation ago.

Umut Talha’s parents approached the hospital in Clamart a little more than a year ago with a serious problem: their two young children were both afflicted with an inherited blood disorder, Beta thalassemia, which requires monthly blood transfusions. The parents knew the hospital was one of only three in France that was developing a treatment for their children’s illness.

An embryo was screened and genetically selected from an original group of 12 embryos. It was picked to ensure it did not carry the gene for Beta thalassemia, but also based on its compatibility with the sick siblings. Besides selecting an offspring that would be spared from the disorder, the parents hoped the future baby would also become a donor of the right kind of treatment cells.

In the end the boy was born disorder-free, and his cells were confirmed to be compatible with his older sister, now aged two. Doctors feel confident that Umut’s sister will be cured with the cells from his discarded umbilical cord, and her monthly blood transfusions will be discontinued.

The family have since returned to their home in southern France, but they plan to return to Clamart to undergo the same procedure to cure their other child, Umut’s four-year-old brother.

Hopes and hurdles

French newspapers spread “medicine baby” across headlines on Tuesday. But speaking at a press conference René Frydman, a fertility pioneer and father of the first French test-tube baby, who also oversaw Umut’s case, said he preferred the term “double-hope baby”.

“Medicine baby is a media term invented by people who are against this kind of procedure,” Frydman told reporters. In English-speaking countries, the terms “donor baby” and “saviour sibling” have been widely used in the media.

For Frydman, Umut represents a double hope for his parents: the hope of having a new, healthy baby, and the hope of curing one of their sick children. But other scientists, religious groups and parents beg to differ.

The issue of saviour babies has raised complex ethical debates, and renewed fears of a move towards “designer babies”, or babies whose traits — such as intelligence, eye-colour and height — have been predetermined.

The timing of Umut’s birth could be significant. The very law that allows for cases like Umut’s is being revised starting today. Observers say that the existing legislation guiding biotechnology in France may be tightened and restrict research in certain fields, including stem cells.

The country’s standing bioethics law allows for cases like Umut’s. In fact, the government has earmarked 800,000 euros per year for Clamart to practice and develop the procedure.

But Frydman and his colleagues say a lot more needs to be done, complaining of endless hurdles to launch further research and access funds. They regret that France has started a decade after the United States and that the government is still reluctant to give them its full backing.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Greece: Fresh Clashes Over Keratea Rubbish Tip

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 9 — Fresh incidents broke out over the night between police and residents of Keratea, south-east of Athens, which has been chosen over the past few years alongside Grammatico (north of the capital) as the site for two new large rubbish tips for the Attica region (the capital of which is Athens), which has repeatedly experienced crises concerning waste management. Keratea inhabitants are against the construction of the dump, saying that regular administrative procedures were not complied with and that the dump would be next to an archaeological site. The incidents which occurred over the night and which led to the arrest of five people, follow those in January and December, when they had continued for eight consecutive days with violent clashes breaking out between inhabitants and police. According to the media, last night’s incidents were more serious than the ones of the last few months. “Nothing was left standing” reported the daily paper Eleftherotypia. The “Battle” shifted to inside the city itself, in the streets and squares, and lasted until late night, with police using tear gas and attacks by protestors, who used incendiary bombs and stones. The government is instead pushing for the projects to be carried out rapidly, especially in order to avoid losing EU funds. A judge had temporarily suspended the works while awaiting a ruling on the matter, but the Greek State Council, the supreme administrative court, gave the go-ahead on January 10 for the construction of the rubbish tip in Keratea.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italian Women to Stage Anti-Berlusconi Rallies

Premier’s supporters protest against Ruby probe in Milan

(ANSA) — Rome, February 11 — Women will take to the streets of Italy’s cities on Sunday calling on Premier Silvio Berlusconi to resign after prosecutors this week requested he be sent to trial for allegedly using an underage prostitute.

The protesters say evidence leaked from the probe into Berlusconi allegedly paying for sex with a then-17 Moroccan belly dancer called Ruby show the 74-year-old premier has little respect for female dignity.

They say wiretaps published in the media suggest he surrounded himself at parties at his home with starlets and other women hoping to use their looks to gain positions in politics or at Berlusconi’s Mediaset TV empire.

“The Ruby case has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power,” said Iaia Caputo of the organising committee of the protests, entitled “If Not Now, When?”, also the title of a famous Primo Levi novel.

“If we accept this as normal, we risk prejudicing the free choice of women.

“We want to send a message to the country and to the parties that do not see themselves a part of what has happened over the last few weeks — it’s possible to change route”.

Berlusconi’s cabinet features a former show girl, Equal Opportunities Minister Mara Carfagna.

One of the people under investigation in the Ruby probe, the premier’s former dental hygienist Nicole Minetti — another showgirl who allegedly procured prostitutes for parties at Berlusconi’s home — is a Lombardy regional councilor for his People of Freedom (PdL) party. Berlusconi denies ever paying for sex with Ruby, who is now 18 and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug, or anyone else and says all the women he has given political or media roles to were appointed on merit. The media magnate, who could also go on trial for allegedly abusing his power when he called police to get Ruby out of custody last May following an unrelated theft accusation, says he is the victim of biased magistrates who are seeking to oust him from power.

He has plenty of supporters in Italy who agree with him, including many women, some of whom took part in a PdL rally outside courts in Milan on Friday against the prosecutors’ alleged persecution of the premier and violation of his privacy.

The PdL continues to top Italy’s opinion polls despite the Ruby case, the latest in a string of sex scandals to hit the premier.

Furthermore, skepticism about Sunday’s demonstrations is not limited to PdL supporters. Pop singer Anna Tatangelo said she would not be taking part.

“I don’t think the protest will help the climate in Italy,” Tatangelo told ANSA.

“It’s necessary to calm things down and restore order in the political situation and the basic things that concern our country. “Don’t go and protest, think about how we can really get back up”. One of the biggest “If Not Now, When?” events will take place in Milan, where comedienne Paola Cortellesi, actress Franca Rame and publisher Inge Feltrinelli are set to join in.

Men will not be excluded from the protests.

There will also be other protests for and against Berlusconi in various parts of Italy all weekend. A preliminary hearings judge is not expected to announce before Monday or Tuesday whether she has granted the prosecutors’ request to send the Ruby case to trial. If approved, the trial would start around Easter, legal experts say.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Frattini Says Ruby Case Could Go to Human Rights Court

Berlusconi’s privacy violated, Foreign Minister argues

(ANSA) — Rome, February 10 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi could take the Italian State to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for violating his privacy in the case of the premier’s alleged use of an underage prostitute, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Thursday.

On Wednesday Milan prosecutors requested Berlusconi be sent to trial for allegedly paying to have sex with a Moroccan belly dancer called Ruby, who was 17 when the alleged relations took place, and allegedly abusing his power to get her out of police custody for an unrelated theft accusation.

The request came after a series of embarrassing wiretaps about parties at the premier’s homes were published in the media.

“(Violation of privacy) can be dealt with not just in Italy, but also at the European Court of Human Rights,” Frattini told reporters.

“There is a wealth of jurisprudence on this subject. When a citizen feels damaged, he has the right to turn to the competent judge to obtain protection”. On Wednesday the premier had said he would sue the Italian State to make the prosecutors “pay” for what they had done, saying the accusations were “absolutely groundless”.

Luigi De Magistris, an MEP for the centre-left opposition Italy of Values party, described the idea of Berlusconi appealing to the European Court of Human Rights as “ridiculous”. “How can Frattini drag in an international body in an unwarranted, spurious way, seeking to bend it to the interests of his boss?” De Magistris said. “If anyone should go to the European Court of Human Rights it is the Italian people, who for months have been denied their rights by an absent government”. In their 782-page request for an immediate trial prosecutors said they had “proof” Berlusconi paid to have sex with Ruby, who has since celebrated her 18th birthday and whose real name is Karima El Mahroug.

They also claim to have evidence he abused his power when he phoned police in May and told them the young woman they had detained over an allegation of theft was the niece of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The premier and Ruby have both denied having sex and he said he had “intervened to avert a diplomatic incident” with Egypt in calling police, saying the teen had told him she was Mubarak’s relative.

Berlusconi 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 other sex scandals to have hit him.

Frattini echoed Berlusconi’s claims that the magistrates were seeking to oust the premier from power Thursday, adding that they would fail.

“We think it unimaginable that a democratically elected government could be changed via judicial means,” he said. 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 says the move will bring Italy into line with other countries after a series of European Union strictures on the length of Italian trials but judges claim it will kill thousands of cases, denying justice.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Anti-Jewish Slogans During Dialogue Ramble

AMSTERDAM, 11/02/11 — An ‘interreligious dialogue march’ in Amsterdam has been marred by anti-Semitic shouting.

Prominent religious leaders walked from the Nour mosque in Amsterdam West to a church and a synagogue on Wednesday. Which synagogue this would be was not announced beforehand to avoid intimidation by Islamic youths.

Among the participants were Kursat Bal of the Muslims and Government Contact Body (CMO), Rabbi Raphael Evers and J. Plaisier of the Protestant Church Netherlands (PKN). In fact, they spoke more with the press than with each other.

Along the route, anti-Jewish slogans regularly sounded from the mouths of Islamic youths. Arriving at the synagogue, Kursat Bal excused himself for them. “These youngsters do not know Jews and they do not know their own Islam.”

The solution that Bal suggested was remarkable. “They would not have shouted these things if they had been going to Islamic schools.”

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

Netherlands: PVV Leader in Senate Will Also Have Two Jobs

Machiel de Graaf, 41, who currently leads the anti-Islam PVV on The Hague city council, is to head the party when it debutes in the senate later this year.

De Graaf will not resign from The Hague and will draw two salaries, according to the Telegraaf.

De Graaf, who comes from a Scheveningen fishing family, worked as a physiotherapist and for the pharmaceuticals industry before becoming involved in the PVV.

The rest of the PVV’s candidates for the senate is being kept secret until at least the end of March, the Volkskrant reports.

The number of PVV seats in the 75-seat upper house will depend on the results of the provincial elections on March 2.


Meanwhile, just 40% of people who support the PVV plan to vote in the provincial elections, according to research by TNS Nipo.

Most likely voters to turn out are supporters of the Liberal democratic party D66. Some 69% of them plan to vote on March 2.

The turnout at the provincial elections is usually around 50%.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nicolas Sarkozy Joins David Cameron and Angela Merkel View That Multiculturalism Has Failed

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has joined David Cameron in condemning multiculturalism as a failure.

Cameron launched a scathing attack earlier this months on 30 years of multiculturalism in Britain warning that it fostered extremism.

His damning verdict came just months after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that multiculturalism in Germany had failed.

Now Sarkozy has joined the growing number of European leaders who have adopted identical views on multiculturalism.

He told the French people: ‘We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him.’

The president made the declaration in a TV debate last night after being asked if the policy of encouraging the religious and cultural differences of immigrants was not working.

He told viewers: ‘My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure.

‘Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want a society where communities coexist side by side.

‘Our Muslim compatriots must be able to practise their religion, as any citizen can, but we in France do not want people to pray in an ostentatious way in the street.

‘If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France.

‘The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women and freedom for little girls to go to school.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Nicolas Sarkozy Declares Multiculturalism Had Failed

“We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,” he said in a television interview in which he declared the concept a “failure”.

Prime Minister David Cameron last month pronounced his country’s long-standing policy of multiculturalism a failure, calling for better integration of young Muslims to combat home-grown extremism. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australia’s former prime minister John Howard and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar have also in recent months said multicultural policies have not successfully integrated immigrants…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Notorious Bulgarian Ethnic Turk Busted in Belgium

One of the notorious Bulgarian Yuzeirovi brothers — Yuzeir has been detained in Belgium on charges of human trafficking, according to the Antwerp police.

This Yuzeir Yuzeirov’s second arrest in Belgium. He was arrested in July, 2010 to serve a sentence after being convicted on two counts there. His brother Ali, at the time, denied the information before Bulgarian media until the Belgium police confirmed it.

Yuzeir Yuzeirov, an ethnic Bulgarian Turk, is also known by his Bulgarian name of Rosen Yordanov.

Last December, Ali Yuzeirov, announced he was going to run for president in 2011.

In the beginning of April, 2010, Yuzeirovi’s attempt to found the Muslim party OTOMAN in the city of Shumen failed because the brothers were unable to gather the needed 500 supporters. Ali Yuzeirov complained at the time that many buses and followers on foot were on their way but could not arrive to the meeting because they were stopped by the police.

The abbreviation OTOMAN stands for “Union for Tolerance, Responsibility, Moral, and Alternative Progress.” Yet the party’s name bears uncanny connotation to the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria’s bitter past under Turkish dominion.

Yuzeirovi insist that OTOMAN’s main goal is to promote religious and ethnic tolerance. Their similar initiatives in the summer and fall of 2009 have been slammed by many commentators as attempts to stir ethnic and religious tension.

In the fall of 2009, the two brothers erected a monument of the Unknown Turkish/Muslim Soldier near Targovishte, which was torn down by the authorities after court action…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Cut Price’ Contract Killer Who Bungled Two Hits and Then Shot Dead Innocent Bystander Admits Murder

A cowboy contract killer bungled a string of gangland hits after he offered himself up as a ‘cut price’ gun for hire.

Jobless Simeon Henderson, 27, agreed to take as little as £3,000 a time from mobsters to shoot their enemies after bartering with them on deals.

But he failed to ‘smoke’ one man as ordered by his paymaster and on another missed his victim altogether and as a result was ordered to carry out a third shooting for free.

Yet when told to merely scare a shopkeeper involved in a gang feud Henderson misfired his 1950s Czechoslovakian machine gun and accidentally sprayed bullets all over a store with deadly consequences.

Nasar Hussain, an innocent shop assistant working behind the counter, was hit five times in the chest and body. He slumped to the floor and died from his wounds whilst the real target escaped unharmed.

Afterwards, panicking Henderson — who had been communicating by walkie talkie — ran out to his getaway car and said to the driver: ‘I think I’ve killed a man.’

He later claimed he had only become a hitman because he struggled to get a job and whilst awaiting trial for murder demanded a million pounds to stay silent about who hired him.

At Manchester Crown Court, Henderson, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, admitted murder and will be sentenced later.

He agreed to turn ‘supergrass’ and testify against his paymasters at a two month trial held amid tight security.

The jury was told how the father of one Henderson had set himself up a hitman in Greater Manchester when he failed to get a job after completing a series of jail terms for robbery and theft.

His previous crimes had included robbing a post office so he could could get money to support his child and stealing £40,000 of drugs money.

He was also paid £2,000 a time as a drug courier for mobsters in London and served a four year jail term for robbing a bookmakers.

