Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110307

Financial Crisis
»Gap Between Rich and Poor Widens in Turkey
»Moody’s Cuts Greece’s Rating, Government Angry
»More Jobs Mirage in February — BLS Continues to Overestimate Job Growth
»Time is Money: Oil is Time
»Tunisia: 65,000 Jobs at Risk in Electromechanical Industry
»Cell Phone Use Found to Affect the Glucose Metabolism of the Brain
»Charlie Sheen Fired From ‘Two and a Half Men’
»Energy Fact of the Week: U.S. A ‘Pathetic Energy Hog’… Not
»Muslims Thank Tulsa Police With Lunch
»Police Say Cabby Ran Over 2 Fares
»States Have No Rights According to Many State Legislators
»Video: ‘The Whole Tower, It’s Gone’
»White House: Don’t ‘Demonize’ Islam
»Why Governor Scott Walker is Right
Europe and the EU
»Brits Refuse to Fund Some UN Agencies
»Gentrification’s Victims: Berlin Fears Rise of New Slums
»Germany: ‘A Lesson From the Right-Wing Populists’ Book’
»How to Buy a Degree in Italy
»Italy: ‘Black Market’ of Rents in Rome in Veltroni Administration
»Lybia: Gaddafi Accuses France of Interfering
»Netherlands: ‘Defence Order Behind Queen’s Visit to Oman’
»On Germany’s Islamic Problem… or Islamists’ German Problem
»Scotland’s ‘Tartan With a Turban’ Culture Can Teach the English How to Beat Fascism, Says Muslim Peer
»UK: ‘I Will Wear This Fine as a Badge on My Shoulder’: Shameless Muslim Extremist Dismisses £50 Fine for Armistice Day Poppy Burning
»UK: Bill for Evicting Just 90 Traveller Families From UK’s Biggest Illegal Site Could Hit £18m
»UK: How Could the Man Cleared of Raping Me Have Thought I Was His Brunette Girlfriend?
»We Can Become Third Biggest British Party, Claims UKIP Leader After Lib Dems’ Barnsley by-Election Bashing
North Africa
»America’s Secret Plan to Arm Libya’s Rebels
»Egypt: Gamal Mubarak and Ex-Interior Minister ‘Behind Sharm-El-Sheikh Bombings’
»Libya: USA Tell Saudis to Arm Rebels
»Libya: UN Appeals for 160 Mln Dlr for 3 Months of Aid
»Libya: Gaddafi Escalates War Against Rebels as Conflict Deepens
»Libya: National Council, To Meet Italian Delegation
»Libya: Refugee Emergency, UAE to Finance Two New Camps
»Libya: Press: Gaddafi Proposes Deal to Bengasi Rebels
»Libya: SAS Rounded Up and Booted Out as Libyan Mission Turns to Farce
»Russia Opposes Any Military Intervention in Libya
»Russia Emphasises Opposition to Libya Intervention
Israel and the Palestinians
»As Islamists Gain, Obama Pushes Israel Into Concessions
Middle East
»5 Reasons Why the Talibanization of the Middle East May Not be a Bad Thing
»Bahrain: Crown Prince Warns Against Violence
»Bahrain: Anti-Government Protests Today as Well
»Erdogan Hopes Germany’s Turks Can Get Him Re-Elected
»Kuwait City Gets Ready for Protests
»Qatar: The Masters of Al-Jazeera Imprison a Blogger
»Revolts: Gulf Ministers for ‘Marshall Plan’ To Bahrain, Oman
»Saudi Arabia: Demonstrations and Appeals Deemed “Unislamic” By Religious Scholars and Government
»Judiciary Against Mufti of Russia Over “Extremist” Books
»Soyuz Rockets in the Jungle: Europe and Russia Team Up for Unique Space Partnership
South Asia
»Defence Secretary Admits U.S. Troops Will Still be in Afghanistan After 2014 Withdrawal Deadline
Far East
»Chinese Hackers Stole S. Korean Documents on Spy Drones: Lawmaker
Australia — Pacific
»Andrew Bolt: School Life in Sydney & No Commenting for Legal Reasons
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Zimbabwe to Sell Uranium to Iran
»Federal Probe Identifies “Cracks” In ICE
»Italy: Ten Boats From Tunisia, 200 People on the 1st
»Italy: The Exodus Continues, 1000 More Last Night
»Italy: Another 176 Arrive at Lampedusa
»Italy: Over 1,000 Arrive on Southern Island Sparking Migrant Emergency
»Italy: Boat Docks in Lampedusa With a Further 224 Immigrants
»New German Interior Minister Reopens Integration Debate
»Retired Doctor ‘Trafficked African Woman to UK, Fed Her Two Slices of Bread a Day and Kept Her as £10 a Month Slave’
Culture Wars
»‘Pink Slip’ At 82: Airline Veteran’s Gay-Slur Remorse

Financial Crisis

Gap Between Rich and Poor Widens in Turkey

Increasing poverty rates and a widening gap between rich and poor in Turkey revealed by a recent study have alarmed some experts, who say the trends could lead to more conflict and crime.

“In [TurkStat’s] research we do not see improvement in income distribution. I believe this will drag us slightly toward a conflict culture as the inequality among people increases,” sociologist Aykut Toros told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review on Wednesday.

The people in Turkey’s highest income group are 8.5 times richer than those in the poorest, up from 8.1 times in the previous survey, according to the “2009 Income Distribution and Living Conditions” report recently released by the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat.

The overall poverty rate in the country likewise increased from 16.7 percent in 2008 to 17.1 percent in 2009, the report said. This means a total of 12.97 million people living in poverty, up from 11.58 million a year earlier. According to TurkStat, the monthly income set as the official poverty line for a four-person household in Turkey was increased from 767 Turkish Liras in 2008 to 825 liras in 2009.

“These statistics indicate that in terms of struggling with poverty, we are not very successful as regional and class differences grow deeper,” Sedat Aybar, the deputy chairman of Kadir Has University’s Economics Department, told the Daily News. He added that the failure of rural areas to cope with the global economic crisis might have had an effect on the growing inequality of income distribution.

Not everyone believes the results of the TurkStat survey are a cause for concern, however. “I think these statistics show only one side of the coin,” Tuna Bekleviç, the former chairman of the Economists Platform, told the Daily News. He said income distribution had improved in Turkey since the survey dates due to the country’s rapid growth.

“While most countries in the world are still suffering from the crisis, Turkey’s trade has increased and diversified significantly, and recent figures show unemployment rates have also fallen,” Bekleviç said, adding that such developments have increased the welfare of people of both rich and poor, although possibly at different rates. This, he said, might have caused the results shown in the TurkStat study.

Disputing the TurkStat figures, Bekleviç said he believed the number of people below or near the poverty line had decreased in Turkey, and that high growth rates and the success of small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, in recent years had increased the ranks of the country’s middle class.

“I do not believe the statistics are accurate in this respect,” he said.

According to TurkStat’s figures, the richest 20 percent of people in Turkey earned 47.6 percent of the country’s total income in 2009, while the poorest 20 percent had a share of only 5.6 percent.

“Of course, as the statistics demonstrate, the gap of more than eightfold is a sign of inequality. But compared to Western Europe, this ratio is better and I don’t see a worse deterioration,” Professor Seyfettin Gürsel, the director of Bahçesehir University’s Economic and Societal Research Center, or BETAM, told the Daily News. He said increasing income taxes in an equitable way would enable the social transfer of wealth needed to help solve the problem of income inequality.

TurkStat’s survey showed that poverty rates increased in both urban and rural areas, to 15.4 percent and 16.1 percent, respectively. The 7.09 million urban poor in 2008 went up to 7.51 million, while the total in rural areas went up from 3.2 million to 3.49 million.

The survey, which was first conducted in 2006, included a total of 13,026 households in its research, 8,340 from urban areas and 4,686 from rural ones.

“I think we should look at this research by making a few readjustments. The cost of rent in Istanbul is not the same as in Batman,” said Professor Gürsel of BETAM, referring to the province in Southeast Anatolia.

According to the survey, 59.3 percent of the Turkish population is in debt, 44 percent is not able to buy new clothes and 60.5 percent is unable to afford to eat meat. Eighty-seven percent of the population does not have enough money to take a one-week holiday.

However, the survey also showed that 60.8 percent of the population owns a house and 31.6 percent owns an automobile.

Such seeming discrepancies in purchasing power have to do with the family structure in Turkey, which provides a measure of security apart from the state, according to Toros, who is the chairman of Yeditepe University’s Sociology Department. “An individual searching for a job could stay in an acquaintance’s house for three to five months in Turkey whereas the same thing could not be tolerated in the West for more than a few days,” Toros said. “In Turkey, this person’s friends might even purchase him a cell phone during his stay. This mechanism diminishes the conflict [in income distribution] a little bit.”

From a sociological point of view, economist Aybar of Kadir Has University believes problems will be magnified as more poor people migrate to big cities in search of work, causing deterioration in infrastructure services and budget deficits. “The government should introduce new regulations such as increasing the minimum wage, because a rise in unemployment would lead to an increase in crime rates,” he said.

Hardships in the country are due to a combination of the government’s policy of high interest rates and low exchange rates, which has created struggles for small- and medium-size entrepreneurs, and a shrinking of foreign markets that has hit the agricultural sector hard, Aybar said.

Wages constitute the largest income source for the Turkish population, 42.9 percent, compared to entrepreneurial income, at 20.4 percent, the survey said. The breakdown of statistics by region and province showed that Istanbul residents continued to have the highest levels of disposable income in 2009, with an average of 12,795 liras annually in 2009, followed by the Western Anatolia region with 11,501 liras. Southeast Anatolia had the smallest amount of disposable income, an average of 4,655 liras. The number of poor people in Southeast Anatolia increased from 895,000 in 2008 to 999,000 in 2009, or 13.7 percent of the regional population.

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

Moody’s Cuts Greece’s Rating, Government Angry

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 7 — The downgrading of Greece decided today by Moody’s is “completely unjustified” because it does not reflect an “objective and balanced” assessment of the conditions the country is dealing with. This remark was made in a statement issued by the Greek Finance Ministry. Moreover, the statement continues, the “timing and manner” of is downgrading are “incomprehensible and raise many doubts”. Today Moody’s decided to lower Greece’s debt rating by three points to the same level as Belarus and Bolivia, claiming that the country’s default risk has increased. The Finance Ministry, in a harsh comment, denounces the fact that the analysis made by the agency does not reflect an “objective and balanced” assessment of the conditions Greece is facing, “mentioning” but “not incorporating in its analysis” the positive impact of the “substantial progress made in the economic consolidation and the structural reform programme”.

The ministry also underlines that “the decision made by Moody’s will have no impact on Greece’s financial capacity which continues to obtains funds from the support mechanism and has taken, in collaboration with the EU and IMF, “all measures needed to maintain the stability and liquidity of the Greek banking system”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

More Jobs Mirage in February — BLS Continues to Overestimate Job Growth

The announcement on March 4 that 192,000 new jobs were created in February was greeted with a sigh of relief. But the number is just more smoke and mirrors, as I will show shortly. First, let’s pretend the jobs are real. What areas of the economy produced the jobs?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 152,000 of the jobs or 79% are in private services, consisting of: 11,700 jobs in wholesale trade, 22,000 in transportation and warehousing, 36,400 in administration and waste services (of which 15,500 are temporary help services), and 36,200 in ambulatory health care services and nursing and residential care facilities. Entertainment, waitresses and bartenders accounted for 20,000. Repair and maintenance, laundry services, and membership associations accounted for 14,000.

As one who has often reported the monthly payroll jobs breakdown, I am struck by the fact that these categories are the ones that have accounted for job growth for year after year. How can this be? How can Americans, who have had no growth in their real incomes and who are foreclosed from their homes and maxed out on credit card debt, car payments, and student loans, spend more every month in bars and restaurants? How can a few service areas of the economy grow when nothing else is?

The answer is that there were not 192,000 new jobs. Statistician John Williams estimates the reported gain was overstated by about 230,000 jobs. In other words, about 38,000 jobs were lost in February.

There are various reasons that job gains are overstated and losses understated. One is the BLS’s “birth-death model.” This is a way of estimating the net of non-reported new jobs from business start-ups and job losses from business shut-downs. During recessions this model doesn’t work, because the model is based on good times when new jobs always exceed lost jobs. On the “death” side, if a company goes out of business because of recession and, therefore, doesn’t report its payroll, the BLS assumes the previously reported employees are still in place. On the “birth” side, the BLS adds 30,000 jobs to the monthly numbers as an estimate of new start-ups.

Williams estimates the “death” side is really reducing employment by about 200,000 per month, and the “birth” side is stillborn. Therefore, “the BLS continues regularly to overestimate monthly growth in payroll employment by roughly 230,000 jobs.” The benchmark revisions of payroll jobs bear out Williams. The last two benchmark revisions resulted in a reduction of previously reported employment gains of about 2 million jobs.

Another indication is that despite 10 years of population growth, there are 8 to 9 million fewer Americans employed today than a decade ago.

