Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110213

Financial Crisis
»21 Signs That the Once Great U.S. Economy is Being Gutted
»Greek Doctors on Strike, Pharmacies Reopened
»Israel: Growing Discontent Over Cost of Living, Govt Moves
»Lebanon: Public Deficit at Almost USD 3 Bln in 2010
»Libya: Rural Bank Ready to Grant New Loans
»Mitch Daniels: Debt is the New “Red Menace”
»Spain: Government Approves Shocking Employment Plan
»Defense Dept. Research Arm DARPA Tackles Storytime
»Donald Rumsfeld Criticises Barack Obama for Undermining ‘Special Relationship’
»Former CIA Chief Warns: U.S. ‘at War’ With Shariah
»Government Argues ‘Liberty’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Physical Liberty’
»Interview Raises Questions Over Weapons of Mass Effect in San Diego
»Islamist-Supporters Infiltrate Obama Admin to Subvert US Security
»King: Obama Needs to Put His Foot Down on Muslim Brotherhood
»Newt Gingrich Calls for Worldwide Democracy Promotion
»Terrorism: How Much Trouble Are We in?…Quite a Bit
»The Muslim Brotherhood Inside the Conservative Movement
»The Muslim Brotherhood and the Fellow Traveling Left at Slate
»Times Square Horror as Fugitive Who ‘Stabbed to Death His Girlfriend, Her Mother and His Stepfather in Crazed Killing Spree’ Is Arrested Trying to Escape on Subway
»Video: San Diego Port Officer Says Nukes Have Been Found in an American Port
Europe and the EU
»Father Convicted for Son’s School Massacre in Germany
»France: Judges on Streets Against Sarkozy, Suicide Alarm
»Italy: Flap After ‘Caiman’ Finale Dropped From Chat Show
»Italy: Parties, Sex and Texts — Tommasi’s Role
»Italy: Fiat CEO Aims to Soothe Concerns He’ll Move Headquarters to US
»Katainen: Finland Now Has Four Prime Minister Candidates
»Lebanese National ID’d in Italian Press Report to Terror Group Arrested
»MEPs Want to Bid Adieu to Strasbourg
»Netherlands: National Issues Dominate First Debate of Provincial Election Campaign
»Referendum Could Change Swiss Gun Culture
»Swiss Freeze Assets as Mubarak Steps Down
»Swiss Reject Anti-Gun Initiative
»UK: Double Standards
»UK: How Ten Human Rights Cases Clog Up Our Courts Every Day
»UK: Islam Week Speaker Causes Controversy
»UK: Margaret Thatcher Refused to Meet Meryl Streep Over the Hollywood Film About the Former Prime Minister
»Women’s Protest: Thousands in Rome
»Kosovo: Organ Trafficking; Eulex, Can Open Investigation
North Africa
»Algeria: Governing Party; March, Risk of Terrorism
»Analysis: Egypt and Iran — Different Looks at People Power
»How to Bend History’s Arc for the Better
»Morocco: Public Sector Strike Widely Supported
»No Outside Meddling in Egypt Power Change
»Soros, The Youth, High Tech and the Fundamental Change That is Revolution
»Tunisia: Police Station Attacked in Sidi Thabet
»Tunisia: Police and National Guard Stations Attacked
»Young Muslim Brothers Push for Transformation
Israel and the Palestinians
»1,500 Year-Old Byzantine Church Unearthed
»Egypt: Revolt Stirred Up by Abroad, PNA Advisor
»Gaddafi Tells Palestinians: Revolt Against Israel
Middle East
»American Thinker: The Collapse of Arab Civilization?
»Doubts Cast on Turkish Claims for Model Democracy
»Jordan: Study: Political Reforms in Name Only
»Jordan Muslim Brotherhood: Israel, U.S. Main Losers in Mubarak Ouster
»Only One Operator From Turkey at Israel Fair
»Sweep of Arrests Erases Any Doubt Over Who’s the Boss in Turkey
»Turkey’s Gul Hopes Egypt Army Power Handover in Short Term
»UAE Site, Mubarak Expected in Abu Dhabi
»Moscow Airport Bombing: ‘I Can’t Believe My Son Was Behind This’
South Asia
»Indonesia: Yudhoyono Orders Crackdown But Officials Drag Their Feet
»Malaysian Muslims Warned Against Valentine’s Day
»Pakistani Priest Warns Christians Are at Risk. A Young Man Tortured and Killed
»The Persecution of Indonesia’s Ahmadi Muslims
Australia — Pacific
»Australians Hit by Cyclone Yasi Warned to Stay Away From Deadly Giant Birds
»Why Wind Won’t Work
Sub-Saharan Africa
»‘Bio Terrorist’ Arrested in South Africa After Threatening to Attack UK and US
»Kenya: ‘Imams Refused to Give us Information’
Latin America
»Yes, Islamists Are Coming Through Mexico
»Arrivals From Tunisia, New Landing in Lampedusa
»‘Emergency’ Over New Wave of Southern Migrant Landings
»Italy Requests Urgent EU Meeting
»Italy Eyes Tunisia Deployment as Migration Wave Hits
»Italy: Biblical Exodus But EU Does Not Help, Minister
»Nearly 1:000 Tunisian Immigrants Arrive in Italy Overnight
»Tunisian Patrol Boats Intercept Migrants
»UK: Thousands of Illegal Workers Claiming Benefits: Loophole in the Law Costs Taxpayers Millions
Culture Wars
»Decker: Obama’s Fake Christianity?
»Mother’s Fury at School Sending Boy, Six, To Psychiatric Ward After He Drew Video-Game Zombie in Class
»Obama & the Human Stain: Or How Political Correctness Gave America a Con-Man President
»UK: Archbishop Sentamu’s Warning on Plan to Let Gays ‘Marry’ In Church: They Should Not Trump Rights of Clerics
»UK: BBC Accused of Dumbing Down to Get More Ethnic Minorities on Air
»Why the Mysterious Disappearance of Billions of Bees Could Mean Us Losing a Third of the Food We Eat

Financial Crisis

21 Signs That the Once Great U.S. Economy is Being Gutted

Once upon a time, the United States was the greatest industrial powerhouse that the world has ever seen. Our immense economic machinery was the envy of the rest of the globe and it provided the foundation for the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the world. But now the once great U.S. economic machine is being dismantled piece by piece. The U.S. economy is being gutted, neutered, defanged, declawed and deindustrialized and very few of our leaders even seem to care. It was the United States that once showed the rest of the world how to mass produce televisions and automobiles and airplanes and computers, but now our industrial base is being ripped to shreds. Tens of thousands of our factories and millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas. Many of our proudest manufacturing cities have been transformed into “post-industrial” hellholes that nobody wants to live in anymore.

Meanwhile, wave after wave of shiny new factories is going up in nations such as China, India and Brazil. This is great for those countries, but for the millions of American workers that desperately needed the jobs that have been sent overseas it is not so great.

This is the legacy of globalism. Multinational corporations now have the choice whether to hire U.S. workers or to hire workers in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages. The “great sucking sound” that Ross Perot warned us about so long ago is actually happening, and it has left tens of millions of Americans without good jobs.

So what is to become of a nation that consumes more than it ever has and yet continues to produce less and less?

Well, the greatest debt binge in the history of the world has enabled us to maintain (and even increase) our standard of living for several decades, but all of that debt is starting to really catch up with us.

The American people seem to be very confused about what is happening to us because most of them thought that the party was going to last forever. In fact, most of them still seem convinced that our brightest economic days are still ahead.

After all, every time we have had a “recession” in the past things have always turned around and we have gone on to even greater things, right?

Well, what most Americans simply fail to understand is that we are like a car that is having its insides ripped right out. Our industrial base is being gutted right in front of our eyes.

A nation that consumes far more than it produces is not going to be wealthy for long.

The following are 21 signs that the once great U.S. economy is being gutted, neutered, defanged, declawed and deindustrialized…

#1 The U.S. trade deficit with the rest of the world rose to 497.8 billion dollars in 2010. That represented a 32.8% increase from 2009.

#2 The U.S. trade deficit with China rose to an all-time record of 273.1 billion dollars in 2010. This is the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in the history of the world.

#3 The U.S. trade deficit with China in 2010 was 27 times larger than it was back in 1990.


#18 The United States has lost a staggering 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs since the year 2000.

#19 Since 2001, over 42,000 U.S. factories have closed down for good.

#20 In 2008, 1.2 billion cellphones were sold worldwide. So how many of them were manufactured inside the United States? Zero.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Greek Doctors on Strike, Pharmacies Reopened

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 10 — Following the demonstration in front of the Athens parliament, today the Council of Greek Medical Organisations will be gathering in the amphitheatre of the Health Ministry, still under occupation, to decide whether to continue striking next week, while the doctors from the Social Security Institute will be striking until Friday.

According to data provided by the Health Ministry, yesterday 526 hospital doctors went on strike out of a total of 21,458 (2.4%), while 155 hospital doctors in the capital took part in the strike out of 6,954 (2.2%). Meanwhile, following many days of a general strike, today pharmacies are open as normal after the positive amendments — according to pharmacists — introduced in the Health Ministry draft law on the sector.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel: Growing Discontent Over Cost of Living, Govt Moves

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, FEBRUARY 10 — Faced with growing popular discontent over rises in the cost of living and with a general strike on the horizon, Israel’s Premier Benyamin Netanyahu has today announced measures to soften the impact of price increases on low and medium-income households. Speaking to a press conference in Tel Aviv, the Premier presented four measures that will come into force very shortly: a 10% cut in ticket prices for all public transport; a reduction in water rates, limited to average consumers and an increase for those who exceed a consumption limit; an increase in minimum wage levels and a repeal of the increase in petrol prices, which will only sink by the equivalent of 4 Euro cents.

Treasury Minister Yuval Steinitz said that the cost of these measures will be covered without breaking the government’s balance of payments plans by postponing a planned reduction of income tax for the two highest income brackets and to postpone a planned business tax as well. Ministry budgets will also be cut by 2-2.5%, he said.

Despite these moves, Ofer Eini, the General Secretary of the Histadruth union congress announced a state of industrial agitation which preludes a general strike.

According to Eini, “a great number of Israelis believe that the government should change its targets and its economic policy”. According to the unionist, in the centre there should be the question of the cost of living and of purchasing power, which has been seriously hit over past months by price increases of 10% (for bread) to as much as 134% (for water) and which are being felt on public transport and the whole of the tax front: national, local and indirect taxation.

The respected Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fisher, has for his part warned against “populist measures” which could bring the country to a situation comparable to that of Greece or Ireland.

The Israeli has come away rapidly from the 2008 global financial crisis and with limited damage. In 2010 its growth rate stood at 4.5%, one of the highest in the West and its unemployment rate stands at 6.6%, lower than that of the Euro area.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Public Deficit at Almost USD 3 Bln in 2010

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 7 — Lebanon’s public deficit reached 2.92 billion dollars in 2010, a fall compared to the previous year of 1.3%. This is according to the country’s Finance Ministry, the Italian Trade Commission in Beirut reports. The deficit was the equivalent of 25.8% of public spending. The primary balance, however, registered an income of 1.2 billion dollars (+11.6% compared to 2009). Total spending therefore reached 11.3 billion dollars (-0.5%), while income decreased by 0.2% to 8.4 billion euros.

Tax income increase by 11.3% compared to 2009, and stood at 6.6 billion.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Rural Bank Ready to Grant New Loans

(ANSAmed) — TRIPOLI, FEBRUARY 10 — The Libyan Rural Bank is ready to grant 28,500 loans to Libyan citizens for an estimated value of 14 million dinars (approximately 8.2 million euros) included in the 2011 budget. The data was published in a statement from the bank to the Libyan press. In 2010, “146,087 loans were granted by the Libyan Rural Bank to 95,726 men and 50,361 women, while 22,583 loans were between 5000 and 6000 dinars,” the equivalent of 3,000 to 3,500 euros. The Libyan Rural Bank, explained the statement, grants loans that do not exceed a value of 10,000 dinars (almost 6,000 euros) to low income and unemployed individuals who are looking for a job at an interest rate of 2% per year. The priority goes to projects that are deemed to be “highly reliable and based on profitability”. The bank can also grant another loan to a beneficiary who has already paid back 75% of the value of their loan within the agree period of time. Short term loans, explained the statement, are be paid back within one year and in a single instalment, while medium term loans are paid back in monthly instalments over a period of time not exceeding one year.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mitch Daniels: Debt is the New “Red Menace”

WASHINGTON — The nation’s bloated deficit presents a threat to the American project greater than any it has ever seen before, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said tonight at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. And it is up to conservatives to unite the country in a battle against that menace, he said.

“We cannot deter it. We cannot negotiate with it any more than an iceburg or a great white,” Daniels said. “I refer to the debt — the new red menace, this time consisting of ink.”

Daniels delivered his remarks during the Ronald Reagan banquet at CPAC. Around 11,000 conservatives gathered in the nation’s capital for the conservative event, which is considered a platform for possible presidential contenders. Daniels, who is term-limited out of the governor’s office this year, has generated presidential buzz by keeping his state in relatively sound fiscal condition with moves like reducing the number of state workers and raising sales taxes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Spain: Government Approves Shocking Employment Plan

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 11 — Today the Spanish government approved a shocking plan to promote employment levels over the next 12 months and to prompt the employment of young people and long term unemployed people. The announcement was made today by Alfredo Rubalcaba, the vice premier and minister of the interior, Alfredo Rubalcaba, and Valeriano Gomez, the minister of labour, during the press conference at the end of the cabinet meeting. The measures, that will stay in effect for 12 months, include a cut to social security payments for companies than employ long term unemployed people and people over the age of 30; a cut for those companies that create new temp jobs; and incentives for the new employment of unemployed people from the construction sector.

The aim of the executive is to lower unemployment levels that affect almost 5 million people, or 20.3% of the working population. According to figures provided by the BBVA research centre, the unemployment rate will be greater than 20% in 2012 as well. The measures, which are part of a wider social agreement signed by the government with entrepreneurs and unions, include the professional retraining of unemployed people who have finished unemployment benefits. In certain cases they will receive assistance worth 400 euros up to a maximum of 6 months, which will replace the 426 euros in assistance payments that expired on December 31. Gomez explained that “This is about promoting a work and employment strategy that will result in an increase in part time jobs, which we see as one of the main shortcomings of our labour system. In other Countries it is a good tool for introduction to work, especially for the younger people”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Defense Dept. Research Arm DARPA Tackles Storytime

Once upon a time, DARPA wanted to work out how stories played a role in sharing information between people who are engaged in political activity, and possibly how to change the direction of the course of events.

More accurately: On Feb. 28, DARPA is hosting a think-tank-style workshop to tackle “Analysis and Decomposition of Narratives in Security Contexts” as part of its Stories, Neuroscience, and Experimental Technologies (STORyNET) program. Jargon aside, it’s really like the bedtime version of 1984’s Thought Police.

As DARPA notes, “stories exert a powerful influence on human thoughts and behavior. They consolidate memory, shape emotions, cue heuristics and biases in judgment, influence in-group/out-group distinctions, and may affect the fundamental contents of personal identity.” Sure the research group leapfrogs the argument that narratives played a vital role in early human survival (allowing transfer of best-practise knowledge) and modern social evolution (as in the Bible, Koran). (There are even myths about this concept.) But let’s go with it. DARPA’s not talking about campfire chats, anyway, it’s talking about narrative discussions between people — often from an authority figure to a group. It highlights there’s “no surprise that these influences make stories highly relevant to vexing security challenges such as radicalization, violent social mobilization, insurgency, and terrorism.”

Hence the workshop to try to learn how stories connect to people’s minds, how they influence or prejudice individual thinking, and whether the flow of narrative information sharing in a group can be influenced by an outside agent — all in a “scientifically respectable manner.”

Yes, that does sound creepy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Donald Rumsfeld Criticises Barack Obama for Undermining ‘Special Relationship’

“My impression is that the Obama administration is taking steps that at least symbolically have distanced his White House from what I have throughout my career valued as a special relationship,” Mr Rumsfeld told The Sunday Telegraph.