His new career as a contract killer began in 2008 he was enlisted by car hire bosses Hafiz Mohammed, 43, Gulfan ‘Gogo’ Khan, 44, and Mohammed Safdar, 42, who were involved in a turf feud between gangs from Oldham and Bolton…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘We Expect Better From the Oldest Democracy’: Brussels Bites Back After Defiant MPs Reject Votes for Prisoners

European bureaucrats have hit back at MPs’ rebellion against a ruling to give voting rights to prisoners.

The overwhelming Commons vote has no legal force, but it prompted a warning from Strasbourg that the UK Government must still ‘honour its international obligations’.

The Council of Europe enforces decisions of the European Court of Human Rights which triggered a storm by delivering a legal judgment that denying voting rights breaches prisoners’ human rights.

Now a senior member of the council’s parliamentary committee has made clear the Commons vote changes nothing.

Christos Pourgourides said in a statement: ‘I am deeply disappointed by last night’s vote, in defiance of the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights on prisoner voting.

‘I had hoped that the parliament of one of Europe’s oldest democracies — regarded as playing a leading role in protecting human rights — would have encouraged the United Kingdom to honour its international obligations, as our assembly urged only last month.

‘Every member state must implement the judgments of the court.’

‘The UK Government has said that it intends to implement this judgment, and I encourage it to find a way to do so that is consistent with its international legal obligations.

MPs last night voted by 234 to 22 to defy a ruling from the ECHR that prisoners should be allowed to vote.

Dozens of Conservative backbenchers, with former Home Secretary David Davis prominent among them, lined up to insist that after decades of toeing the line, the time has come for Britain to tell unelected European judges that they have overstepped their authority.

Experts said the vote left Britain’s relationship with the European court in ‘uncharted territory’. It places the Prime Minister under intense pressure to launch a defining challenge against it.

Proposing the cross-party motion which ‘supports the current situation in which no prisoner is able to vote’, former Tory shadow home secretary David Davis said: ‘The general point is very clear in this country: that is that it takes a pretty serious crime to get yourself sent to prison…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Evil and Cowardly’ Brothers Jailed for 46 Years for Killing Two Children and Mother in House Blaze Sparked by Car Loan Feud

A man who set fire to a house, killing a mother and her two young children, was told today he must serve a minimum of 29 years in prison by a judge who said he did an ‘evil and cowardly thing’.

Asjid Mahmood, now 22, showed no emotion as he was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court for the murder of Iram Shah and her children Alina, 10, and Aman, eight.

The children were killed when a blaze started by Mahmood swept through their home in Bradford last July.

The brothers had been involved in a dispute with the children’s father over finance re-payments on a car they had bought with him.

Their mother was seriously injured when she jumped to escape the smoke and flames and died later in hospital.

Mahmood’s brother, Arshed Mahmood, 18, was jailed for 17 years today for three counts of manslaughter.

The judge, Mr Justice Coulson, told the brothers: ‘To light a fire in the small hours of the night at the back door of a domestic property was an evil and a cowardly thing to do and had inevitably tragic consequences.’

The judge added: ‘This was an appalling and horrific crime.’

Mrs Shah, 30, died after leaping out of the window of the burning home with her clothes on fire.

Ms Shah broke her spine as she fell and was so badly burned that her neighbours had to roll her around on the floor to put out the flames.

Last month a jury found Asjid guilty of three counts of murder while his younger brother Arshed was convicted of three counts of manslaughter at Bradford Crown Court.

The pair used fish and chip wrappers and petrol to start the blaze on July 6 last year.

They had been involved in a dispute with father Zaheer Shah over finance re-payments on a Seat Leon FR car they had jointly purchased with him. Zaheer had remarried after his relationship with Iram ended but he still stayed over at the house occasionally.

During his trial, Asjid Mahmood admitted starting the fire but denied wanting to kill anyone or cause serious injury. He said he went round to the property to try and get Zaheer’s attention after he landed him in debt by failing to keep up repayments on the vehicle.

He claimed he only intended to set the car alight but, when it was not outside he decided to light a fire outside the property, expecting it to burn out…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: A Bomb Factory in Our Back Yard

How’s this for timing? A week ago The Daily Telegraph published a confidential cable from the US embassy calling a controversial plant at Sellafield “one of Her Majesty’s Government’s most embarrassing failures in British industrial history”. Then, within days, ministers said they were minded to build another one like it.

The embassy was not wrong. The so-called Mox plant, which makes nuclear fuel out of uranium and plutonium at the Cumbrian nuclear complex, is not just — as the cable put it — a “white elephant”, but one that could well go rogue. Built at a cost of £473 million, despite repeated warnings that it would be uneconomic and could be a security risk, it has never worked properly. Supposed to churn out a grand total of 560 tons of fuel by the end of its first decade of operation, later this year, it has so far produced just 15.

Even though the Government wrote off its capital cost, it is still haemorrhaging money. Though the annual loss is kept secret, the cable — passed to this newspaper by WikiLeaks — states that it is “costing taxpayers £90 million a year” It remains, it adds, “a black mark for the entire industry”.

Yet, unbelievably, ministers seem keen to repeat the exercise. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published a little-noticed consultation document this week that made it clear that its “preferred option” was to build another Mox plant as “a proven technology” that offers “the best prospect” of finding a solution for our vast stockpiles of plutonium. But even if it works this time, it will greatly increase the chances of terrorists getting nuclear weapons. The problem is that Britain has the dubious distinction of being the world’s civilian plutonium capital, with 112 tons of it — about half the global total — almost all stored at Sellafield. It is there because, unlike in America, we “reprocess” our nuclear waste to extract plutonium. The idea was for it to power a new generation of “fast breeder” reactors, but the industry admits these are still half a century away, and so we are stuck with the stuff. The ill-fated Mox plant was designed to turn the plutonium into fuel for present-day power stations, and ministers are still stuck on the idea. In supporting documents, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which runs Sellafield, insists that there have been “improvements” in the existing plant’s “performance” since 2008. And so there have, but they are barely noticeable: by then it had produced just 5.3 tons of fuel. It has since managed another 9.7.

A facility in France is working better, but internal industry documents suggest that its technology cannot simply be imported, because British plutonium has different characteristics and the DECC admits that building a “viable” plant will be a “challenge”. Even if it were to work, it would be very hard to sell the fuel. Our existing reactors can’t use it, the new-build ones are not being licensed to do so. A few reactors overseas do burn it; but the DECC admits that there may be “no commercial demand” for any the new plant produces and that they expect its value to be “significantly less” that the cost of manufacturing it.

Things would be even worse if the plant were to succeed, because it would then be taking the raw material for bombs out of the closely guarded stores where it is now held and having it transported around the country — or the world — as the fuel was taken to reactors. If terrorists or criminals intercepted a shipment, they could — nuclear physicists say — extract the plutonium and use it to make a bomb capable of destroying much of a major city.

Quite dishonestly, the DECC consultation pretends that its plans will guard against diversion to bombmaking, by pointing out that once the fuel has been irradiated by reactors, it will be too radioactive for terrorists to handle. That’s true, but misleading: the danger comes when the fresh fuel is being taken to them in the first place. Yet the consultation paper does not devote a word to this threat, despite groups such as al-Qaeda having said they have a “religious duty” to acquire nuclear weapons…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Baby P Doctor Struck Off After Failing to Spot Abused Boy Had Broken Back

The doctor accused of failing to spot Baby P’s broken back days before his death has been removed from the medical register.

The consultant paediatrician was granted ‘voluntary erasure’ from the medical register by the General Medical Council, meaning she avoided a full misconduct hearing.

Dr Al-Zayyat allegedly missed the 17-month-old’s injuries after deciding she could not carry out a full check-up because he was ‘miserable and cranky’.

Two days after the examination, on August 1 2007, he died at the hands of his mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend, Steven Barker, and his brother, Jason Owen. They were all jailed in May 2009.

A post-mortem examination found he had probably suffered serious injuries, including a broken back and fractured ribs, before he was examined by the doctor, their trial at the Old Bailey heard.

The GMC fitness to practise panel quoted a letter from the doctor, dated October last year, in which she said: ‘I am deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart (for) the tragic death of P… His death will be with me until the last day of my life.

‘I am extremely sorry with regret as I failed the child and let my patient down. I fell below the standard expected of me on the day.

‘I thought my decisions and actions on that day at that moment of time were reasonable but in hindsight my decisions were wrong.’

Dr Al-Zayyat, who qualified in Pakistan and worked in Saudi Arabia before coming to Britain in 2004, was suspended from practice by the GMC in November 2008…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Couldn’t Prosecute Satan! Retired Sergeant Takes a Swipe at the Crown Prosecution Service

A police officer with more than 30 years’ service has revealed why he wouldn’t join up now — because jails are ‘too easy’, the CPS ‘Couldn’t Prosecute Satan’ and the courts are ‘too slack’.

Recently-retired South Yorkshire sergeant Richard Sainsbury lambasted the criminal justice system, saying it has changed beyond recognition since he joined up in 1977.

The no-nonsense officer — who was handed a Lifetime Achievement in Policing award last year — listed a host of reasons why policing the streets today is vastly different from when he joined 34 years ago.

In the piece he reveals how one drug dealer recently complained to officers that he had ‘become addicted to Playstation games’ during a stint in jail and was desperate to get his hands on a console when he was released.

He also mockingly called the Crown Prosecution Service the ‘Couldn’t Prosecute Satan’ service and took a swipe at the court system, saying judges end up setting career criminals free on suspended sentences when they should be jailed.

In a frank piece in magazine Police Review he listed reasons why he would not join up now, including CPS decisions, the lack of deterrent sentences and the easy life prisoners have when they do get sent to jail.

The former sergeant writes that when he started, burglars would get ‘three or four years’ for their first offence and would serve most of it — leading to fewer offences ‘because the burglars were in jail’.

By contrast, he says — despite official statistics saying the opposite — there was less crime then because miscreants would try to avoid jail as ‘it was not a nice place to be’.

He says: ‘Nowadays it is all open prisons and Playstations. Nice gyms and association with other criminals. And that is for the really bad guys.

‘The not-so-bad guys, like burglars and drug dealers and car thieves and purse dippers and shoplifters and the like — which if we are honest is about everyone except the seriously violent folk — are very unlucky if they go to jail at all even if they are persistent recidivists…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: English Defence League Site Pulled Offline After Defacement

The website of the far right English Defence League remained unavailable on Friday following a hack attack on Wednesday.

The defacement (captured here by Zone-h) criticises the EDL for campaigning to kick British-born Muslims out of the country. The hacker TriCk aka Saywhat?, a member of the hacking group TeaMp0isoN, sprayed a rant against the site together with pictures of Arab protesters and greetings to his chums.


The EDL runs on a IIS web server running on Win2003 servers, a fairly standard set-up.


TriCk said he had infomarion on the EDL Leadership, donors, customers of EDL Clothing, the forum users and forum staff (including names, addresses, phone numbers, emails) that he intends to leak.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: If Strasbourg Has Its Way, We Will All End Up as Prisoners

The arguments were well made. The decision went strongly the right way. Yet when I watched Parliament on Thursday discussing the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that British prisoners should be given the vote, my main feeling was that I was witnessing the humiliation of parliamentary democracy.

Parliament, after all, is composed as the result of votes: MPs are elected. Throughout the period of universal suffrage, no large section of the electorate, no significant group of MPs and no political party have considered that prisoners should have the vote. The Strasbourg court complained that Parliament had never debated this question, but if that is so, it is surely because there was no call for it. The vote is a right that goes with free citizenship. Prisoners convicted of crimes are deprived of that freedom, including the right to vote, as a punishment. Most sensible people agree with that. It was not thought necessary to labour the point.

So what came before the court in Strasbourg was not some dangerous new government proposal which might trample on existing rights. It was a challenge to the settled view of a country that has had parliamentary democracy since many years before the court was born or thought of. A man who had gone to prison because he killed his landlady with an axe when she asked him to fetch some coal demanded that the court give prisoners the right to vote. The court decided to break that settled agreement of a free country, and decree that Britain must give him what he wanted.

It is grimly amusing that it is the matter of the vote that so worries the ECHR, because the effect of its decision is to nullify the votes of the rest of us. The public does not want votes for prisoners. The Government does not want votes for prisoners. Only 22 MPs voted for votes for prisoners on Thursday, and more than 10 times that number voted against, but, according to law, votes for prisoners is what we must have. If that is so, we might as well give the right to them without protest, because the vote would appear no longer to be a right worth having. We are the prisoners now, the prisoners of the will of the court.

From which it follows that the House of Commons nowadays is no more than an exceptionally expensive debating society.

And what is the European Court of Human Rights? It has judges from 47 countries, all of them political appointees, some of them poor at speaking the two languages of the court, French and English. Each participating state has the same right to furnish one judge, so San Marino, which has 30,000 citizens, has as much power as Germany, with 80 million. No offence to San Marino, but I wonder if its traditions of jurisprudence are quite as learned and deep as those to be found in our Inns of Court.

Nine of those 47 judge-producing countries are not even classified as “free” by the best recognised international system of ranking. Party hacks from such cradles of the rule of law as Russia, Azerbaijan and Albania are part of the set-up that tells the Mother of Parliaments who should vote for her MPs. The backlog of cases at Strasbourg stands at 120,000. Such is the body that orders us to enfranchise the inmates of Strangeways, Dartmoor and Wormwood Scrubs…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: MPs Kick Out ECHR Ruling on Prisoners

The Daily Mail, 11 February 2011

“Day we stood up to Europe,” headlines the Daily Mail, after British MPs “defied” a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners be granted the right to vote. In what the resolutely Eurosceptic daily terms “six hours of impassioned debate” MPs voted by 234 to 22 not to relax a 140 year ban on convicts taking part in elections, “because those who commit a crime have broken their contract with society”. In 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the British ban was discriminatory, after a legal challenge by John Hirst, convicted for axing his landlady to death in 1979. “The decisive stance plunged Parliament into an unprecedented stand-off against the ECHR,” the London daily notes, before adding — “Britain’s Parliament, for too long supine in the face of the erosion of its powers and prerogatives by European institutions, has finally struck back.”

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

UK: Named and Shamed: The Police Forces ‘Using Gobbledygook to Bury Bad News in Lengthy Statements’

Two police forces were accused of using gobbledegook to bury bad news by a group which campaigns for better use of the English language.

The Plain English Campaign said a joint statement issued by Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire police about proposed changes to the way checks are carried out on gun owners was one of the worst examples of ‘corporate managementspeak’ they had ever seen.

To save money gun licence renewal notices will be posted so officers don’t have to go out and see individuals.

A Hertfordshire Police spokeswoman defended their lengthy statement, saying it was ‘clear’ and chiefs were not burying bad news.

The statement, issued on Wednesday by Hertfordshire’s ‘Corporate Communication Dept’, was 351 words long and began: ‘Collaborative initiatives between Bedfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Constabulary have succeeded in delivering enhanced services, whilst realising considerable efficiencies in a number of areas.’