[Return to headlines]

Time is Money: Oil is Time

Expensive energy is the harbinger of poverty

by John Hayward


Rising oil and gas prices are one of the great under-reported stories of the Obama years, for obvious reasons. Liberal reporters are not interested in camping out at gas pumps and collecting angry sound bites, as they did under President George Bush. The official media Narrative is of a wise and sophisticated President leading a slowly awakening people to the promised land of “green energy,” not an incompetent ideologue destroying the economy.

High prices at the pump are only the beginning of what lies in store for us. People have been so conditioned to hate fossil fuels, and the companies which provide them, that they don’t grasp the true significance of relatively inexpensive energy. Time is money, and oil is time.

Until an equally powerful and convenient energy source is perfected, decades from now, oil represents the freedom to move quickly over long distances, on very short notice. This has obvious implications for the shipment of goods, especially those which are perishable. If you’re gritting your teeth at the thought of four-dollar gas, just wait until you’re paying for seven-dollar milk.

The economic damage will go far beyond a spike in the price of virtually everything that requires energy to produce or ship. Within a relatively narrow range, getting “gouged at the pump” is an annoyance. Gas is a necessary expense, which no one is eager to purchase. You desperately need it, but purchasing it doesn’t strike most people as a fun shopping excursion. Somewhat like health care expenses, it’s a burden you want to get out of the way, without dwelling on it.

When gas prices increase dramatically, they will begin changing the way people live and work. (The hard Left has always known this, which is why leftist ideologues — most definitely including Barack Obama — have previously seen high gas prices as a desirable virtue, to rein in our independent, planet-destroying ways.) Here’s one of the first things that will happen: people will stop driving around to find the best prices on things they want to purchase. The closest store will become the preferred store. This will cause significant damage to the business model of retailers that thrive on the willingness of customers to go a little further for a bargain. Much of this effect will be psychological —

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: 65,000 Jobs at Risk in Electromechanical Industry

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 7 — A total of 65,000 jobs are at risk in the electromechanical industry, now that activities in the sector are much lower than normal. The news was announced by the Electric Federation, which has presented a report on the situation to the Ministry of Industry and Technology.

The report specifies that the sector has suffered damages for around 35 million euros on industrial, commercial and distribution level. Meanwhile the national statistical institute announced that inflation in Tunisia climbed by 3.2% in the first two months of the year, compared with the same period in 2010. The sharpest increase was recorded in the hotel and restaurant sector (+6.3%), followed by clothing, footwear and transport (+3.6%) and food (+3.3%). A 3.9% rise was recorded in the water, electricity, gas and housing sector, while prices for communication fell by 1.1%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Cell Phone Use Found to Affect the Glucose Metabolism of the Brain

Does using a cell phone have an effect on the brain? According to a 2011 study titled “Effects of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Signal Exposure on Brain Glucose Metabolism,” the answer is absolutely. The study, headed by Nora D. Volkow, M.D. and conducted by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, examined the effect of cell phone use on the brain by utilizing positron emission tomography (PET) on 47 participants.

Cell phones were placed against the ears of the participants for a period of 50 minutes while PET scans measured brain activity. Two scans were performed: one while the phones were off and a second time while the phones were on. The PET scans were used to detect the effect of the cell phone radiation on the brain’s glucose metabolism.

The glucose metabolism affects every area of the brain and is associated with cellular and behavioral brain function. It plays a role in memory and cognition, as well as diseases such as schizophrenia, stroke and diabetes.

The study found that the cell phone radiation did not change the entire brain’s function, but significantly affected the regions closest to the antennae. The orbitofrontal cortex and temporal pole, nearest to the ear, had a 7% increase in glucose metabolic activity.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Charlie Sheen Fired From ‘Two and a Half Men’

Warner Brothers announced Monday that it had fired Charlie Sheen from his hit comedy “Two and a Half Men.”

The terse official statement read, “After careful consideration, Warner Bros. Television has terminated Charlie Sheen’s services on ‘Two and a Half Men’ effective immediately.”

The studio, which owns and produces the series, will decide about the future of the show at a later date, a spokesman said.

[Return to headlines]

Energy Fact of the Week: U.S. A ‘Pathetic Energy Hog’… Not

By Steven F. Hayward

t is a common misperception that the United States has made little progress in improving its energy efficiency over the last generation. “The United States is known throughout the world as a pathetic energy hog,” Newsweek magazine opined last fall. Not true. Since 1970, total American energy consumption has risen 53 percent. Maybe that sounds bad until you note that the economy during that same period grew by 209 percent in real terms. If we had made no increase in energy efficiency, our energy use would have gone up by the same 209 percent,

[See graph at link]

Energy consumption per dollar of economic output (the definition of “energy intensity”) has declined at an average annual rate of about 1.7 percent during for the last 60 years. The United States has actually done better than the world average. Since 1980, world energy intensity has declined 36 percent; in the United States it has declined by 43.6 percent.

[Note: Adjust predjudices accordingly — D]

[Return to headlines]

Muslims Thank Tulsa Police With Lunch

Extra tables had to be set up for the more than 150 Tulsa police officers who attended the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at the Al Salam mosque on Friday.

“I’m thrilled,” said Islamic Society of Tulsa spokeswoman Sheryl Siddiqui, who was told to expect about 10 to 15 people in the noon shift, and about the same number in two later shifts.

The officers mingled with local Muslims, toured the mosque and sat down in a large meeting room to a meal of barbecue chicken and beef, fried bread, potatoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, baklava and other desserts.

While they ate, members of the mosque circulated among them, offering to bring them food and thanking them for coming.

There was no evidence at the open house of a controversy sparked last week when Tulsa Police Capt. Paul Fields refused an order to send his officers to the event. Fields was reassigned to a different position in the department and filed a federal lawsuit claiming that his First Amendment rights were violated. That case is pending.

Tulsa Muslims said they organized the event to show their appreciation for the police department’s handling of a threat against them.

Police Chief Chuck Jordan interrupted his meal at the open house to say he was surprised by the controversy.

“I think the controversy resulted from misinformation,” he said. “Once the correct information was disseminated, our officers were happy to come, as you can see from this turnout.

“This is one of many examples of what we do in community outreach. Any time we can interact with the community, both sides benefit from it,” he said.

Tulsa Police motorcycle officer Jeff Downs said he attended because “community policing is one of the priorities of Chief Jordan’s. We all feel like we need to embrace the community. … We felt honored to come regardless of our different religions.”

Mosque member Nabil Nofal is a Jerusalem native and owner of Jerusalem Market International Grocery in Tulsa.

“This is our way to show appreciation,” he said. “We’re all a part of this community.”

Muslim Sandra Rana said she was “thrilled we could do this.”

“We all expect our emergency workers to be there when we need them, and we should be thankful for them.

“We’ve hosted events like this in the past,” she said. “This one just got a little more attention.”

Small groups of officers on mosque tours learned about Muslim prayer, funeral and burial customs and ceremonial washings.

Officer Tim Means said he was interested to learn the reasons behind Muslim prayer practices, which include separate prayer rooms for men and women.

The open house ran from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

           — Hat tip: Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

Police Say Cabby Ran Over 2 Fares

By Elizabeth A. Harris

Early Sunday morning, four men hailed a cab in Manhattan and asked to go to the Bronx. The cabdriver refused, and then ran two of them over with his taxi, sending them to the hospital, according to the New York City Police Department.

Just before 4 a.m., the four men got into the cab in Midtown Manhattan, the police said.

“I told the taxi driver, to the Bronx; he lets us in, and then we go in and he says I’m only taking you two blocks,” Frank Lembo, one of the four passengers, told Eyewitness News.

The cabdriver, Mohammed Azam, 27, suggested they drive to a nearby police precinct station, Precinct 18 Midtown North on West 54th Street, to ask if he did, in fact, have to take the men to the Bronx. The police said they told him that he did, but when the men went back outside, police officials said, the driver hit two of them with his cab at the corner of West 54th Street and Eighth Avenue.


One man, Anthony Loreto, was in critical condition early Monday morning, according to Eyewitness News. The other man was listed in stable condition.

Mr. Azam was arrested and charged with one count of vehicular assault and three counts of leaving the scene of an accident, according to the Police Department.

Another passenger, Joe Hladki, told Eyewitness News that he could not understand why it happened.

“There’s no money,” he said, “nothing.”

           — Hat tip: Winds of Jihad[Return to headlines]

States Have No Rights According to Many State Legislators

Over the years since the ratification of the US Constitution, a steady effort has been under way to expand federal powers, not by Amendment process, but by legal interpretations of existing constitutional text.

The Supremacy Clause — Commerce Clause — General Welfare Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, have all been intentionally perverted for the purpose of expanding federal powers. Although these clauses all exist in constitutional text as delegated powers, the modern interpretation of these federal powers are now the exact opposite of their original intent.

  • Federal law is “supreme” only to the degree that federal law is “constitutional” — within the delegated powers of the federal government to begin with.
  • The Commerce Clause relates only to Commerce, or trade. Not every interstate event.
  • The General Welfare clause was intended to keep the federal government from making laws that did not serve the general welfare of all states and citizens equally.
  • And the Necessary and Proper Clause was intended to limit federal law-making to only those laws necessary and proper in the carrying out of delegated and enumerated powers.

In other words, all of these clauses were written into the US Constitution in an overt effort to limit federal powers. Yet, it is these clauses which have been perverted to an opposite meaning today, and used to expand federal power to the point that many state officials no longer know that they have state sovereignty and rights.

Protected by the Tenth

Before the colonies would ratify the Constitution, they demanded certain additional protections of both state and individual rights under our first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights.

The practice of subverting the Constitution via broad ungrounded interpretations has been a practice within the legal profession for so many years that few American citizens or legislators even know their rights anymore, much less how to protect and preserve them.

But the Founders made it all very simple and clear in the Tenth Amendment -

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Just in case any confusion would grow over time, or the federal government would grow despotic in nature, attempting to run roughshod over the people and/or the states, the Founding Fathers brilliantly eliminated any potential confusion with The Tenth Amendment.


When the federal government ceases to perform in a manner which well serves the states and/or the people’s desire to live free, both the states and the people have a right and an obligation to alter or abolish that government.

A bankrupt federal government forcing states into bankruptcy certainly qualifies as a government which no longer serves the states or the people well, and has in fact become destructive of the only goal of government, which is to protect and preserve the rights of the people.

When the federal government acts beyond its Constitutional scope and authority, it is by definition acting “unconstitutionally,” and it is the right and obligation of the states and/or the people to end that practice for the sake of preserving our Republican form of government, not destroying it.

The right of the states to nullify unconstitutional federal acts is not a form of secession. It is a final attempt to avoid secession. It is an effort to alter the behaviors of government despotism before abolishing that despotic government becomes the only remaining alternative. It is a means of upholding, preserving and enforcing the US Constitution, not destroying it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Video: ‘The Whole Tower, It’s Gone’

17-minute video captured by NYPD helicopter shows WTC’s collapse on 9/11

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

White House: Don’t ‘Demonize’ Islam

As a House committee prepares to turn the spotlight on Al Qaeda’s efforts to radicalize Muslims in America, the White House issued a public plea Sunday to focus on the American Muslim community’s support for anti-terrorism efforts and to avoid stigmatizing law-abiding followers of Islam.

“We must resolve that, in our determination to protect our nation, we will not stigmatize or demonize entire communities because of the actions of a few,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told a crowd gathered in a gymnasium and prayer room at a mosque in northern Virginia.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Why Governor Scott Walker is Right

Unlike private sector employees whose wages reflect the value of their services to willing buyers in a free market, public sector employees feed off the taxed wages of those who generate wealth in our society. Consequently, public sector employees have a certain fiduciary duty to taxpayers that is unique. Because the payment of taxes is obligatory, not volitional, public employee service, correspondingly, must be obligatory, not volitional. It is not possible for us to withdraw from the public trough the funds we pay in taxes because we are dissatisfied with the quality of public education, the adequacy of garbage retrieval, or the efficiency of driver’s license renewal. If that were our right, many now paid for public service would be unemployed. Correspondingly, it should not be possible for public employees to shirk their duties because they think the amount of pay and benefits lawmakers provide them is inadequate.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker faces a monumental budget crisis. He has few options short of firing public employees (which would be a good idea) to reduce the state’s $137 million budget deficit. He chose a less draconian solution: to limit collective bargaining rights of state employees; to mandate that state employees contribute 5.8% of their salaries to their pensions; and to impose a 6% to 12% increase in medical insurance premiums. Those measures will help Wisconsin avoid bankruptcy. In response, an army of between 20,000 to 40,000 public employees and supporters have descended on the state Capitol in Madison, angrily demanding that they not lose bargaining rights and not have benefits cut. Some public employees who have joined the protest have relied on false representations that they are ill to get out of work. Some have been joined in that fraud by physicians who have issued phony diagnoses.