“I don’t know what it looks like from the other side of the pond, but certainly here it has dramatised the things that the Obama administration has done that are unhelpful to the relationship.”

The former defence secretary cited Mr Obama’s actions and words, from his early removal of the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office to his recent assertion that the US does not have “have a stronger friend and stronger ally” than France.

“It seems gratuitous to me,” Mr Rumsfeld said last week in an interview to coincide with publication of Known and Unknown, his 730-page memoir of his time in office under President George W Bush. The book, the latest in a series of insider accounts from those who served in the Bush administration, went straight to number one on Amazon, the online bookseller.

President Obama’s glowing reference to French allies was particularly galling for the veteran Republican official who had taken a very different view — dismissing both France and Germany as “problems” and “old Europe” when they opposed the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

[Return to headlines]

Former CIA Chief Warns: U.S. ‘at War’ With Shariah

Robert James Woolsey, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told a break-out session of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., that America needs to stop being so politically correct and realize it is “at war” with those who would spread Islamic, or Shariah, law.

“We have to understand that we are in a war here — certainly with the terrorists; certainly with Al Qaida; certainly with Hamas and Hezbollah,” Woolsey said. “We’re also at war, with no choice of our own, with those who want to, over the long run, impose Shariah [Islamic law] upon us.

“And it is one of the toughest fights we have ever had or will have,” he continued, “because Americans are used to religious liberty and not criticizing one another’s religions.”

[Return to headlines]

Government Argues ‘Liberty’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Physical Liberty’

Pleading defends authorities’ decision to jail defendant for 12 hours in violation of the law

Attorneys for Bradley County, Tenn., and several of its officials have submitted a brief to the state Supreme Court arguing that the constitutional idea of “liberty” doesn’t actually mean “physical liberty.”

That’s the way a brief filed by Thomas E. LeQuire of Spicer Rudstrom, PLLC, states it anyway:

“Liberty does not mean physical liberty,” explains point DII in the pleading that encourages the high court to reject a request from Jeremy Paul Hopkins for a hearing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Interview Raises Questions Over Weapons of Mass Effect in San Diego

Al Hallor Is Assistant Port Director With US Customs And Border Protection

SAN DIEGO — 10News was granted access to San Diego’s seaport for a firsthand look at how Customs and Border Protection officers safeguard against weapons of mass effect.

“Given the open waterways and the access to the Navy fleet here, I’d say, absolutely, San Diego is a target,” said Al Hallor, who is the assistant port director and an officer with Customs and Border Protection.

10News investigative reporter Mitch Blacher asked, “Do you ever find things that are dangerous like a chemical agent or a weaponized device?”

“At the airport, seaport, at our port of entry we have not this past fiscal year, but our partner agencies have found those things,” said Hallor.

Customs and Border Protection officers clear 80 percent of all cargo before it enters the United States. Congress has mandated that they clear 100 percent of cargo imports by 2012. In San Diego, every cargo container is driven through a radiation detector before leaving San Diego’s seaport.

“So, specifically, you’re looking for the dirty bomb? You’re looking for the nuclear device?” asked Blacher.

“Correct. Weapons of mass effect,” Hallor said.

“You ever found one?” asked Blacher.

“Not at this location,” Hallor said.

“But they have found them?” asked Blacher.

“Yes,” said Hallor.

“You never found one in San Diego though?” Blacher asked.

“I would say at the port of San Diego we have not,” Hallor said.

“Have you found one in San Diego?” Blacher asked.

The interview was interrupted before Hallor was able to answer the question.

Customs and Border Protection issued this statement after the interview:…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Islamist-Supporters Infiltrate Obama Admin to Subvert US Security

Islamist-allied operatives appointed by Obama are undermining U.S. security policy — explains counter-Intelligence expert, Prof. Clare Lopez. Aimed at co-opting Americas foreign policy in the Middle East, a network including well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world — with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran — is directing the Obama Administration’s policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Middle East.

[Return to headlines]

King: Obama Needs to Put His Foot Down on Muslim Brotherhood

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said Friday that it’s essential that the U.S. try to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from having a part in Egypt’s new government.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said on Fox’s “Hannity” that Washington has six months to work with the military leaders guiding the democratic transition in Egypt.

“As Americans we have a strategic interest in the Middle East. We cannot just sit back and say that the Muslim Brotherhood can work itself in,” King said.


“When you have a time like this, when there’s a revolution and there’s not been a democracy in the country, a well-organized power group can get power far beyond its real support and that’s my concern,” King said.

“What bothers me about the Obama administration is if sometime in the future there may be some small role for the Muslim Brotherhood that is bad enough,” he said. “But we’re saying up front the way [Director of National Intelligence James] Clapper did yesterday and the way the president refuses the Muslim Brotherhood, we are giving them an advantage right at the start at the time when there is so much chaos in the country.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Newt Gingrich Calls for Worldwide Democracy Promotion

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker of the House, criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis in Egypt, warned against the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood there and called for broader promotion of democracy around the world in an interview with “This Week” anchor Christiane Amanpour.

Gingrich criticized the mixed messages that appeared to becoming from the White House throughout the crisis.

“You appoint a very senior diplomat to be your special ambassador, he makes a statement in Munich about what we’re doing, and three hours later, the White House is directly contradicting him,” Gingrich said referring to Frank Wisner, Obama’s special envoy to Egypt, who called Mubarak key to Egypt’s move to democracy. The White House later took a substantively different position.

But “[o]ur focus shouldn’t be on Obama,” Gingrich said, pivoting to a discussion of democracy. “Our focus ought to be: what can America do now to make sure the military doesn’t impose a new dictatorship for another thirty or forty years. And how do we, on the other hand, make sure that you don’t end up with a Muslim Brotherhood staging a coup at some point over a three or four or five year period.”

“Every society has to come to grips with the facts that there are some elements that would create a dictatorship,” Gingrich said. “It wouldn’t be democracy; it would be one last vote. And whether it is Lenin replacing Kerensky, whether it is Hitler taking over in Germany, whether it is the Ayatollah running Iran, you have to be very cautious about the idea that you can automatically accept a group, if, in fact, you have pretty good reason to believe that their goal is a dictatorship.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: How Much Trouble Are We in?…Quite a Bit

Almost from the beginning there has been a debate on whether the Obama Administration was inexperienced and naïve or agenda driven and calculating. We watched Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, behind closed doors and using every tool of political coercion available, ramrod health insurance reform down the throats of an unwilling American public. At that point many thought the Progressive machine one of ruthless cunning; a contingent of callous ideologues willing to inflict grave political consequences upon the Democrat party in order to achieve a long sought goal. But, that illusion was shattered, and by an element of the administration that traditionally should have known better.

As the Egyptian people swarmed Tahrir Square in anticipation of what they thought would be Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, as reports that Mr. Mubarak would be handing over control of the Egyptian government to either his vice president, Omar Suleiman, the Egyptian Military Council or a combination of both, the US National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, made one of the most unintelligent, uninformed and naïve observations since Neville Chamberlain returned from his meeting with Adolf Hitler declaring “…peace for our time.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Muslim Brotherhood Inside the Conservative Movement

Our country finds itself at a troubling crossroads. We confront challenges from forces that are opposed to its very existence as the nation our founders created. These forces are secular and religious and are poised to attack the foundations of our nation both at home and abroad. In facing them conservatives have a special responsibility as a patriotic vanguard dedicated to the principles that have made America what it is, and who are willing to confront the enemies that seek to destroy her.

At home the adversary calls itself a progressive movement but its goal is to transform America into a socialist state, which would mean the destruction of our liberties. For as the founders warned, there is an ineluctable conflict between liberty and equality. You cannot make men equal without taking away their freedom. The founders devised a Constitution designed to thwart what they called “wicked schemes” to take wealth from one segment of the population and distribute it to another.

Our political parties are now divided between those on the left who want to use the state to redistribute wealth and those on the right who want to protect individual liberty, between those who want to expand government and those who want to limit it.

Here is my advice. You cannot defeat the forces who want to expand government merely by arguing that government is wasteful and inefficient and that the private sector accomplishes tasks better. We have already enlisted those who understand the benefits of the private sector. The only argument that will persuade others is the argument that government is destructive and hurts the people it is intended to serve. I will give you one example. One of the largest government programs that virtually everyone supports is public education. But public education administered by government is destroying the lives of millions of poor and mainly black and Hispanic children every year. Half the children in our urban public schools drop out before they graduate and half of those who do graduate are functionally illiterate. Stop the government from destroying the lives of millions of poor black and Hispanic children by giving full tuition education vouchers to every child. Take government out of the school business. Vouchers are the civil rights movement of the 21st Century. That is an argument that can persuade the unpersuaded. We are also faced both at home and abroad with an existential enemy in political Islam. Political Islam is a totalitarian movement that seeks to impose Islamic law on the entire world through the seizure of states by stealth and electoral means insofar as possible, and by terror where necessary, and sometimes by a combination of the two. There are hundreds of millions of believers in political Islam, and it is growing force within the Islamic world itself.

In Egypt, 85% of the population is on record approving of the death penalty for apostates who leave Islam. The same people also believe that the death penalty for defectors from the faith is a form of democracy and religious freedom. There is nothing new in this apparent contradiction. Communist totalitarians also worked through the electoral process wherever possible and through violence when necessary. They called the police states and gulags they created “people’s democracies.” The Soviet Constitution was described by its creators and by the progressive movements that defended it as “the most democratic in the world.”

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the fountainhead of political Islam and has spawned 12 terrorist armies including al-Qaeda and Hamas is a political force in Egypt that is also willing to participate in elections and in the civil institutions of society. The Holy Land Foundation, a creation of the Muslim Brotherhood was the largest Islamic charity in America until it was raided by the FBI and put on trial in Texas for funding Hamas. One of the documents seized in a concealed basement at the Foundation headquarters and put into evidence by the FBI was the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for America. The stated goal of this plan was to “destroy the American civilization.” The plan called for building a secret leadership in America and for the creation of a series of Brotherhood front groups that would appear to be participants in America’s democracy until the time came when and where force would be necessary to accomplish the Brotherhood’s goals. When I read the document, it reminded me of the Communists in America who were on trial for conspiring to overthrow the government, which they surely were, but who described themselves as Jeffersonian democrats. I knew several of them personally, including one who went underground to prosecute the violent revolution. Thanks to the imprudent tolerance of our courts, their convictions were all overturned…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

The Muslim Brotherhood and the Fellow Traveling Left at Slate

Yesterday morning I gave a speech at CPAC warning of the dangers posed by the infiltration of the conservative movement by the Muslim Brotherhood in the person of Suhail Khan and his sponsor Grover Norquist. Both Khan and Norquist are board members of the American Conservative Union, and both spoke at CPAC. The facts about Norquist and Khan which I discussed in my speech were taken from an elaborate dossier presented to the board of the American Conservative Union and posted on This morning SLATE, which is published by the Washington Post, rose to the defense of Khan. This was reminiscent of the past when liberals defended the Soviet spy Alger Hiss and attacked conservatives like Richard Nixon who were attempting to expose Hiss — a parallel I mentioned in my speech.

Slate’s defense of Khan is typical of the reactions of the soft left — compulsively mislabeled “liberals” throughout the (also mislabeled) “war on terror.” When I organized Islamo-Fascism campus weeks on 100 college campuses two years ago my efforts were savagely attacked by such leading lights of the (also mislabled) democratic left as Joshua Micah Marshall, who produced a satiric video ridiculing my efforts. I am sure the campaign I am about to launch this spring to oppose the “Israel Apartheid” weeks organized by the Muslim Brotherhood through its campus front, the Muslim Students Association, I am sure the liberal chorus will be out there defending the genocidal efforts of the Left as well.

Suhail Khan’s defense against the detailed charges against him, only a few of which I was able to mention in my 15 minute speech, is as disingenuous and lame as it has it has been since the first of these were leveled against him by Frank Gaffney in several years ago.

As in all of Khan’s defenses, he offers no specifics in his statement in Slate and the claims that he does make are false — e.g., I was never a communist, I despised Saul Alinsky when I was on the left and never read his book, and neither Gaffney nor I ever said he he was a member of al-Qaeda. What we said was that in 1995 his father Mahboob Khan held a fund-raiser at a the mosque he founded for Ayaman Zawahiri, the number two man in al-Qaeda. Suhail called me to deny that his father was anything more than a member of the mosque and said he couldn’t remember any fund-raiser for Zawahiri. So I emailed Suhail the Washington Post story which said that Mahboob Khan was a founder of the mosque and had held a fund-raiser for Zawahiri at the mosque in 1995 and asked him to respond. I haven’t heard from him since.

In my speech I made the specific charge that Suhail Khan was a protege of his father and of the convicted terrorist Abdurahman Alamoudi. (Readers can view the video evidence here.) I also charged tht Suhail Khan, along with his patron Grover Norquist, was instrumental in getting President Bush to agree to ban the use of secret evidence in trials of terrorists. This was a campaign launched by the terrorist Sami al-Arian (whose brother, also a member of Palestine Islamic Jihad, was deported on the strength of secret evidence.) Grover Norquist and Suhail used their influence to get al-Arian a face-to-face with George W. Bush who then attacked the use of secret evidence in his campaign and was about to implement al-Arian’s proposed ban when 9/11 took place. Al-Arian who, as the head of PIJ in North America, and its chief financier was responsible for the suicide murders of over 100 people in the Middle East,was also supported in this campaign by the ACLU, The Nation magazine and the American Left. (The ACLU was also one of his chief defenders when he was indicted for terrorist activities and eventually deported.) Suhail Khan has no response to these (or any other) facts because they are true…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Times Square Horror as Fugitive Who ‘Stabbed to Death His Girlfriend, Her Mother and His Stepfather in Crazed Killing Spree’ Is Arrested Trying to Escape on Subway

A crazed knifeman who allegedly murdered four people and stabbed four others in New York has been dramatically arrested at Times Square.

Maksim Gelman was held by an army of police who swarmed the subway station at the tourist landmark as he tried to leave after stabbing his final victim.

The shaven-headed 23-year-old said nothing and stared impassively into the distance as he was led away by a dozen armed police holding his bloodstained hands in handcuffs behind his back.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: San Diego Port Officer Says Nukes Have Been Found in an American Port

Al Hallor, the assistant port director and an officer with Customs and Border Protection has openly admitted that an unnamed government agency has found a nuclear weapon or weapon of mass effect at a U.S. port in the last year!

That’s right, an assistant port director has spilled the beans on a possible major government cover up. During the conversation the port authority press agent continually interrupted the officer in an attempt to get him to shut up.

Homeland Security was quick to “debunk” the officer, citing nervousness as the reason he made such a claim.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Father Convicted for Son’s School Massacre in Germany

In the first case of its kind in Germany, a court in Stuttgart ruled that the father of a boy who killed 15 people, most of them at a school in Winnenden, is responsible for manslaughter and bodily injury because he failed to observe a gun control law stipulating the secure storage of firearms.

Is it possible to hold a parent criminally responsible if their child commits a school shooting? And can parents predict in some cases that their child might perpetrate a crime of that nature? Those are questions a court in Stuttgart has been deliberating since last September, as judges considered charges against the father of a young man who conducted one of the worst school shootings in German history.

On Thursday, the court said yes on both counts, convicting 52-year-old Jörg K. on charges of manslaughter and bodily injury, issuing a suspended sentence of one year and nine months probation. The court said the father, who had been able to obtain weapons as a member of a gun club, had kept weapons in his bedroom accessible and not locked in a safe as they should have been under a national gun control law. In Germany, widespread gun ownership is prohibited under a strict weapons control law, but an exception is made for licensed gun club members who have received training.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

France: Judges on Streets Against Sarkozy, Suicide Alarm

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, FEBRUARY 10 — France’s magistracy has been taking to the streets in dozens of the country’s cities for an unprecedented day of strike action culminating in an afternoon demonstration in Nantes, where the protest movement started on February 3rd. Meanwhile, the online edition of Nouvel Observateur has started an alarm campaign over the series of suicides among judges — a subject which is still taboo in France, the newspaper says.