Planned changes to gun checks were not mentioned until the 75th word. They were outlined within a 91-word paragraph which was nine lines long.

Essex Police, who are planning similar changes in an effort to save money, explained their proposals in a much simpler two-line statement.

The Essex statement said: ‘We are moving towards renewal notices by post rather than the current practice of making personal visits. The move is currently under consultation.’

A PEC spokeswoman said: ‘We laugh about gobbledegook but this isn’t a laughing matter. This was a statement about a very, very serious issue — especially taking into account the shootings in Hungerford and Dunblane and Cumbria,’ said

‘This statement is one of the most troubling examples of ‘corporate managementspeak’ we’ve seen.

‘What many people would view as bad news seems to be buried in gobbledegook. I think many people would struggle to understand what was being said.’

She added: ‘The police have a responsibility to explain to the public in clear terms what they are doing. This statement certainly doesn’t do that.

‘Given that police are trying to save money, it would be interesting to know how much time and money was spent producing it.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Specialist Police Squad Investigate Assault, Harassment and Stolen Goods Haul at Westminster

A specialist police squad which upholds the rule of law in Parliament has had to investigate scores of crimes at Westminster, including a death threat, harassment and thousands of pounds’ worth of stolen goods.

Bomb hoaxes and even a racial assault behind the Speaker’s Chair in the Commons have also been probed by SO17, according to an investigation by the Evening Standard which obtained details from Scotland Yard under Freedom of Information laws.

The number of offences recorded by SO17 more than tripled in two years, from nine in 2007 to 28 in 2009, the latest year with full figures.

Former Speaker Michael Martin, MPs and members of the Lords were all targeted, with theft the most common cause of complaint.

More than 1,000 visitors with criminal records tried to access the Parliamentary ‘estate’, while detectives had to deal with more than 2,600 requests to unlock doors, the investigation found.

The documents reveal one £25 orchid was stolen from the Westminster sports club, used widely by politicians, officials and journalists, while a £100 sat-nav was taken from a security guards’ hut next to Downing Street.

It follows the expenses scandal, which has seen MPs and a peer convicted over false claims.

Documents obtained from SO17 reveal officers also dealt with a stolen £1,000 candlestick and harassment of MP.

A £25 bottle of whisky was stolen from a peer in the House of Lords…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: UN Prosecutors Demand Tough Sentences for Six Croats on Trial for Crimes Against Humanity

The Hague, 10 Feb. (AKI) — The prosecutors of the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia on Thursday demanded stiff sentences for six Bosnian Croats accused of crimes against humanity during 1992-1995 war.

Former Bosnian Croat officials and military commanders Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoje Petkovic, Valentin Coric and Berislav Pusic have been charged with the ethnic cleansing of Muslims and other non-Croats for the purpose of annexing parts of Bosnia to neighbouring Croatia.

According to the indictment, they were charged with persecution on racial grounds, murders, rapes, deportations, inhuman treatment of non-Croats and of terrorizing civilians with the aim of “permanent removal and ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and other non-Croats”.

The six surrendered to the tribunal in 2004 and have been in detention at the Hague since 2006.

In a closing statement on Thursday, the prosecutor Kenneth Scot said he had proven beyond doubt their role in a “joint criminal enterprise” to cleanse non-Croats and annex part of Bosnia to Croatia, as envisaged by the wartime Croatian president Franjo Tudjman.

Scot demanded a 40-year sentence for Prlic, Stojic, Praljak and Petkovic, 32 years for Coric and 25 years for Pusic.

Scot said Tudjman, who died in 1999, was obsessed with the creation of “Greater Croatia”, which would incorporate parts of Bosnia, and the six worked on the realisation of his ideas.

He quoted Tudjman as saying that Bosnia was an “artificial, unnatural and untenable state” whose parts should be incorporated into Croatia.

“Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot and will not survive as an independent state,” Scot quoted Tudjman as saying.

Praljak told the court during the trial that the indictees only “carried out policies of the Croatian state and of Franjo Tudjman”.

The defence lawyers, who have demanded the acquittal of their clients, will make their closing statements next week.

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

Bosnian Police Raid Homes of Wahabi Islam Followers Suspected of Terrorist Activities

Bosnian officials say police raided homes in a village in northeast Bosnia to try to disrupt possible future terrorist attacks. The State Prosecutor’s office said Thursday that homes of Wahabi Islam followers were raided because there was reason to believe that they were preparing terrorist activities. The statement did not elaborate. Witnesses from the village of Brda, some 56 miles (90 kilometres) east of Sarajevo, said police had taken a computer, 15 audio cassettes and a mobile phone from the homes of two residents who follow Wahabi Islam. The branch of Islam is rooted in Saudi Arabia and practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.

Because of their ultraconservative views, Wahabis are often branded by Bosnians as “terrorists.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

North Africa

A Talk With Tunisia’s Islamist Leader, Back Home After 21 Years in Exile

In an interview with La Stampa, Rashid Ghannouchi insists that he favors a lasting democracy and women playing a political role in Tunisia’s future

Until last month, Rashid Ghannouchi, the founder and leader of the Islamist al-Nahda Party — the Tunisian equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — was just one of thousands of Tunisian immigrants living in London. Now, two weeks after president Zine El Abidine Bel Ali fled the country, Ghannouchi has returned to his homeland after two decades in exile.

An estimated 1,000 Tunisians welcomed the Islamist leader when he arrived at the airport last week, and his return is the topic of conversation across the country. Some worship him, others blame him for perpetrating terror attacks in the 1980s. He sat down with La Stampa in the family home in the El Menzah 6 neighborhood in northern Tunis.

Rashid Ghannouchi, what kind of Tunisia have you found, after 21 years in exile?

I have found a happy people. A people proud of having chased away the dictator. A people experiencing freedom for the first time.

Are you happy about how your were received by your countrymen when you returned? Someone compared it to Ayatollah Khomeini’s return to Tehran in 1979. But actually, there was not the same kind of huge crowd to welcome you as there was for Khomeini, true?

I am not Khomeini. I am a Sunni, not a Shiite. Tunisia is much smaller than Iran. I have no ambition to become president, a minister, or a member of Parliament. Having said that, I am happy to have been welcomed by (so many) Tunisians. There were many young people. There were even several young women who did not wear the veil.

Al-Nahda has been a banned party for more than two decades. Now it is back and getting ready for the elections. Will you run?

I am the party’s president. Three days ago we applied to the Ministry of the Interior to be officially registered.

Tell us something about your Party’s agenda.

Al-Nahda recognizes the multi-party system, freedom of speech, and democratic elections.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood forbids women and Coptic Christians from becoming president of the party. Does al-Nahda follow similar guidelines?

We do not agree on everything. For al-Nahda, a woman or a Copt can become president. The only condition is to win the election.

How do you envision a new, democratic Tunisia? Many of your fellow countrymen fear that al-Nahda will undermine the country’s secular principles. Does your party want to see a Tunisia rooted in Islamic principles?

Tunisia is not a secular country. Article One of the Constitution says that Tunisia is an Islamic country. There is no need to establish it, because it is already one.

Unofficial polls estimate that between eight and ten percent of the population supports you. Do you think those numbers are accurate? Your Facebook page reached 55,000 members in just a few days.

Forecasting the electoral weight of a party that has never taken part in elections is impossible. It may garner 10%, 20%, or 30% of the votes.

What is your relationship with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood?

We are in touch with groups and movements that follow a modern and political Islam, such as the Moroccan Justice and Development Party and the Turkish AKP (ruling party). We are very close to the Turks.

What Muslim country do you see as the best model for Tunisia—Turkey, Iran, or Indonesia?

Turkey, of course. But also democratic Islamic countries, such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

What is your response to people who do not trust your democratic pledges. who fear that al-Nahda will radicalize Tunisia?…

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

Algeria: 25,000 Policemen at Saturday’s Protest in Algiers

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 10 — A large security force will be deployed this Saturday in Algiers for the demonstration organised by the “National Coordination for Change and Democracy” despite the ban issued by the authorities. The newspaper Echourouk reports that 25,000 agents will guard the capital, 50% of them will be riot police forces. Policemen have been gathered from other regions and have been called back from their holidays. The newspaper specifies that the city has increased its level of alert to 2. The security forces have been instructed to avoid incidents during the protest, but are not allowed to shoot real projectiles at civilians. The police will also guard the main access roads to the capital. During the demonstration of January 22, organised by the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), leaders of this party denounced the fact that hundreds of protesters had been blocked on their way to the protest, unable to reach Algiers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria: Long Lines at Petrol Stations, People Stockpiling

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 11 — Petrol stations are besieged this afternoon in Algiers, where people are filling their tanks ahead of the demonstration that has been announced for tomorrow. ANSA saw long lines before the stations in the centre as well as the capital’s outskirts. Some people also hoarded food.

“What happened during the violence in January could happen again, many shops remained closed for days and people prefer to build up supplies, particularly bread, wheat and milk”, said Karim, a shopkeeper in the centre of the capital.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Algeria Police Deployed Ahead of Banned Democracy Rally

Riot police have been deployed in the centre of the Algerian capital, Algiers, ahead of a planned anti-government rally.

The government has banned the protest, but opposition and rights groups say they intend to go ahead with the march.

Algeria — like other countries in the region — has recently witnessed demonstrations for greater freedoms.

On Friday, police stopped people from gathering to celebrate the fall of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak.

The BBC’s Chloe Arnold in Algiers say the authorities want to avert any popular uprising similar to those in Tunisia and Egypt.

“We are ready for the march,” Mohsen Belabes, a spokesman for the small Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) opposition party, said.

“It’s going to be a great day for democracy in Algeria,” he told Reuters news agency.

‘Armoured vehicles’

Demonstrations are banned in Algeria because of a state of emergency which has been in place since 1992.

A heavy police presence is normal in Algeria but far more officers than usual were in place hours before the start of the protest at 1100 local time (1000 GMT), Reuters reports.

At least 15 police vans, jeeps and buses were lined up at 1 May Square, where the march is due to start, and about the same number on a nearby side-street outside the city’s Mustapha hospital…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Beware the Brokering of Egypt’s Elbaradei

Now that Hosni Mubarak has resigned as dictator of Egypt, what role in the perilous transition ahead might be played by former United Nations nuclear chief and Nobel laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei?

When protests erupted last month, ElBaradei returned to his native Egypt, and under the caption “opposition leader” has been all over the news, offering himself as a “broker,” a “vessel,” a “bridge” an “agent of change,” from Mubarak’s rule to “democracy.” On Friday he welcomed Mubarak’s ouster as “the greatest day of my life.”

Yet ElBaradei has linked arms with, among others, Egypt’s Islamist Muslim Brotherhood — the jihad-preaching movement that aspires to an Islamic caliphate, and spawned the terrorists of Hamas and al Qaeda. What kind of brokering and bridge-building might that portend? Look at his record.

Where was ElBaradei’s interest in democracy during the years in which he acquired the multilateral mystique and Nobel prize that made him one of the most famous names in Egypt? As director-general of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, from 1997-2009, ElBaradei’s hallmark was contempt for the world’s democracies, notably the U.S. and Israel; and an affinity for some of the world’s worst tyrannies, notably Iran, Syria and North Korea.


In Iran, ElBaradei was one of the UN’s big gifts to the mullahs, running interference for years against referral of Iran’s nuclear program from the IAEA to the UN Security Council. According to former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, ElBaradei “frequently altered the reports of IAEA inspectors,” editing their findings in such a way that he “gave Iran every benefit of the doubt.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Blame the Muslim Brotherhood

Throughout Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s many years in office, his most consistent argument for continued rule has been the warning that, should he leave, Egypt will fall into chaos at the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is an Islamist political movement that was founded more than 80 years ago in Egypt and whose branches are now among the most powerful opposition groups in several Arab countries. It is formally banned but unofficially tolerated in Egypt. Muslim Brotherhood candidates (running as independents due to the movement’s illegality) won 88 seats in the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections, about 20 per cent of the total.

“Mubarak is a classic Egyptian secularist who hates religious extremism and interference in politics,” reports an American diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks. “The Muslim Brothers represent the worst, as they challenge not only Mubarak’s power, but his view of Egyptian interests.” Another leaked American cable reports Mubarak condemning the Muslim Brotherhood as “dangerous” and duplicitous.

It was no surprise, then, that when a popular uprising calling for Mubarak to resign engulfed Cairo and other Egyptian cities, the president blamed the Muslim Brotherhood—despite the fact that the movement had little visible presence during the early days of mass demonstrations. Blaming the Brotherhood is a refrain Mubarak has repeated for decades. And it’s one that resonates in America, where successive presidents sympathized with his stand against Islamic fundamentalism and rewarded the stability he has imposed with more aid money than any other country but Israel receives.

But now the Muslim Brotherhood’s fortunes in Egypt appear to be changing. It has gradually increased its presence among protesters in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square. And on Sunday, its members were among the opposition leaders invited to meet with Mubarak’s vice-president, Omar Suleiman. Such official recognition suggests the Muslim Brotherhood is stepping away from the political wilderness and will play a more prominent role in Egypt’s future. For better or for worse, Mubarak’s bluff has been called.

Those warning about the dangers of an ascendant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can find plenty of evidence for their concern among the group’s often conflicting public statements.

“Islam is the solution” is the movement’s slogan. A draft political platform, published in 2007, decreed that women and non-Muslims should be excluded from senior positions in the sort of Islamic state the Brotherhood wishes to create. (Coptic Christians make up about 10 per cent of Egypt’s population.) But Muhammad Mahdi Akef, “supreme guide,” or chairman, of the movement at the time the draft platform was composed, said such decisions were binding only on members of the Muslim Brotherhood, adding: “The ballot boxes will decide.”

The movement’s current chairman, Muhammad Badi, has defended jihad to “make God’s word supreme,” and pledged hostility to Jews and Israelis: “We will continue to raise the banner of jihad—two swords and a Koran—as long as the Zionists raise their flag, with two blue stripes to represent their so-called state from the Nile to the Euphrates. And the Brotherhood will continue to view the Jews and Zionists as their first and foremost enemies.” But Rashad al-Bayoumi, a leading Muslim Brother, this month told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti that, should a provisional government replace Mubarak, “there is no need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to Join Second Round of Talks With Govt

Cairo, 10 Feb. (AKI) — Egypt’s outlawed opposition Muslim Brotherhood said on Thursday it will take part in a second round of talks with the government expected to take place in the next few days amid continuing unrest aimed at ending president Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

“We will participate in the second round of the dialogue with Egypt’s vice-president Omar Suleiman,” said Saad al-Katatni a member of the Muslim Brotherhoods’ leadership,” quoted by the website.

“We have decided to take part in the talks to find a way out of the current crisis. No date has been set for the talks, but we believe they will be in the next few days,” al-Katatni added.