Other Governors are fast coming to the realization that Scott Walker’s approach makes imminent good sense. Ohio Governor John Kasich, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, and Florida Governor Robert McDonnell have either endorsed legislation to replicate Scott Walker’s plan in their states or are advocating reductions in public employee pay and/or benefits to help reduce ballooning state budget shortfalls. The Pew Center estimated last year that there is a $1 trillion gap between what the states presently owe public employees in salary and benefits and what the states have available to meet those obligations. Unless public employee pensions, health benefits, and retirement pay are curtailed that gap will continue to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Sooner or later states that do not cut back will become bankrupt.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brits Refuse to Fund Some UN Agencies

Rick Moran

It’s not going to save a lot of money, but the symbolic importance of the British government refusing to fund some UN agencies, cutting funding for others, and criticizing the whole bloody mess overall should not be lost on anyone — especially the one worlders, the anti-American multi-lateralists, and international blood suckers who live off UN grants.

From FOX News:

“In a sweeping and hard-nosed reorganization of priorities for its $10.6 billion multilateral foreign aid program, the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron has pulled the financial plug entirely on four U.N. agencies at the end of next year, put three others judged merely “adequate” on notice that they could face the same fate unless they improve their performance “as a matter of absolute urgency;” and issued pointed criticisms of almost all the rest.

The major exception: UNICEF, the U.N. children’s aid agency, which got a strong endorsement and a funding increase…”

The UN is not only a mess economically, it is corrupt to its core. The Secretariat — the office of the Secretary General — is so bloated with waste and fraud that no one can say for sure how much they spend every year. Entire agencies are milked by their program chiefs with the help of large corporations and NGO’s while not accomplishing a single one of its goals.

No one knows where all the money goes. No one in the US actually knows how much we spend on the UN because a lot of money that we give to private organizations like the Global Fund to Fight Aids is actually administered by the United Nations. They act as Project Managers for billions of funds, taking their cut while expensing the organizations for first class accomodations and the like.

If a couple of more western nations wake up and start to demand accountability, the gravy train might be slowed a bit. Meanwhile, Republicans in the House have no doubt taken what the Brits have done to heart and will slash US funds with even more enthusiasm…

[Return to headlines]

Gentrification’s Victims: Berlin Fears Rise of New Slums

Cheap rents and urban glamour have attracted trend-seekers from around the world to central Berlin neighborhoods such as Kreuzberg and Neukölln. But it is the current residents who are paying the price of gentrification. They are being pushed out to high-rise developments on the edge of the city, where poverty and violence are part of daily life.

At school that morning, Kira, 14, had made fun of another girl’s clothing. She paid the price for her comment that afternoon, when several other kids surrounded her in front of the supermarket, pushing her and calling her a “bitch.”

“Why are you putting one of us down?” they demanded. “You think you’re better than us?”

None of the passersby there on the shopping street paid any attention to the teenagers. No one helped Kira as the other girls knocked her down, asking, “Does it hurt?” Boys from their group stood by and filmed the violence on their mobile phones.

Kira’s bruises and abrasions landed her in the hospital. For days afterward, she hid in her room, not wanting to tell even her mother what had happened. When she finally dared to file a report with the police, nothing came of it. Instead, she received death threats via the Internet. “Next time it won’t just be a few blows,” one of her fellow students wrote in an online forum, adding that “very different people” would come to get her next time. Kira didn’t venture out of her room for weeks.

Nostalgia for Neukölln

All this happened shortly after Kira’s family moved a few months ago from Neukölln, a city center district of Berlin, to a cheaper apartment in an area known as the Kosmos-Viertel (“Kosmos neighborhood”). Built before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when the area was still part of communist East Germany, it is a development of bleak residential high-rises at the far southeastern edge of the city. From Kira’s 10th floor window, she can see all the way to the Schönefeld Airport runway, outside the city. To the other side of the building are bare fields. Then comes a highway, then, somewhere far in the distance, downtown Berlin — home to Kira’s old life.

Kira sits on her bed, shivering a little in a neon-colored tank top. “I wish I could go back to Neukölln,” she says. “Things were better there.”

That sentiment may seem surprising to those who know Neukölln’s reputation. All over Germany, the central Berlin area is associated with violence, poverty, people on welfare and the failed integration of immigrants. This is the city district that provided Thilo Sarrazin, author of the controversial bestseller “Germany Does Itself In,” with fodder for his notorious theories about “headscarf girls” from Muslim immigrant families. The district’s tough-talking mayor, Heinz Buschkowsky, has become a talk show star because of his outspoken views on the area’s problems.

Neukölln is also home to the Rütli School, which made headlines across Germany when its desperate teachers appealed to the government to close the school, saying it was full of neglected children from immigrant families with little inclination toward education. This is also where Kirstin Heisig, a well known juvenile court judge who hanged herself last year, passed her strict sentences. Heisig’s book about juvenile violence became a bestseller.

In the minds of millions of Germans, Neukölln remains the country’s worst trouble spot, a lawless place run by juvenile gangs.

‘The Slums of the 21st Century’

Yet there are now people like Kira who look back wistfully at the time when they lived in the notorious district. Misery is moving house in Berlin: Many of the city’s problems are shifting out toward the city limits, into new ghettos which are starting to resemble Paris’s dreaded banlieues. Meanwhile, areas such as northern Neukölln, neighboring Kreuzberg and other parts of the city traditionally populated by workers and immigrants are becoming increasingly popular with middle class residents and hipsters. Tourists are also attracted to the areas by glowing articles in the international media.

It’s nearly impossible these days to find an apartment near the Rütli School. Real estate agents see these properties virtually snatched from their hands, even though rents have shot up — even doubling in some cases — within a short space of time. Students and artists from around the world are eager to get into the area and apartment viewings often draw 50 people at a time.

Those who, like Kira’s parents, can no longer afford the rents in the city center, withdraw to the concrete ring that encircles the German capital. Of Berlin’s 3.45 million residents, 420,000 live in these high-rise housing projects on the city’s outskirts, in neighborhoods that have so far attracted little media attention.

“The slums of the 21st century are threatening to form on Berlin’s outskirts,” warns sociologist Hartmut Häussermann, who authored a study called “Monitoring Social City Development 2010” for the Berlin Senate, the city government. His study describes these peripheral neighborhoods as “areas with a low development index” and a high “concentration of social problems.”

It’s a dangerous development. Urban studies experts warn of the segregation that occurs when a society breaks down into various parts that rarely come into contact with one another. “This displacement needs to be stopped,” Häussermann says, explaining that it bars individuals from many opportunities. The phenomenon affects tens of thousands of children, Häussermann says. Not only are they geographically isolated from the downtown area, but their chances of social mobility are also reduced as a result, he explains.

The Capital of Low Wages

Berlin’s children’s emergency services, which help children at risk in problem families, are already unable to cope. They report increasing numbers of children taken into care because they can no longer stand the situation at home. The costs of government social services provided to families in need are rising, and statistics put child poverty in problem areas at more than 70 percent.

Teenage gangs fight over territory on the streets and squares, sometimes attacking unlucky passersby without warning. Three weeks ago, in an incident that shocked Germany, four young men attacked a painter who was passing through the Lichtenberg subway station on his way home, beating him into a coma for no apparent reason.

With elections to the Berlin city-state parliament coming up in September, a debate has sprung up among politicians over the need for more surveillance and more security personnel — and a sustainable approach to preserving the city’s social cohesion. Berlin’s current coalition government of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the left-wing Left Party “has looked on for years, but done nothing,” complains Renate Künast, the leading candidate for the Green Party, who is looking to unseat the incumbent mayor, the SPD’s Klaus Wowereit. The current mayor acts concerned about social issues, Künast claims, but in reality is allowing rents to rise and leaving poorer people to fend for themselves. “Berlin is the capital of low-paid jobs,” the Green Party politician says, claiming that the city’s government “isn’t taking action to change tenancy law or to fight for a mandatory minimum wage.”

Part 2: Downwardly Mobile

Here on the outskirts of Berlin, trash bags hang from tree branches, nearly every balcony sports a satellite dish and the sidewalks are strewn with broken beer bottles. The street names — Sirius, Venus, Uranus — are the only thing left of the vision of progress harbored by the Kosmos-Viertel’s original planners. In the late 1980’s, the communist East German government wanted to build modern apartments here for employees of its state airline, Interflug. Today, many of the residents simply call their neighborhood “our ghetto.”

Outside the supermarket, illegal cigarette dealers make little effort to conceal their business. One man lifts a manhole cover and pulls a carton of cigarettes — presumably smuggled in from Eastern Europe — out of his hiding spot. A tradesman grins as he passes by on his way to his car. “I only do work here if they pay in advance,” he says.

The owner of a local bar stands in his empty establishment. When asked how the area has changed in recent years, he says nothing and just makes a sharp downward gesture with his hand.

The Berlin Senate’s report talks, rather abstractly of a “concentration of social problems.” One man whose job is to read electricity meters experiences what that means every day. He has known this area for years, and doesn’t need to think long when asked to describe the people who live here in the run-down apartments. He rummages in a jacket pocket, lights a cigarette, and says, using the English term: “white trash.”

He’s seen them all, the meter reader explains, taking a drag on his cigarette. He’s seen their faces, their apartments with damp, molding walls and their hopelessness. Housing developments like Kosmos, he says, are home to downwardly mobile people who used to belong to the middle class, low earners and social welfare recipients who have been forced to leave the city center because the authorities are no longer prepared to cover their rising rents.

Kids with Beer Bottles

They’re people like Charlotte S., who’s currently taking part in a job-retraining program for the long-term unemployed. In Neukölln, her rent recently went up to €800 ($1,100) for a two-bedroom apartment. “Here, I have a three-bedroom apartment for €490, including utilities,” explains the 40-year-old mother of two. But when she moved here a year ago, she didn’t realize fear would be the price to pay for the lower rent.

Charlotte S. sits in her tidy living room and talks about how she’s worried about her 18-year-old daughter and her nine-year-old son. She wants to get them out of this environment again as soon as possible, but hasn’t managed to do so. “There are 12-year-olds with beer bottles out on the street,” she says. When a pensioner tried to talk to the kids about it, they shouted back at him, “You should be six feet under!” Charlotte S. says things are even worse for her friend whose daughter is dark-skinned. The girl has to put up with insults such as “nigger bride,” and she hardly dares to go outside.

Neighborhoods like this one provide a counterargument to Thilo Sarrazin’s polemics, contradicting his claim that poverty, violence and lack of prospects are particularly characteristic to areas with a high percentage of Turkish or Arab residents. Immigrants make up less than 5 percent of Kosmos’ residents. In contrast, there is high support here for the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). It has its national headquarters in the Treptow-Köpenick district of Berlin, where the Kosmos-Viertel is located, and it holds regular social gatherings at a local bar called “Zum Henker.” In the last Berlin state parliament elections, in 2006, the NPD garnered nearly 20 percent of votes in the area around Venusstrasse, its highest result in all of Berlin. Racial slurs and attacks are part of daily life in Kosmos.

Children and teens here grow up in a world of stone and concrete. Violence sets a constant tone in many of their lives, whether it be fights after school, arson, sexual assault, bodily injuries or drug abuse.

Sexually Experienced by the Age of 12

One pale-faced 13-year-old girl, wearing clothes far too thin for the day’s wintry temperatures, is hanging out with a couple of friends in front of a bar called “B52.” It’s a good day for Peggy, who’s showing off her new cell phone. The device includes GPS maps for 70 countries, yet Peggy herself hasn’t been to downtown Berlin even once in the last year. After school, she often meets friends in a windy square between the supermarket and the apartment blocks, named the “Ball,” where older alcoholics often gather in the afternoon. “It’s an outdoor living room,” Peggy says.

When it gets too cold here or too boring, the kids meet elsewhere, at places social workers describe with the neutral term “open apartments.” This means apartments where pedophile men live, who invite kids in for sweets, alcohol, videos or computer games.

Here in Kosmos, for example, the door of “Papa Smurf’s” apartment was often open to teenagers. When parents got their hands on photographs showing “Papa Smurf” with 16-year-old boys in their underwear, the man left the neighborhood in a hurry.

At nine years old, it’s still more the exception than the rule, but by the time they’re 12, most girls here have had sex, Alina says. “It’s part of being cool in the group,” she explains.

Beaten Up by Her Boyfriend

Alina is 16 and home from school today with a fever. She’s sitting on her bed together with a female friend. The TV is on and Alina types messages into her phone as she watches. She says she knows girls who got pregnant at 14 and had two children by different fathers by the time they were 20.

Alina’s last boyfriend beat her up when he was drunk. She still has the photos of her injuries on her cell phone. They show bathwater that is red with blood, traces of blows to her face and open cuts on her head. Now she just wants to get away from the neighborhood. She talks of “maybe becoming an event manager” — although she’s never even been to an event at Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate in the heard of the city.

Most off all, Alina wants to get away from the square called the “Ball,” where the alcoholics meet. She wants to get away from other meeting spots such as meet-up spots like a burnt out, ruined building at the shopping mall. Locals call it the “Momper ruin,” after Walter Momper, a former Berlin mayor and now president of the Berlin state parliament. Momper once promised investment into this area, but to this day, nothing has been seen of that funding. The building is “an eyesore,” a retired woman complains as she passes. “Momper should be ashamed of himself,” she adds.

Part 3: Could Berlin’s Suburbs Become Like Paris’s Banlieues?