The latest such case, according to the report, came in September last year when a 45-year-old judge of Pontoise Court (near Paris) threw himself under a train. The judge left a note which read: “They say I am incompetent, but with the best will in the world it is impossible to cope with such a workload”. Other similar dramatic incidents are reported to have occurred over recent months in Caen, Metz and Avignon.

The country’s judges have the backing of the people.

According to a BVA survey, the overwhelming majority (65%) of French people support them. The police force has also expressed its solidarity and are ready to take action to support them.

Alongside the protest by the magistracy, the exasperated condition of the country’s teachers should be mentioned. Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy appears on TV this evening to respond to a battery of questions from a panel of nine citizens. The judges’ protest, now spreading across the country with many trial dates having to be postponed, was triggered on February 3 when Sarkozy accused the country’s judges of “serious shortcomings” in connection with the killing of an eighteen-year-old girl, Laetitia, by a multiple offender.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Flap After ‘Caiman’ Finale Dropped From Chat Show

But RAI chief promises to show Moretti film

(ANSA) — Rome, February 10 — A flap over alleged censorship at state broadcaster RAI arose Thursday after the controversial finale of Nanni Moretti’s 2006 anti-Berlusconi film The Caiman was dropped from a left-leaning chat show Wednesday night when the director refused demands it be cut by more than half.

In the scene, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi — sometimes called The Caiman after the alligator-like animal — stalks out of a courtroom having been sentenced to seven years in jail and tells his supporters the ruling has “turned democracy into a regime”.

Walking away after saying “free men have the right to react in any way”, his dark frame stands out against a background of exploding molotov cocktails.

The decision to broadcast the apocalyptic scene on Parla Con Me, a satirical show whose contract was held up last year amid censorship allegations, was highly sensitive given that hours before a judge was asked to put the real Berlusconi on trial for alleged use of an underage prostitute and abuse of power in getting her released from police custody, charges which carry a combined term of 15 years.

Berlusconi has furiously denied the allegations and says he is the victim of politically motivated prosecutors.

Moretti, a cult director who has publicly campaigned against Berlusconi, withdrew permission to show three minutes of the film’s finale after RAI’s deputy director-general, Antonio Marano, said the full seven minutes could not be shown because it would “hurt” a product RAI intends to screen in the near future.

The programme’s veteran host on the allegedly left-leaning RAI3 channel, Serena Dandini, said she agreed with Moretti’s decision.

On Thursday a RAI director, a free-speech group and an opposition party accused the broadcaster of censoring the show to appease the premier, who has allegedly blackballed presenters and tried to pull the plug on programmes seen as hostile.

RAI Director Giovanni Rizzo Nervo noted The Caiman was produced and distributed by RAI and said the broadcaster was hurting its own interests.

He demanded to know when it would be broadcast on RAI’s flagship RAI1 channel, sometimes accused of favourable coverage of the premier.

RAI3, a lower-rating channel often accused of carrying anti-Berlusconi content, has been told it is too low on the pecking order for the film, which picked up a minor award at Cannes in 2006, shortly before Berlusconi lost that year’s general election. “When it is decided, on a pretext, to prevent the promotion (of the film) on a RAI programme, it is not only preventive censorship but also a self-harming choice, against the corporation’s interests,” Rizzo Nervo argued. “It has also been said that Nanni Moretti’s film can’t be shown on RAI3 because RAI1 wants it at all costs. Well, that’s all well and good but I ask (RAI1 chief) Mauro Mazza…to let the date he has decided to show the film be known so that polemics are nipped in the bud”.

“If that is not the case, we would be faced with a sophisticated, albeit naive, operation of censorship which RAI would be complicit in”.

The head of free-speech group Articolo 21, named after an often-invoked article in the Italian Constitution, Giuseppe Giulietti, asked “Might we know if, on what channel and on what day they’re going to broadcast Nanni Moretti’s film, which is so dramatically relevant in describing the country? Or is it a too-faithful mirror of the relationship between power and justice that it cannot be shown”?.

Giullietti said his association would start collecting signatures for a petition urging RAI to show the film in prime time.

A member of the anti-Berlusconi Italy of Values party who serves on the RAI parliamentary watchdog panel, Pancho Pardo, said Italy was “now in a democratic emergency”.

“Preventive censorship is typical of authoritarian regimes,” he said, adding that a raft of moves announced by the premier’s People of Freedom (PdL) party against the Milan prosecutors “is beginning to prompt fears for the democratic solidity of our country”.

There was no reaction from the PdL, which has in the past been heavily critical of a number of talk shows on RAI3 accused of “trial by the media”.

But RAI1 chief Mauro Mazza played down the fuss and said his channel was ready to broadcast the film at the right time.

“There is no political polemic, RAI1 is ready to broadcast The Caiman at the opportune moment,” Mazza said.

“I’m a journalist and although personally I don’t deem it a film of exceptional quality…at this particular time it has become interesting and topical,” he said.

The Caiman received mixed reviews outside Italy with Britain’s left-leaning Guardian newspaper calling it “a muddled and messy anti-Berlusconi satire”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Parties, Sex and Texts — Tommasi’s Role

Showgirl alleged to have sent threatening text messages to Silvio Berlusconi

NAPLES — Paid sex sessions in Rome and Milan, as well as Naples, were organised under the wing of the Mallardo gang of Camorra hoodlums by the men who ran the prostitution ring connected with the prime minister’s parties. Gangsters set up meetings with deep-pocketed clients for Sara Tommasi, a frequent guest of Silvio Berlusconi. Electronic eavesdropping on their conversations has revealed that on at least one occasion, the showgirl was collected at her home in Rome by the prime minister’s escort, something the Prime Minister’s Office has vigorously denied. Ms Tommasi was evidently on close terms with Silvio Berlusconi and sent fifteen text messages to his personal mobile phone. But on 15 January, when news of the summons to appear from Milan magistrates became public, she sent him nine offensive and threatening messages in five hours. The report forwarded by the flying squad to Naples magistrates, who came across the parties while investigating the distribution of counterfeit euros, shows that Ms Tommasi is the link between Lele Mora’s stable of starlets and organised crime. That link was reinforced by Fabrizio Corona, who proposed to the procurers that they should send Cecilia Rodriguez to a new client. Ms Rodriguez is the sister of Mr Corona’s girlfriend Belen, a high-profile showgirl who was invited to present the Sanremo song festival. Another key figure in the inquiry is Vincenzo Seiello, known as “Bartolo”, a man at ease in the world of entertainment and a fixer of appointments for paid sexual encounters in Naples and in Rome, when he was staying at the Olgiata villa of singer Gigi D’Alessio.

“The car came for her”

On 9 September last year, Bartolo and his associate Giosuè Amirante were at Mr D’Alessio’s home. They contacted Ms Tommasi to tell her a businessman was waiting to spend the evening with her at the Hilton Hotel. Ms Tommasi agreed. But a couple of hours later, she called back to say she wouldn’t be going. “Someone I haven’t seen for a while called”, she explained. Bartolo and Amirante were upset and insisted, saying the client was already at the hotel. They then went round to her house to persuade her but they were too late. They explained why over the phone shortly afterwards to a certain “Checco”.

Giosuè: “Man, nothing like that has ever happened to me in all my life. We’re waiting there for her to come down and she texts me: ‘Giosuè, I’m coming down now!’“ And along come two cars with Berlusconi’s bodyguards! They came to pick her up and took her away… she’s unbelievable!”

Checco: “I see”.

Giosuè: “Heck.. but then she came down with luggage so she must be coming back. I’m in Corso Francia now after going to tell Gino what happened and I’m going back again because I need to understand. She’s not answering the phone now. Checco, I’m gobsmacked at what I’ve seen this evening”.

Bartolo comes on the line and adds details: “She made us go there and we saw these two cars draw up, an Audi A8 and an Audi A6”.

Corona wants €4,000 for Cecilia

A few weeks later, Sara Tommasi let Bartolo know she didn’t want to work any longer and texted him: “Sorry, I don’t want any more to do with Corona, or Lele Mora, or this world. Goodbye”. A subsequent text message mentions Marina Berlusconi and another refuses “the Mediaset execs like your friend Susanna Petrone wanted, the congas with Fede and Moschillo”. Bartolo rang back and tried to persuade her but she seemed adamant: “I don’t want to turn tricks. Pretend that Sara Tommasi is dead”. So perhaps to replace her, Fabrizio Corona turned to Cecilia Rodriguez. But when he learned the client was refusing to pay €4,000 and wouldn’t go any higher than €1,500, he exploded: “What are you up to? Is this charity? Are you offering a miserable sum like that to Cecilia Rodriguez, my sister-in-law? €1,500! Who do you think you are? I’ll buy this place and close it. Get me? I’ll buy it, I’ll drag it through the mud and I’ll close it”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: Fiat CEO Aims to Soothe Concerns He’ll Move Headquarters to US

Turin, 11 Feb. (AKI) — Fiat chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne needs to reassure Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi that he isn’t planning to move Italy’s biggest manufacturer a month after winning government backing in a battle with unions over labor concessions.

Marchionne, 58, caused a stir in Italy this week when he said the Turin-based carmaker and Chrysler may “end up looking like one entity,” possibly based in the US. The CEO later backtracked, saying no decision has been made. Fiat owns 25 percent of Auburn Hills, Michigan-based Chrysler.

Fiat plans to build as many as 280,000 cars and SUVs a year for the Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands at its Mirafiori plant in Italy starting in 2012 as part of a Chrysler venture. Under the deal with unions, workers will put in more hours, take shorter breaks and risk having pay withheld for persistent absenteeism.

“Integration with Chrysler may lead to new combinations, so it’s crucial to stress the importance now of a prominent position for Italy,” labor minister Maurizio Sacconi, who will attend the meeting and spoke with Marchionne last week, said in an interview. “The government wants to verify with Fiat’s management the status of the Italian investment plan.”

The Mirafiori deal is part of a 20 billion-euro investment project to revamp Fiat’s five Italian car plants, where it aims to produce 1.4 million vehicles a year by 2014 from 650,000 in 2009. In addition to the meeting with Berlusconi tomorrow, Marchionne will also speak about those goals at a parliamentary hearing in Rome on 15 February.

‘Too Late’

“The government is moving too late, but better late than never,” said Federico Bellono, the local head of the Fiom union in Turin, which opposed the Mirafiori agreement. “Marchionne is more oriented strategically toward the US than Europe.”

After Italy’s main newspapers all printed Marchionne’s comments about a move to the US on their front pages, chairman John Elkann on 5 Februaryt was forced to qualify the CEO’s remarks, saying that Fiat would never abandon Turin, where it’s been based for over a century.

Italians’ concerns that a combined Fiat-Chrysler may locate its headquarters in the US are overblown, Marchionne said Feb. 9 in an interview at the Chicago Auto Show. No decision has been made on governance or a headquarters location, he said, adding that the issue won’t be on his agenda before 2014.

“Marchionne is taking the money and running to the US,” former public works minister Antonio Di Pietro wrote in a post on his website. “Where are the 20 billion euros?”

European Losses

Fiat is trying to improve productivity and capacity utilization to restore profitability in Italy, still the carmaker’s biggest market. None of the profit in 2010 came from Italy, Marchionne said. The automaker may lose 814 million euros in Europe in 2011, according to Kristina Church, a London-based analyst at Barclays Capital.

Chrysler could earn as much as $500 million in net income this year, its first profit since bankruptcy in 2009, the company said 31 January. Marchionne has said he wants to take Chrysler public in the second half of 2011 and that he’ll need two quarters of profitability before he can do it.

“Marchionne is playing two different games, one in the US and the other in Europe,” said Giuliano Noci, a professor at the MIP Management School of Milan’s polytechnic university. “In North America he’s creating consensus on Chrysler before its initial public offering, while in Italy he needs to shock the country into creating a more competitive environment.”

Italy Lags

Fiat’s 22,000 auto workers in Italy assembled 650,000 cars in 2009, compared with 600,000 made by 6,100 employees at the company’s factory in Tychy, Poland. That means, without taking into account differences in models and working hours, productivity in Italy averaged 30 cars per employee a year, compared with almost 100 at Tychy. Fiat is closing one Italian car plant, at Termini Imerese, at the end of this year.

“The era of state aid is over,” said labor minister Sacconi, adding that the government will stress the “current and historical” reasons for keeping Fiat based in Italy in tomorrow’s meeting.

Fiat can gain an additional 10 percent stake in Chrysler in two steps if the US carmaker reaches milestones including some sales objectives outside of North America. Fiat has an option to increase the holding to 51 percent after Chrysler repays US and Canadian government loans. Marchionne has said he aims to get to 51 percent of Chrysler before the end of this year.

“There was an overreaction to Marchionne’s comments, which shows how fragile the Italian economic system is,” said Turin mayor Sergio Chiamparino, with whom Marchionne regularly plays cards. “I told Marchionne he should better explain his business model, which represents a revolution for the Italian culture.”

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

Katainen: Finland Now Has Four Prime Minister Candidates

Party chairs reprove business leaders for early retirements in debate arranged by Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA

According to the National Coalition Party chairman, Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, Finland now has four prime minister candidates.

The latest opinion poll by the Finnish commercial television channel MTV3 published on Thursday suggests that the approval rating of the right-wing populist True Finns Party has now reached 17 per cent.

The approval rating of the National Coalition Party has fallen below the 20% mark to 19.8 per cent. The Centre Party, in turn, has increased its popularity and is now hot in the National Coalition Party’s tail at 19.3%. The Social Democratic Party, on the other hand, has also experienced a downward trend. With the approval rating of 17.3%, the SDP is now only slightly more popular than the True Finns.

Katainen, the Centre Party chairwoman and Prime Minister Mari Kiviniemi, and the SDP chairwoman Jutta Urpilainen were presented with the fresh approval ratings at the beginning of a chairmen’s debate organised by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA on Thursday.

The audience of the debate consisted of representatives of the Finnish business elite.

Katainen’s comment regarding four prime ministerial candidates did not cause gasps of shock, but it was not received with much mirth, either.

The reason why the fourth prime minister candidate — True Finns Party chairman and MEP Timo Soini — was not included in the debate was because the available approval ratings were still completely different when the debate was being organised, EVA director Matti Apunen explained afterwards.

The host of the debate, EVA supervisory board chairman Jorma Ollila, tried to get an answer to what the Finns’ minimum retirement age would be in five years’ time.

All three candidates refuted the thought that the Finns’ working careers could be lengthened simply by raising the minimum retirement age from the present 63 years of age.

Urpilainen repeated that the cutting of pensions will remain as the SDP’s threshold question for entering a new government after elections in April.

In her opinion, the raising of the minimum retirement age is also a form of pension cut.

Urpilainen also brought up the large number of disability pensioners in the country and said that she supports the idea of getting young people quickly into working life after finishing their studies.

Urpilainen further pointed out that when the minimum retirement age used to be 65, the Finns actually retired at an earlier age than they do now.

Unlike their SDP counterpart, Katainen and Kiviniemi would consider the raising of the retirement age as one option, when thinking of ways to lengthen people’s working careers.

Both of the government party chairpersons criticised the business leaders in the audience for escaping into retirement too quickly.

“I think it would be reasonable if we all worked until the normal retirement age. That is leading by example and it is vital from the point of view of the notion of our all being in the same boat”, Katainen said.

“Some of the directors of our large corporations are retiring at the age of 59-60. At the same time demands are being presented that people should work for longer”, Kiviniemi added.

What the audience found most amusing was Urpilainen’s ranting about the value-added tax on food.

In her opinion lowering the tax was a mistake, and yet she does not support the idea of raising it at this point.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Lebanese National ID’d in Italian Press Report to Terror Group Arrested

A Lebanese-Palestinian man identified in an Italian press report a day earlier as a member of the terror-linked group — “Fatah al Islam” — was arrested in Athens on Sunday evening.

According to a statement by Greek police (EL.AS), Ghaleb Taleb was arrested along with another man following a lengthy surveillance operation. The arrest by intelligence and anti-terrorism personnel followed a report in the Italian mass daily “Corriere della Sera”, with authorities reportedly acting before the suspect could flee.