Anti-government protests entered their 17th day on Thursday with around 3,000 doctors and medical staff at Cairo’s largest hospital, the Qasr al-Aini teaching hospital, the Al-Arabiya satellite TV channel reported.

The hospital workers staged their mass walk-out to join street protests attended by hundreds of thousands of Egyptians including a blockade of the Egyptian parliament.

Egypt’s foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the military would “intervene to control the country” if things spin out of control.

“If chaos occurs, the armed forces will intervene to control the country, a step which would lead to a very dangerous situation,” he told Al-Arabiya.

Government opponents want Mubarak to step down immediately and radical and immediate political change to bring democracy, end corruption and improve living standards for Egyptians.

Suleiman, the country’s former intelligence chief and a close confidant of Mubarak who led a first round of talks with the opposition last Sunday has rejected an immediate departure for the veteran leader.

Mubarak says he will serve out the rest of his term until September elections to avert “chaos”, but will not run again for the presidency. He has been in power since 1981.

But US-Egyptian scientist and Nobel laureate Ahmed Zewali said on Thursday that Mubarak must go. “He should step down tomorrow and allow for a transitional national government,” Zewali told Reuters news agency. He compared Egypt to a “diseased body” requiring swift surgery.

Organisers of the ongoing anti-government protests have called for a new “protest of millions” for Friday similar to those that have drawn the largest crowds of hundreds of thousands of people.

But in a change of tactic, they want several protests across Cairo instead of only in central Tahrir Square, where most of the mass protests have been held, said Khaled Abdel-Hamid, one of the youth organisers.

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

Egypt: Military Promises to End 30 Years of Emergency Law

Cairo, 11 Feb. (AKI) — The Egyptian military on Friday pledged to end the state-of-emergency law which have been in place for three decades.

In a statement seen as an effort to ease tensions, the Egyptian military high council said it would “lift the state of emergency as soon as the current circumstances end.”

The military has a large measure of autonomy from Mubarak. Unlike Egyptian police and security forces ,which have been blamed for violence against demonstrators, the military has pledged to restrain from the use violence to quell protests.

“We will not pursue honest people who fought against corruption in the country,” Friday’s statement said. “In light of recent events and that passage of power …and in the interest of stability and security of the country, we guarantee the end of the state of emergency.”

The statement did not say when the state of emergency would be lifted.

The state of emergency has been in place since the 1981 assassination of president Anwar el-Sadat. The law gives the state the right to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court. The Egyptian parliament in May last year approved Mubarak’s request to extend the state of emergency for two years.

Thousands of protesters on Friday filled Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and gathered around the presidential palace and the offices of the state broadcaster following president Hosni Mubarak’s televised reiteration that he will not resign until elections are held in September.

Mubarak said he would hand over some powers to vice president Omar Suleiman, but that did little to please the thousands of people who had gathered in anticipation of a farewell speech which never came.

The Egyptian military, US president Barack Obama and even Central Intelligence Agency chief Leon Panetta had made public comments leading people to believe Mubarack would have resigned on Thursday.

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

Egypt: Telecoms Billionaire Urges Protesters to Trust Army and Go Home

Cairo, 11 Feb. (AKI) — Egyptian telecoms billionaire magnate Nagib Sawiris on Friday urged anti-government protesters to place their trust in the army and end their revolt against the rule of authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak.

“People need to have faith in the army and to stop their protests, “ Arabic satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya quoted Sawiris as saying.

Sawiris’ plea came as Egypt’s military high council promised to lift the country’s 30-year state of emergency when the “current situation has ended”.

In a Friday statement, the military endorsed the transfer of Mubarak’s powers to his vice-president, Omar Suleiman, and guaranteed a free and fair presidential election, constitutional changes and “protection of the nation”.

Sawiris said that Egypt was now on an irreversible path towards change following the military’s statement.

“After this comunique, we cannot go backwards, and I have confidence in the military,” he stated.

“Now they have guaranteed the (political and economic) reforms promised by Mubarak, the people can stop their protests,” said Sawiris. He was the only businessman to take part in talks last Sunday between Suleiman and Egypt’s opposition forces.

In its Friday statement, the army also urged “the need to resume orderly work in the government installations and a return to normal life, preserve the interests and property of our great people”.

The statement followed Mubarak’s defiant announcement late Thursday that he would not step down immediately and would oversee the transitional period until elections due in September. He pledged to hand over some powers to Suleiman meanwhile but the details were unclear.

The army on Friday reportedly prevented a large crowd of pro-democracy demonstrators from marching on the presidential palace following US ally Mubarak’s’ refusal to resign

Amid a heavy military presence, thousands of anti-government protesters were reported to have gathered at various government buildings in Cairo and in several other cities including Mansoura northeast of Cairo and Alexandria in the north of the country — Egypt’s second largest city.

Some 300 people have been killed and a further 1,400 injured in anti-government protests since the unrest broke out on 25 January, according to rights groups and the United Nations. Many Egyptians blamed Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, for widespread poverty, corruption, repression and brutality.

In an interview on Monday with Italian daily La Stampa, Sawiris called for a large-scale plan to regenerate Egypt, along the lines of the United States’ multi-billlion dollar post-World War II Marshall Plan.

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

Egypt’s Army Backs Mubarak Rule Despite ‘Day of Rage’

Egypt’s army throws President Hosni Mubarak a lifeline, endorsing his plan to stay in office until September even as hundreds of thousands of angry protesters take back to the streets. The statement by the Armed Forces Supreme Council — its second in two days — was a blow to many protesters who had called on the military to take action to push out Mubarak

Egypt’s military threw its weight Friday behind President Hosni Mubarak’s plan to stay in office through September elections while protesters fanned out to the presidential palace in Cairo and other key symbols of the authoritarian regime in a new push to force the leader to step down immediately.

The statement by the Armed Forces Supreme Council — its second in two days — was a blow to many protesters who had called on the military to take action to push out Mubarak after his latest refusal to step down.

But soldiers also took no action to stop demonstrators from massing outside the palace and the headquarters of state television, indicating they were trying to avoid another outbreak of violence. Anti-government protesters said they were more determined than ever as the uprising entered its 18th day.

Outside the presidential palace, protesters reacted furiously to the military’s announcement, which was read to the crowd by a colonel. One demonstrator grabbed his microphone to berate the military. “You have disappointed us, all our hopes rested in you,” he shouted, as the crowd began to chant slogans calling for Mubarak to be put on trial. “No, no, this is not a coup,” the colonel protested, insisting that the army would not take power itself.

The military statement endorsed Mubarak’s plan to transfer some powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman and promised free and fair presidential elections later this year. It also promised that the hated emergency laws, in force since Egypt’s authoritarian ruler came to office in 1981, would be lifted and gave a somewhat more specific timeframe than Mubarak had offered in his Thursday night speech.

The military implied they would be lifted when protests end, saying it could happen “when the current security situation permits.” It also called for public services to resume and urged “the return of normal life in order to safeguard the achievements of our glorious people.”

Undaunted, thousands packed into Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, or Liberation Square, which has been the center of the uprising since it began on Jan. 25. A few hundred protesters assembled outside the gate of Mubarak’s Oruba Palace. The palace was protected by four tanks and rolls of barbed wire, but soldiers were doing nothing to stop demonstrators from joining the rally and chanting anti-Mubarak slogans.

Others massed outside the Cabinet, parliament and the state television headquarters several blocks away from Tahrir Square, the center of the mass rallies that began on Jan. 25. Hundreds of demonstrators formed a human barricade around the building that houses state TV and radio, checking IDs and turning away those who work there. Tanks and barbed wire surrounded the building overlooking the Nile, but troops did not keep protesters away.

In a show of solidarity in at least lower levels of the army, three Egyptian officers shed their weapons and uniforms and joined the protesters.

An impassioned preacher addressed the military in his sermon, exhorting them to “act in a way that will be acceptable to God on judgment day,” shortly before fainting and being carried away through the crowd.

Hopes that Mubarak would resign had been raised Thursday when a council of the military’s top generals announced it had stepped in to secure the country, and a senior commander told protesters in Tahrir Square that all their demands would soon be met.

Instead, several hundred thousand people watched in disbelief and anger as Mubarak refused to step down. Mubarak called the protesters’ demands legitimate and promised that September presidential elections — in which he says he will not run — will be “free and fair” with supervision to ensure transparency.

He said that on the recommendation of the panel, he had requested the amendment of five articles of the constitution to loosen the now restrictive conditions on who can run for president, to restore judicial supervision of elections, and to impose term limits on the presidency.

He also annulled a constitutional article that gives the president the right to order a military trial for civilians accused of terrorism. He said that step would “clear the way” for eventually scrapping the emergency law but with a major caveat — “once security and stability are restored.”

The emergency law gives police virtually unlimited powers of arrest. Prominent reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, whose supporters were among the organizers of the 18-day-old wave of protests, called in a Twitter message on the army to step in “to rescue Egypt,” warning the country might “explode.”

Another leading figure of the protest movement, Google executive Wael Ghonim, called for caution. “The situation is complicated. I don’t want the blood of the martyrs to be wasted and at the same time I don’t want to see more bloodshed,” he said in comments posted on Facebook.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best organized opposition group, called the speech a “farce.” “This is an illegitimate president handing power to an illegitimate vice president,” said Mohammed Abbas, who represents the Brotherhood’s youth wing. “We reject this speech and we call on Mubarak to step down and hand his powers to the army.”

In his address on state TV, Mubarak showed the strategy he has followed throughout the days of upheaval, trying to defuse the greatest challenge ever to his nearly three-decade authoritarian rule. So far, he has made a series of largely superficial concessions while resolutely sticking to his refusal to step down immediately or allow steps that would undermine the grip of his regime.

Looking frail but speaking in a determined voice, Mubarak spoke as if he were still in charge, saying he was “adamant to continue to shoulder my responsibility to protect the constitution and safeguard the interests of the people.” He vowed that he would remain in the country and said he was addressing the youth in Tahrir as “the president of the republic.”

Even after delegating authority to his vice president, Mubarak retains his powers to request constitutional amendments and dissolve parliament or the Cabinet. The constitution allows the president to transfer his other authorities if he is unable to carry out his duties “due to any temporary obstacle.”

“I saw fit to delegate the authorities of the president to the vice president, as dictated in the constitution,” he said.

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

Egypt: Google Manager Ghonim, Situation Out of Our Control

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 11 — “Stop studying the situation because it is out of our control by now. Nobody can ask the demonstrators to go home”. This was almost shouted to the microphones of satellite tv network Al Arabiya by Wael Ghonim, manager of Google Middle East and one of the symbols of the popular uprising that is in progress in Egypt.

“The people in charge must understand that each time they stand up to the people”, Ghonim continued, “they are responsible for all the souls that will be lost. They can no longer speak of a question of personal dignity, because our dignity has been trampled (by the Egyptian leaders, editor’s note) by their feet for 30 years, and they must take responsibility for their own conduct”. “We are all ready to die”, Ghonim added with an even louder voice, “the people in power must understand that they must give up”. The young man concluded the interview asking for the release of “all (political, editor’s note) prisoners and the liberalisation of all Egyptian media”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Resigns, Power to Armed Forces

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 11 — Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman has announced on television that President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president and has charged the armed forces to manage the affairs of the country. Tahrir Square welcomed the announcement that was made a few minutes ago by Vice President Omar Suleiman regarding Mubarak’s resignation with an enormous roar. Egyptian flags were waved in the Square and people shouted and rejoiced when the news was announced. A puppet that was hung a few days ago from a streetlamp was shaken.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Army to Guarantee Transfer of Power, Elections

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, FEBRUARY 11 — The Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces will guarantee “the peaceful transfer of power” and “free elections” in the country, explained a second statement by the Army after the council’s meeting.

The Armed Forces will also guarantee, explained the statement, the “legislative and constitutional reforms” put forward by President Hosni Mubarak.

The statement then urged protestors for a “return of normal life” and announced that the state of emergency will be lifted “once the disorder has ended”.

We invite “the good people who have condemned corruption and called for reforms”, “to return to a normal life,” explained the Army in the statement.

The statement was read on Egyptian state TV by an announcer, and not by an Army spokesperson. There is a crowd of protestors outside of the building who prevented several scheduled guests for the morning programmes from entering, forcing the station to apologise for the absences.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Mubarak Steps Down, Celebrations in Tahrir Square

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 11 — President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down. On TV Egyptian vice president Omar Suleiman announced that the 82-year-old leader gave up his presidential mandate and asked the armed forces to look after State business.

Tahir square greeted the news with a huge roar. People are waving flags and shouting with joy after the announcement of Mubarak’s resignation. A dummy that had been hanging from a lamppost for some days was moved about. During a brief speech on national TV to announce Mubarak’s resignation, vice president Suleiman stated: “Citizens, in the name of God, in this harsh moment that Egypt is experiencing president Hosni Mubarak has decided to give up his mandate and asked the armed forces to look after State business. May god help us”.

ARMY, WILL GUARANTEE TRANSFER OF POWER, ELECTIONS — The Supreme Council of Egypt’s Armed Forces will guarantee the “peaceful transfer of power” and “free elections” in the Country, according to the second statement by the Armed Forces after a Council meeting. The Army will also guarantee “constitutional and legislative reforms” promised by president Hosni Mubarak. The statement was read on national TV by a speaker and by an Army spokesperson. The building is surrounded by demonstrators who denied access to a number of guests scheduled to appear on morning shows, forcing the network to apologise for the absences.

The state of emergency in Egypt will be removed “once the uprisings are over”. The Egyptian Army appealed for people to “return to everyday life”, inviting the “noble people who condemned corruption and want reforms to return to a normal life”o.

AL ARABIYA: GOVERNMENT AND PARLIAMENT TO BE DISBANDED — TV station al Arabiya announced, anticipating the content of a statement by the Supreme Council of Egypt’s Armed Forces, that government and parliament will be disbanded.

EL BARADEI: THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE — “This is the best day of my life”, stated Mohamed El Baradei, one of the outstanding members of the opposition in Egypt, according to reports by the BBC. With reference to the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak, the former Aiea director stated that Egypt “has been set free after ten years of repression” and that now he expects a “nice transition”.

AMR MOUSSA: NOW I’M OPTIMISTIC — Amr Moussa, the general secretary of the Arab League, expressed his optimism for Egypt’s future. Speaking over the phone with CNN, Moussa stated that “now Egypt’s future is in the hands of the Egyptian people”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Steady as She Goes

by Srdja Trifkovic

Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman has announced that President Hosni Mubarak was stepping down from the office of president of the republic “and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country.” In other words, the Army has taken over. This is the least bad outcome on offer right now, and certainly not the one suggested by President Obama, Vice President Biden, or the Department of State over the past few days.