The story of Berlin’s politics and its ghettos is one of many lofty visions but little success. Wowereit’s SPD and the Left Party promised in their 2006 coalition agreement to “preserve the social mix,” declaring that rent prices should remain “consistent with their social mandate.” The city Senate also pledged to “counteract tendencies toward exclusion and segregation.” The state-level SPD even talked in 2010 of a “new era in city politics.”

In reality, new problem areas continue to form. Some parts of the city have seen their populations swapped out completely in the time since the Berlin Wall fell. One in two city residents first moved to the German capital after 1990.

Housing policy is a central aspect of social policy. City planners in the mid-19th century developed a recipe for good cohesion within the city, constructing residential buildings that preserved Berlin’s social mix by housing rich people in the front buildings and poor people in the side wings and rear buildings off central courtyards. For city planners of that period, workers’ slums in cities such as Manchester served as a clear example of what they wanted to avoid. Instead, they envisioned the strong supporting the weak.

Sold Off by Sarrazin

Where does Mayor Wowereit stand with his policies? Together with Thilo Sarrazin, who was Berlin’s finance minister at the time, the mayor sold off around 110,000 apartments that had been government property between 2002 and 2007. He also eliminated a support program for 28,000 state-subsidized apartments. This leaves Wowereit lacking an important tool toward preventing city segregation. According to a recent survey by research institute Forsa, one in four Berliners affected by rent increases plans to move soon. This January, meanwhile, Wowereit declared rising rents were a good sign. Residents simply need to get used to the fact that the city — which has long been famous for its cheap rents — is no longer as inexpensive as it once was, the mayor said, although he added that income levels should also increase.

Politicians who are in closer contact with ordinary people than Wowereit experience the results of this mindset at first hand. Ellen Haussdörfer is a member of Berlin’s state parliament for the center-left Social Democrats. Her electoral district includes the Kosmos-Viertel, and she lives just a few hundred meters from the concrete high-rises.

Haussdörfer recently traveled to Paris for a few days to see the city’s banlieues, outlying urban districts where young people sometimes riot and police carry out brutal raids. Haussdörfer was shocked by what she saw. “It made me realize what might happen in Berlin if we don’t work to stop the trend,” she says.

The politician fought for an urban renewal “neighborhood management” program, with the participation of social workers. But Berlin’s financial authorities blocked the plan, because the planning zone that Kosmos is located in also includes a development of private homes, which, statistically speaking, lowers the area’s incidence of social problems. Aid from the federal level is also unlikely, after the German government drastically cut its “Social City” urban redevelopment program. “If we don’t address the problems,” Haussdörfer warns, “the resulting costs will soon be so high that we won’t be able to get the situation back under control.”…

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

Germany: ‘A Lesson From the Right-Wing Populists’ Book’

Germany’s new interior minister touched off controversy within hours of taking office when he said that Islam did not historically “belong” to Germany, causing Muslim groups to react furiously. On Monday, editorialists wonder whether the comments were inspired by upcoming elections.

Hans-Peter Friedrich only assumed the office of German interior minister last week. But he didn’t waste much time before sparking off an emotive debate.

“To say that Islam belongs in Germany is not a fact supported by history,” the politician, who belongs to the conservative Bavarian party the Christian Social Union, said in his first press conference as minister. The comment was a repeat of earlier criticism he had made of an October 2010 statement by German President Christian Wulff, who famously said that “Islam also belongs to Germany.”

Representatives of Germany Muslim population were outraged. Lamya Kaddor, chairwoman of the Liberal-Islamic Union in Germany, called Friedrich’s remarks a “slap in the face of Muslims.”

Over the weekend, Friedrich moved to limit the damage, saying that he aimed to bring “society together and not polarize it.”

But most German editorial writers on Monday reject the politician’s outspoken stance. Some said his remarks were a strategic move to corner a slice of the immigration-skeptic vote, ahead of a big election year in Germany.

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“Islam doesn’t belong in Germany? The mistake lies in the word ‘belongs’. Although Islam’s influence over German history was slim, you cannot say that Islam is not a part of the country now, with more than 2,000 mosques in Germany. To separate Muslims from Islam, as Friedrich does, makes as much sense as to say that Germany wants to be a world champion exporter but does not accept globalization.”

“But the experienced politician’s selection of such harsh words at the start of his new job as minister was clearly a calculated move. He can use his new office to lure all those sympathizers of (Islam critic) Thilo Sarrazin and other citizens who are suspicious of Islam, binding them to the conservatives. As a politician from the CSU who has previously aired similar sentiments, he is more convincing than his predecessor Thomas de Maizière (a member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, the CSU’s sister party). In 2011, the so-called super election year (when a total of seven state elections are being held), that fact should not be underestimated.”

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“It would benefit the debate to finally stop using phrases like that used by the president. Islam’s expansion across Central Europe is a turning point which is too important to be summed up in a ‘belong/doesn’t belong’ dichotomy. Whoever supports the integration of Muslims in Germany — and who would dare to express support for the alternative? — should be interested in incorporating Islam into the law governing the relationship between church and state. If a legal format can be found which is attractive to both parties, then maybe people will no longer need to pay grudging lip service (to the idea).”

The left-leaning Berlin daily Tagesspiegel writes:

“Now Hans-Peter Friedrich has said that history does not ‘support’ that Islam belongs to Germany. He is right. Germans would be what they are now, even without Islam. German President Christian Wulff, on the other hand, said in his speech to mark the anniversary of German reunification that ‘Islam now belongs to Germany.’ Wulff is also right. No one can dispute that millions of Muslims live in Germany and influence the culture of the country.”

“But the two sentences do not contradict one another. Neither Friedrich nor Wulff included a value judgement in their statements, such as: ‘It is good that Islam historically did not belong/now belongs to Germany.’ In that way, the current heated controversy reveals itself to be a storm in a teacup.”

The left-leaning Frankfurter Rundschau writes:

“The new interior minister is not a right-wing extremist but he should be careful which political tools he adopts.”

“He did not address his comment to a history seminar, but rather to a press conference to mark his assumption of his new office. If he does not realize which prejudice he is playing to, he would be a very poor politician. He tried to make amends for his remarks by referring to his own Turkish relations (he has a Turkish sister in-law) and the fact he regularly participates in fast-breaking meals (during Ramadan). It is as if he has taken a lesson from the right-wing populists’ textbook.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

How to Buy a Degree in Italy

Time required: five days. Cost: €800-€2,000

MILAN — “You don’t need to do anything. Just give me the title of the thesis. And the money. I’ll do the rest”. Forget about months of gruelling research for notes and bibliographies. Your degree thesis is as good as written. All you have to do is give the “job” to a professional and a text that generally takes six to eight months to write can now be delivered in just five days.

THE MARKET — The scene is Naples but buying degree theses goes on all over Italy, as a glance at university message boards or specialist web sites will confirm. Lawyers, teachers, university assistants and new graduates are among those who make extra cash in the highly profitable thesis market. Michele, as we will call him, has been writing and selling degree theses since he was a second-year law student. In fact, that’s how he has paid for his studies at the Federico II university. Unaware that he is being filmed, Michele tells us: “Once you’ve worked out how to do it, you just have to be able to write, use the right programs and Bob’s your uncle”. Needless to say, he never told his clients he didn’t have a degree. Today, Michele is a lawyer at a practice in Naples with its own thesis-writing business. Yours for a mere €1,200 each.

THE ITALIAN WAY — In Germany, this sort of thing sparked off a scandal that led to a minister’s resignation but in Italy, “it helps people to get by”, as one of the thesis-writers said, listing his clients, who include many working people keen to give their career prospects a boost. How much does it cost? Prices start at €300 for run-of-the-mill titles with a reasonably accessible bibliography to €2,000 for more complicated theses. The system is straightforward. Every so often, they send you part of the manuscript that you pass on for correction to the assistant or professor who is supervising your thesis. “Some professors will say quite openly: ‘What am I doing correcting this when I know Rosaria wrote it?’“ Rosaria is so well known in university circles at the Santa Maria Capua Vetere campus that her name is a guarantee for students looking to graduate with full marks…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Italy: ‘Black Market’ of Rents in Rome in Veltroni Administration

(AGI) Rome — RAI’s news agency TG1 reported on a black market for rentals in Rome under the Veltroni administration. Thus the so called “affitopoli” occurred not only in Milan but in the Italian capital as well, TG1 stated in this evening’s news. The report mentioned rentals for negligible prices, or even unpayed rentals, for party members, as well as the sale of apartments belonging to the City of Rome for extremely low prices, such as one in the capital’s heart (Campo de’ Fiori) sold at 40% less than its value to the son of former Minister for Finance Vincenzo Visco. On the whole, according to the report, 900 properties were sold between 2001 and 2007, the period of Walter Veltroni’s mayorship. The Democratic Party offered heavy criticism on Veltroni’s behalf: “the administration led by mayor Veltroni did not always fully respect rules and transparency. But venemous reports such as TG1’s tonight will not be enough to change the deck or hide the disastrous situation in the Alemanno administration, with all its moral scandals”.

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

Lybia: Gaddafi Accuses France of Interfering

(AGI) Paris — Lybian leader, Muammar Gaddafi, accuses France of “interfering” in the domestic affairs of his country. In an interview broadcast today by France 24, replying to a question on the support given by the French government to the National Council -the newborn transient government set up by the rebels in Bengazi- Gaddafi replied harshly, “This interference in domestic affairs is ridiculous. What would happen if were to poke our nose in Corsica or Sardinia issues?” .

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

Netherlands: ‘Defence Order Behind Queen’s Visit to Oman’

MUSCAT, 08/03/11 — The main reason for Queen Beatrix’s visit to agitated Oman going ahead all the same is a potential defence order. This concerns the supply of navy ships by the Dutch Damen-Schelde shipyard, De Volkskrant reported yesterday.

The Dutch government announced last week that the planned state visit to Oman would be postponed. It was however subsequently announced that Beatrix was going to the country after all; she is now making a ‘private visit’.

The postponement of the official state visit was promoted by the growing unrest and protests in the country. A majority in the Lower House considers the queen’s private visit unwise. The Sultan has been reigning in Oman for 40 years. Parliament has little say in matters, and there is no question of freedom of speech.

Beatrix is to attend a dinner with Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said on Tuesday. The House will simultaneously debate her visit.

According to De Volkskrant, the trip is going ahead partly under pressure from the corporate sector. This relates among other things to a contract worth some hundreds of millions of euros for four navy vessels for which Damen-Schelde has put in a bid.

Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has criticised Beatrix’s visit on “It is really stupid for the queen to go and dine with this dictator!” according to Wilders. He terms it right that demonstrations are taking place in Oman against the regime of the “despicable” sultan.

The queen will also visit Qatar. She was to have been accompanied there by Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, but he announced yesterday that his place will be taken by State Secretary Ben Knapen.

Rosenthal wants to concentrate fully on the release of three Dutch military who were caught in Libya a week ago during an attempt to pick up a Dutch staff member of Royal Haskoning and a Swedish national from the desert with a Lynx helicopter. He also wants to be in Brussels at an EU| meeting on the unquiet situation in the Arab world.

Libya has accused the Netherlands of carrying out an espionage mission. The Netherlands denies this. Rosenthal dos not however wish to comment on signals from experts in international law that the Dutch helicopter action was likely illegal. The action has also been criticised because it was neither carried out by special forces nor with a fighter helicopter.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

On Germany’s Islamic Problem… or Islamists’ German Problem


As was under-reported last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed Turks resident in Germany to urge them not to assimilate into the country in which they have chosen to live. He also said that the next generation of his audience should be taught Turkish first rather than German.

Today, however, Der Spiegel reports that Muslim groups have reacted ‘furiously’ to remarks of the German interior minister, that Islam ‘historically’ did not belong to Germany. As history, the remarks are a mere statement of fact. The ‘fury’ appears to be the suggestion that Islam has no place in Germany today, although it is precisely the contention that Islam ought to inflect the public life of Europe that understandably causes such concern about its longterm intentions. Yet what is truly inexplicable is that German Islamic organisations should react adversely to the suggestion that Islam is not intrinisic to Germany a mere week after the largest German Islamic community rapturously celebrated the call for its to refuse to assimilate. This self-contradictory stance is not one calculated to dispell the impression of opportunism.


[Return to headlines]

Scotland’s ‘Tartan With a Turban’ Culture Can Teach the English How to Beat Fascism, Says Muslim Peer

BARONESS Warsi, Britain’s first Muslim Cabinet minister, has said England needs to learn from Scotland’s strong sense of national identity in order to reduce the threat of fascism and Islamist extremism.

On a visit to Glasgow, the Conservative Party co-chairman said a powerful sense of Scottishness had allowed all communities and ethnic groups to “buy in” to shared values north of the Border.

The lack of a similarly strong national identity in England had led to predominantly young men being more easily turned by the fascism of the English Defence League, or by Islamist extremism, she said.

“If you became patriotically English, that mandate was taken by the fascist groups rather than the masses. What you did right in Scotland was your Scottish culture and heritage. Everybody felt they could buy into it and you have been lucky in being able to maintain that, “ she said.

Baroness Warsi said Scots had “been much better” than the English at finding a core identity around which people could find common ground.

She noted that people from Pakistan who had settled in Scotland felt far more comfortable describing themselves as Scottish than those who came to England.