Additionally, another man the newspaper claimed as Taleb’s predecessor in Greece, Mohammed Mousa, has also been arrested. Both men face deportation.

The Italian daily on Saturday charged that Taleb was in Greece to coordinate some type of attack in Greece or another European country…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

MEPs Want to Bid Adieu to Strasbourg

An annual saving of €180 million, 317 fewer European officials and a reduction of 19,000 tonnes in CO2 emissions: all this if the European Parliament makes Brussels its sole seat. Right now, 736 MEPs and staff travel the 431 kilometers separating the EU’s “capital” and Strasbourg every month to take part in a four-day session there. Although Strasbourg is the official seat of Parliament, members spend most of their time working in Brussels. What’s sure is that this “monthly caravan (…) costs heaps of money and is bad for the environment and the health of MEPs,” writes De Standaard, citing a poll released 10 February by one of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, the British Liberal Democrat Edward McMillan-Scott. A full 91 percent of MEPs and their staff interviewed would like to see Brussels become as the only seat of parliament. “The debate is open once more and far from being wrapped up,” says the Belgian daily, adding that the Lisbon Treaty has no provisions for allowing members to choose their place of work. Also, influential members like MEP Joseph Daul — President of the EPP group — along with German socialist counterpart Martin Schulz, are, like the French government itself, against abandonning Strasbourg.

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

Netherlands: National Issues Dominate First Debate of Provincial Election Campaign

The first broadcast debate of the provincial election campaign focused on national issues with education cuts, public transport privatisation and Muslim headscarves centre stage, according to media reports. The debate, broadcast by Nos radio, is the first of a string of debates feature party and campaign leaders ahead of the March 2 vote.

The results in the provincial elections will determine the make-up of the upper house of parliament or senate. The government and alliance partner PVV are hoping to win a majority of seats.


D66 leader Alexander Pechtold and Emile Roemer of the Socialist Party used the debate to attack the minority government’s cuts in spending on higher education.

‘We have a crisis in our knowledge economy but the prime minister is posing in a wind-proof jacket on the A2 motorway to promote a higher speed limit,’ Pechtold said.

The VVD Liberals launched their campaign on Saturday on a stretch of motorway where the speed limit is soon to be increased to 130 kph.

And Labour leader Job Cohen attacked the anti-Islam PVV for doing a u-turn on public transport privatisation. ‘You have dropped the bus drivers like a brick,’ Cohen said to Michiel de Graaf, campaign leader for the anti-Islam PVV in the senate.

The PVV reversed an election pledge and voted in favour of forcing Rotterdam, The Hague and Amsterdam to put their bus, tram and metro services out to tender as part of its agreement to support the minority government.


De Graaf made his national debut in Sunday’s debate. During the discussion, he repeated the party’s call for a ban on Muslim headscarves, saying the issue is a symbol of female oppression.

‘Let your hair blow in the wind,’ the Telegraaf quoted him as saying. ‘Give women the strength to stand up to their husbands.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Referendum Could Change Swiss Gun Culture

The Swiss vote in a referendum this Sunday on a measure to collect military-issue weapons. The aim is to store guns in public arsenals, rather than at home — and cut down on domestic violence. But it could end a tradition of gun ownership associated with Swiss independence and the legend of William Tell.

Switzerland is an exception to many cliche’s about Europe, but gun control is one of the most unexpected. In stark contrast to the neighboring European Union, and in spite of the country’s placid image of cow pastures, Alpine landscapes and official neutrality in war, every third Swiss household owns a gun.

That may, however, change on Sunday, when Swiss voters decide on a measure to end a tradition of sending military-issue rifles home with reserve soldiers. Most Swiss men are reservists because Switzerland has a mandatory draft and only a small standing army. Sunday’s “weapons initiative” is aimed at rounding up those weapons and storing them in public arsenals. The idea is that the weapons can be retrieved in case of war, but not used for impulsive domestic violence.


Guns in Switzerland, like guns in America, are associated with liberty, and local gun clubs as well as Swiss military groups have opposed the arsenal law with rhetoric about freedom. “The real purpose of this initiative is to weaken the militia army and withdraw the state’s confidence in its citizens,” said Markus Müller, spokesman for a group of Swiss military officers called ASMZ, according to AP. “Only a disarmed people can be oppressed.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Swiss Freeze Assets as Mubarak Steps Down

The Swiss cabinet has decided to block any funds that may be held in Switzerland by former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who stepped down on Friday.

It has published an ordinance asking Swiss banks to search for any assets belonging to Mubarak and his family and to freeze them, a government spokesman said.

A statement on the website of the foreign ministry said the sale or disposal of any assets, especially real estate, belonging to these people was also forbidden.

The government “is taking all the measures required to avoid any misappropriation of government assets,” it explains.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Bern could not specify how much money might be involved.

Earlier this week, the Swiss finance minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, told Swiss television that investigations were underway to clarify whether there were in fact any assets in the country at all, and promised that the government would “act appropriately”.

The subject of Mubarak’s wealth has long been a matter of speculation, with many Egyptians believing he and his family own up to $70 billion (SFr68 billion) worth of assets, some of which is allegedly held in secret offshore bank accounts.

The Swiss government has called on the authorities in Egypt to respond quickly to the “legitimate demands of the Egyptian people in a credible, participatory and transparent manner.”

In an initial reaction, Swiss president and foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, who is on a visit to Madrid, responded cautiously to the news of Mubarak’s resignation, saying it was necessary to wait and see “what happens next”.

But she added that the Swiss ambassador in Cairo had described the atmosphere as “World Cup euphoria times ten”…

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

Swiss Reject Anti-Gun Initiative

Voters have thrown out a controversial initiative on restricting access to firearms in a nationwide ballot on Sunday.

Near-final results showed 57 per cent of votes had been cast against the initiative which sought to ban army-issue guns from the home.

A majority of cantons voted against the initiative. Support came from several, mainly urban cantons — including Geneva and Basel City. Opposition was strongest in central, rural areas and in the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

The result is a blow for supporters — a broad coalition of NGOs, churches, pacifists and centre-left parties.

But Alliance F, a leading women’s organisation behind the vote, said progress had been made and the campaign had sensitised society to the gun control issue.

The “no” committee and Swiss army officers society welcomed the clear failure of the initiative saying the people would not allow themselves to be disarmed. It was a clear vote for the army and protection, they said.

Gun violence

Launched four years ago, the initiative sought to introduce stricter rules for gun possession, notably a nationwide database and a more comprehensive licensing system.

It hoped to reduce the number of suicides and incidents of domestic violence.

Parliament and the gun lobby opposed the proposal, arguing tighter laws would undermine trusted Swiss values and cherished traditions, in particular the militia army.

The government said current laws were sufficient to protect against misuse…

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

UK: Double Standards

Do Hindus drink cow piss? I know one or two and I’ve never seen them do it, but I suppose it could be the sort of thing they do in private so as to avoid attracting opprobrium. The Channel Four film Dispatches sent an undercover reporter into a Muslim school in Birmingham where it was revealed that the Hindu beverage preference was a part of the curriculum. As well as the usual filth flung in the direction of other kuffars. Kids were regularly beaten too. You can read the story here.

Or you can prefer to read the school’s own description of its aspirations, which I took from the school website:

“Our mission is to create a generation of talented, educated scholars. Scholars who understand the Islamic way of life from its most authentic sources in accordance with Islam’s own intellectual heritage; whilst reflecting the atmosphere and society they are from with a high level of awareness and appropriate academic knowledge so they may thereby benefit the local community and enrich the wider society that we are in.”

Yowsa, keep that enriching coming, imam.

Or indeed you can read what the Bridge Schools Inspectorate, which monitors these medieval institutions, had to say about the school in its last report:

“The spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is good overall, especially regarding Hindus drinking cow piss.”

Actually, they didn’t say the last bit.

If this was a Christian school it would have been closed down years ago and the relevant teachers arrested. I bet this one doesn’t get closed down. I wonder what Warsi thinks of it?

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: How Ten Human Rights Cases Clog Up Our Courts Every Day

More than 5,000 individuals — including illegal immigrants, hedge fund managers, foreign criminals and ‘neighbours from hell’ — have used the Human Rights Act to defend themselves, it emerged last night.

Research reveals that ten cases which have ramifications for UK law take place every day under the controversial Act, which was passed by Labour in 2000.

In the past year, there has been a sharp rise in asylum and immigration cases, frustrating the ability of the authorities to deport people. David Cameron promised the Act would be scrapped before coming to power but has since kicked the pledge into the long grass.

The legislation, which enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law, meant human rights rules could be applied to any case in Britain. Previously, cases had to go to the European court in Strasbourg.

Sweet & Maxwell, which provides court information to the legal industry, says it logged an astonishing 5,107 human rights cases in the first ten years of the Act. These are cases considered important or ground-breaking by the lawyers involved. The total number of cases where human rights are involved is not recorded.

Among those to take advantage of the Human Rights Act is Iraqi asylum seeker Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, who knocked down Amy Houston and left her to ‘die like a dog’ under the wheels of his car.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Islam Week Speaker Causes Controversy

Several societies have formally spoken out against Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam al-Kawthari appearing as a guest speaker at York for Islam Week due to his policies on sexuality and women’s rights. Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam, scheduled to speak at the University on Wednesday February 16th, is an Islamic scholar and a teacher who offers Islamic guidance on his online Sharia clinic Darul Iftaa. His website made the news in July 2009, when the Sunday Mercury reported Darul Iftaa as one of the Sharia courts across the country to offer “illegal fatwas” that “transgress human rights standards as applied by British courts.”

These include rulings on the website that state, “When a man calls his wife for sexual intimacy, she should come, even if she is busy in the cooking area.”

Another ruling states, “As for the wife it is not permissible for her to leave her husband’s house without his consent.”

The article on the Sunday Mercury entitled “Islamic Sharia Law courts operating in West Midlands” can be accessed here.

A report compiled by Denis MacEoin of the Institute for the Study of Civil Society London (CIVITAS) entitled Music, Chess and other Sins further noted, “He rules that women may not swim (even for medical reasons) where a male lifeguard is present” and “the legal punishment for adultery is stoning” amongst others.

In light of this, Mariel Stringer-Fehlow, Chairman of Amnesty International Society, Qaisar Siddiqui of StandforPeace, Felix Bungay of the Freedom Society, Peter Bartley of the Jewish Society, Jon Ward of the Conservatives Society and Zoe Lederman of the International Development Society have lodged an official complaint to YUSU about this matter, spearheaded by third-year undergraduate Sam Westrop.

Westrop, part of StandforPeace said, “On behalf of a number of societies, we would like to stress that this is not a Freedom of Speech issue. It is however, a “decency” issue. We call upon the Student Unions and University authorities to condemn the speaker and his views, and to publicly urge the society hosting the event to either cancel or change the speaker.”

Stringer-Fehlow further elaborated, “If we campaign against homophobia and hate speech in other countries, how can we encourage it on our campus?”

Receiving no response from YUSU on this matter, the coalition of students and societies have sent a letter to Vice Chancellor Brian Cantor on this issue. They have gathered support from numerous parties, including York Outer MP Julian Sturdy and left-wing journalist Nick Cohen.

Sturdy commented, “I believe in the absolute importance of freedom of speech, but I am not happy that this vile speaker is using the university as a platform to produce tension in the community.”

Furthermore, Cohen, Observer columnist and author of “What’s Left?” provided his views on this matter, “Freedom of speech includes the freedom of vile men to propagate foul views, but it does not exempt them from criticism. It is essential that students act as free men and women and correct, mock and refute reactionaries who stray on to their campuses. They should on no account allow enfeebling notions of political correctness to hold them back.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UK: Margaret Thatcher Refused to Meet Meryl Streep Over the Hollywood Film About the Former Prime Minister

Margaret Thatcher refused to meet actress Meryl Streep to discuss a new film about the former Prime Minister over fears that it could distort her 11 years in power.

The makers of The Iron Lady wanted Miss Streep to talk about the project with Lady Thatcher so that she could copy her accent and manner and gain a better understanding of her.

But it was made clear that they would have to make do with talking to members of her inner circle.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Women’s Protest: Thousands in Rome

(AGI) Rome — Piazza del Popolo in Rome’s center is already full, with thousands of women from all over Italy. They have come to demand their right to be considered for more than just their bodies. The slogan chosen for the demonstration is “If not now, when?”, refering to the “Rubygate” case involving the Prime Minister. A banner dominating the square from the “Women of the South” reads, “don’t call me an escort, I’m a whore.

Don’t call me a whore, I’m a slave.” Just below the banner are difference groups working, the most popular of these is a gospel choir. . .

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


Kosovo: Organ Trafficking; Eulex, Can Open Investigation

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, FEBRUARY 8 — Today Eulex, the European mission in Kosovo, stated that it is perfectly capable of carrying out an investigation into the charges of illegal human organ trafficking included in the report by Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty, and of having the resources to adequately protect witnesses.

Eulex spokesperson Irina Gudeljevic stated that “We have full confidence in the Eulex unit allocated to witness protection, which to date has proven itself capable of managing very delicate cases”. She added that the mentioned unit can be expanded according to the breadth and intricacy of the case at hand.

Asked whether an independent prosecutor should be appointed for the investigation into the organ traffic, as requested by Human Rights Watch, the spokesperson stated that Eulex can rely on many special and experienced independent prosecutors: “All of Eulex’s special prosecutors are independent, and they are all capable of carrying out extremely complex investigations”.

Both Hrw and Dick Marty spoke out in favour of an investigation led by an independent prosecutor.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Governing Party; March, Risk of Terrorism

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 11 — The National Rally for Democracy (RND), part of the alliance that supports President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, has demanded “the respect of the law that forbids the organisation of marches in the capital”, and said that “the risk of an act of terrorism must not be forgotten”.

The RND spokesperson,Miloud Chorfi, was quoted by El Watan as saying that “The ban on tomorrow’s march has not been decided to stop Algerians from expressing themselves, but to protect them from any drift”.

“The police presence has been drawn up to protect goods and guarantee the safety of Algerians. The risk of an act of terrorism must not be forgotten”.

Opposition parties, trade unions and around a hundred associations, grouped together under the name “Collective for Democracy and Change”, will protest in the streets of Algiers tomorrow despite the ban imposed by the authorities. Protests are also planned elsewhere, in the region of Kabylia and the city of Oran, where the march has not been authorised by local police.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Analysis: Egypt and Iran — Different Looks at People Power

No sooner had the announcement come than the streets of Cairo exploded in joyful celebration. The hated autocrat was gone. A new era was ushered in with cheers, tears and the cacophony of car horns.

And so it was in Teheran — 32 years before to the day.

On Feb. 11, 1979, the commander of the Iranian air force announced on national radio that the armed forces were withdrawing from the fight to save the American-backed regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who had already fled the country three weeks before in the face of burgeoning street protests against his autocratic rule.

With the military gone, the Iranian monarchy collapsed and with it any chance that the shah would return from what had been spun as a vacation — ironically to Anwar Sadat’s Egypt.

As the troops returned to barracks, Teheran erupted into wild celebrations — punctuated by the deafening din of thousands of horns.

The popular revolt against the shah raised alarm bells in the West, which saw the prickly monarch as a trusted ally and counterweight to hard-line Arab regimes and Palestinian radicals. The face of the revolution was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, whose demeanor, vehemently anti-American rhetoric and stern interpretation of Islam challenged not only Western interests but also Western values.

Egypt’s revolutionaries of today appear far less threatening, representing a broad spectrum of Internet-savvy youth, mainstream politicians and Islamists bound together by hatred of President Hosni Mubarak and a desire for a more open, democratic system. The closest thing to a symbol of Egypt’s uprising was a 30-year-old Google executive, whose passionate, tearful remarks made on a private television station after his release from detention drove many modern-thinking, middle-class Egyptians into the streets.

Nevertheless, the images from Teheran a generation ago and from Cairo on Friday’s “Night of Liberation” were uncannily familiar. The palpable sense of relief. The euphoria among the government’s opponents. The carnival-like atmosphere. The explosion of national pride. And the blind faith that the new regime would be more just, more equitable and more democratic than the old.