The scenario announced by Suleiman is exactly what I had in mind when writing, last Monday, that “it is to be hoped that Egypt’s political class and military officers will prevent [the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory] regardless of Obama’s expectations and advice.” The political class and military officers have concluded that Mubarak is a liability, but perhaps more significantly they have concluded that the advice coming from Washington is insanity that must be resisted. They need look no further than yesterday’s declaration by the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” and has “eschewed violence.” With the likes of Clapper making decisions in Washington, the responsible people in Cairo know that they are on their own…

           — Hat tip: Srdja Trifkovic[Return to headlines]

Egypt Protests: Forget Facebook Idealists It’s Brotherhood We Should Fear

For an organisation that claims a following of millions and is feared by most Arab leaders — and many in the West — it is a very discreet HQ.

My path there takes me up the cramped and dusty staircase of an apartment block overlooking the Nile in the Giza district of Cairo.

Only a small sticker, which someone has tried to tear off, tells me that I am in the right place.

Stern-faced men in casual clothes let me through a door that has been battered by secret police. I am guided to a small office off the lobby where, waiting for me, is the Professor of Geology at the University of Cairo.

Rashad Al-Bayoumi is a portly little man with buck-toothed smile, eyes that twinkle behind gold-rimmed glasses, an academic’s tweed jacket and a shiny brown tie which curves over the straining buttons of his shirt front. We are not here to talk about rock formations.


Leave! Leave! Fury of millions as Mubarak defies his nation and says he is NOT going to quit immediately

He clears his throat and wags a finger. The deputy chairman of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement then declares: ‘This is a very important moment in history!’

Whatever one thinks about Professor Al-Bayoumi’s organisation and its desire for an Islamic Egyptian state governed by sharia law, there is no doubting his assertion.

Threat: Until now Hosni Mubarak has used the Brotherhood to his advantage to get support from the West, but also warned them about what may happen should be resign

A couple of miles across the Nile, that great river of the ancient world, Tahrir Square continues to be filled with hundreds of thousands of mostly young, educated Egyptians demanding to be allowed into the 21st century.

In three extraordinary weeks, Egypt’s ‘Facebook generation’ has almost succeeded in what the Brotherhood failed to do in its 80 years of existence: to bring a brutal dictatorship to its knees.

Far from feeling left behind, though, Professor Al-Bayoumi is delighted.

His organisation, banned in Egypt for more than half a century, its members arrested, tortured and sometimes killed but inspirational to other Arab groups considered terrorists in the West, is now manoeuvring to take advantage — ‘inshallah’ — of this unexpected turn of events.

Hosni Mubarak, whose enormous National Democratic Party HQ has been burned out, has long used the threat posed by the Brotherhood to shore up his support in the West.

In his only TV interview since the convulsions of the ‘January 25’ movement began, the Egyptian president cynically worried aloud that his departure would allow ‘the Brothers’, as they are known in the streets, to take over.

Now of course it goes without saying that Mubarak is and should be an embarrassment to Western democrats.

Our governments have supported him because he supported our regional foreign policy objectives.

His torture chambers might have been among the most busy and sophisticated, his bank accounts overflowing, but he was also the leader of the largest and most important Arab nation, a secular bulwark against the kind of Islam that groups like the Brotherhood espouses, and a friend to Israel.

The difficulty now is that increasing numbers of urban, Westernised, Egyptians are no longer prepared to accept this arrangement.

No one knows how this will end: last night there were rumours that Mubarak would step down but then the president himself vowed to carry on until September.

The worry now is that if free and fair elections follow this tremendous upheaval then the Brotherhood, by far the largest and most organised of the opposition groups, is in a strong position to take advantage.

The movement is anxious not to seem like the spearhead — an impression easy for Mubarak to exploit — while at the same time being an integral part of the revolt.

In his office, Professor Al-Bayoumi denied a desire to impose sharia law. Instead he used soothing phrases like democracy, respect and equality (which did not quite chime with a recent policy document which denied presidency of the country to women or Christians).

But if Mubarak goes without a military coup, the West will find out what happens to ‘democracy’ in such regions: the party which can organise the most voters to turn up on the day will win.

A case in point is what happened across the border in the Palestinian territories.

Western-backed elections in 2006 resulted in the elevation to power of Hamas, considered a terrorist group by the West.

Within a year, Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, had tidied up the loose democratic threads in Gaza by arresting, shooting or throwing off high buildings their opponents from Fatah. We shall come to Hamas and the Brotherhood later.

It is clear, though, that in Cairo the new ‘Facebook opposition’ is dazzled by the prospect of change.

In the background, the Brotherhood adjusts its tie, smiles, glosses over its deeply conservative Islamic core values, and waits for the door to be opened. A spokesman admitted earlier this week that religious aims had been put ‘on the back burner’.

Thus, an Islamic state governed by sharia law seems a small step closer. The Brothers, with their ancient religious precepts, are piggy-backing a modern movement in the hope of taking Egypt back into the past…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Its Agenda

The Society of Muslim Brothers is Egypt’s largest and most well-organized groups. Their activities are divided between social services, political advocacy and religious reform. Admired by some, feared by others, now that Hosni Mubarak has resigned the Egyptian presidency, analysts will be taking a closer look at the hitherto banned organization and seeking to define its political agenda.

Sharia is a collective group of laws which governs all aspects of Muslims’ lives, from marriage and family life to conduct in society and business. Based both on the Quran and the customs and saying of the Prophet and other early Muslims, Sharia varies by region; in some countries, it is the basis for all laws. Other countries have adapted and blended it with secular legal systems.

On its English-language website, the Brotherhood states that the Western concept of “secular liberal democracy” is undemocratic, because it rejects religion in public life. In its published guidelines, the Brotherhood states goals which include spreading Islamic teachings, bring Islamic sects closer together, improve the lives of the poor and otherwise marginalized; and secure the Islamic state against foreign rule and internal enemies…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hosni Mubarak Resigns: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Hails ‘A New Middle East’

Despite suppressing its own opposition movement, Mr Ahmadinejad drew parallels between the protests in Egypt and the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

“In spite of all the (West’s) complicated and satanic designs … a new Middle East is emerging without the Zionist regime and US interference, a place where the arrogant powers will have no place,” he told a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square to make the anniversary of the Revolution. His comments came before Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Tens of thousands of Iranians chanted support for Egypt’s protesters and burned effigies of Hosni Mubarak.

The embattled Egyptian president has not enjoyed good relation with Iran, who are highly critical of Egypt’s close relationship with the US and its peace deal with Israel.

“It’s your right to be free. It’s your right to exercise your will and sovereignty,” Mr Ahmadinejad told them.

White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor denounced Iran’s “hypocrisy” for claiming to support Egypt’s people protest while clamping down on its own opposition.

Iranian opposition groups have called for marches on Tuesday, but Hossein Hamedani, a senior commander of the feared Revolutionary Guard said any attempt to rally would be crushed. Opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi remains under house arrest for trying to organise a protest on Monday.

The BBC said signal for its Persian service was jammed from Thursday in an attempt to block its Egypt coverage.

In Jordan, 1,000 demonstrators called for Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, appointed just last week by King Abdullah II, to step down and anti-corruption marches continued across Iraq. In the Gaza Strip, a Friday protest inspired by the Egypt demonstrations — and organised on Facebook — against Hamas rule in the Palestinian territory attracted virtually no supporters.

Authorities in Algeria have ringed the capital Algiers ahead of a planned pro-democracy march today. Public transport has reportedly been cancelled and large amounts of tear gas have been imported by police.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hosni Mubarak Resigns: How and When Will the Country Transition to Democracy?

For all practical purposes, Egypt is now under military rule. Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, announced yesterday that Mr Mubarak has “charged the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to administer Egypt’s affairs”.

That means the terms and timing of Egypt’s transition to democracy will be decided by generals: Field-Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defence minister, Lieutenant-General Sami Hafiz Enan, the chief of the armed forces, and the chiefs of the army, air force and navy. Egypt’s military establishment now has the difficult task of building democratic institutions, without compromising its own institutional privileges and authority. “Egypt’s seen a change in leadership,” a senior US State Department official told The Daily Telegraph, “not a revolution that has dethroned the regime”.

Field Marshal Tantawi, a veteran of the 1956 Suez crisis and the 1965 and 1973 wars with Israel who is 75, has in the past been reviled by his critics as “Mubarak’s poodle.” He was appointed deputy prime minister last month.

General Enan, an air defence expert who also served in the 1973 war against Israel and now commands the 468,000-strong armed forces, was also close to Mr Mubarak. Diplomatic sources said he was the key figure in backdoor crisis negotiations between Washington and Cairo, aimed at easing out Mr Mubarak.

Both officers had visited Tahrir Square during the protests and urged demonstrators to disperse peacefully. But they had also made clear Egypt’s armed forces would not use force against their own people. General Safat el-Zayat, a former Egyptian intelligence official, said a deep divide had opened between the armed forces and the president’s office before Mr Mubarak’s controversial Thursday evening speech. Mr Mubarak’s rejection of calls for his resignation, Mr el-Zayat said, was made in defiance of the Supreme Council. Mr el-Zayat said a similar address made by Omar Suleiman, the vice-president, was also formulated without consulting the armed forces.

In response, the military leadership issued its own communiqué on Friday morning — its second since the crisis erupted — pledging to work towards a peaceful transition “as soon as the current circumstances end”.

The communiqué disappointed the protesters on Tahrir Square, but the military was saying it wanted Mr Mubarak to go. The man who ruled Egypt for 30 years has now been flown to his retreat in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, and the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are both being asked by western diplomats to consider hosting him in the future.

But Mr Mubarak seems determined not to leave the country; he announced on Thursday night that he intends to be “buried in Egypt”. He will not be allowed a political role, people in Egypt said. Less clear, though, is just how and when the country will move towards elections, and how fair they will be. There is also no certainty on what the likely results will be, or on their likely consequences for the region.

Egypt has three main secular parties — the centre-right Wafd, the left-wing Tagammu, or National Progressive Unionist Party, and the centre-left Arab Nasserist Party.

In 1996, reform-minded Islamists frustrated with the doctrinaire leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood broke with the party, and formed a new organisation called the Hizb al-Wasat, or Centre Party. The Hizb al-Wasat allied with the secular parties and, in 2004-5005, launched a cross-party movement for constitutional reform, known by its slogan, Kefaya (“Enough”).

The alliance had called for major reforms, which closely mirror the demands of the Tahrir Square protesters: among them, an end to emergency laws which have been in place since President Anwar al-Sadat’s assassination by jihadists in 1981, free elections under judicial supervision and new legislation to restrict presidents to holding power for a maximum of two terms.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist party in the world, also reached an agreement with the three secular parties on these constitutional reforms. Now, most experts expect it to emerge as Egypt’s largest political group.

The Brotherhood has said it will not put up a candidate in future presidential elections, but it could emerge as the largest single political block. From having just one MP out of 444 in Egypt’s national assembly in 1995, the Brotherhood won 17 seats in 2000 and 88 in 2005. It was humbled in the 2010 elections because of election rigging — one of the causes of the Tahrir Square protests.

Experts say the Brotherhood’s organisational resources give it an edge over secular parties. “The Wafd, Tagammu, and Arab Nasserist parties,” Samer Shehata at Georgetown University observed, “lack large constituencies and the ability to build popular support. Unlike the banned Muslim Brotherhood, these parties lack the ability to mobilise tens of thousands of Egyptians.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hosni Mubarak Resigns: International Community Facing Tough Questions

Given that Hosni Mubarak has handed over power to a military council, President Barack Obama and David Cameron made it clear that they expected a timely transition to a fully inclusive democracy. Washington will attempt to use its leverage with the Egyptian military — earned through decades of high-level contact and $1.3 billion in annual aid — to ensure that the pace of change keeps up with the demands of the Egyptian people.

“The longer the military stay in power the more difficult it will be for the White House,” said David Schenker, a former Pentagon aide on the Middle East. “If it appears there is some process towards meaningful change there will be more leeway.”

It emerged yesterday that Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, was among senior Washington officials who called counterparts in Cairo on Thursday night to express their disappointment when Mr Mubarak failed to step down.

But it seems that events on the streets of Cairo carried much more weight, and White House has faced criticism for repeatedly being behind events in Egypt, rapid as they were.

Walking a tightrope of supporting an old ally and encouraging his removal, it has lost its balance several times. Lost ground with the now triumphant protesters now has to be recovered. The coming months will be a telling test of American clout in the Middle East, and Mr Obama will navigate the new terrain aware that the recent past has demonstrated that America’s aura as a superpower is fading. “Whether it is the war in Iraq, the spread of toxic American financial products around the globe, the new clout of other countries, the fact is American power achieves less than it used to,” said Steve Clemons, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

Mr Mubarak may have gone, but not as early as the US administration pressed for. “Fifteen years ago you could not imagine that Mubarak would have stood up to this amount of White House pressure,” he added…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Hosni Mubarak Resigns: Switzerland to Freeze Assets of Ousted Ruler

The announcement, which gave no details as to what assets Mr Mubarak or his family might have in the country, will send shock waves through the presidential palaces of other Middle Eastern countries. “The government wants to avoid any risk of misappropriation of state-owned Egyptian assets,” a statement by the foreign ministry said. Stories of Mr Mubarak’s personal wealth, ranging up to wild estimates of $70 billion (£44 billion), long suppressed by state media, began to circulate among the crowds from the beginning of protests. His family is said to own property around the world, including London, Paris, Dubai, and the United States. He is understood to have money in bank accounts in Britain, the US, and France as well as other western countries.

But the control of resources by the regime’s leaders is mirrored across the region, whether through military dictatorship, as in neighbours such as Libya, or oil-funded feudal rule, as in the Gulf. There were immediate celebrations last night on the streets of Yemen, which has also seen protests calling for more democracy. A major opposition rally is scheduled for today(Sat) in Algeria. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia had been Mr Mubarak’s most determined backer in his final days, insisting he should stay for fear of instability spreading across the region. The Sunni kingdoms of the Gulf saw Mr Mubarak as a fellow bulwark against the rise of Shia Iran. They will be relieved at the takeover by the army. A statement by the United Arab Emirates, whose foreign minister was the last world leader to be photographed with Mr Mubarak only on Tuesday, expressed its confidence “in the ability of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in running the country’s affairs in these delicate circumstances”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

If This is Young Arabs’ 1989, Europe Must be Ready With a Bold Response

Europe’s future is at stake this week on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, as it was on Prague’s Wenceslas Square in 1989. This time, the reasons are geography and demography. The Arab arc of crisis, from Morocco to Jordan, is Europe’s near abroad. As a result of decades of migration, the young Arabs whom you see chanting angrily on the streets of Cairo, Tunis and Amman already have cousins in Madrid, Paris and London.