“There is some very distinctive Scottish culture so you find regularly Sikhs turning up in kilts for their wedding, with the turban on as well,” she said.

“It’s about the strength of the culture that you arrive into. And I think the strength of the culture in England, over the last 15 to 20 years, has been downgraded in a way that hasn’t happened in Scotland.”

Her comments come after Prime Minister David Cameron said last month the state should back a sense of “muscular liberalism”, saying the country needed “to assert confidently our liberal values”. Calling for an end to “state multiculturalism”, Mr Cameron said the state should no longer deal with organisations that declined to sign up to basic liberal values.

Baroness Warsi said in January that Islamaphobia was “rife” across Britain and remained acceptable at dinner parties.

Anti-racism groups said the problem was the UK coalition failing to follow the Scottish Government’s example.

Positive Action in Housing director Robina Qureshi said: “The Scottish Government has openly challenged racism and fascism, which has brought about people having a strong sense of Scottish identity.

“In England, that is not happening. David Cameron’s message is ‘you will be like one of us’ and become English, which tends not to be inclusive.”

           — Hat tip: Seneca III[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘I Will Wear This Fine as a Badge on My Shoulder’: Shameless Muslim Extremist Dismisses £50 Fine for Armistice Day Poppy Burning

A shameless Muslim extremist who burned a poppy on Armistice Day today boasted that would wear his £50 as ‘a badge on my shoulder’.

Emdadur Choudhury , 26, who was convicted at Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court of a public order offence, also claimed the charge levelled against him was ‘ridiculous’.

Choudhury, of Spitalfields, East London, was caught on camera unfurling several large plastic poppies on the ground before burning them at the end of the two-minute silence to honour the war dead.

He was convicted of ‘using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behaviour within hearing or sight of a person likely to have been caused harassment, alarm or distress’ by District Judge Howard Riddle, following a one-day trial last month.

His fellow defendant, Mohammad Haque, 30, of Bethnal Green, was found not guilty of the same public order offence.

Neither defendant appeared at the court, where Choudhury was ordered to pay the money, alongside a £15 victim surcharge. The maximum fine he could have received was £1,000…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Bill for Evicting Just 90 Traveller Families From UK’s Biggest Illegal Site Could Hit £18m

The huge cost of evicting travellers from the UK’s largest gypsy site in Essex could reach £18million it was revealed today.

Occupants of the site at Dale Farm in Crays Hill have been locked in a ten-year dispute with Basildon Council over the greenbelt land they use as their home.

But now, just days from councillors approving an eviction order, the breakdown of the cost of removing the 90 families from the site has been outlined.

The cost is broken down between the council and police’s ‘worst case scenario’ estimates, with £8million being spent by the council and £10million by Essex Police.

The removal of the gypsies is expected to take around eight weeks, with the expenditure confirmed in a meeting due to take place next Monday.

If confirmed, the residents would be given 28 days to leave the site, with the enforcement notice applying to 51 pitches, outbuildings, utility blocks, fencing and walls.

Despite the huge cost, Tony Ball, leader of the council is determined to press ahead if the families choose not leave by their own accord.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: How Could the Man Cleared of Raping Me Have Thought I Was His Brunette Girlfriend?

A woman who woke to find a man having sex with her has told of her disbelief at his acquittal on rape charges after he claimed he had stumbled into the wrong bed.

Haydor Khan, 22, said he was so drunk that it was not until he was having sex with Joanne Freeman that he realised she was not his girlfriend and that he was in the wrong hotel room.

But Miss Freeman, 39, said she struggled to understand how Mr Khan could have mistaken her — a petite, size six blonde — for his tall, size 12 brunette girlfriend Nicola Wood, 19.


‘It has devastated the whole family. My father is heartbroken and my own daughter had to sit through the court case while Khan smirked at her throughout.

‘I feel I have been raped twice — once by him and once by the justice system.’

Her friend Karen Berry, 43, said Miss Freeman had ‘changed completely’, adding:

‘She is a shell of her former self. She tries to be strong but then you see she has a vacant look in her eyes or she breaks down. It will stay with her forever.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

We Can Become Third Biggest British Party, Claims UKIP Leader After Lib Dems’ Barnsley by-Election Bashing

UKIP leader Nigel Farage will today urge his party to use its strong showing in the Barnsley Central by-election as a ‘springboard’ for further success.

Speaking at the party’s spring conference, Mr Farage will set a target of overtaking the Liberal Democrats to become the third force in British politics by 2015.

The rallying cry comes after UKIP secured a creditable second place behind Labour in the poll this week — its best performance in a national election.

‘We’ve proved it before in Euro elections but now we’ve come second in a by-election,’ Mr Farage will tell delegates in Scarborough.

‘This is not a one-off result, this is a springboard and we will go on from here to fight a thousand council seats and contest in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.’

In his first address since returning to the helm of the party, the MEP will insist controversies over granting prisoners the vote and hiking women’s insurance premiums had made Ukip’s Eurosceptic policies ‘relevant’ in the constituency.

‘The EU is no longer an academic debate because it’s affecting people in their everyday lives: it is now discussed by families at their dinner table,’ Mr Farage will say.

Pointing out that the Lib Dems had plunged from second to sixth place in Barnsley, he will suggest that their support is waning across the country.

Mr Farage will add: ‘The Lib Dems are no longer the voice of opposition in British Politics — we are. Between now and the next general election our aim is to replace them as the third party in British politics.’

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

North Africa

America’s Secret Plan to Arm Libya’s Rebels

Obama asks Saudis to airlift weapons into Benghazi

Desperate to avoid US military involvement in Libya in the event of a prolonged struggle between the Gaddafi regime and its opponents, the Americans have asked Saudi Arabia if it can supply weapons to the rebels in Benghazi. The Saudi Kingdom, already facing a “day of rage” from its 10 per cent Shia Muslim community on Friday, with a ban on all demonstrations, has so far failed to respond to Washington’s highly classified request, although King Abdullah personally loathes the Libyan leader, who tried to assassinate him just over a year ago.

Washington’s request is in line with other US military co-operation with the Saudis. The royal family in Jeddah, which was deeply involved in the Contra scandal during the Reagan administration, gave immediate support to American efforts to arm guerrillas fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan in 1980 and later — to America’s chagrin — also funded and armed the Taliban.

But the Saudis remain the only US Arab ally strategically placed and capable of furnishing weapons to the guerrillas of Libya. Their assistance would allow Washington to disclaim any military involvement in the supply chain — even though the arms would be American and paid for by the Saudis.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Egypt: Gamal Mubarak and Ex-Interior Minister ‘Behind Sharm-El-Sheikh Bombings’

Cairo, 7 March (AKI) — Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’ son Gamal and Egypt’s former interior minister Habib el-Adly ordered the deadly bombings of the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh in 2005, Kuwaiti paper Al-Jarida reported Monday, citing classified documents.

The coordinated bombings of a bazaar and two hotels on 23 July 2005 killed 88 people, mostly Egyptians, and injured 200.

According to the top-secret interior ministry documents, Mubarak wanted to take revenge on businessman Hussein Salem for reducing his cut on on a 2.5 billion dollar contract to supply gas to Israel from 10 percent to 2.5 percent, Al-Jarida said.

Mubarak and El-Adli ordered the bombing of 3 compounds in Sharm Skeikh, owned by Salem. In the case of the market truck bombing, the driver had to abandon his truck bomb at the bazaar because of a police roadblock.

El-Adli organised the bombings and paid several individuals who made the car bombs used in the attacks, according to the documents, Al-Jarida said.

Dozens of Beduoin Arabs from the Sinai desert were arrested over the blasts, which were claimed in a message posted to a jihadist website signed by a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which claimed links to Al-Qaeda.

Al-Adly went on trial in Egypt on 5 March for corruption and violence by the country’s security forces. The state security apparatus under El-Adly has been widely accused of committing a vast array of human rights abuses, including illegal detentions, torture and murder.

If found guilty, El-Adly faces a maximum of seven years in prison and seizure of his assets. If the shocking allegations against him made by Al-Jarida were to reach trial, the former minister could face a far harsher sentence if convicted.

Gamal Mubarak’s whereabouts are unknown. Some reports have said he is with his father in Sharm El Sheikh. Other reports claimed he fled the country in late January with his family aboard a private jet headed for London when violent unrest broke out in Egypt over his autocratic father’s 30-year rule.

Last week, Algerian newspaper Ech Chourouk cited unnamed sources as saying Gamal Mubarak had tried to commit suicide by drinking poisoned tea as Egyptian authorities sought to retrieve millions of dollars deposited by the Mubarak family in banks around the world.

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

Libya: USA Tell Saudis to Arm Rebels

(AGI) London — In order not to expose the USA directly Barack Obama alelgedly asked Saudis to provide arms to rebels in Bengazi. Lybian rebels supplied with weapons to fight against Coronel Gaddafi’s regime, is what the British newspaper The Independent reports as a front page headline .

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

Libya: UN Appeals for 160 Mln Dlr for 3 Months of Aid

(AGI) Geneva — The UN appealed for 160 million dollars to fund 3 months of humanitarian aid to refugees and the Libyan people.

The money is for an estimated 400,000 people who the UN estimates will flee the country and 600,000 who may need assistance.

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

Libya: Gaddafi Escalates War Against Rebels as Conflict Deepens

Tripoli, 7 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — Libyan troops loyal to embattled leader Muammar Gaddafi used artillery and helicopter gunships in their effort to block pro-democracy rebels’ advance west from the oil hub of Ras Lanuf towards his hometown of Sirte. In a brief apprearance on state TV late on Sunday, Gaddafi warned that if he is toppled, Europe would be “invaded by an unstoppable tide of thousands of immigrants.”

Gaddafi also said that if he falls, “the terrorists will arrive and Bin Laden will install himself in North Africa, they will attack the US Sixth Fleet and there will be pirate attacks on your doorstep.”

As the battle between forces loyal to Gaddafi and the rebels intensifies, the United Nations has appointed a new envoy to Libya, former Jordanian foreign minister Abdelilah al-Khatib “to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation.” Last week it imposed sanctions on Gaddafi and his family and referred him and members of his inner circle to the International Criminal Court for investigation over possible crimes against humanity.

The UN estimates over 1,000 people have died in nearly three weeks of unrest in Libya which followed revolts in neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt that overthrew their longtime autocratic rulers. Unrest has also spread to Bahrein and Yemen.

Rebel fighters withdrew from Bin Jawad, 160 kilometres east of Gaddafi’s Sirte stronghold, after battling reinforced pro-Gaddafi troops, BBC said. Ambulances rushed the wounded to the hospital in rebel-controlled Ras Lanuf, according to an Associated Press reporter on the scene. At least six people were killed in the fighting, and a French journalist for France 24 TV was among 60 wounded, AP said.

Clashes during the past two days have become more deadly as the rebels moved along the Libyan coast toward Tripoli and government troops escalated their use of force in attempting to retake the rebel-held cities of Misurata, about 90 miles east of the capital, and Zawiyah to the west.

Oil surged to the highest in 29 months as the fighting intensified in Africa’s third- largest crude producer. Crude for April delivery increased as much as 1.50 dollars to 105.92 dollars a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures have risen 29 percent from a year earlier.

In Washington, senators John Kerry of Massachusetts, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain of Arizona, senior Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pressed for action to ground Gaddafi’s air force such as imposing a no-fly zone. Former US ambassador to the UN and ex-national security adviser Stephen Hadley was among those advocating the supply of arms to the rebels.

The nature of the conflict has shifted in recent days from civilian protests coming under attack to combat between two armed groups seeking to control territory. Opposition forces drove pro-government troops back to the outskirts of Misurata on Sunday, Abu Moad, a resident, said. Earlier, Gaddafi’s forces broke through the rebel lines, he said.

General Abdul Fattah Younis, who resigned as interior minister on 23 February to join the opposition, said on Al Arabyia satellite TV that the rebels control 90 percent of the country and that Gaddafi’s regime will fall in three days.

Both Zawiyah and Misurata remained in opposition hands after being shelled by Gaddafi’s forces, rebel council spokesman Abdulhafid Ghoga said at a news conference on Sunday in the eastern port cityo f Benghazi, the rebel stronghold

Libyan state TV accused rebels of using civilians as human shields.

Gaddafi has reinforced his forces with mercenaries from Chad, Somalia, Niger, and Mali, Ghoga said. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, denied using foreign fighters during an interview on Al Jazeera satellite TV.

Anti-Gaddafi forces on March 5 took control of Gaddai Lanuf, 400 miles east of Tripoli, where they shot down two helicopters and a fighter jet. The BBC showed video of rebels at the crash site for the jet and celebrating in the city.

The town has a tanker terminal that exports about 200,000 barrels of oil a day. It also contains Libya’s biggest refinery, with a capacity of 220,000 barrels a day, more than half the country’s total output, according to the International Energy Agency.

Libyan rebels detained and sent home eight members of what Britain’s foreign minister William Hague in a statement called a “small British diplomatic team.” The group consisted of one person carrying a diplomatic passport and seven members of the U.K. Special Forces, according to Al Jazeera.