Iran’s masses were no less hungry for democracy than the Egyptians who crowded into Cairo’s central Tahrir Square to demand an end to Mubarak’s rule. Where the Iranians put their trust in Muslim clerics to bring about a just and equitable society, the Egyptians turned to the secular-minded army to give the Mubarak regime a final push.

Egypt’s young revolutionaries used the tools of the 21st century — the Internet, Facebook and Twitter — to organize the first protests in late January. After the government unplugged the Internet and shut down mobile phones, Egyptians turned to Arabic language television stations — Al-Jazeera, Al-Arabiya and Alhurra — for word of what was happening on the streets.

No such technological wonders were available to the Iranian opposition. Messages and sermons from Ayatollah Khomeini, who was in exile in Paris until the final days of the uprising, were spread by cassette tapes that were smuggled into the country, copied and distributed to mosques throughout the country…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

How to Bend History’s Arc for the Better

Hosni Mubarak had a rendezvous with history last week. So did Barack Obama. For Mr Mubarak it was an ignominious end to three decades of Pharaonic rule. For Mr Obama it was the opening of a new page in his presidency in which the promotion of democracy in the Middle East is bound to become a hallmark.

For two years, Mr Obama has sought to bend the “arc of history” — his words upon Mr Mubarak’s departure on Friday — in favour of Middle East peace without much success. Elsewhere, he has improved America’s standing in the world and managed relations with other major powers quite well. But on his big ideas — engaging Iran, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and rebuilding relations with the Muslim world — he has gained little traction.

Notably absent from his Middle East lexicon in the first year of his presidency was the “D” word — democracy. That had been George W. Bush’s folly, begetting a Hamas government in Palestine and the subsequent Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza on the eve of Mr Obama’s inauguration. The new president was determined to avoid democracy promotion in favour of a more gradual approach focused on strengthening civil society.

Egypt’s people have now forced a dramatic change in Mr Obama’s approach. This is not immediately obvious in the aftermath of Mr Mubarak’s fall. Fears that the Muslim Brotherhood will take control in democratic Egypt, that instability will sweep the region and that the Israel-Egypt peace treaty will be rent asunder, seem to demand a more traditional focus on stability over freedom.

But once Mr Obama decided early on in the Egyptian crisis to position the US on the right side of history, there was no going back. Now with Mr Mubarak gone, Mr Obama will need to work to ensure Egypt’s democratic transition. This is by no means a sure thing, given that the self-appointed midwife is the Egyptian military. But the generals made an early decision to side with the people. They surely know that the protesters will return to Tahrir Square if they backtrack on their promises to remove emergency laws and ensure free and fair elections.

Partnering with the Egyptian military has considerable advantages for Mr Obama. They are heavily dependent on US military assistance; they have a big stake in maintaining the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, which they have promptly reaffirmed; and they will keep a wary eye on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Obama will also need quickly to mobilise funding for the well-oiled American democracy promotion machinery that can help Egypt’s youthful secular forces organise for the coming elections. And he would do well to lead an international effort to help revive the Egyptian economy, which was already struggling before the crippling effects of the revolution. Distrustful of Mr Obama’s intentions and deeply ambivalent about democracy, Washington’s Gulf Arab allies will be reluctant to help. It would be better for Mr Obama to encourage western and emerging democracies to take the lead. They are likely to have a more powerful interest in the success of Egypt’s democratic transition.

These measures — an enlightened military midwife, well-organised secular parties, support from fellow democracies — will do much to counter the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood could emerge as the dominant political player. In any case, the Brotherhood seems determined to play a long game, already announcing that it does not want to govern. And in the long term, the best way to counter its bid for control is to ensure that secular forces have enough support.

Given Egypt’s centrality to the Arab world, bolstering a sure-footed transition to democracy there will generate powerful popular pressure for democratic change in the rest of the Middle East. Because of that, Mr Obama needs to encourage our Arab autocratic allies to do what Mr Mubarak stubbornly refused — open their political space to allow for freedom of expression and more accountable government. He owes it to them to help them get ahead of the demands of their people for political reform, lest they too discover it is too late…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Public Sector Strike Widely Supported

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, FEBRUARY 10 — Massive support has been shown by public sector workers for the general strike called by the Public Officials’ Union (USF). According to union sources, as cited by APS, 80% of ministry, local government and public service employees stopped work.

The same sources say that over one thousand people took part in a sit-in staged in front of the country’s Ministry for Modernisation of the Public Sector to protest at the reduction in spending power of public employees and the failure of social dialogue.

The Public Officials’ Union has already warned that in the absence of any response from the government, it will call another general strike for the beginning of March.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

No Outside Meddling in Egypt Power Change

The US and Israel should not interfere in the ongoing power changeover in Egypt to prevent the spread of radical Islam in the volatile Middle East.

The head of the State Duma’s international affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev said on Saturday that the coming to power of radical Islamists would seriously hamper the Mideast settlement process and international cooperation and security as a whole.

Kosachev does not think the resignation of Egypt’s veteran President Hosni Mubarak may help improve the socioeconomic situation in the country where the economic situation is showing no signs of looking up…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Soros, The Youth, High Tech and the Fundamental Change That is Revolution

Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard many ask who was behind the Egyptian Revolution. Few will admit what should be obvious to all by now. Forces that I consider to be nothing short of evil have joined in what they see as their ‘chance’ to bring down the West and capitalism; to replace it with their given ideology du jour… Whether it be Islamofascism, Socialism, Communism or a progressive mixture of a number of isms, they look to ring the death knell of Western society and bring it down through glorious revolution and chaos. And the international dominoes have started to fall.

The Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions did not just spontaneously erupt. No… They are well planned, drawn out, militant efforts to bring about revolutionary change on a global scale. This will be done using the Internet and the young, who will be manipulated into revolt, with either legitimate causes, manufactured wrongs or a combination of both. Enter The Alliance for Youth Movements (AYM).

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Police Station Attacked in Sidi Thabet

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — The police station in Sidi Thabet, in the Ariana (northern suburb of Tunis) governorate has been attacked “for no reason”, reported an Interior Ministry statement, “by a group of about a hundred people”. The attackers injured a policeman, destroyed documents and damaged the building, as well as setting fire to a car belonging to a policeman. Intervention by an army unit caused the attackers to make their escape, though two were arrested. The police station had previously been attacked and set fire to in the first few days of the popular revolt.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Police and National Guard Stations Attacked

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 10 — Further acts of violence are occurring in Tunisia according to the press agency TAP. On Tuesday evening in Tozeur (on the edge of the Sahara) a group of young people wearing masks threw incendiary bottles at a Southern Tozeur National Guard station. The officers caused the attackers to flee by shooting in order to intimidate. Attempts were also made to set fire to the Sfax police station on Tuesday and Wednesday but they did not succeed. In Sousse, armed groups attacked schools once more, giving rise to panic. Police and the army intervened and arrested “a large number of agitators”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Young Muslim Brothers Push for Transformation

On a side street off Tahrir Square, Mohamed el-Kassas fields constant telephone calls, doling out organisational advice to his callers.

A stocky, serious young man of 36, dressed in baggy grey sweater and corduroy trousers, Mr Kassas, a leader of the youth branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, looks preoccupied the day after he helped give birth to a new Egypt.

Looking towards the square, Mr Kassas, a television producer in his day job, says that, despite the recent events, the task ahead remains difficult.

“We all have a problem capturing and leading people because they think politics is dirty; that it’s about repression and corrupt business,” he said in an interview with the Financial Times.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group banned under the administration of Hosni Mubarak yet considered the largest opposition group, joined the January 25 revolution only after it saw the size of the crowds on the streets. But its youth movement was part of the uprising from day one, working with other groups of young Egyptians through Facebook to mobilise support for the extraordinary uprising that swept aside the old regime.

Mr Kassas is one of the young Brotherhood leaders who are part of the “coalition of youth of the Egyptian revolution”, which organised the protests and occupation of Tahrir Square. The coalition has now joined political figures to form the “Defence of the Revolution Front” in an attempt to translate the aspirations of protesters into a political platform in a country where old traditional parties have little credibility.

“The general mood of the street is that we don’t want anyone to speak for us because we’ve lived for so long under Mubarak and a corrupt regime that claimed to speak for us as people,” says Mr Kassas. “But politics is different, and those who are politicised in the youth movements need to turn the revolution into political work.”

The success of Mr Kassas’s group is also encouraging it to push for the evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood (or Ikhwan) into a more modern participant in Egypt’s political future.

Made up of students and graduates under 40, the youth branch of the Ikhwan has been a reformist voice in the Islamist organisation in which some leaders remain stuck in the past.

It was out of the youth movement that calls for the establishment of a political party were born in recent years, though never adopted. The young Brothers also led calls for political participation in elections — against the wishes of more conservative older leaders, who believed that the Brotherhood should focus attention instead on preaching and social work…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

1,500 Year-Old Byzantine Church Unearthed

Basilica discovered in Judean Hills said to have exquisitely preserved mosaics in use between 5th and 7th centuries C.E.

Archeologists last week announced the discovery of a small Byzantine basilica with exquisitely preserved mosaics in use between the 5th and 7th centuries C.E., located on an uninhabited hill south-west of Jerusalem.

Site leader, Amir Ganor of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) said the floor was “one of the most beautiful mosaics to be uncovered in Israel in recent years.”

“It is unique in its craftsmanship and level of preservation,” he also stated.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Revolt Stirred Up by Abroad, PNA Advisor

(ANSAmed) — RAMALLAH, FEBRUARY 10 — The revolt against Hosni Mubarak’s regime in Egypt “was planned by international and regional forces with the help of local ‘instruments’ ,” said Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a close advisor to Palestinian National Authority (PNA) president Mahmoud Abbas. According to Abdel Rahim, a senior leader of Al-Fatah, protestors have “loyalties which give rise to suspicion” and in reality aim to undermine the central role that Egypt has traditionally played in the region. They are involved in “creative chaos” Abdel Rahim was quoted as saying by the Palestinian press agency MAAN.

A demonstration supporting the revolt underway in Egypt was held yesterday in Gaza by hundreds of Islamic students, who chanted slogans against Mubarak (called “collaborator of the United States”), against Vice President Omar Suleiman and against Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. Local press sources report that since yesterday Palestinians from the Palestinian Territories have been prohibited from going into Egypt. According to the Palestinian embassy in Cairo it is a provisional measure.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi Tells Palestinians: Revolt Against Israel

TRIPOLI, Feb 13 (Reuters) — Palestinian refugees should capitalise on the wave of popular revolts in the Middle East by massing peacefully on the borders of Israel until it gives in to their demands, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Sunday.

Gaddafi is respected in many parts of the Arab world for his uncompromising criticism of Israel and Arab leaders who have dealings with the Jewish state, though some people in the region dismiss his initiatives as unrealistic.

He was giving his first major speech since a popular uprising in neighbouring Egypt forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign, an event which electrified the Arab world and prompted speculation that other Arab governments could also be toppled.

“Fleets of boats should take Palestinians … and wait by the Palestinian shores until the problem is resolved,” Gaddafi was shown saying on state television. “This is a time of popular revolutions.”

“We need to create a problem for the world. This is not a declaration of war. This is a call for peace,” he said in a speech given to mark the birthday of the Prophet Mohamed, a holy day in the Islamic calendar.

He also said: “All Arab states which have relations with Israel are cowardly regimes.”

Palestinians have long demanded that refugees who fled or were forced to leave in the war of Israel’s creation in 1948 should be allowed to return, along with their descendants.

Israel says any resettlement of Palestinian refugees must occur outside of its borders.


Gaddafi also issued a call to Muslim countries to join forces against Western powers. He said the world was divided into white, denoting the United States, Europe and their allies, and green for the Muslim world.

“The white colour has decided to get rid of the green colour,” Gaddafi said. “These countries should be united against the white colour because all of these white countries are the enemies of Islam.”

He said violent acts committed by Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda network went against Islam because they killed innocent people. But he said there was a political explanation for the emergence of militant Islamists.

“Why did this movement emerge? Regardless of its behaviour, in my analysis this movement appeared in response to the American arrogance towards the Islamic nation and in response to its hegemony of the Islamic world,” Gaddafi said.

“It was a response to … the submission of rulers in the Islamic world, the subservience of rulers in the Islamic world to this arrogance from Europe and the United States,” he said.

Gaddafi has for decades challenged what he describes as Western imperialism. His oil exporting country spent years under international sanctions for seeking banned weapons and sponsoring militant groups.

These were lifted in 2004 when Gaddafi renounced his previous activities, though he still frequently deploys his colourful rhetoric against the West.

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Middle East

American Thinker: The Collapse of Arab Civilization?

Five years ago, Lt. Col James G. Lacey published the article “The Impending Collapse of Arab Civilization” in The Naval Institute: Proceedings.” He disputed the conclusions of two books which have particularly influenced recent foreign policy and grand strategy: The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror, by Bernard Lewis, and The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel P. Huntington.

In his article, he stated:

A more accurate understanding of events leads to the conclusion that Arab, not Muslim, civilization is in a state of collapse, and it just happens that most Arabs are Muslims. In this regard, the fall of the Western Roman Empire was a collapse of Western Europe and not a crisis of Christianity.

His thesis was that while Islam itself continues to grow and thrive around the world (and indeed, is continuing to make swift inroads into Western states), it has been specifically in the Arab world where one has seen the turmoil of civilization in decay.

He has not been alone. Azmi Bishara wrote in 2003, in Al-Ahram Weekly (Cairo):

The Arabs … are in a double state of decay that boggles the minds even of those who expected a hot summer of post-war decadence … The [Arab] nation will be split between those who dance to the beat of scandal and defeat, and those who blow themselves up in what is turning into a deafening religious ritual.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami began his article Autocracy and the Decline of the Arabs with this strangely foretelling account:

“It made me feel so jealous,” said Abdulmonem Ibrahim, a young Egyptian political activist, of the recent upheaval in Iran. “We are amazed at the organization and speed with which the Iranian movement has been functioning. In Egypt you can count the number of activists on your hand.” This degree of “Iran envy” is a telling statement on the stagnation of Arab politics. It is not pretty, Iran’s upheaval, but grant the Iranians their due: They have gone out into the streets to contest the writ of the theocrats.

Now, Mubarak has been deposed, but the question we all are asking is this: “In the final analysis, was this indeed victory for the people of Egypt, or a victory for radical Islamists?”

The Collapse of a Civilization?

Recent unrest in the Arab world exposes the discontent among the people that has been building for decades. But is this something larger and more profound than a series of uprisings? Now that the historic seat of Arab culture and power has been upended, does this indicate a renewal or decay of the civilization as a whole? Col. Lacey predicted the upheaval of current days, and made the case for these events being the harbinger for the historical end of the Arab world. This remains a monumental claim, and Lacey recognized the incredulity with which such a claim would be met.

The next question is, how could the world have missed an entire civilization collapsing before its eyes? The simple answer is that no one alive today has ever seen it happen before. Well within living memory we have seen empires collapse and nation-state failure has become a regular occurrence, but no one in the West has witnessed the collapse of a civilization since the Dark Ages. Civilizational collapses take a long time to unfold and are easy to miss in the welter of daily events.

The seeds of such a collapse, if that is what we are seeing take place, might well have been sown 600 years ago, according to Lacey, with the dawning of the Renaissance throughout Western Europe. However, one can make the case that the fate of Arab civilization was set two centuries earlier, with the exile of Ibn Rushd (western name of Averroes).

Different Paths

At a time when western philosophers were actively wrestling with many questions of ontology (what is) and epistemology (how we know), the Arab Caliphs and their chosen scholars handled philosophical disputes as they always had: with charges of infidelity to scripture, and sentences of prison, exile, or death. Ibn Rushd disputed the dominant thinking of Al-Ghazali (1059-1111), and followed more in the tradition of Ibn Sina, an 11th century Persian Islamic philosopher. Yousif Fajr Raslan writes:

Set back by the blind resistance of the Caliph’s scholars, Ibn Rushd turned to Greek philosophy where he found his ideal in Aristotle…He applied rational reasoning to theology, an approach that further stirred his colleagues against him and against philosophy as a whole, not to mention their particular hatred of Greek philosophers.