If these uprisings succeed, and what emerges is not another Islamist dictatorship, these young, often unemployed, frustrated men and women will see life chances at home. The gulf between their life experience in Casablanca and Madrid, Tunis and Paris, will gradually diminish — and with it that cultural cognitive dissonance which can lead to the Moroccan suicide bomber on a Madrid commuter train. As their homelands modernise, young Arabs — and nearly one third of the population of the north African littoral is between the age of 15 and 30 — will circulate across the Mediterranean, contributing to European economies, and to paying the pensions of rapidly ageing European societies. The examples of modernisation and reform will also resonate across the Islamic world.

If these risings fail, and the Arab world sinks back into a slough of autocracy, then tens of millions of these young men and women will carry their pathologies of frustration across the sea, shaking Europe to its foundations. If the risings succeed in deposing the latest round of tyrants, but violent, illiberal Islamist forces gain the upper hand in some of those countries, producing so many new Irans, then heaven help us all. Such are the stakes. If that does not add up to a vital European interest, I don’t know what does.

Is this the Arab 1989? We have the same sense of events leaping from country to country, and of many ordinary people spontaneously standing up to say “enough is enough”. There is, however, so far little sign of the social self-organisation, led by democratic opposition movements and civil society groups, which in 1989 sustained non-violent discipline, even in the face of provocation, and paved the way to a transition negotiated at round tables.

The trades unions in Tunisia have played a significant part. In Egypt, there is Mohamed ElBaradei, with his National Association for Change, and the once imprisoned opposition leader Ayman Nour, but no effective popular front, civic forum or other large-scale structure has emerged. In Tuesday’s large demonstration in Tahrir Square, there were encouraging signs of civic self-organisation. Today, however, they seem to have responded chaotically to violent attacks by pro-Mubarak demonstrators.

For all the mobilising power of the internet and social media, this question of political organisation is crucial. That is why Israelis warn that the right analogy is not with Europe in 1989 but with Iran in 1979. A broad popular uprising, with many secular and leftist elements, is taken over by the Islamists — because they are better organised. The fact that Arab dictators like Hosni Mubarak have been successfully blackmailing the west with this Islamist spectre for 30 years does not mean it does not exist. But you can understand the frustration of Arab democrats who encounter this as the west’s first reaction to their once-in-a-lifetime hope of liberation. “This is an Allahu-Akbar-free revolution,” protests the Egyptian journalist Yosri Fouda…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mubarak Steps Down, Ceding Power to Military

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt turned over all power to the military, and left the Egyptian capital for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state television on Friday.

The announcement, delivered during evening prayers in Cairo, set off a frenzy of celebration, with protesters shouting “Egypt is free!”

The Egyptian military issued a communiqué pledging to carry out a variety of constitutional reforms in a statement notable for its commanding tone. The military’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to Vice President Omar Suleiman and it suggested that the military would supervise implementation of the reforms.

[Return to headlines]

Mubarak Slammed U.S. In Phone Call With Israeli MK Before Resignation

Radical Islam will be result of U.S. push for democracy, Mubarak told Israel’s Ben-Eliezer during a phone call on Thursday.

Hosni Mubarak had harsh words for the United States and what he described as its misguided quest for democracy in the Middle East in a telephone call with an Israeli lawmaker a day before he quit as Egypt’s president.

The legislator, former cabinet minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, said on TV Friday that he came away from the 20-minute conversation on Thursday with the feeling the 82-year-old leader realized “it was the end of the Mubarak era”.

“He had very tough things to say about the United States,” said Ben-Eliezer, a member of the Labor Party who has held talks with Mubarak on numerous occasions while serving in various Israeli coalition governments.

“He gave me a lesson in democracy and said: ‘We see the democracy the United States spearheaded in Iran and with Hamas, in Gaza, and that’s the fate of the Middle East,’“ Ben-Eliezer said.

“‘They may be talking about democracy but they don’t know what they’re talking about and the result will be extremism and radical Islam,’“ he quoted Mubarak as saying.

U.S. support for pro-democracy elements in Iran has not led to regime change in the Islamic Republic, and Hamas, a group Washington considers to be a terrorist organization, won a 2006 Palestinian election promoted by the United States.

Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a coalition government it formed with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed in a power struggle.

Ben-Eliezer said Mubarak expanded in the telephone call on “what he expects will happen in the Middle East after his fall”.

“He contended the snowball (of civil unrest) won’t stop in Egypt and it wouldn’t skip any Arab country in the Middle East and in the Gulf.

“He said ‘I won’t be surprised if in the future you see more extremism and radical Islam and more disturbances — dramatic changes and upheavals,” Ben-Eliezer added.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and has backed U.S.-led efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of an Iran-style Islamist revolution in Egypt should Mubarak’s Muslim Brotherhood rivals eventually take over.

“He repeated the sentence, ‘I have been serving my country, Egypt, for 61 years. Do they want me to run away? I won’t run away. Do they want to throw me out? I won’t leave.. If need be, I will be killed here,’“ Ben-Eliezer said.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

U.S. Preparing Aid Package for Egypt Opposition

Washington has publicly called for a transition to democracy, which Egypt has never known. To avoid a continuation of dictatorial rule under a new strong man or a dangerous power vacuum as weaker players try to seize control, Egypt will need to see the lightning-fast development of long-suppressed political parties. So the US is preparing a new package of assistance to Egyptian opposition groups designed to help with constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing, State department officials tell TIME. The package is still being formulated, and the officials declined to say how much it would be worth or to which groups it would be directed. (Watch TIME’s video “In Tahrir Square, Strong Reaction to Mubarak’s Speech.”)

White House officials declined to say whether any of the new money would go directly or indirectly to the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most prominent Islamic party.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Obama, Soros Create ‘Palestine’

In partnership with a government fund initiated by Barack Obama, philanthropist and billionaire activist George Soros is investing in a private equity company that just launched in the Palestinian territories.

The company, Siraj Fund Management Company, says it was created “for the sole purpose of managing investment funds in Palestine.”

The new company’s website repeatedly refers to what it calls the “country” of “Palestine.” There is, however, no such country as Palestine. Siraj is apparently referring to territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority.

“Siraj has plans to launch future funds focused on the Palestinian market thereby contributing to the sustainable development of the country,” states the website.

This marks the latest involvement of Soros in Middle Eastern affairs.

WND reported last week Soros has been funding groups pushing for democracy in Egypt and is associated with an opposition leader there who has been fueling protests toppling the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. ally in the region.

WND also reported an international “crisis management” group led by Soros long has petitioned for the Egyptian government to normalize ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition in Egypt.

This week, Siraj Fund Management Company, the first private equity fund in the Palestinian territories, officially launched in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Soros’ Economic Development Fund invested in the new group alongside the U.S. government-owned Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC.

OPIC is an independent agency of the US government that mobilizes private sector investment in new and emerging markets overseas…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Jordan: Islamist Movement Protests Near Egyptian Embassy

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, FEBRUARY 9 — A group of Islamsit activists on Wednesday organized a sit in near the Egyptian embassy to support the revolt against president Husni Mubarak. Senior leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood movement and its political arm, the Islamic Action Front (IAF) took part in the rally.

Activists held banners that pictured Mubarak as dictator Hitler and blasted Mubarak as a dead man walking.

“Go go, Saudi Arabia is waiting for you,” shouted protesters, referring to the fact that Saudi Arabia has recently hosted deposed Tunisia president Zain Al Abedeen Bin Ali.

Protestors also called on Egyptian to maintain their pressure against the Egyptian regime until “freedom is achieved.” Ali Abul Sukkar, president of the IAF shura council said the demonstration has two purposes, one to support the uprising in Egypt and the second to remind Jordanian authorities with its obligation to carry out reform.

“We are behind the revolution in Egypt, but we also want the government to learn the lesson and implement badly needed reform before it was too late,” Abul Sukkar told ANSA during the protest.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Frattini: Support Regime to Fend Off Terrorist Risk

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — Yemen is a nation at the heart “of complex Middle Eastern affairs” which is tackling the present “phase in a different way,” with “a functioning dialogue with the opposition”. But according to Italy’s Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, the country should be supported because some elements — such as the presence of thousands of Somali refugees “pose an extra problem for the prevention of terrorist infiltration of the Horn of Africa”.

It is a “country that should be helped before these risks become realities,” Frattini told reporters at the end of his meeting at Italy’s Foreign Office with his Yemeni counterpart, Abubaker Abdullah Al Qirbi. “We want to step up our support for the country,” the Italian Minister continued, stressing, however that some of the country’s “priorities” remained important for Italy. Constitutional reform, referendum and free elections remain “pillars for us”. Frattini also confirmed the “cooperation” between the two countries.

Al Qirbi explained how “the important role of Italy” will be significant in the challenges awaiting the country “in tackling matters such as the economy, politics, social problems and the process of democratisation”. Italy is among those “countries that have done most ,” on the Somalia front as well, with around 850,000 refugees in Albania. For the year 2011, which marks the 85th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and Yemen, the two countries will be organising significant cultural events and Frattini pointed out that one project was the construction of the network of coastal surveillance against illegal migrants and smugglers.

Both ministers stressed how education remains one of the great challenges, and this will be one of the themes discussed at the coming meeting of Friends of Yemen in Riyadh .

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen Minister: No Interference, Complicates Situation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — “The more interference there is abroad the more the situation becomes complicated”. The statement was made by Yemen’s foreign minister Abubaker Abdullah Al Qirbi, who spoke to the press at the end of a meeting today in the Italian Ministry of foreign affairs with Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini.

He added that “We consider demonstrations in any country to be a matter of internal interest and I think that the management” of these episodes “must be left up to the people of such Countries”.

Commenting on the situation in Yemen, Al Qirbi explained that “the situation is different, unique: in the last two years the government opened talks with the opposition parties and there are daily contacts. There was an attempt to meet the demands of those parties and concessions were made. This debate is still open and we keep on supporting it because it is one of our objectives”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Preparations for ‘Friday of Rage’ In the South

(ANSAMED) — ROME, FEBRUARY 11 — Preparations for a protest march being called the “Friday of rage” are taking place in southern Yemen. The South Yemen Movement has already announced a march today with several protests in several areas in the south part of the country with the goal of breaking the military encirclement imposed by the government, according to Al Jazeera.

During the protests in recent days, demonstrators have called for the liberation of all prisoners and the cancellation of the current trial against activists and organisers of today’s protest. In addition to the picture of the former president of South Yemen, Ali Salim Al Beidh, protestors are also carrying pictures of all of the prisoners.

The government in Yemen, according to intelligence sources, is facing its riskiest threat since the civil war in 1994. Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Abu Bakr Al Kurbi, recently ruled out that his country runs the risk of a popular revolt similar to what has been witnessed in several Arab countries such as Tunisia and Egypt. The minister said that all Arab countries cannot be put on the same level.

Also, yesterday Al Kurbi ruled out that Yemen, which was divided into two states in the past, risks a separation similar to the one that took place in Sudan.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Russian Chiefs Riveted as Regimes Unravel

Analysts suggest Moscow may be vulnerable to likeminded protesters

“You may remember that nearly 12 years ago Putin began building his reputation as a tough, no-nonsense leader by promising rather crudely to pursue terrorists everywhere, catch them in airport toilets and ‘waste them in the outhouse,’“ said Alex Alexiev, a fellow at the U.S. think-tank Hudson Institute, referring to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Given the increased level of attacks, Alexiev said, the terrorists “seem to be telling the Russian people that Putin can talk all he wants but is incapable of protecting them.”

Analysts also see an increasing number of ethnic Russians embracing Islam as a way to counter the regime.

“A large part of the people embrace Islam in order to be engaged in terrorism and to overthrow the government,” said Roman Silantyev of the Russian intelligence service, or FSB. “Many of them come from Nazi organizations, with many of them leaving the Nazi organizations to join Islam. They have a simple logical goal to cause maximum damage to authorities.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Caroline Glick: As the Lies Come Crashing Down

In the midst of the political turmoil engulfing Egypt and much of the Arab world, last month’s revelation that Pakistan has doubled the size of its nuclear arsenal over the past four years has been largely ignored.

Nuclear proliferation analysts from the Federation of American Scientists and the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) assess that since 2006, Pakistan has increased the size of its nuclear arsenal from 30-60 atomic bombs to approximately 110. That makes Pakistan the world’s fifth largest nuclear power ahead of Britain and France.

As for delivery systems, according to The Washington Post, Pakistan has developed nuclear-capable land- and air-launched cruise missiles. Its Shaheen II missile, with a range of 2,400 kilometers, is about to go into operational deployment…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Fears for Man Who Filmed Indonesian Religious Riots

Rights activisits say an Indonesian man who risked his life to film a mob lynching members of his minority Islamic sect is in grave danger and has gone into hiding.

The video of Sunday’s attack shocked the mainly Muslim nation and graphically illustrated rising levels of intolerance and violence directed at religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyah sect.

Three sect members were stabbed, clubbed and stoned to death in the incident.

The National Human Rights Commission says they have real fears that if the man appears in public, his life could be in danger…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

How Pakistan Could be Made to Pay for an American Killer

Pakistani police believe an American official who shot dead two men in the city of Lahore committed “cold-blooded murder” and have rejected his claim that he was acting in self-defence.

A judge has ordered that he be detained in custody for a further 14 days.

In the latest development in an incident that is rapidly turning into a diplomatic stand-off between Washington and its regional ally, the police chief in Lahore, Aslam Tareen, said his team’s inquiries had led them to reject Raymond Davis’s claim that his life had been in danger.

“His plea has been rejected by police investigators. He gave no chance to them to survive. That is why we consider it was not self-defence,” said Mr Tareen. “We have proof it was not self-defence. It was cold-blooded murder.”

The police chief’s comments followed a 30-minute closed-door court hearing in which a judge ordered the 36-year-old American, who worked at the US consulate in Lahore, be detained in jail for another two weeks. Judge Anik Anwar also demanded the Pakistani government tell the court whether or not Mr Davis has diplomatic immunity.

In the aftermath of the incident on 27 January, in which Mr Davis shot dead two men who approached him on a motorbike using a semi-automatic Glock pistol, the US has insisted the former special forces soldier was employed as a “technical adviser” at the consulate and had immunity from prosecution under the Vienna Convention.

As Pakistan has continued to refuse to accommodate Washington’s request, so the arm-twisting has increased with veiled warnings about the possible impact on American aid to Islamabad and the possible cancellation of a meeting planned for next month between President Asif Ali Zardari and Barack Obama. On Thursday, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, was forced to deny a report that US national security adviser Tom Donilon had threatened to expel him from the country if Mr Davis was not released.