Hague said the team was sent “to initiate contacts” and had “experienced difficulties.” He said another team will be sent “in due course.” Rebel council spokesman Ghoga said the group would “welcome” a UK delegation in the future.

Heavy machine-gun fire broke out in Tripoli before dawn, the AP reported. State television, which described renewed gunfire later in the day as celebrations for important victories, broadcast live footage from Tripoli’s main Green Square, showing several thousand Gaddafi loyalists, some waving green flags and posters of the man who has ruled the north-African country for more than four decades.

Libayn government spokesman Massa Ibrahim was cited as telling Reuters news agency that the apparent gunfire heard in Tripoli was “celebratary fireworks” and that the capital was “100 percent under control”.

An estimated 200,000 people, most of them foreign workers, have fled Libya to neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia since 19 February, sparking a crisis in the border areas, the UN refugee agency said last week. The US; UK and France said they were sending aircraft to deliver humanitarian aid and to help evacuate refugees.

Four US military flights on Sunday transported 328 evacuees from Tunisia, according to State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley, in a message on Twitter.

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

Libya: National Council, To Meet Italian Delegation

(ANSAmed) — BENGASI, MARCH 7 — An Italian delegation “will meet the” Libyan “national council”, said Libyan national council representative Ahmad Gehani to Italian reporters in the port of Bengasi. He explained that, in his view, “perhaps a recognition” by Italy “could be discussed”. Gehnai talked with the press at the arrival of the Italian ship the ‘Libra’, carrying humanitarian aid goods. The ship’s commander, lieutenant Luca Di Giovanni, pointed out that the Italian mission “only has a humanitarian” character, which was confirmed to ANSA by the Italian Foreign Ministry. After the ship is unloaded, the commander specified, it will return to Italy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Refugee Emergency, UAE to Finance Two New Camps

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 7 — Two new refugee camps will be set up at the border between Tunisia and Libya by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in collaboration with the Red Cross. The camps, which will be built at a distance of 2 kilometres from Choucha, where the Ras Ajdir camp set up by the UN has already called an emergency due to the unsustainable number of refugees. The new camps will have a capacity of 5,000 refugees but could host up to 15,000.

The oil emirate, Gulf News reports, is also prepared to support the formation of a third camp and the construction of a hospital.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Press: Gaddafi Proposes Deal to Bengasi Rebels

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 7 — Sources close to the provisional National Council in Bengasi say that Libyan colonel Muammar Gaddafi has advanced the possibility of stepping down and leaving the country, under the condition of certain guarantees for him and his relatives. The newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reports that the colonel has also asked guarantees regarding his financial assets. Gaddafi reportedly proposed, according to the sources of the pan-Arab newspaper based in London, to organise a session in the Libyan parliament, in which he would announce to hand over power to the National Council. The guarantees requested by the Libyan leader reportedly include assistance by the Council in his departure to a destination of his choice and no requests for extradition or legal steps by international courts. The sources add that the colonel’s requests were preceded by unfounded rumours about his health: some speculations in particular say that Gaddafi has had an ictus, similar to the one he had several years ago and was mentioned in the diplomatic reports revealed by Wikileaks.

According to the sources of Asharq Al Awsat, the National Council has not given any official answer to Gaddafi’s requests.

Moreover, the sources add that Gaddafi has given weapons to the sons of the leaders of the revolutionary committees, in an attempt to create a confusing situation for the international mass media. These sons are reported to have fired shots in the streets of Tripoli, spreading fear.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: SAS Rounded Up and Booted Out as Libyan Mission Turns to Farce

A joint SAS-MI6 team was kicked out of Libya last night after their mission to link up with rebels fighting Colonel Gaddafi turned to farce.

The eight-man unit was sent to have secret talks with opposition leaders but humiliatingly the team was detained and held by a group of farmhands.

The crack troops, armed with guns, ammunition, explosives and false passports, were mistaken for enemy spies, detained and stripped of their mobile phones and satellite communications devices.

Britain faced further diplomatic humiliation as telephone calls in which officials in London begged opposition figures in Libya for their release were intercepted by Colonel Gaddafi’s security forces and broadcast on Libyan state television.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Russia Opposes Any Military Intervention in Libya

(AGI) Moscow — Russia’s Foreign Minister Seghei Larov has reiterated that Moscow is against all military intervention in Libya. according to the state-owned Ria-Novosti news agency, Larov said “We do not consider intervention abroad as a means for resolving the Libyan crisis, especially military intervention. Libyans must solve their problems on their own.” ..

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

Russia Emphasises Opposition to Libya Intervention

(AGI) Moscow — Russian foreign minister Serghei Lavrov stressed Moscow’s opposition to military intervention in Libya.

According to Ria-Novosti press agency Lavrov today said, “we don’t see how any form of external intervention could possibly solve the Libyan crisis, especially if it were military in nature. Libyans need to solve their own problems”. Lavrov’s statements come fast in the wake of statements by NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who had pointed to the Alliance’s weighing up military options in Libya. Rasmussen’s thoughts were later echoed by US president Barack Obama.

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

Israel and the Palestinians

As Islamists Gain, Obama Pushes Israel Into Concessions

U.S. envoys reportedly seek creation of Palestinian state, division of Jerusalem

As Islamist parties gain momentum throughout the region, President Obama has asked Israel to immediately give the Palestinian Authority more control over cities in the strategic West Bank, according to informed Middle East officials.

The officials said Obama’s envoys to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in recent days with officials from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office to express the request.

The officials said the U.S. has made a strategic decision to renew a push now for Israel’s immediate return to the negotiating table to discuss the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern sections of Jerusalem.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

5 Reasons Why the Talibanization of the Middle East May Not be a Bad Thing

The sweep of revolutions across the Middle East has optimists cheering and realists preparing for the worst. And the worst is generally a good thing to prepare for in the region.

The regimes targeted by the movement have invariably either been allied to or achieved a stalemate with Western countries, (a statement that applies to Libya despite how loosely it may be interpreted) and did not seek to build an Islamic republic and impose it across the region. This was not about the overthrow of tyranny. Turkey with its tens of thousands of political prisoners got a free pass, so did Syria and the Iranian revolution was once again left to go it alone. The countries targeted invariably were either opposed to Iran, or not aligned with it. Jordan, which might have otherwise been ripe for a protest movement, saw little action, perhaps due to its king’s recent visit to Iran.

Whatever the media may squeak, this was a victory for Iran and for the Islamists. The course is set for the rise of Islamic republics, but these will not happen at the same time or in the same way. There will be a period of ‘Weimar Republic’ democracy, chaotic political rivalries and inept governments making way for the revolutionary regimes. In some countries this will occur violently and in others it will be a smooth transition orchestrated from within the system. But the final course is clear. It is no longer a matter of whether, but of when.

Yet the Talibanization of the Middle East may not be a wholly unrelieved evil. It will be ugly, but there is another side to it as well.

When catching their child smoking, some parents have been known to force him to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes. And possibly the best way to cure the Muslim world of a hankering for an Islamic republic is to actually force them to live under one.

If Egypt, Libya and Tunisia turn into Islamic republics, then the odds are good that the children of the next generation will hate clerical rule, almost as much as Iranians do today. The Islamist pitch is as much about social welfare and corruption free government, as it is about be headings and the burka. And it is the social welfare and corruption free government that has the widest resonance. Once in power, they will oversee the same corrupt government as before, with the clerics doing the stealing, and making everyone miserable in the bargain.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Crown Prince Warns Against Violence

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 7 — The crown prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, has issued a general warning saying that an escalation of violence should be avoided, asking all parties to be “patient, optimistic and motivated to seek dialogue”.

Talking about the protests organised by the Shiite minority, the prince guaranteed that they will be allowed, but that that they must remain peaceful. “The protests”, he said, “must not limit the freedom of other people. This is a fundamental principle”. He also invited the demonstrators to “avoid sensationalism”, as some are reportedly after.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Bahrain: Anti-Government Protests Today as Well

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 7 — The opposition in Bahrain has today organised a sit-in outside the American embassy, Al Jazeera website reports. Protesters chanted slogans in Arabic and English, accusing the government of corruption and of taking on foreigners in the police force and security services.

Yesterday, thousands of Bahrainis protested outside the Manama government building, demanding the fall of the regime and the resignation of Khalifa Al Khalifa, who has been in charge of the government for 40 years.

As well as trials for corrupt officials and those responsible for the death of 7 protesters, the opposition is also asking for the release of all political prisoners and the expulsion of all naturalised foreign citizens, who they accuse of being government instruments in public administration and in the police force.

Protester have underlined the peaceful nature of their action and have warned against the probable infiltration by factions looking to create tension between Shias and Sunnis. Khalifa Al Khalifa has asked his government to double their efforts to resolve education, housing and health problems. Freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations are already guaranteed by the country’s constitution, the Prime Minster has said. In an attempt to calm the anger of Shias accusing the government of not letting them work for the army or the police, Bahrain’s Interior Minister has launched a plan to recruit 20,000 people.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Erdogan Hopes Germany’s Turks Can Get Him Re-Elected

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is running for re-election in June, and is hoping that Germany’s large Turkish community can help him secure the votes he needs. But his request for electoral help from the German government has ruffled feathers.

The campaign speech in Düsseldorf made headlines in Germany. Newspapers described it as a “sermon of hate” and warned of “new divisions” in society. But the election campaigner wasn’t even running for office in Germany: It was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who caused all the fuss.

The heated reaction was due to comments that Erdogan made during his Sunday, Feb. 27 speech. He said that Turkish, not German, must be the first language of the children of Turkish parents. “You are my citizens!” he told the crowd.

On the day after the scandal erupted, Erdogan met with Thomas de Maizière, who was still the German interior minister at the time (he has since been appointed Germany’s defense minister). De Maizière had carefully studied Erdogan’s speech on Monday afternoon, in his car, on his way to the CeBit consumer electronics trade show in Hanover (Turkey was the fair’s partner country this year). He knew that the Turkish prime minister likes to polarize, so he decided to remain calm. He gently corrected Erdogan, without loudly contradicting him. “We want the children to learn German, at the latest when they start attending school,” said de Maizière. “Whether or not they learn Turkish is their own private matter.”

Request for Help

But during their discussion over dinner, the guest from Ankara appeared no longer particularly interested in the language proficiency of young Turkish-Germans. In his Düsseldorf speech, he had set his sights on a far greater subject: the parliamentary elections in Turkey this coming June. Erdogan has asked the German government for help — he wants to make it possible for his fellow Turks to vote in Germany.

Erdogan is a high roller and a populist, and there is one thing that he now wants more than anything else: to be re-elected. Between 1.1 and 1.3 million Turks living in Germany are eligible to vote in Turkish elections. Germany is effectively the fourth largest Turkish electoral district after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

This June, Erdogan wants to see ballot boxes placed in the Turkish Embassy and Turkish consulates in Germany. De Maizière agreed, at least in principle, to provide support, and has tentatively promised police protection. Swedes, Iraqis and Australians are already able to vote in their embassies. The German government had previously rejected all requests from Turkish politicians — out of fear of attacks.

Erdogan has a highly efficient campaigning machine. In Germany’s densely populated Ruhr region, supporters of his Islamic conservative ruling AKP party put up posters in all major cities. The Union of European Turkish Democrats, the AKP’s unofficial foreign representative, distributed thousands of free tickets for the Düsseldorf rally in mosques, associations and Turkish supermarkets. Not to be outdone, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Erdogan’s challenger from the opposition CHP party, also plans to hold an appearance in Germany this month.

Immigrants with a Turkish passport used to travel to Istanbul and Ankara to vote at the airport. In Cologne, for example, a local Turkish electrical engineer organized election trips to Turkey for many years. In his neighborhood he campaigned for the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and invited supporters to eat meals at his home. It used to be that Turkish-Germans supported a range of parties, but these days nearly all votes go to the AKP, says the engineer: “Erdogan has the community under control.”

Out of Touch with Modern Turkey

Erdogan’s success in Germany reveals a great deal about the sensitivities of Turkish immigrants — and about the extent of integration in the country. There are commissioners for foreigners, Islam conferences, integration courses and endless debate on the issue, yet Germany has never really understood its immigrants. Who are these people who turn out in their thousands to cheer for a foreign head of government?

Many of the women in Düsseldorf wear headscarves while the men are clad in knitted sweaters that are reminiscent of the first generation of guest workers in Germany. They moved to the country decades ago, but never really adapted to the new world. They cling to their traditional lifestyle, where the men are macho and the women marry young. Furthermore, they pass on this cliché to their children, leading many young Turks to feel ill at ease in Germany, even those who are third-generation immigrants. It is precisely this group that the Turkish prime minister addresses in his tirades.

But the reality of life back in the homeland has long since overtaken the immigrants’ worldview. Turkey is more modern than many immigrants remember it. They notice it when they fly back to the old country. When they arrive in Turkey, they bitterly complain about increasingly loose family ties and the anonymity of big cities. The Turks call these returnees Almancilar, a word coined from the Turkish words Alman (German) and yabanci (foreigner). They are not particularly well liked and are generally seen as backward and arrogant. Turkish-Germans often have it just as rough in Istanbul as in Berlin or Frankfurt: There is no place where they really feel at home.