Ibn Rushd was banished, putting an effective end to any hope of philosophical renewal and introduction of historically based rationality into the Arab culture.

Western philosophy traversed the Renaissance and periods of Empiricism and developed the “Scientific Method.” Western thinkers, from Thomas Aquinas on, wrestled with the relationship between the metaphysical and the physical, along with issues of authority and the search for truth. Both Christian and secular Enlightenment scholars introduced ideas of “natural law,” property rights, and the “social contract.”

Arab scholarship, in contrast, went on to hold up Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), born in what is modern Tunisia, as one of their greatest political thinkers. His definition of government as “an institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself” still dominates Arab political thought [emphasis added].

Policy Choices

If Lacey was right, and we are truly witnessing the collapse of Arab civilization as a whole, this does not bode well for the western world. The powers able and ready to fill the void are neither friendly toward, nor passive in their attitude toward, the Western states. What happens in Egypt might well presage what happens in the rest of the Arab world. The key question is this: Has western thought been sufficiently infused within Egypt’s people so as to lead to legitimate and lasting democracy? If not, then we will likely see a repeat of 1970s Iran; not only in Egypt, but throughout the entire Arab world

Col. Lacey made the case for dealing with a declining Arab civilization through means very similar to the Cold War: specifically, containment. We have largely followed this grand strategy until recently. Sadly, with our administration’s bumbling and weak response to the events in Egypt, we might well have lost our most vital ally in the region, and hence, our ability to reverse a tidal wave of radical Islamic power…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Doubts Cast on Turkish Claims for Model Democracy

According to conventional wisdom, Turkey has become the template of our times: a large Muslim-majority country that has moved from military domination to civilian rule in a few years, spearheaded by a popular democratically elected government trumpeting its EU membership ambitions.

If Egypt is seeking a path to help it navigate the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, the argument runs, then Turkey surely provides it. The once all-powerful Turkish armed forces — which have toppled four civilian governments in the past 50 years — have been cut down to size by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it has sought to transform the national political landscape.

Fuelling the AKP’s rise, according to its advocates, has been the emergence of a new religious, conservative middle class from Turkey’s Anatolian heartland, whose increasing affluence has undermined the economic power base of the army and other traditional secular pillars, such as the judiciary. Supporters depict the AKP, a party rooted in political Islam, as a modernising role model for other Middle East Islamist movements, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, to reinvent themselves as democratic parties.

That rosy view is challenged by opponents who believe the ruling party is driven by an authoritarianism that aims to subvert Turkey’s traditional secular constitution. Erdogan — Turkey’s prime minister — is a former radical Islamist who even in his supposedly new moderate incarnation has bitterly criticised Israel and fostered warm ties with Iran and its fiercely anti-western president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Some fear Turkey is turning its back on the west. The army, long a key component in Nato strategy, appears ever more defeated.

Worse still are accusations that the assault on the armed forces has lurched into persecution. Hundreds of serving and retired officers have been arrested in connection with two separate but linked alleged plots to overthrow the AKP in military coups.

In the latest development, police at the weekend arrested 162 officers charged with involvement in an alleged 2003 plot called “sledgehammer”, which aimed to topple the government after sowing chaos by bombing mosques and provoking war with Greece. The army denies the charges and has described the plan as a war-game exercise.

Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based specialist in Turkish security affairs, said Turkey provided no model for Egypt to emulate. “Turkey has been exchanging a military form of authoritarianism for civilian authoritarianism,” he said. “What we have seen in the last couple of years is blatant political persecution, suppression of the free press and people being thrown in jail without knowing what they are charged with. The police have been used as an organ of internal repression. Far from being a model, Turkey has been becoming more like Egypt.”

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Study: Political Reforms in Name Only

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 9 — A recent study published by the Centre for Political Research and Studies in Qatar revealed that the Jordanian government concentrates power in the hands of a small elite group despite the recent talk and announcements of political and democratic reforms. The way that the Jordanian government designs their reforms is not destined to bring about an alternation in power through elections, according to the study cited on Al Jazeera’s website.

The recent elections on November 9 confirmed, says the study, that Jordanian political life is based on a mixture of authoritarian and democratic procedures. This combination has led to a gradual weakening of Parliament and the political parties. If the Jordanian government continues to squander the riches of the country, the slogans in the popular protests will turn from economic and social to political in nature, according to the plea made to the monarchy by well-known opposition figure Laith Shbelat.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Jordan Muslim Brotherhood: Israel, U.S. Main Losers in Mubarak Ouster

Group advises U.S. to change policies towards region, says political changes should send clear message to Israel regarding peace treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement in Jordan, the country’s main opposition group, described Saturday the downfall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as a “historic victory” with the United States and Israel as the main losers.

“The victory scored by this revolution is in the first place directed against the United States, which so far sponsored the toppled regime, and wanted it as a strong ally and defender of the Zionist entity and an enemy of the Arab jihad and resistance movements,” the group said in its first reaction to the developments.

It advised the U.S. and other western governments “to realize the lesson inferred from the victory of Egyptian revolution by acting seriously to change their policies towards this region.”

The group also said that the political changes should send “a clear message” to Israel, which “thought that its security has been secured” by a 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Only One Operator From Turkey at Israel Fair

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 9 — Israel’s International Mediterranean Tourism Market, one of country’s most important exhibitions which opened Tuesday, hosts only one tour operator from Turkey as Anatolia news agency reports. Nearly 300 companies from around 35 countries are participating in the two-day event in Tel Aviv.

Turkish-Israeli relations have strained after last year’s Israeli raid on Gaza-bound aid ship Mavi Marmara that killed 9 Turks. The number of Israeli tourists visiting Turkey had dramatically dropped after calls from Israeli officials to cancel trips to Turkey. However, Turkish pavilion is in demand at the fair as Turkey’s tourism office in Israel has taken action to attract Israeli tourists during the upcoming seven-day Pesach holiday in April. Turkey’s tourism officials plan to re-launch promotion campaigns in March. Meanwhile, Israel’s Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov visited Turkish pavilion and met Turkey’s tourism officials at the fair.

“Last year, I made an invitation. Now I would like to repeat it. I would like to invite your tourism minister to Israel,” Misezhnikov told Turkish officials.

The only Turkish travel operator in Israeli tourism fair was from Fethiye, a resort town in Turkey’s southwest. Pinar Dogerli Baserkafaoglu, the owner of Turkish operator, said she was there as she wanted to help revive relations. “Longtime Turkish-Israeli friendly relations should not be cut in one minute,” she said, referring to “one minute” crisis at a World Economic Forum event in Davos, where Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan stormed off the stage when his remarks were cut by the moderator after his harsh criticism at Israeli President Simon Peres two years ago.

“There are many friends in Turkey for the Israeli people. We want to see Israelis back in Turkey. We missed them. It is not just me, it is all the Turkish tradesmen in Mediterranean region. I am here to convey this message,” she said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweep of Arrests Erases Any Doubt Over Who’s the Boss in Turkey

The ongoing arrests of more than 100 active officers as part of the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) case have demonstrated the increasing confidence of the government in confronting a military that once held sway over Turkish political life.

An Istanbul court approved an arrest demand late Friday evening for 163 suspects in the alleged coup-plot case, including top suspect retired Gen. Çetin Dogan, the former commander of the 1st Army, and Özden Örnek and Ibrahim Firtina, the former top commanders of the Navy and Air Force, respectively.

Out of the 196 total suspects of the case, 167 were present at the Friday hearing and 133 were arrested immediately. The defendants face between 15 and 20 years in prison if convicted on charges of “attempting to topple the government by force.”

Seven more officers turned themselves in Saturday, raising the number of arrests to 140.

The once-unimaginable arrests of high-ranking military officers dominated the local news agenda over the weekend and are reported to have created a massive disruption in the promotion system of the military. Relatives of the arrested soldiers and other figures from pro-military circles held protests around the country Saturday. The chief of General Staff met with families, and also with the prime minister, though the latter talks were characterized as “normal” by the interior minister.

Surprise demand from prosecutor

The reading of the trial’s indictment was finished Thursday at the 12th hearing in the case; the 13th hearing Friday saw the prosecutor demand 186 arrests following opening remarks by defense lawyers. Prosecutor Savas Kirbas justified his demand based on the recently added 43 dossiers of documents confiscated at a Navy base and the 100th article of the Turkish Penal Law. Head Judge Ömer Diken called for a recess after Kirbas made his demand and asked the suspects not to leave the courtroom. The court approved the arrest demand for 163 of the suspects later Friday evening.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met Saturday with Gen. Isik Kosaner, the head of Turkey’s armed forces, at the prime minister’s office in Istanbul’s Dolmabahçe Palace. Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül was also present for the talks, which lasted about 45 minutes. Neither Erdogan nor Kosaner made a statement afterward.

Addressing the press Sunday, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said the meeting should be considered a “normal” one.

“The arrest [demand] of 163 officers is in question; of which 106 are active officers,” Atalay said. “In such a situation, what can be more natural than the defense minister and the chief of General Staff discussing the matter with the prime minister?”

When asked whether the meeting would result in an intervention to the judiciary, Atalay said the meeting should not be evaluated in that way, adding that the trial process was ongoing but there were duties to be handled by the executive branch as well.

Two generals at military hospital

Top suspect Dogan and others are expected to arrive to turn themselves in Monday. Dogan’s lawyer Celal Ülgen said they would object to the arrest decision “even if they already know it will be denied.” Retired Gen. Ergin Saygun and retired Gen. Recep Rifki Durusoy fell ill after the arrest order and were taken to be treated at Ankara GATA Military Hospital’s cardiology section.

“We are watching [the developments] carefully and with worry. If there are serious findings, explanations that would satisfy the public opinion should be made,” said Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP.

Other heads of political parties also responded to the developments, with Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, saying: “If there are coup plotters within the military, they should be sorted out.”

Noting that similar arrests were carried out before the Sept. 12, 2010, constitutional referendum, Bengi Yildiz, group deputy head for the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, said “the timing of the arrests is meaningful.”

“This case should be evaluated as an opportunity for Turkey to become [a] mature democracy,” said Numan Kurtulmus, leader of the People’s Voice Party, or HSP.

Sledgehammer is the code name for an alleged military coup plot against the leading Justice and Development Party, or AKP, drafted in 2003. The case has put dozens of soldiers behind bars. This weekend’s arrest decision is the third against the suspects since the beginning of the trial’s investigation process. The conflict over repeated arrests and releases last year caused rumors of a pro-military versus pro-AKP polarization within the judiciary. The head judge of the case was changed two days shy of the first hearing, which was protested by the defense as an “intervention” into the case by the political authority.

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

Turkey’s Gul Hopes Egypt Army Power Handover in Short Term

Turkish President Abdullah Gul said that the Egyptian army handled the recent process in Egypt by preventing more bloodshed, and added, “we believe that the Egyptian army will do its utmost to hand over the political power to a civilian government as soon as possible.” President Gul told reporters before his departure for Iran, “the whole Islam world has faced an extraordinary transition process lately. People are pioneering this process.”

He said that Turkey considered Egypt as one of the most significant members of the Islam world and attached great importance to its relations with Egypt.

“We hope that Egypt will get through recent process stronger. We want Egyptian people to be happy and prosperous. Their happiness and prosperity depends on ensuring fundamental rights and freedoms, democracy, rule of law and economic transparency in their country. Egyptian army has handled the recent process in Egypt by preventing more bloodshed. We believe that the Egyptian army will do its utmost to hand over the political power to a civilian government as soon as possible,” he said.

President Gul refused to talk about the arrests of former and current military officers over alleged coup plans known publicly as “Balyoz (Sledgehammer)” since judicial process has already been continuing…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

UAE Site, Mubarak Expected in Abu Dhabi

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 11 — The United Arab Emirates-based website Localnews says that the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, is expected in Abu Dhabi.The website quotes sources that have asked to remain anonymous.

The presence of the Egyptian President is thought to be backed up by the fact that, according to the website, joint maritime operations between Egypt and the UAE began last Tuesday. Egyptian naval forces are also thought to be tasked with guaranteeing Mubarak’s safety from a potential attack by the Egyptian community living in the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE President, Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will formally welcome the Egyptian President upon his arrival in Abu Dhabi, the website continues. Localnews adds that the Emirati Foreign Minister, Abdallah Al Nahyan, had discussed plans for Mubarak’s arrival during his previous trip to Cairo.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Moscow Airport Bombing: ‘I Can’t Believe My Son Was Behind This’

Sitting in his cosy kitchen in a sprawling village 900 miles south of Moscow, Mukhajir Yevloyev struggles to explain where it all went wrong. Now a pensioner, the former bus driver raised four children with his second wife Roza and had hoped that they would all have the quiet life that he had enjoyed for the last 73 years.

Though the area of Russia where the Yevloyev family lives is crushingly poor, it is framed by the stark beauty of the snow-capped Caucasus mountains and locals have long eked out a simple life raising cattle, picking wild garlic, and, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, deepening their knowledge of Islam.

It is true that Mr Yevloyev had recently had cause to worry about his eldest son, 20-year-old Magomed.

The boy had been expelled from a local college for under achievement and had then struggled to find a job. He had also separated from his young wife and, towards the end of last year, had gone off in an apparent huff to earn some extra money at a building site in a nearby region. But these were things that could be fixed, he thought. When FSB secret service agents burst into Mr Yevloyev’s modest red brick house and showed him a photograph of a severed head two weeks ago, the quietly-spoken patriarch knew that his world had changed for ever. The agents told him the distorted face staring back at him was that of the suicide bomber who had just killed 36 people at Moscow’s busiest airport. Look closely, they said, and you will recognise Magomed, your eldest son.

At first, Mr Yevloyev was sure it was a case of mistaken identity. “I really doubted it was him,” he told The Sunday Telegraph in his first interview with a Western newspaper.

“If they had shown me the back of his head I would have known for certain because he had a bad fall when he was four years old which left a scar there but as it was I really wasn’t sure.” Even now, as he sits at home alone watching the news about his own son on television, Mr Yevloyev seems unable to fully believe that the man in the gory photograph was really Magomed — the boy whom he had nurtured for two decades, supporting through childhood, teenage years and a prematurely failed marriage.

He recalled how his son had food on his plate, clothes on his back and the rest of his life ahead of him. “What more did he want?” he remembered asking him once.

In some respects, Mr Yevloyev’s story is not unlike that of any parent who has seen their offspring’s life go awry, for reasons seemingly beyond their control.

The difference here though is that Mr Yevloyev’s son strapped seven kilograms of TNT to his chest and took so many other lives as well as his own in a calculated act of pure evil…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Yudhoyono Orders Crackdown But Officials Drag Their Feet

Police arrest 13 people in connection with recent attacks against the Ahmadi minority and Christian churches. The president issues orders to local authorities to go after extremist entities. Civil society groups share the president’s views but security officials and agents drag their feet. Anti-Christian and anti-Ahmadi violence are related.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — Indonesian police arrested 13 people in connection with a series of recent confessional acts of violence that left three Ahmadi Muslims dead and three churches destroyed. President Susilo Bambang Yudoyono announced a crackdown against fundamentalist groups, who must be disbanded to prevent further sectarian attacks. Civil society groups have welcomed the president’s statement, but government officials and local authorities warn it will be hard to wipe out terrorist groups.

Police arrested five people involved in the murder of three members of the Ahmadi Muslim sect, deemed heretical my mainstream Muslims because it does not view Muhammad as the last prophet.

The attack took place last Sunday in West Java. Police were able to identify the attackers thanks to video that eventually found its way on the Internet. Banten Police spokesperson Gunawan Setiadi told the AFP that more arrests would follow thanks to images released on YouTube.