But Pakistani politicians find themselves in a difficult position. While they do not wish to lose out on the billions of dollars of US military and non-military aid, they do not dare antagonise a Pakistani public that is increasingly anti-American by being seen to give in to US demands. Most political parties favour Mr Davis being tried in Pakistan and yesterday morning in Karachi, protesters from an Islamist party burned a US flag and called for him to be hanged. “The Pakistani government is really in the soup,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a political and strategic analyst. “They should have settled the matter of his diplomatic immunity within a day. But now the political parties have jumped in and the courts have jumped in. If they release him now, they will face a lot of opposition in the streets.”

Much remains unclear about the incident and the precise role held at the consulate by Mr Davis, who many believe is an intelligence operative. Public records reveal he and his wife own a Las Vegas-registered company called Hyperion Protective Services…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

In Malaysia, Youth Group to Educate Against Valentine’s Day

Lovers in Malaysia beware: The Valentine’s Day police are on the way.

Parts of Muslim Malaysia have long been uneasy with the largely Christian Valentine’s Day holiday, which celebrates romance and, some say, certain sinful activities including various types of canoodling.

So this year, the youth wing of the country’s opposition Islamic party, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), will be working to make sure Muslim residents behave, says Youth Chief Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi.

According to Mr. Nasrudin, beginning the night of Feb. 13 and all through the 14th — Valentine’s Day — PAS Youth members will fan out across Malaysia to hand out leaflets promoting sin-free lifestyles and to talk to youths about moral Islamic values.

They’ll target specific places popular with youths, including the park at the back of Kuala Lumpur’s iconic Petronas Towers and the city’s Merdeka Square.

Across the country, including in the states of Penang, Kelantan and Selangor, they will enlist the help of the police, religious departments and other groups in case of any “untoward incidents.” Mr. Nasrudin says they won’t be seeking to arrest offenders — PAS believes in teaching them, not locking them up, he adds.

Valentine’s Day “promotes sinful activities,” says Mr. Nasrudin. Indeed, it’s the only day that does so, he says.

As examples he cites what he describes as a “no-panties party” last year in Kuala Lumpur, while a hotel in Kuala Terengganu offered free rooms for 100 couples on a first-come, first-served basis. Mr. Nasrudin blames social-networking websites such as Facebook for promoting such activities. “PAS Youth wants the police to take stern action against those promoting these sinful and immoral activities,” he says.

Malaysia has at times struggled to find a comfortable balance between promoting a modern, inclusive image while also respecting the religious views of its many conservative Muslim residents. In recent years, the government has drawn widespread criticism for allowing Islamic religious officials to sentence a woman to caning for drinking beer (the caning sentence was commuted by the Sultan of Pahang to a stint at a children’s home), though it has largely exempted Christian residents from the stricter interpretations of Muslim law. Government officials last February said they had caned three women for having sexual intercourse outside of wedlock…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Muslim Violence: Civic Society, Christian and Muslim Leaders Against Yudhoyono

Government blames local officials and police. Activists and religious leaders from both faiths reject the claim. Semarang archbishop says no to violence in response to violence. Nahdlatul Ulama says the state is powerless against extremist groups. Online social networks criticise president’s empty words.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono blames local government and security officials for the violence that erupted on Sunday in Banten (Java) that saw three Ahmadis killed. The attack against the Muslim minority was followed by an attack against three churches, a Christian orphanage and medical dispensary in Temanggung Regency (Central Java). However, media, civil society leaders and religious leaders (including Christian leaders) have rejected the president’s charges. For them, the central government is to blame for the repeated cases of confessional violence. A moderate Muslim leader agrees. For him, the “state is powerless when facing hard-line groups.”

A mob stormed the Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Central Java, as well as a Protestant church, Bethel Indonesia Church and its Shekinah school, destroying various cars and motorcycles. In the Catholic church, they attacked statues, the altar as well as the parish priest, Father Saldhana, who was severely beaten for trying to defend the tabernacle.

Mgr Johannes Pujasumarta, archbishop of Semarang, said that the “priest is traumatised by memories of what he saw. He’ll need days of rest to recover body, mind and soul.”

AsiaNews tried to contact the clergyman on his mobile phone, without success. People at the Sacred Family Mission Home in Semarang have asked for privacy. “Please, don’t ask any questions. He needs total rest,” said an administrator at the Mission Home.

Mgr Pujasumarta, who is the secretary general of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia, told AsiaNews that the violence in Temanggung is proof that “acts of vandalism against someone else’s property is not a good solution.” What is more, he warns that matters could get out of control if we “respond to violence with violence.” He also urged journalists to report news based on facts and not fabrications by people with their own agenda.

In fact, now it turns out that Richmond Bawengan, the man whose five-year sentence was the pretext used by Muslim extremists to attack churches yesterday, did not only go after Islam but also Catholics. In the book and pamphlets he handed out, he insulted Our Lady and the Rosary, this according to Fr Aloysius Budipurnomo PR, head of the Commission for Inter-Religious Dialogue in Semarang Archdiocese.

Muslim civil society figures, intellectuals and religious leaders have come out against anti-minority violence. Yenny Wahid, daughter of former President Abdurrahman Wahid, urged the leaders of all religious congregations to “show respect for other confessions”. Ulul Huda MA, a high-profile Muslim scholar from the Nahdlatul Ulama (Nu), a moderate Muslim organisation, compared Indonesia to a forest ruled by the law of the jungle as the guarantee for who survives.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said the “state is powerless in facing extremist groups,” and police “have failed to uphold the law” because they are “threatened by fundamentalists”.

For the moderate Muslim leader, the wave of violence of the past few years is due a number of reasons. He wants to see rules adopted that promote inter-faith harmony and dialogue. Similarly, such laws must be enforced. “If the president does not do it,” Ulul Huda MA said, “the situation will just get worse.”

Civil society groups have joined critics of the president’s handling of the situation. Activists have issued a statement condemning interfaith violence. In it, they demand the resignation of Surya Dharma Ali, Religious Affairs minister.

Last year, they write, the minister issued a decree ordering Ahmadis to stop speaking in public about their faith, and stop recruiting new members. For activists this decree, like Pakistan’s blasphemy law, has caused confessional violence in the country. They want it immediately repealed.

President Yudhoyono and his administration have come under attack online on a number of online social networks. “Don’t waste time with words and speeches,” a Jakarta resident wrote. “Do something concrete to solve the problem.” He is not alone. “Words, words, nothing but words,” wrote another. “Dear Mr President, talk whatever you want, but we will judge you by what you do. So far, we have not seen anything concrete.”

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

Indonesia: Police Ban Inter-Faith Gathering in Central Java After Sectarian Violence

(AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian police barred 150 activists from various human rights and religious organisations from holding interreligous talks in Central Java’s strife-hit Temanggung district on Friday.

A bloody attack against the minority Ahmadiya sect which claimed the lives of three of its members, broke out in the district on Sunday. The attack, which drew widespread condemnation, is under police investigation.

Temanggung police deputy chief Sabar Rahardjo said that the activists were not allowed to go ahead with their discussions because they had not obtained permits for the event.

Police earlier on Friday named eight suspects involved in the riots in Temanggung, Central Java, and five in the brutal killing of three Ahmadiyah followers in Cikeusik, Pandeglang, Banten.

Besides the deadly mob violence against Ahmadi members in Pandeglang, Banten on Sunday, there were also attacks against three churches in Temanggung district following a blasphemy trial.

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

Indonesian Cleric’s Trial Puts Focus on Rising Militancy

The spiritual leader of the outlawed Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiah went back on trial Thursday in a case that refocuses attention on Indonesia’s fight against Islamic extremism.

The charges against Abu Bakar Bashir, which carry the death penalty and which he denies, include setting up and financing a terror training camp that plotted to kill President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The trial began in the same week as two frenzied attacks by militant Muslim mobs. The hearing was immediately adjourned on a technicality until Monday.

Indonesia has won praise for largely defeating Islamic terror, but analysts and rights groups are concerned a recent spike in religious intolerance shows extremism still has a hold on the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Foreign investment has poured into Indonesia’s bond and stock markets thanks to improved political stability and successful efforts to combat Islamic militancy since the last significant attack — the bombing of two hotels in Jakarta in 2009.

But this week has twice seen mobs of youths running riot in the name of defending Islam — first killing three members of the Ahmadiyya sect that is considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, and then torching two churches to protest against the perceived light sentence of a Catholic accused of blasphemy.

Despite no significant terror attacks in Indonesia for nearly two years, security in the capital is pervasive, with checkpoints placed at the entrance of all major shopping malls, hotels, embassies and government buildings.

Wednesday’s trial will be the third for the frail 72-year-old Bashir, who is officially the caretaker of an Islamic boarding school on Java island but has long been considered the spiritual leader of the shadowy Jemaah Islamiah movement, which seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate across Southeast Asia…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Police to Charge US Official and Suspected Spy With Murder

By Syed Saleem Shahzad — (AKI) — Pakistan’s tense relations with the US were further strained on Friday when police on Friday said they would charge US official Raymond Davis with murder and a Lahore court extended his custody by 14 days. Davis was arrested on 27 January after he shot dead two Pakistani men in the eastern city, he claims in self-defence. He is also suspected of spying.

More than 200 policemen guarded the Lahore courtroom on Friday where Davis was arraigned.

Late on Thursday, police in Islamabad impounded two vehicles belonging to the US embassy in Islamabad. The vehicles were being used by the US consulate in the northwest city of Peshawar and had travelled to Islamabad, without proper documentation, a senior Pakistani security official told Adnkronos International (AKI).

A spokesman for the US embassy, meanwhile, said both the vehicles were the property of the embassy. They were imported some time ago from the US but were kept by a private company and not taken over by the embassy.

It was not immediately clear if there was a direct connection to the Davis case.

Meanwhile, talking to the media on Thursday, Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen rejected the self-defence claims Davis.

“The police investigation and forensic report show it was not self-defence,” Tareen said, referring to Davis’ shooting in the back of two men aboard motorcycles who allegedly had pistols and followed two vehicles Davis and other colleagues were travelling in.

“He gave no chance to them to survive. It was cold-blooded murder. Eyewitnesses have told police he directly shot at them, and he kept shooting even when one was running away.” Tareen told journalists in Lahore.

Davis is an employee of the American consulate in Lahore, and worked for a private security firm before he went to Pakistan but holds a diplomatic passport.

US officials have threatened to cut the 1.5 billion dollars of annual aid to Pakistan if Davis is not released, and on Tuesday put but bilateral contracts on hold.

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

Far East

China: Plastic Rice Made in Taiyuan

Various media accuse Chinese companies of making rice by mixing potatoes with a synthetic resin. This “rice” is cheap but highly profitable. However, the resin is hard to digest and is like eating plastic. Food safety scandals have rocked the country on several occasions.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China is accused of making rice with “plastic”. The country has a long poor food safety record, including poisoning and death.

The Weekly Hong Kong reported that fake rice was sold in the Chinese town of Taiyuan, in Shaanxi province, made by mixing potatoes, sweet potatoes and industrial synthetic resins.

Although the rice reportedly stays hard even after cooking and is hard to digest, production costs are very low and profits very high. A Chinese Restaurant Association official said that eating three bowls of this fake rice would be like eating one plastic bag. An investigation is apparently underway into the affair.

China has a very poor food safety record. The worst case involved milk baby formula made with melamine, a plastic compound bad for human health. Six infants died from drinking the milk, whilst more than 300,000 suffered kidney problems, some very severe.

The scandal broke out in September 2008; however, the authorities had known about it for months but kept silent to avoid bad publicity that might affect the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In July 2010, the Global Times reported that a company in Xi’an, Shaanxi, was involved in a simpler kind of fraud by adding flavouring to ordinary rice and selling it as the more expensive ‘Wuchang rice’ brand.

Chinese authorities have repeatedly sentenced dishonest business people to long prison terms, but have proven unable to guarantee food safety.

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

China Gains Chokehold Over U.S. Defense

America ‘lax’ when it comes to critical supplies for systems

An alarming new report says the United States is choosing to rely on China for the rare earth metals that are critical for the production of America’s strategic defense weapons, giving the communist nation a chokehold on the ability of the U.S. to defend itself, according to Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

While the U.S. has the world’s second-largest reserves of the substances, instead of facilitating production, it has left China to take over the market — it controls some 97 percent of the global sales of these elements, according to the report.

The American Security Project, in fact, says the U.S. is “completely reliant on China” for rare earth metals for the production of the nation’s most critical weapons systems.


The U.S. has gone from the world’s top producer and supplier of rare earths to being completely dependent on one country — China — for its supply. China’s dominance in the rare earths market will have profound implications for U.S. national security in the next couple of years,“ indicating that it may already be “too late to avoid a global shortage of rare earth metals, placing the U.S. in greater risk.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

105 Die in Fighting Between South Sudan Army and Rebels

A former high-ranking southern army member who had previously rebelled against the southern regional government attacked the towns of Fangak and Dor in the Upper Nile state on Wednesday, breaking a January ceasefire, said Col. Philip Aguer, the army spokesman. Aguer said 105 people were killed in the two towns: 39 civilians, 24 southern police and soldiers, and 42 of rebel Commander George Athor’s men. AP attempted to reach Athor and his top aide for comment but the phone calls to the remote region did not go through. The aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres said on Friday it is treating dozens of wounded.

About 50 patients have been admitted to aid group’s health facilities. “We are mainly seeing patients with gunshot wounds, and many have significant abdominal and limb injuries,” said Tim Baerwaldt, head of the group’s mission in Southern Sudan.

Medical supplies and personnel have been flown to Malakal, the major town in Upper Nile state, the medical group said. The violence comes the same week final results were announced from Southern Sudan’s Jan. 9-15 independence referendum. Nearly 99 per cent of ballots were cast for independence, setting the region on course to become the world’s newest country in July.

The fresh fighting, though, is a reminder that renegade commanders abound in a region that suffered from two decades of war. The 1983-2005 north-south civil war killed more than 2 million people. Athor’s troops captured Fangak on Wednesday, and the fighting continued through Thursday until the southern military retook it, Aguer said. No new fighting was reported on Friday.

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Five Dead in Sectarian Attack in Central Nigeria

JOS, Nigeria Feb 11 (Reuters) — Gunmen killed five people in central Nigeria late on Thursday when they stormed an agricultural college to steal cattle, the latest in a series of clashes between Christian and Muslim youths in the region.

Youths from the Muslim Fulani ethnic group injured a further nine people after breaking into a largely Christian farming college in the central Nigerian city of Jos, police said.

Samuel Dido, the chief medical office in a nearby Christian hospital, confirmed he had seen five dead bodies while nine more were being treated for injuries.

There have been almost daily clashes between Christian and Muslim mobs in villages around Jos, the capital of Plateau state, since a series of bombs were detonated during Christmas Eve celebrations, killing scores of people.