Erdogan maintains that he can help change that. He conveys a sense of pride to the immigrants, along with a feeling that they have missed all too often in Germany in the past: a sense of belonging. Speaking in Cologne three years ago, he condemned assimilation as “a crime against humanity.” The tone of his speech in Düsseldorf was more moderate, but the message was the same: Don’t become like the Germans.

Big Brother Is Looking Out for You

But Erdogan’s approach locks the immigrants into their Turkish-ness. His speech is “a slap in the face to people who are working for integration,” says Heinz Buschkowsky, the straight-talking mayor of Neukölln, a Berlin district with a large foreign population.

“I am here to look after your vested interests,” Erdogan told his audience in Düsseldorf. His supporters respond with unconditional loyalty. Safiye, 53, has been living in Germany for 33 years, but she speaks hardly a word of German. She is proud of the prime minister, she says. “He looks after us. I love him.” After Erdogan’s speech she had tears in her eyes.

Erdogan’s appearances abroad are directed not so much at immigrants in Germany as at voters in Turkey. Recent WikiLeaks disclosures have damaged the prime minister’s image. In Germany, though, he can play his favorite role, acting the part of the abi, the big brother who looks after things wherever he is needed in the world. That includes Libya, for instance, where he recently had Turkish nationals evacuated back home, as well as Germany…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kuwait City Gets Ready for Protests

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 7 — Two organisations from Kuwait’s civil society have called a peaceful demonstration in the centre of the country’s capital tomorrow, to demand the resignation of the Prime Minister, who has held the position for five years and is the nephew of the Emir Sabah, the latest representative of a dynasty that has ruled the country for two and a half centuries.

The mobilisation, inspired by anti-government uprisings throughout the Arab world, has been called by two protest groups, Kafi (“Enough”) and Assur al Khamis (“The Fifth Wall”), who are protesting, amongst other things, against the absence of fundamental civil rights for hundreds of “Arabs without nationalities” known as “bidun” (meaning “without” in Arabic) who have lived in the oil-rich Gulf emirate for decades without basic services.

Unlike neighbouring Saudi Arabia, popular protests in Kuwait are allowed as long as they are authorised beforehand, while Parliament has a formal legislative function, but political parties are not allowed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Qatar: The Masters of Al-Jazeera Imprison a Blogger

Al-Jazeera Director General Wadah Khanfar has given a much-publicized speech heralding the birth of a “New Era” in the Arab world. Al-Jazeera’s approach to journalism emphasizes “re-thinking authority, giving a voice to the voiceless,” he told Time magazine. But what about covering human rights in Qatar, which pays his salary?

Notorious for ignoring human rights problems in Qatar, Al-Jazeera has been forced reluctantly to briefly cover the case of a Qatari blogger imprisoned and possibly being tortured by security forces in that Arab country.

Under the matter-of-fact headline, “Amnesty: Qatari blogger detained,” Al-Jazeera English reports that Amnesty International is calling attention to how Sultan al-Khalaifi, a Qatari blogger and the founder of a human rights organization, was arrested on March 2 and is being detained incommunicado. Amnesty International reported, “He is at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. The reasons for his detention are unknown.”

After presenting comments by Najib al-Nuaimi, al-Khalaifi’s lawyer, Al-Jazeera reported, “The Qatari government could not be contacted for comment.”

What is not revealed in this propaganda piece masquerading as a news report is the fact that Al-Jazeera is an arm of the Qatari government.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Revolts: Gulf Ministers for ‘Marshall Plan’ To Bahrain, Oman

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 7 — The Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will meet today in Abu Dhabi to discuss the financial aid package for Bahrain and Oman. In the past weeks citizens of both countries took to the street to demand changes ranging from constitutional and economic reforms to the fight against corruption and the creation of more jobs. The package, also known as the Marshall plan, was reportedly already discussed on Saturday in Riyadh by the Economy Ministers of the oil countries — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman — in an attempt to support the creation of new growth opportunities in both countries. The authorities of the Gulf countries have observed strict silence on these talks and on the details of the plan. Oman has even denied the existence of such a programme and of meetings to discuss them.

The two largest economies of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have both opened substantial aid programmes for the weakest segments of the populations of these two countries, in order to try and keep the hotbeds of protests that have already been ignited in the region from spreading further.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: Demonstrations and Appeals Deemed “Unislamic” By Religious Scholars and Government

Interior Ministry and the Council of Senior Scholars issue bans on any form of protest in favour of reform, targeting online appeals and petitions by intellectuals.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Every jasmine revolution-like protest or rally is banned in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Interior minister announced on TV. Security forces are prepared to use every means at their disposal to prevent actions that threatened public order. On Sunday, the country’s top religious leaders issued a statement, slamming as “unIslamic” calls for demonstrations and pro-reform petitions.

Both announcements come in the wake of a series of protests that broke out in Shia regions of the country, not far from Bahrain, and a wave of online appeals for a jasmine uprising similar to that of Egypt and Tunisia. The turn of events was sufficient for King Abdullah to adopt measures to reduce social dissatisfaction (see “Jasmine uprisings: Saudi Arabia fears contagion, contemplates reforms,” in AsiaNews, 21 February 2011).

“Regulations in the kingdom forbid categorically all sorts of demonstrations, marches and sit-ins, as they contradict Islamic Sharia law and the values and traditions of Saudi society,” the Saudi Interior Ministry statement said. Police, it said, was “authorised by law to take all measures needed against those who try to break the law”.

However, Shia clergyman Tawfiq al-Ahmar was released on Sunday. He had been arrested on 27 February after calling for a constitutional monarchy. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy under wahhabi rule.

The ten-member Council of Senior Scholars, chaired by the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, issued a statement saying that “The council stresses that demonstrations are prohibited in this country, and that the Islamic way of realising common interest is by offering advice”.

“Reform and advice are the Islamic way and would carry benefits and prevent evil, and that does not happen through intimidating and seditious statements on which signatures are collected,” the statement read.

The declaration was referring here to online appeals for demonstrations on 11 and 20 March, and to the requests addressed to King Abdullah made by intellectuals and human rights activists for changes to Saudi society and constitution.

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


Judiciary Against Mufti of Russia Over “Extremist” Books

Gai District Attorney wants to ban certain publications of prominent representatives of the Islamic community in Russia, considered to be extremist literature. The appeal of Ravil Gainutdin, mufti of Russia. In recent months, he had accused the leaders of the state of obstructing the unification of Muslims and of attempting to “suppress Islam” in the Federation.

Moscow (AsiaNews) — The head of the Russian Council of muftis, Ravil Gainutdin, has come under fire from the judiciary, which intends to censor one of his books as extremist literature. In his defence, Gainutdin has called for the intervention of the prosecutor general, the influential Yuri Chaika.

It all began two weeks ago when the district attorney of Gai, in the Orenburg region, Sergei Chelyshev, asked that certain publications by leading figures of Russia’s Muslim community be declared “extremist literature”. In addition to the book “Salvation in prayer” by Gainutdin and and the rector Islamic University of Moscow, Marat Murtazin, the district attorney’s list includes: “The Salah through the prism of thoughts” by the deputy head of the European Russian Muslim spiritual commission Mustafa Kyutyukchu, the “Forty Hadith” of the Prophet Muhammad and the” Gardens of the Faithful” by the Imam an-Navavi.

“Please take necessary measures to avoid a similar attitude towards religious books — wrote Gainutdin to the Prosecutor Chaika — I hope you will revoke the decision of Gai the prosecutor.” “Analyzed by a group of experts from the humanistic point of view — concluded the Mufti of Russia’s appeal — these books are not extremist”.

If the decision of the district attorney is confirmed, the listed books will be banned. It is not the first clash between Russian authorities and the Muslim community. In late December, Gainutdin had accused the leaders of the state of obstructing the unification of Muslims and of attempting to “suppress Islam” in the Federation. He then referred to the mufti who work in government institutions as “puppets” and “squalid people”. (N.A.)

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

Soyuz Rockets in the Jungle: Europe and Russia Team Up for Unique Space Partnership

This summer should see the first Russian Soyuz rockets launched from the European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Although the arrangement is beneficial for both sides, the project itself is fraught with complexity, delays and reservations.

It looks like a gigantic carnival carousel, festively painted in blue, orange and yellow — an oversized contraption surrounded by four floodlight masts and four enourmous lightening rods. Yet the site is completely silent.

But if things go according to plan, this odd structure in the jungles of French Guiana will soon be engulfed in ear-splitting roars and flames. After years of delays, the first Russian Soyuz rocket is to be launched this summer from the European spaceport in Kourou, the European Space Agency’s launchpad in South America — the most important cooperation project in international space flight.

A closer inspection of the steel edifice reveals a 30-meter (100-foot) deep hole between the supports. On the cement-covered ground, moss and algae are growing in puddles of rainwater. The guardrail surrounding the abyss does little to aleviate the dizzyness one feels when standing on the edge. It has steeply sloped sides designed to divert the noise and exhaust generated by a rocket launch. For the time being, though, it looks more like an out-of-service swimming pool than anything else.

A Natural, Cheaper Boost

When Russian rockets take off from the ESA site and thunder into orbit, it will mark a new chapter of cooperation in the history of space flight. The launch pad also offers the Russians a very tangible advantage in the form of natural boost to their rockets that they can’t enjoy at the Russian space port in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

At the equator, the speed of the earth’s surface generated by its rotation is at is fastest because the distance to the earth’s axis is the greatest. As a result, less fuel is needed to launch rockets into orbit. Although Baikonur is located in the southern part of the former Soviet Union, at 45 degrees north latitude, Kourou is located at only 5 degrees north latitude, extremely close to the equator. Launching a Soyuz rocket from Kourou will require roughly 45 percent less fuel, and the money saved should cover the added expense of shipping the rocket to South America.

The Europeans are also very keen to attract the Russians to the site, commonly known as the Centre Spatial Guyanais (CSG), and they’ve even invested roughly €410 million in the Soyuz launch pad to do it. But it’s not just a matter of international friendship behind this decision. It’s simply a matter of size.

For its launches, the European Space Agency (ESA) has been using rockets from the Ariane family, which can carry payloads of up to roughly 10 metric tons — such as communications satellites — into geostationary orbit at €150 million a pop. But, these days, since it often happens that the payloads needed are much smaller than 10 tons, officials at ESA headquarters in Paris are looking for a smaller, cheaper rocket to work alongside the Ariane rockets.

Since using Soyuz rockets costs about half as much as using Ariane rockets, the former are expected to attract commercial satellite customers with smaller budgets. Soyuz rockets can ferry a three-ton load into geostationary orbit using technology that has been refined over the past 50 years.

Building an Exact Copy Halfway around the World

Jean-Jaques Dordain, the ESA’s director general, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that his organization had two choices. “Either we could have developed a medium-size rocket on our own,” Dordain said, “or we could have started a partnership with the Russians.” For a number of reasons, including political ones, the ESA chose the latter. The decision meant that it had to build a launch pad on the grounds of its heavily guarded facility in Kourou similar to the one the Russians use in Baikonur.

The Russians working in Kourou describe the new launch pad as a “copy with improvements” of the one in Kazakhstan. But the spaceport built here in the middle of the rainforest looks like an exact replica of the one on the Kazakh steppe, right down to the two storage rooms where unneeded tables and chairs are locked away. Still, there is one important difference: a mobile servicing tower that construction workers are still diligently working on. Like a giant garage on wheels, the tower is supposed to shelter the 50-meter-high (164-feet-high) rockets from the hot and humid tropical weather.

The rain puddles on the ground and the dark clouds on the horizon hint at just how important this structure will be in protecting the rockets from frequent and heavy downpours. And since the Russians have no experience in building that kind of protective structure, it has taken much longer to complete than was initially estimated.

Building the deep chasm beneath the Soyuz launchpad has also proved very complex and led to additional delays. Massive granite deposits in the ground slowed construction significantly.

Still, the granite is necessary to bear the weight of the rockets. A Soyuz rocket with full fuel tanks weighs more than 300 tons, and it rests suspended on the yellow-and-blue steal framework over the exhaust-air shaft. As the ESA’s Jean Claude Garreau explains: “The entire weight of the rocket sits on only four points.”

After the rocket launches, the steel supports tip out like a blossoming flower. While the structure might look a bit old-fashioned, it has more than proven its reliability after more than 1,700 launches…

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

South Asia

Defence Secretary Admits U.S. Troops Will Still be in Afghanistan After 2014 Withdrawal Deadline

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has revealed that American soldiers would remain in Afghanistan, despite a planned troop withdrawal in 2014.

Mr Gates was in the war-torn country to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai — specifically to discuss a timetable for the U.S. military withdrawal.

While Mr Karzai would soon unveil framework for the handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces, Mr Gates told servicemen at the U.S military base in Bagram that both the U.S. and Afghan governments agreed the American military should remain in the country after 2014 to help train and advise Afghan forces.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Far East

Chinese Hackers Stole S. Korean Documents on Spy Drones: Lawmaker

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) — Chinese hackers allegedly broke into a computer network run by South Korea’s defense ministry last year and stole secret documents on a plan to buy spy drones from the United States, an opposition lawmaker here said Monday.