Two days later, fundamentalists targeted the Christian community in Temanggung (central Java). Police arrested eight people involved in the attack against three churches, an orphanage and Christian centre. A mob of about a thousand people attacked Christians and their property because of a case of alleged blasphemy involving a young man who was sentenced to five years in prison.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told local officials and authorities to clamp down on fundamentalists and stop sectarian violence. However, this will be hard to do because many top officials and ministers are dragging their feet on the matter.

On national press day in Kupang, the president issued orders to disband a number of notorious extremist groups. “Legal authorities should have the courage to disband public group or mass organisations which have repeatedly conducted or even suggested violence,” the president said. Local authorities and security officials should do their duty, he insisted.

Civil society groups have welcomed the president’s announcement. However, scepticism remains strong because of obstacles on the path of implementing presidential orders.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said for example that dismantling such groups will not be an easy task.

Police chief General Timnor Pradopo, an acknowledged sympathiser of some extremist groups like the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), said that he will need evidence and facts of misbehaviour before taking action.

Even lawmakers, including some from the Democrat Party and United Development Party, blame Ahmadis for their predicament, saying that they must repent and acknowledge their errors. They also want the sect to be eliminated.

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

Malaysian Muslims Warned Against Valentine’s Day

As couples around the world ready for Valentine’s Day, Islamic officials in Malaysia have warned Muslims against celebrating something “synonymous with vice activities.”

The warning follows plans announced last week by several Malaysian states who are planning a crackdown on “immoral acts” during Valentine’s Day as part of a campaign to encourage a sin-free lifestyle. “In reality, as well as historically, the celebration of Valentine’s Day is synonymous with vice activities,” Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, head of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), which oversees the country’s Islamic policies, told state media. “Islam would reject anything, even from the Eastern culture, if it contravenes the Islamic teachings,” he added. Wan Mohamad said a fatwa (ruling) issued by the country’s top clerics six years ago noted the day “is associated with elements of Christianity,” and “we just cannot get involved with other religion’s worshipping rituals.”

JAKIM officials will carry out a nationwide ‘Mind the Valentine’s Day Trap’ campaign, he said, aimed at preventing Muslims from celebrating the day.

Nasrudin Hasan Tantawi, head of the Islamic party PAS’s youth wing said Wednesday that authorities in the opposition-controlled northern states of Kedah, Penang and Kelantan as well as central Selangor state will also carry out “immorality checks” on February 14…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Pakistani Priest Warns Christians Are at Risk. A Young Man Tortured and Killed

Incidents against the faithful, especially in central Punjab, increasing at an alarming rate. The police and the judiciary “cover” crimes and abuses for fear of the local Muslim lords. A young man killed by his employers, and the police would not accept the father’s report.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The situation of Christians in Punjab is becoming more critical, Fr Joseph Xavier, from Lahore tells AsiaNews. “The incidents against Christians are increasing at an alarming rate. Central Punjab is the area most affected. Over the past three years there have been over 35 incidents, and most of them have not been reported because of the influence that local landlords have in the areas, and the influence of local MPs. They hold police and judges in the palm of their hands; the roam freely after having killed or robbed. This issue requires special attention; otherwise this problem will become even more frequent. Christians are not safe, many are forced to convert to Islam to save themselves. Also, if the Ministry of minority groups is abolished, what will happen to minorities in Pakistan?”.

The most recent episode involves a young man killed by his Muslim employers, who were reported to police, after public outcry, after the police dallied, reluctant to take up the case. Imran Masih, 24, a resident of Ghakkar Mandi Gujranwala, was killed by employers, who say he committed suicide. Imran Masih, married for eight months, worked as a driver for two Muslims, Bashir Ahmed Cheema and Munir Ahmed Cheema. Imran’s father, Lal, had held the job before but because of age he passed to his son.

On February 5, Imran was unable to go to work because he felt sick. The next day he went to work. It seems there was a verbal confrontation with Munir Ahmed Cheema. And immediately after Imran was attacked and killed. Munir Cheema sought the help of some friends, and Imran’s body was hung from the ceiling, and his father, Lal, was told his son had killed himself.

Lal Masih received her son’s body, covered in blood, and with clear signs of torture. Lal Masih told AsiaNews: “My son was killed by these animals. Cheema and his son used to insult me every day, they said that we Christians were their slaves. They have abused my son, he responded and then they killed him. There are signs of torture on the body. “ Lal Masih went to the police to complain, but the assistant sub-inspector (ASI), Zubair Cheema, refused to accept the “Fir” (First Information Report) due to Bashir Ahmed Cheema’s influence in the area. The neighbours, however, hadheard noises and voices of people who insulted Imran, and then attacked him.

Apparently the Christian residents of Nut Kallan and areas near Mandi Ghakkar have been targeted by Muslim landlords. In September 2010, a widow was forced to leave Nut Kallan, because a Muslim landowner seized her land and home. Previously, three evangelical pastors were assaulted, but no report was lodged because of the influence of the land owners of the area. In the last year two brothers who were accused of blasphemy were killed outside a courthouse. Asia Bibi is still in prison, waiting for the high court to fix the date of her appeal. Recently two women were attacked with false accusations of blasphemy.

Khalid Gill, chief coordinator of the APM (All Pakistan Minorities Alliance) together with other members of the organization blocked the Great Trunk Road near Ghakkar Mandi, to protest against the police and demand that the report be upheld, and the guilty arrested. Following the protest a police officer Shahid Rana arrived on the spot, and finally filed the report.

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

The Persecution of Indonesia’s Ahmadi Muslims

In a jerky video that’s shaken up Indonesia, young men take turns whacking three prostrate, nearly naked bodies with wooden sticks. The blows land with sickening thumps. Rocks follow. The bodies twitch; the surrounding crowd is jubilant. Shouts of “God is great” can be heard. A policeman waves his hands but doesn’t interfere. The three men killed in the video belonged to an offshoot of Islam known as Ahmadiyya, a faith that blends Islam’s core teachings with idiosyncratic interpretations that drive hardline Islamists crazy. The video is especially jarring because Indonesia has long been known for its live-and-let-live religious ethos, and the Ahmadis, who have suffered harassment, or worse, in more conservative countries such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, have until recently been left alone in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, which holds as its official motto “Unity in diversity.” Over the past decade, however, Indonesia’s religious compact has frayed, strained by the same fundamentalist forces that have long plagued other parts of the Muslim world. The struggle in Indonesia reflects the global debate within Islam, pitting a loud, radical fringe against a more liberal camp that may be larger but has shown less desire to shout. A recent string of violent episodes—including the killing of the three Ahmadis on Feb. 6—has raised the question: will Indonesia remain liberal?

In a survey conducted last year, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace polled 1,200 people in Greater Jakarta and found that nearly half of them wanted the government to outlaw Ahmadiyya, while a fifth were in favor of curbs on the group’s activities.

And the day after the irate crowd in Cikeusik, Banten province, murdered the three Ahmadis, Muslim rioters in unrelated attacks torched several Christian churches and attacked a courthouse, incensed over what they saw as an insufficiently harsh sentence given to a Christian man accused of blasphemy…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australians Hit by Cyclone Yasi Warned to Stay Away From Deadly Giant Birds

Australians trying to rebuild in the wake of Cyclone Yasi have been warned to stay away from cassowaries — huge flightless birds with claws that can disembowel a human — on the hunt for food after their habitat was destroyed by the storm.

Residents of communities around Mission Beach, on the north Queensland coast, which was almost flattened by the category five cyclone earlier this month, have been advised to beware of the 6ft tall birds, which are known to attack if they feel threatened.

Famed for their long talons — their dagger-like middle claws measure 12cm long — and powerful legs, the birds, which are unique to the rainforests of northern Australia, are said to be able to disembowel humans, dogs and horses with just one kick.

Weighing more than 10st, cassowaries resemble an emu, and in 2007 were named the most dangerous birds in the world by the Guinness Book of Records.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Wind Won’t Work

The Carbon Sense Coalition today called for an immediate end to government mollycoddling of wind power.

The Chairman of “Carbon Sense”, Mr Viv Forbes, said that a submission by the Coalition to the Senate enquiry into wind farms found that there is no proof that wind farms will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and it is ludicrous to believe that a few windmills in Australia are going to improve the global climate.

“Such wondrous expressions of green faith put our politicians on par with the Cargo Cultists and those who believe in the tooth fairy. The tax payers funding this largess and the consumers paying the escalating power bills are entitled to demand evidence and proof. There are so many state and federal green energy schemes that no one knows how much is being wasted.

“Not only is there no climate justification for wind farms, but they are also incapable of supplying reliable or economical power. So poor is their performance in every real test in every country that people world-wide are starting to ask if there is some deeper agenda.

“It was revealed just today that one of Britain’s most visible wind turbines produces just 17% of its rated capacity and delivers electricity worth far less than the government pays the promoters in subsidies.

“It is also surprising that those who claim to be defenders of the environment can support this monstrous desecration of the environment.

“Wind power is so dilute that to collect a significant quantity of wind energy requires thousands of gigantic towers each with a massive concrete base and their network of interconnecting heavy duty roads and transmission lines. Then when they go into production, they slice up bats and eagles, disturb people who live nearby, reduce property values and start bushfires.

“Finally, to cover the loss of power when the wind drops or blows too hard, every wind farm needs a conventional power station (commonly gas-fired) with capacity at least twice the design capacity of the wind farm to even out the sudden fluctuations in the electricity grid.

“Why bother with the wind farm — just build the backup?

“There is no justification for the continuation of mandates, subsidies or tax breaks favouring wind power over other reliable and cheaper electricity generation options.

Wind power promoters should compete on an equal basis with all other power options.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

‘Bio Terrorist’ Arrested in South Africa After Threatening to Attack UK and US

A businessman was arrested in South Africa on terrorism charges yesterday after allegedly threatening to attack Britain and America with biological weapons.

The arrest came after a six-month investigation by British, US and South African security services. The 64-year-old man, who is a South African citizen,

is said to have repeatedly sent threatening emails to a Whitehall department in an attempt to extort £2.5 million.

He is then understood to have sent similar threats to institutions in the US, at which point the FBI was called in.

Yesterday morning several containers were left in a storage facility near the suspect’s home in South Africa’s North-West Province.

They are thought to have held money and, when the man went to collect it,

he was arrested by South African special forces.

The South African authorities said they had taken the threat seriously, though they had found no evidence that the man was capable of launching a biological attack. The suspect, who has not been named, is due to appear in a Johannesburg court.

Last night his home was among the sites searched. A Scotland Yard spokesman said: ‘Our counter-terrorism officers co-operated with the South African police in terms of fact-finding for the investigation.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Kenya: ‘Imams Refused to Give us Information’

The imams and Muslim activists at the Coast declined to give investigators information on drug dealers.

A team of investigators sent to Coast Province last year to investigate the drug menace said the clerics claimed government officials knew the drug barons.

“They were interviewed with a view of gathering information that could assist in the investigation but they declined,” says a report by the team.

The investigators said some of those interviewed were either crying wolf or driven by financial gains.

When the team visited the imams again to see if they had new information, they said that information was with an informer, the report says.

The team reported that it had earlier dealt with the informer and found him to be dishonest. “At one point he had asked for Sh20,000,” the report adds.

The investigators also said that the imams appeared to have divided loyalty as they allegedly dealt with the suspects and government agents at the same time.

The report says that Mombasa Municipal Council employee Ali Mchemi alias Shee Lako, who was arrested in December last year and charged with disguising proceeds of drug trafficking, told the investigators that he was betrayed by the informer after he stopped paying protection fees.

Meanwhile, the investigators have accused two political activists in Mombasa of giving misleading information to the police and the media.

The report says the two turned out to be political activists with one having contested the Mvita seat in the last general election…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Yes, Islamists Are Coming Through Mexico

Said Jaziri was seen getting in the trunk of a smuggler’s car by bystanders, captured only by luck and their patriotism.

When chaos reigns supreme in a nation that shares an almost two-thousand mile border with the United States, and that border is not protected to the extent it should be, undesirable elements sneaking their way from Mexico into the U.S. becomes the rule instead of the exception. We have all been made aware of the drug shipments that come into the U.S. through the porous and undermanned Mexican border, and we all know of the steady stream of Mexicans that for decades have snuck through looking for a better life in the U.S. for themselves and their families back in Mexico. However, it is next to impossible to tell who else comes across the U.S./Mexico border until they are apprehended, or worse.

On January 11, U.S. Border Patrol agents pulled over a BMW near the Golden Acorn Casino, 50 miles east of San Diego, California. The vehicle was driven by Kenneth R. Lawler. Border Patrol agents found Lawler had tucked away in the trunk of his car a souvenir of sorts from Mexico: a radical Muslim cleric by the name of Said Jaziri.

Lawler was arrested and is being held on charges of alien smuggling, while Jaziri is being held for illegally entering the country as well as being a material witness to the crime.

The capture of Jaziri reopens the book on this radical Muslim cleric who fought his eventual deportation from Canada in 2007, when he applied for refugee status but failed to disclose a criminal conviction in France during the 1990s. While in Quebec, he advocated for Sharia law in Canada while demanding the government fund the construction of a $20-million mosque. He organized and led protests in Canada against the Danish cartoons that depicted Mohammad, and boasted of converting one Canadian woman a week to Islam while proclaiming homosexuality to be a disease.

During his deportation hearings, the Tunisian native argued he would be tortured back home if deported, yet he found a way to survive in Tunisia after he was sent back there. It took him a few years to make his way back to North America on a journey that took him from Africa to Europe, and then to Central America and Mexico, where he paid Tijuana smugglers $5,000 to sneak him across the border.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Arrivals From Tunisia, New Landing in Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), FEBRUARY 11 — The wave of boats arriving on the Sicilian coasts from Tunisia is continuing. A new vessel with 181 migrants on board, 16 of them minors, was picked up at dawn today 6 miles off the coast of Lampedusa by Coastguard motorboats. The boat was taken towards the island’s port. All of its passengers reported that they were from Tunisia.

Another boat containing around 70 migrants was intercepted a few miles off the coast by a Coastguard motorboat and accompanied to the port.

There was a total of over 650 immigrants from a number of groups in Lampedusa yesterday, with a new emergency called. A group of 137 migrants arriving in the last few hours were put up in a hotel, after the island’s priest, Don Stefano Nastasi, made the parish office available to avoid the migrants having to sleep in the open.

Over a thousand immigrants have landed in Lampedusa in the last 24 hours. Some of them were transferred by Porto Empedocle yesterday, while the others will be transferred during the day.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Emergency’ Over New Wave of Southern Migrant Landings

Maroni writes to EU

(ANSA) — Lampedusa, February 11 — Southern Italy is facing the risk of a humanitarian emergency amid a renewed wave of migrant landings after a long lull, Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said Friday.

“There is the risk of a humanitarian emergency,” he said after a boat with 181 Tunisian migrants including 16 minors was rescued off the island of Lampedusa, a stepping-stone between Italy and North Africa.

Crossings from Africa to Lampedusa and other southern Italian sites had virtually dried up thanks to a controversial ‘push-back’ deal with Libya but the crises in Tunisia and nearby Egypt have spurred a resurgence.

“There is a mass flight towards Italy” from those two countries, Maroni said.

On Thursday, in a string of landings, a total of 650 migrants landed on the island, whose migrant reception facilities are already overflowing.

Earlier this week Maroni pointed to the risk of terrorists hiding among the many former jail inmates from Tunisia who are seeking asylum.


Maroni on Friday wrote to the European Union urging it to tackle the flood of migrants from North Africa following the political crises there.

In his letter to the EU duty president and the European Commission, Maroni requested that the issue should be put to the next meeting of EU justice and interior ministers.

“The crisis in North African countries and the impact on immigration and Europe’s internal security,” must be addressed, he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Requests Urgent EU Meeting

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 11 — Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini and minister of the Interior Maroni requested the urgent summoning of a political meeting of the EU’s Council of justice and internal affairs to deal with the immigration emergency in light of the events in Tunisia and the Mediterranean.

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Italy “requests the immediate deployment of a Frontex mission for patrol and interception activities in the area off the shores of Tunisia to monitor flows: we ask for the EU to immediately respond to the situation that has emerged, which Italy cannot deal with by itself and whose effective and speedy management interests all of Europe”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Eyes Tunisia Deployment as Migration Wave Hits

Italian police escort would-be migrants believed to be from North Africa as they disembark from a ferry boat in the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle, Italy, early Sunday, after their boat reached the island of Lampedusa from North Africa. AP Photo.