The tension in central Nigeria’s “Middle Belt” is rooted in decades of resentment between indigenous groups, mostly Christian or animist, who are vying for control of fertile farmlands and for economic and political power with migrants and settlers from the Muslim north…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Italy: North African Unrest Sparks ‘Grave Migrant Crisis’

Rome, 11 Feb. (AKI) — Hundreds of illegal immigrants continued to land on Italian soil Friday, pushing Italy to the brink of a “grave crisis” sparked by popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, an Italian minister said.

“The serious crisis in the Maghreb in particular in Tunisia and Egypt, has caused a massive flight to Italian shores,” interior minister Roberto Maroni said on Friday. “There is a risk this will turn into a humanitarian crisis.”

More than 800 people have been detained since Thursday after arriving on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa off Sicily. Hundreds more were intercepted earlier in the week.

Maroni convened a session of the Italian National Security Council for 17 February and requested European Union aid to bring the situation under control.

Lampedusa lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily. It has been a common point of entry for illegal immigrants aiming to reach Italy by boat in recent years.

Last year, Italy closed an overcrowded immigrant detention centre on the island following rioting. Italy has a policy of deporting illegal migrants. Critics say they risk suffering human rights violations if they are forcibly repatriated.

Italy in May 2009 agreed to begin controversial joint patrols with Libya, turning back thousands of illegal immigrants aboard boats in the Mediterranean. But a massive wave of migrants has continued to arrive from Tunisia, which failed to enforce a similar pact, Maroni said.

Earlier this week, Maroni expressed concern that a month of protests that sent Tunisia’s president into exile may have permitted Islamic terrorists to slip out of the country amid that chaos and mix in with immigrants seeking asylum in Europe.

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

Man Charged With 3 Counts of Murder in Va. Attacks

A Salvadoran man who was ordered deported nearly a decade ago but never left has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder in a series of shootings and a knife attack in a Virginia suburb of Washington, authorities said Friday.

Jose Oswaldo Reyes Alfaro, an illegal immigrant, was charged in the pair of attacks blocks apart Thursday night that left three people dead and three others injured, Manassas Police Chief Doug Keen said. Reyes Alfaro knew all of the victims, he said, but police were still sorting out the exact relationships.

The killings touched off further discussion of illegal immigration in Manassas and surrounding Prince William County, which was one of the early flashpoints in the national debate over whether local authorities should play a role in enforcing the nation’s immigration laws. “It’s another abject failure of the federal government,” said state Delegate Jackson Miller, R-Manassas, a former city council member and police officer. “Now we have three innocent victims in my city, about a mile from my house there’s a murderous rampage. I am furious. … Yet it happens over and over and over again, and then we have to hear all of these apologetic excuses as to why we shouldn’t be addressing criminal illegal aliens on the state or local level. It’s just disgusting.” A similar uproar ensued in August when an allegedly drunken driver struck a car carrying three nuns, killing Sister Denise Mosier, 66. The man charged in that crash, 23-year-old Carlos Martinelly Montano, had been turned over to immigration authorities but was released pending a deportation hearing.

Nancy Lyall of the immigrant advocacy group Mexicans Without Borders said it was misleading to link an isolated criminal case with the issue of illegal immigration. In Prince William County, she said, “the undocumented population is a very, very low percentage of those who are accused of violent crimes.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Number of Asylum Seekers Increases, Media

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 7 — Some 75 illegal immigrants have come to Serbia since the beginning of the year, reports radio B92. Most of them are on their way to the EU member states. Serbia is usually just a pit stop for emigrants on their way to the EU.

The number of asylum seekers doubled last year comparing to 2009 and it is expected that the number will exceed 1,000 this year. There are currently 75 asylum seekers at the Asylum Center in Banja Koviljaca, which is two times more than in January of 2010. Foreigners who illegally crossed the border come looking for a temporary place to stay every day. The center can take 80 persons so there are many on waiting lists. “Twenty to twentyfive people have been interested in accommodation in the past several days. We accept them successively, when they decide whether they want to seek asylum, until somebody leaves or runs away and there is a vacancy,” said Asylum Center Director Robert Lesmajster.

Majority of asylums seekers come to Serbia from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Palestine: 14% of the total number of emigrants are underage children without parental care. Most of them say they were forced to leave their country.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: 1,000 Illegal Immigrants Headed for Italy, Press

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — Between Monday and Tuesday 12 boats with about a thousand young illegal immigrants left from the Zarzis port (on Tunisia’s southern coast) headed for Italy. Reports were in today’s issue of La Presse, which said that it had occurred at dawn of day with intermediaries selling “regular” tickets to embark. The problem of illegal immigration does not only concern Zarzis but the entire Tunisian coast, not only due to the reduced motorised patron boats in the seas in this period but also for the almost entire lack of police checks on land. The latter were the ones to bring in an effective stemming of the tide of illegal immigration.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

California Wants Lesbians as Mandatory ‘Role’ Models

Family advocates call plan ‘worst school sexual indoctrination ever’

Lawmakers in the state of California are proposing a law that would require schools to portray lesbians, homosexuals, transsexuals and those who have chosen other alternative sexual lifestyles as positive role models to children in all public schools there.

“SB 48: The worst school sexual indoctrination ever” is how officials with the Campaign for Children and Families describe the proposal, SB 48, sponsored by state Sen. Mark Leno.


“Children will be enticed into political activism in support of everything pushed by ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning’ political groups, as the bill requires ‘particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Tenth Parallel, By Eliza Griswold

The clash between Christianity and Islam is part of all our lives. Even a dry, academic address by Pope Benedict in 2006 at his alma mater in Germany, where he quoted a disparaging remark about Muslims by a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, had the power to bring violent crowds onto the streets in the Middle East. Yet here in the West it is still possible to dispute or downplay notions of a global stand-off between two of the world’s great faiths, or push them into the realms of theological abstraction. But in Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Indonesia and the Philippines, there can be no such luxury, according to Eliza Griswold. These countries are all, she writes in this unusual travelogue, sitting on the fault line between the two expansionist religions.

Her book takes its title from the line of latitude which links the hotspots in this battle for souls in Africa and Asia, and is the result of seven years of research. That long gestation may bring a cost in terms of immediacy — it is hard to read her sections on Sudan without wanting her to have fitted into the picture the consequences of the recent referendum for independence in the south — but it also enables her to provide both a historical context and a grassroots account that will outlast specific political crisis.

Too often, our gaze only turns to place such as Sudan, Nigeria or Somalia when something specific but terrible is happening there — a communal massacre, starvation, kidnappings of passing yachtsmen, or murders of foreign aid workers. Almost as soon as we focus our attention, we are moving on to the next flashpoint. Griswold, by contrast, wants to bring us all in on the debate. So she goes to Nigeria’s Middle Belt — a band of fertile grassland, 200 miles wide, running west to east between the seventh and tenth parallels, caught between the desert and its Muslim population to the north, and the swampy south and its Christians. Here she can observe how the competing claims of Christianity and Islam dictate events — and survival — in the free-for-all of Nigeria’s malfunctioning democracy.

In Yelwa, scene of tit-for-tat attacks between Christians and Muslims that have left graveyards overflowing, she meets Danladi and Ibrahim, two young Muslim women taken captive in an attack by local Christians, forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, and then raped for four days. Danladi was four months pregnant at the time. “According to our ulamas [teachers],” she tells Griswold, “there is no way that the whole world will not be Muslim.” I might well cling to the same ambition if I had suffered as she has.

Later Griswold visits the local Anglican archbishop, Benjamin Kwashi. In February 2006, while he was away, a group of Muslim men broke into his house, blinded his wife and slashed the lips of his seven-year-old son, leaving scars that will last a lifetime. “For Christians,” the archbishop tells her, “God has moved his work to Africa.”

The work of conversion, that is. Competition for souls breeds violence, and violence breeds competition. On the faultline, the call to evangelise — largely discarded in the live-and-let-live developed world — remains frighteningly potent. Until that impulse can be checked and restrained, the killing will go on…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Jungle Drums’ Zealot: How an Innocent Phrase Sparked a Politically Correct Witch-Hunt

Anna Farquhar has spent most of her life helping others — first as a nurse, then running a branch of St John Ambulance, a job she performed with distinction for more than 20 years. When she retired, she took up voluntary work with the armed services charity Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).

But the latest entry on her CV — and the reason you are reading about her today — is that of chairman of a local health watchdog in her native Wiltshire.

If truth be told, it was a job no one really wanted. It involved a mountain of paperwork, as well as endless meetings in draughty halls. But, aged 70 and a grandmother of five, Mrs Farquhar agreed to take on the job last May. The position, it should be stressed, was unpaid.

The only ‘perk’, apart from the satisfaction that comes from doing such a valuable, if thankless, task was the free tea and biscuits provided when she and her fellow volunteers met up.

But today, the ‘thoroughly decent’ Mrs Farquhar (not our words, but those of her colleagues) is a near-broken woman after being publicly vilified and humiliated.

What happened to her is not just a personal tragedy for Mrs Farquhar, but also an indictment of the kind of society we have now become, where the pernicious culture of political correctness holds sway and common sense has all but disappeared.

The story begins at a Scout hut in the village of Potterne Wick, near Devizes, where Mrs Farquhar lives with husband, Ian, 68, and where she has been a ‘pillar of the community’ for many years. Could there be a more unlikely setting for controversy?

But it was here back in August that Mrs Farquhar’s group, Wiltshire Involvement Network (WIN), convened. Towards the end of the meeting, Mrs Farquhar noted that gossip about NHS changes had been spreading within the health service, remarking: ‘You cannot help the jungle drums.’

The phrase, as everyone must know, is a commonly used expression similar to ‘rumour mill’ or ‘grapevine’.

Well, not everyone. Almost before Mrs Farquhar had finished her sentence, a voice from the public gallery rang out: ‘You can’t say that.’ The voice belonged to Sonia Carr.

Mrs Carr, 50, a veteran equality campaigner, claimed the remark was racist. Mrs Farquhar did not think she had said anything offensive, racially or otherwise, but apologised out of courtesy. That was the end of the matter. Or so it seemed.

Mrs Carr even remained behind for refreshments and sandwiches after proceedings had been concluded.

One month went by, then two, then three. Finally, on November 17 — some 13 weeks after the meeting in the Scout hut — a ten-page report landed on Mrs Farquhar’s desk with the sinister sounding title ‘Complaint Investigator’s Report’.

It had been commissioned by Wiltshire County Council. The authority, it transpired, had received an official complaint from Mrs Carr about the ‘jungle drums’ aside.

But, as far as Mrs Farquhar was concerned, the document marked ‘confidential’ might just as well have been produced by a Communist politburo, such were its astonishing findings.

‘The comment [jungle drums],’ it informed her, ‘was inappropriate and caused offence.’ Underneath, written in capital letters, were the words: COMPLAINT UPHELD. Indeed, those words seemed to be everywhere.

Her colleagues had ‘failed to challenge’ her statement: COMPLAINT UPHELD.

There was a ‘clear lack of understanding of equality and diversity issues’ among the group: COMPLAINT UPHELD.

Mrs Carr had been interviewed, of course, before the report was published. So, too, had members of other organisations that had dealings with Mrs Farquhar and her team.

Scandalously, though, the only person who wasn’t interviewed was Mrs Farquhar herself or anyone on the 20-strong ‘steering committee’ who were present in the Scout hut. Except one, that is. And she was the one colleague who agreed with Sonia Carr. Those with high blood pressure should perhaps turn away now, for this is only half the story.

One revelation, in particular, in the report that left Mrs Farquhar’s good name besmirched — unjustifiably and unfairly in the view of practically everyone apart from Mrs Carr and the politically correct jobsworths over at county hall — leapt off the page.

The sentence read: ‘The complainant [Sonia Carr] explained that she suffered real pain and was emotionally upset by the comment made and this has had an impact on her health and her family.’

Yes, that’s the same Sonia Carr who stayed behind for sandwiches and mingled happily with Mrs Farquhar and her colleagues after the fateful meeting.

Presumably, Mrs Carr, vicechairman of the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, must have suffered a great deal of ‘pain’ and ‘emotional ‘upset’ in recent years. Why? Because this is not the first time she has she raised race issues. She has made a string of complaints against various public bodies, of which more later.

But still the council supported her unreservedly and, in the process, came close to destroying the reputation of a woman with an outstanding record of public service.

That in itself is shocking enough. But the authority’s policy of appeasement towards Mrs Carr hasn’t just had disastrous consequences for Mrs Farquhar…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Counter-Terrorism Projects Worth £1.2m Face Axe as Part of End to Multiculturalism

The first to be hit is the Street project, based at Brixton Mosque in South London, which has received more than £500,000 in three years from the government.

The Daily Telegraph has learned that the Home Office has told the project it will have its money withdrawn this year in the first step towards switching funding away from strains of Islam with which the government disagrees.

The Brixton project is likely to be only the first to feel the effect of the new policy, with other organisations including Siraat, a £500,000 prison-based mentoring project across southern England and Impact that has received £280,000 and is based in Hounslow, West London, both facing closure.

The move follows a speech by David Cameron a week ago in which he declared that the doctrine of multiculturalism had “failed” and would be abandoned.

The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) is already driving a major re-think of a project called Preventing Violent Extremism. The project has been criticised by both libertarians who claim it is an excuse to spy on Muslim communities, and others who claim it is funding non-violent groups which nevertheless propound fundamentalist schools of Islam such as Salafism from Saudi Arabia and Deobandism from South Asia. Proponents of the scheme say that the only way to engage with young men on the verge of becoming terrorists is to talk to those whose ideologies they support.

But Charles Farr, the head of the OSCT, is aiming to cut funding to organisations with what are considered “divisive and extreme beliefs” as Prevent is re-fashioned to exclude “non-violent extremists.” When ministers arrived in the Home Office they are understood to have been shocked to find that there were no criteria on which groups to fund, little information about how much they were receiving and no proper auditing of their effectiveness.

Part of the problem was the speed with which Prevent was enlarged three years ago in an attempt to fill a gap in providing help to Muslim communities in tackling extremism.

Brixton mosque was attended by Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber and by Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker” who was arrested before the September 11 attacks. The Street project — Strategy to Reach Empower and Educate Teenagers — was designed to try and help prevent others following their example and deals with a high proportion of black converts as well as Somalis and Algerians.

It currently employs 12 staff and received £326,990 in 2009-2010 and £191,310 from 2010 until October this year.

It caters for Muslims from across South London, providing sports and social activities at the mosque youth centre and running classes on Islamic religious precepts, social responsibilities and citizenship. Over the last 18 months, it has completed 12 of the 40 cases it has managed.

The project was founded by Abdul Haq Baker, who is its managing director and the chairman of the Brixton Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre. A report by the Police Exchange think-tank in 2009, called “Choosing our Friends Wisely” pointed out that the mosque followed the Salafi school of Islam, and although it is non-violent, Mr Baker said in an interview that Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber and a former worshipper at the mosque, was “happy that we weren’t going to be feeding him rhetoric or erroneous beliefs.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]