Italy announced on Sunday it was planning to deploy its security forces in Tunisia to stop a wave of immigrant arrivals as coastguards intercepted another 1,000 immigrants from the North African state.

“I will ask Tunisia’s foreign minister for authorization for our forces to intervene in Tunisia to block the flux,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni of the anti-immigration Northern League party said in a television interview.

“The Tunisian system is collapsing,” said Maroni, speaking ahead of Tunisian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abderraouf Ounais’ visit expected on Thursday.

“I have asked for urgent intervention by the European Union because the Maghreb is exploding,” Maroni added, referring to the North Africa region.

“Europe is not doing anything. … As usual we’re on our own,” he said.

Around 5,000 Tunisian migrants have landed in dozens of small fishing boats in the past five days on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which usually has just 6,000 residents and is struggling to cope.

“It’s out of control,” Lampedusa Mayor Bernardino De Rubeis told reporters as boats continued to arrive on the tiny island, which, at just 110 kilometers from Tunisian shores, is closer to North Africa than to mainland Italy.

A calm sea and good weather have favored conditions for the Mediterranean crossings, which come after the fall of Tunisia’s veteran ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14 and the ensuing weeks of social unrest and lawlessness.

Italian authorities have begun airlifting many of the undocumented immigrants from Lampedusa to detention centers in Sicily and on mainland Italy, but police estimate that more than 2,000 of them remain on the island.

Hundreds have had to sleep out in the open at the port because of a lack of facilities on the island, while others have been put up in local hotels.

“The situation is very difficult,” the harbormaster, Antonio Morana, told reporters. He said 977 people had landed so far on Sunday and more were coming.

Italy’s Cabinet on Saturday declared a humanitarian emergency in the area.

A government statement said that the decision to call an official emergency would enable civil protection officers “to take immediate action needed to control this phenomenon and assist citizens who have fled from North Africa.”

In comments to the Corriere della Sera daily on Sunday, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said, “We have to mobilize Mediterranean countries that have boats, planes and helicopters” to patrol the Tunisian coastline.

Frattini and Maroni appealed for immediate assistance from the European Union’s Warsaw-based border security agency, Frontex.

Maroni said that immigrants were fleeing poverty but that there were also escaped convicts and “figures from terrorist organizations” among them.

A young Tunisian migrant, meanwhile, drowned and another was reported missing when a boat carrying 12 people sank on Saturday off southeast Tunisia en route to Europe, the official Tunisian TAP agency said.

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

Italy: Biblical Exodus But EU Does Not Help, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ROME — A biblical exodus as no one has seen before.

So said Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, describing the latest landings of immigrants in the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa. “If nothing happens in Tunisia, if the government does not start to rule it will be difficult to imagine that this could end. Thousands of immigrants could still arrive”. “We are trying to contact the Tunisian police force to see how we can manage this emergency but were not able to because the situation is collapsing”, he added. The minister accused the Eu of “doing nothing” to help. “Europe is doing nothing. I am really concerned. I called for the immediate intervention of the Eu because the Maghreb is exploding. We are managing the situation with the Civil Protection but the intervention of Europe is needed”, Maroni said. From his part, a spokesperson of Cecilia Malmstrom, the Eu Internal Affairs commissioner, said that the “Commission is in close contact with the Italian authorities and it is ready to help the country”.

The immigration issue is expecting to be discussed tomorrow in Tunis during the meeting between Italy’s Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, and Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Gannouchi.

It was Frattini himself who made the announcement of his breif visit in Tunisia after his tour that will take him to Syria and Jordan. As for the landings, nearly 1,000 people escaping turmoil in Tunisia landed on Lampedusa overnight. The detention centre of the island reopened today but the emergency does not stop.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nearly 1:000 Tunisian Immigrants Arrive in Italy Overnight

Almost 1,000 Tunisians arrived overnight on the Italian island of Lampedusa as thousands seek refuge in Italy following the fall of the Tunisian regime last month. Rome has declared it a humanitarian emergency to free up funds to handle the influx.

AFP — Nearly 1,000 Tunisian migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa overnight, where the government has already declared a humanitarian emergency, coast guards said Sunday.

“Since midnight, 977 people arrived on Lampedusa,” the harbour master on Lampedusa, Antonio Morana, said as two more boats approached the tiny island off Sicily.

Thousands of Tunisians have been sailing across the Mediterranean in the wake of the North African country’s revolution a month ago.

Police estimated more than 2,000 illegal immigrants still remained on the island on Sunday despite an airlift put in place by the authorities to move them to the mainland.

“The situation is very difficult,” Morana said, saying boats were arriving non-stop.

A calm sea and good weather has favoured conditions for the would-be migrants.

Most were packed into small fishing boats intercepted by coast guards and taken to Lampedusa.

Hundreds have had to sleep in the open at the port because of a lack of facilities on the island, which also suffers shortages of fresh water.

Rome on Saturday declared a humanitarian emergency.

The government said the decision would enable civil protection officers “to take immediate action needed to control this phenomenon and assist citizens who have fled from North Africa.”

In particular, the move will enable the central government to release funds for local authorities in areas which have been inundated by the wave of refugees, most of whom have fled to Lampedusa.

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

Tunisian Patrol Boats Intercept Migrants

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, FEBRUARY 11 — According to a well informed source in Tunis, as of last night the sea patrol service by Tunisian patrol boats has been intensified. The same source stated that they intercepted some vessels carrying people, mostly young, who were illegally trying to access Italy. The approximate number allegedly amounts to 500. They have all been taken back to Tunisia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands of Illegal Workers Claiming Benefits: Loophole in the Law Costs Taxpayers Millions

Tens of thousands of workers with no right to be in Britain have been claiming benefits thanks to an extraordinary loophole in the law.

Ministers have discovered that Labour allowed 155,000 illegal immigrants to qualify for sickness benefits and maternity pay. Government sources put the cost to the public purse at ‘tens of millions of pounds’.

They say the shambles is a damning indictment of how Labour lost control of both the benefits and immigration systems with taxpayers left to foot the bill. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will outlaw the practice in welfare reform legislation expected to be unveiled this week.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Decker: Obama’s Fake Christianity?

President Obama’s coddling of Islam has many Americans questioning his national-security judgment, if not his intentions. In his administration’s muddled response to the crisis in Egypt, one clear message came from all the president’s men: A new government in Cairo “has to include a whole host of important nonsecular actors,” as stated by White House spokesman Robert L. Gibbs. The hitch is that in the Middle East, nonsecular means radical Islamist, like the Muslim Brotherhood. Now, in the middle of this global clash of civilizations, Mr. Obama’s own religious disposition is being questioned — and not from the right, but the left.

On his HBO show “Real Time” on Friday, host Bill Maher said of Mr. Obama, “I think he’s a centrist the way he’s a Christian — not really. … His mother was a secular humanist and I think he is.” When Princeton University professor Cornel West challenged Mr. Maher’s point about Mr. Obama’s religion, saying, “He changed his mind on the God question, brother Bill,” the comic retorted, “It’s like when he says ‘I struggle with gay marriage’ — you don’t struggle with gay marriage, you’re fine with gay marriage.” Another guest — who insisted Mr. Obama has “always been pretty centrist” — helpfully reminded that Mr. Obama “did go to church before he was a candidate for the presidency.” That church, of course, was presided over by the racist, anti-American, hate-spewing Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Bill Maher can be a funny guy. His website flashes the crack, “It doesn’t make me un-American to say I’d rather live in Paris than in places where cheese only comes in individually wrapped slices.” Aside from the fact that bashing France is a national pasttime and a pretty reliable measure of patriotism, a man who prefers unpasteurized fromage can’t be all bad. That said, his humor has a very tangible dark side, especially when it comes to faith. In the past, Mr. Maher has called Christianity “the ultimate hustle” and ridiculed the fight of good versus evil as a shakedown: “If God gets rid of the devil — and he could, he’s all powerful — well, then there’s no fear. There’s no reason to come to church. There’s no reason to pass the plate.”…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]

Mother’s Fury at School Sending Boy, Six, To Psychiatric Ward After He Drew Video-Game Zombie in Class

A mother has criticised school authorities for committing her six-year-old son to a psychiatric ward against her wishes because of a picture he drew in class.

Jack Dorman was pulled out of his elementary school classroom after he sketched a drawing of zombies and stick figures and wrote that he wanted to die.

But the boy’s furious mother, Syndi, said her son was simply upset that his soldier father was being deployed to Iraq.

She said the way Los Angeles school officials treated her son ‘was right up there with my worst nightmare.’

Mrs Dorman added: ‘They said they were concerned about a picture he drew. I said he plays video games and it’s a picture from a video game.’

She claims Jack suffers from separation anxiety and was particularly upset on the day he drew the disturbing picture after learning his father, an Army commander, was leaving for Iraq on Thursday.

‘I explained to them what was happening, that my husband was being deployed to Iraq, that he was upset when he came to school today, that he wanted to be at home,’ she said.

‘I’m saying, “I will deal with it, that we have a therapist and that we’ll make sure he’s seen today”.’

‘They said it was out of my hands. They said they were in control and they could do this and had already called an ambulance.

‘I said, “Can you do this?” and they’re like, “Yeah”, Mrs Dorman said in an interview with NBC. ‘I’m just like, “What? Can I get a lawyer? How is this happening?”.’

Education chiefs in San Pedro, California, were alerted on Monday after a teacher became worried about Jack’s drawing. The principal at Taper Avenue Elementary called a Los Angeles County psychiatric mobile response team.

They determined that the boy needed to be taken by ambulance to the local Del Amico Hospital in Torrance and immediately be committed to a 72-hour psychiatric hold.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama & the Human Stain: Or How Political Correctness Gave America a Con-Man President

The Human Stain, Philip Roth’s seminal novel regarding Political Correctness, racism, and the insipid hypocrisy of leftist morality, is a fitting backdrop to Barack Obama’s improbable presidency. In the story, Professor Coleman Silk, a half-Black Jewish professor, posing as a White man, is taken down by the mechanical application of PC rules to an accidental insult he gave to two African-Americans.

Now, we can introduce the 800-pound donkey in the room. Let’s ask a simple question: Could Barack have been elected president without the doctrine known as Political Correctness?


II. What is Political Correctness, From Where Did It Arise?

A. Cultural Marxism

The idea behind Political Correctness was hatched by a group of progressive German academics, the Frankfurt School, before WWII when they relocated to America to escape Hitler’s wrath. They realized Marx was wrong—the poor were not ready to revolt and throw off Capitalism for a property-less society. These Marxists decided the only way to create the society Marx envisioned was by subverting its institutions by misinformation, propaganda and seduction of the mentally unformed. Writes one expert,

“If we look at it analytically, if we look at it historically, we quickly find out exactly what it is. Political Correctness is cultural Marxism. It is Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. It is an effort that goes back not to the 1960s and the hippies and the peace movement, but back to World War I. If we compare the basic tenets of Political Correctness with classical Marxism, the parallels are very obvious.”

B. Elements of Political Correctness

William Lind explains the Elements of Political Correctness:

1. Both Marxism and Political Correctness are totalitarian ideologies, ie they allow no dissent and claim ultimate truth which people are then forced to follow.

2. Political Correctness, aka Cultural Marxism, claims all history is determined by power. Nothing else matters.

3. In Political Correctness certain groups are good—feminist women, (non-feminist women don’t exist) blacks, Hispanics, homosexuals. These groups are “victims,” defined as “good” despite how they act. White males are categorized as automatically evil.

4. Political Correctness relies on expropriation, ie arm-twisting use of the government to recover what was “stolen” from them.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Archbishop Sentamu’s Warning on Plan to Let Gays ‘Marry’ In Church: They Should Not Trump Rights of Clerics

Plans to allow gay and lesbian couples to ‘marry’ in church must not trump the rights of clerics who oppose same-sex unions, the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu said yesterday.

This week, ministers will propose lifting the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious buildings in England and Wales in what is being seen as a victory for the LibDems’ equality agenda.

Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone, a LibDem, wants to allow churches, synagogues and mosques to offer services for same-sex couples, but will not compel them to do so.

The Church of England has already said it will not be allowing gays to marry in its buildings — but some smaller Protestant sects, such as the Quakers, have said they will offer the services.

It is not yet clear whether the religious ceremonies will continue to be described as civil partnerships, or whether they will be known as marriages in law.

Although the move has been warmly welcomed by gay rights groups, some in the Church are worried that it could be the thin end of the wedge, with clerics having to act against their conscience to bless same-sex unions.

There are also fears that religious bodies could face discrimination lawsuits if they refuse to hold the services. Dr Sentamu told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday: ‘I, who believes in a liberal democracy and actually want equality for everybody, cannot say the Quakers shouldn’t do it.

[Return to headlines]

UK: BBC Accused of Dumbing Down to Get More Ethnic Minorities on Air

A former BBC executive has claimed that the corporation is ‘dumbing down’ its output in a desperate bid to try and get more ethnic minorities on air.

Indian-born Dr Samir Shah, a former head of current affairs, has cited Radio 4 as an example of how the BBC is lowering its standards in order to hire more ethnic staff and attract a more diverse audience.

Dr Shah, who left his job at the beginning of the year, spoke out following a performance review by the BBC Trust last week, which ruled the station needed to attract a more diverse audience and improve its appeal to ethnic groups.

At the time, the verdict prompted fury from listeners, broadcasters and politicians. And Shah reignited the debate yesterday, claiming he had been ‘embarrassed’ by the declining quality.

Shah said: ‘It is done with the best of intentions — but for someone like me, from an ethnic minority, my heart sinks. It is just embarrassing.

‘The problem is that, without realising it consciously, or not, they lower the barrier. And what happens to me when I listen to it, and it’s an obvious ethnic thing, I worry that it’s just not as good as it should be.

‘And because they have all this pressure to reach particular people, or hire particular people, they don’t have the same standards.’

The BBC Trust — the corporation’s governing body — is estimated to have spent £10,000 on a consultation with 16,795 licence fee-payers on the quality and value for money on a number of its radio stations, including Radio 4.

The report, by BBC trustee David Liddiment, acknowledged Radio 4 sets ‘a high standard for speech radio’ and is seen by many as a ‘national treasure’ — but claimed it still needed to change.

But Shah, who is also a former chairman of the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank, attacked the decision, saying it was ‘illogical’ for the station to try and broaden its traditional audience.

‘If I want to listen to stuff from my people there’s a load of stuff — any number of Asian channels. I want Radio 4 to remain as it is,’ he told the Sunday Times.

‘They are the right 10m listeners, really they’re the right 10m. It’s very contradictory because the report recognises that different services hit different demographics.

‘Which is why they say Radio 1 is meant to reach young people and they should reach more young people.

‘When it comes to Radio 4, the logic says, well they reach 80 per cent of the well-heeled white, they should reach more of them. But that isn’t the logic.’

According to Shah, demographic trends mean more Asian listeners will eventually tune into Radio 4, even if they choose not to change their output.

He added: ‘The first generation of Asians are immigrants so they don’t get Radio 4 — it’s a very culturally specific station. As the second and third generation hit the age group it will go up.’…

           — Hat tip: DF[Return to headlines]


Why the Mysterious Disappearance of Billions of Bees Could Mean Us Losing a Third of the Food We Eat

Bees are vital to the success of about 90 crops worldwide. Most fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are dependent on bees, as are crops used as cattle and pig feed. And if we can’t feed cows, we can say farewell to dairy produce. Nor is it only the food we eat that is inextricably linked to bees. The cotton plant that provides so much of what we wear also relies on bee pollination.

But bees are now in danger of dying out. In the winter of 2008, one in three hives were lost. A survey by the British Beekeepers’ Association in May 2010 revealed their members had lost 19 per cent of their colonies (the population that inhabits a hive) in the previous year alone. The precise reasons still baffle scientists, but a combination of factors is thought to be to blame.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]