The alleged hacking occurred in June last year, and the South Korean government has not raised the issue with the Chinese government because of a potential diplomatic row, Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the Democratic Party said in a statement.

“After being confirmed by an intelligence authority, our military’s secret plan to procure unmanned aerial vehicles was hacked by China in June last year,” Shin said in the statement.

“The issue is very serious because the incumbent government has not lodged a complaint with China even though it confirmed the hacking incident,” Shin said.

In the statement, Shin didn’t specify how the alleged hacking occurred. Shin could not be reached for comment, and calls to his aide seeking elaboration also went unanswered.

The South’s defense ministry also declined to comment on the lawmaker’s claim.

South Korea has long pushed to procure four U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles to enhance its surveillance capability on North Korea.

The South’s request to buy the Global Hawks was rejected in 2005 as the U.S. insisted that the Missile Technology Control Regime, which covers the unmanned planes, should be revised first. Then in 2009, the U.S. reportedly decided to sell the Global Hawks to South Korea.

The US$50 million craft, which can fly up to 3,000 kilometers and zoom in on a ground target just 0.3 meters large, could be used to improve reconnaissance missions over North Korea.

About 28,500 American troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Andrew Bolt: School Life in Sydney & No Commenting for Legal Reasons

Two recent school stabbings in Sydney, and a police station beseiged by violent Lebanese parents of children at a third school. As I’ve noted before, the failure — or refusal — to report the relevant cultural backgrounds to each extraordinary incident may lead many people to underestimate the scale of a challenge we face.

The latest case involves an alleged stabbing by a younger student who school mates claim was being bullied:

Witnesses say a student at a western Sydney high school was stabbed with a pen by another Year 12 student in an apparently spontaneous attack.

Police say it’s too soon to say if bullying was behind the violent attack on the 20-year-old victim in the school grounds on Horsley Drive at Fairfield about 2.15pm (AEDT) on Friday.

His assailant is believed to be a 17-year-old student also in his final year at Fairfield High….


I do not know what the truth of all this is, or its relevance. I don’t know who was the bullied or the bully. What I do know is that after a few days, we tend to move on, leaving all these things unknown and undebated.

But each of these stabbings, and the earlier acts of extreme violence in Sydney schools by ethnic gangs, all need a careful investigation, with frank reporting, by a responsible media outlet. I very much suspect there are problems here involving immigration, assimilation and tribalism that need urgent discussion of the kind we are not getting.

No comments for legal reasons.


[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Zimbabwe to Sell Uranium to Iran

Zimbabwe is to defy United Nations sanctions in a deal to sell uranium to Iran

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Zimbabwe’s foreign minister, said the sanctions — which prohibit member states from providing Iran with raw materials that it could use to make a nuclear weapon — were unfair and hypocritical.

He said that Zimbabwe, which is also the subject of sanctions over human rights abuses perpetrated by President Robert Mugabe’s supporters, would benefit economically from the agreement.

A leaked intelligence report suggests Iran will be awarded with exclusive access to Zimbabwe’s uranium in return for providing the country with fuel.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Federal Probe Identifies “Cracks” In ICE

Passport fraud, money laundering and potential terrorist findings from the inside of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

There is a major national scandal involving multiple breaches of national security by Muslims working in federal law enforcement positions that you are not hearing about. Through a combination of blatant stupidity and calculated design, we’ve let our enemies inside our “house” and access to our security, which is a situation that is purposely being downplayed by this administration and the complicit corporate media.

The very people who embrace the ideology that caused the mass slaughter of 3,000 people nearly ten years ago has infiltrated nearly all agencies of our government, from the White House to various law enforcement agencies. A glimpse into the realm of corruption and the “impossible allegiance” by practicing Muslims to their job and country is illustrated by a recent case involving an intelligence analyst working for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). It should provide an indication of just how bad things really are.

Last week, testimony in a Texas courtroom disclosed that an investigation of “alleged misconduct” by a “small number of employees” of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in progress. By all accounts, that is an understatement that is being reported by the corporate media. According to sources close to this author, the number of government employees under suspicion is growing, and most involve Muslims working in positions of law enforcement authority and oversight.

The corporate media is reporting this story as a case of passport fraud or misuse by an official within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but it’s a much larger story that involves high-ranking officials, alleged monetary kickbacks, blackmail and potential money laundering for Middle Eastern terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ten Boats From Tunisia, 200 People on the 1st

(AGI) Rome — With the calm seas, there are ten boats with loads of immigrants traveling from Tunisia to Lampedusa. The 200 immigrants on the first boat have already been transferred to a Guardia di Finanza patrol boat, which will arrive in the port within one hour. Lampedusa’s mayor, Bernardino De Rubeis, estimated about one thousand people will arrive tonight. The mayor spoke this evening with Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, who has secured an increase in air travel to transport the immigrants from the reception center in Lampedusa to the various centers CIE of the Italian peninsula ..

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

Italy: The Exodus Continues, 1000 More Last Night

(AGI) Palermo — Over one thousand immigrants arrived last night to Lampedusa, in 11 consecutive landings. Another ongoing rescue operation involving a motorboat with some one hundred passengers in coordinated by Palermo Coast Guard. The flow of immigrants rescued by the CG vessels continued unabated the whole night.

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

Italy: Another 176 Arrive at Lampedusa

(AGI) Palermo — Another 176 immigrants arrived at Lampedusa this morning, where 11 boats carrying 1,011 people landed overnight. The immigrants are all male, apart from four women and a child. A small vessel also put in at Pantelleria this morning.

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

Italy: Over 1,000 Arrive on Southern Island Sparking Migrant Emergency

Palermo, 7 March (AKI) — As unrest deepens in North Africa, over 1,000 illegal immigrants arrived on Lampedusa overnight aboard several boats, causing serious overcrowding at the tiny southern island’s detention centre designed to hold a maximum 800 people.

Over 8,000 migrants have landed on Lampedusa since mid-January, almost all Tunisians fleeing unrest the unrest in their country in which longtime ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled after decades in power.

Another boat with 48 people on board reached Lampedusa just before midday on Monday. It will be the 12th boat to land in the past 24 hours. Police also spotted several newly arrived migrants on the island of Pantelleria, which lies some 64 kilometres off the Tunisian coast.

Many of the migrants are reported to have set sail from the Tunisian port of Zarzis, where truckloads and cars full of migrants are reported to be arriving. The migrants are understood to be paying 1,400 euros each for their 10-12 hour passage to a ‘new life’ in Europe.

The vehicles wait close to the beach with their headlamps switched off until the military patrols have dwindled and they are able to clamber aboard the people smugglers’ dinghies which ferry them to larger boats waiting offshore.

To ease the overcrowding on Lampedusa, 164 Tunisians were on Monday flown to another detention centre in Crotone in Italy’s southern Calabria region while a further 64 were sent by ferry to a centre at Proto Empedocle on the south coast of Sicily.

Another 100 migrants were due to be flown other unspecified detention centres in Italy, an official at Lampedusa’s detention centre told Adnkronos.

“With the departure of 164 people this morning and the departure of another 100 this afternoon aboard another interior ministry flight, there will be 1,068 migrants at the centre,” said Cono Galipo.

The migrant influx has placed a strain on Lampedusa, where the population is 6,000 people, and Italy’s interior minister Roberto Maroni on Sunday assured the island’s mayor Bernardino De Rubeis that the government was gradually emptying the detention centre.

Italy has asked the European Union for 100 million euros to help it handle the growing influx of migrants from North Africa and has warned up to 1.5 million could reach Europe.

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

Italy: Boat Docks in Lampedusa With a Further 224 Immigrants

(AGI) Palermo — A further 224 immigrants, including two women, reached Lampedusa harbour aboard a fishing boat this evening after being escorted by motor patrol boats.

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

New German Interior Minister Reopens Integration Debate

German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich had hardly joined the government before touching off another round in the Muslim integration debate. The resulting controversy, combined with the Guttenberg plagiarism scandal, could hardly come at a less convenient time for Chancellor Angela Merkel.

It is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That, however, is almost certainly a sentiment that German Chancellor Angela Merkel does not share so far this year. With only days to go before a trio of important state votes which could substantially weaken her conservatives, Merkel’s center-right camp has proven unable to stem the flow of negative headlines and caustic internal debate.

Soon after star politician Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned from his position as defense minister following revelations that he had plagiarized large portions of his doctoral thesis, his cabinet replacement clumsily kicked off yet another round of hand-wringing over integration and Islam’s place in German society. A national poll released on Sunday indicates the ongoing commotion in Merkel’s government is taking a toll in voter backing, with support for the chancellor’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), lower than it has been since last autumn.

Hans-Peter Friedrich — sworn in last week to replace Thomas de Maizière, who took over the Defense Ministry from Guttenberg — sparked the latest back-and-forth. “That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proven by history,” Friedrich said.

Reactions have been swift and critical. Friedrich’s comments, said Lamya Kaddor, head of the Liberal Islam Association, are a “slap in the face of Muslims. Such a statement isn’t just politically and historically inaccurate, but I also consider it to be dangerous,” she told the daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

Aiman Mazyet, head of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims — one of several groups which represent Muslim interests in Germany — accused Friedrich of denying reality. And Cem Özdemir, co-head of Germany’s Green Party and himself of Turkish descent, accused Friedrich of having a “crude understanding of German society.”

Conservatives Split over Issue

Of more concern for Merkel, however, is the seeming split that Friedrich’s comments have laid bare within her own conservative bloc. Just last October, German President Christian Wulff, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats — and a man Merkel spent considerable political capital installing in the presidential palace last summer — made waves when he said that “Islam is a part of Germany” during a speech celebrating the 20th anniversary of German reunification. Wulff repeated the sentiment in a weekend interview with Al-Jazeera and Merkel also saw fit to counter Friedrich’s statements.

But an increasing number of conservatives in recent days appear to be leaning toward the view articulated by Friedrich, a member of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU). “Of course there are Muslims in Germany,” CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt told the Sunday weekly Welt am Sonntag. “But Islam is not part of the German Leitkultur.” The term Leitkultur, which is often translated as “leading” or “mainstream culture,” is a controversial one in Germany. It refers to the country’s Christian roots, but many also see it as exclusionary in nature, to the detriment of immigrant groups in the country.

Dobrindt’s counterpart from the CDU, Herman Gröhe, told German television that “this country has been uniquely influenced by Christianity. Historically, Islam has not left a similar mark.” And Volker Kauder, floor leader for the conservatives in the national parliament, said “Islam has not shaped our society in the past and doesn’t do so now. As such, Islam is not a part of Germany.”

The subject of integration, of course, is never far from the public debate in Germany. Just last August, Thilo Sarrazin, a former member of the board of Germany’s central bank and an influential member of the center-left Social Democrats in the city-state of Berlin, kicked off a paroxysm of integration hand wringing with his tract claiming that immigration has been bad for Germany.

But Interior Minister Friedrich’s contribution seems to indicate that, try as Merkel might to come up with a consistent party line on integration, Germany’s conservatives are not interest in a uniform position on the issue. Friedrich, for his part, has since toned down his rhetoric, saying that he is looking forward to continuing ongoing talks on integration with representatives of Germany’s Muslim community, the next round of which is scheduled for later this month.

‘A Clear Awareness of the Christian Roots of our Culture’

Still, he also indicated that he was not backing down from his original assessment. “Successful integration depends on two factors,” he said. “The first is knowledge of social reality in Germany — which includes the presence of 4 million Muslims. The second is a clear awareness of the Christian roots of our culture.”

Many in Germany, of course, find nothing objectionable in Friedrich’s comments. Still, the resulting bickering among conservatives combined with the prominent collapse of Guttenberg seems certain to play some role at the ballot box later this month. On March 20, voters in Saxony-Anhalt go to the polls followed the next weekend by elections in both Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

A nationwide survey published in the Sunday weekly Bild am Sonntag indicates that support for the CDU has fallen two percentage points to 33 percent while the center-left Social Democrats has risen to 28 percent support. The CDU also lost ground in both Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Retired Doctor ‘Trafficked African Woman to UK, Fed Her Two Slices of Bread a Day and Kept Her as £10 a Month Slave’

A retired doctor trafficked an African woman into the UK and kept her as a ‘modern day slave’ for more than three years, a court heard today.

Saeeda Khan, 68, forced Mwanahanisi Mruke to sleep on the kitchen floor of her suburban London home and made her work from 5am until 11pm, jurors heard.

After bringing her into the country from Tanzania, she initially gave her an allowance of just £10 a month, before ceasing to pay her altogether, prosecutors said.

Khan fed her two slices of bread a day and kept her at her beck and call by ringing a bell she kept in her bedroom, Southwark Crown Court heard.

It is further claimed she stopped Miss Mruke, 47, leaving the house in Harrow, north west London, monitored her calls to her family and prevented her attending her parents’ funerals.

Prosecutor Caroline Haughey told Southwark Crown Court that Miss Mruke worked at a hospital in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania on the East African coast, which Kahn owned.

Khan offered her the chance to move to the UK as a domestic servant, telling her she would work six hours a day.

It was agreed that Miss Mruke’s daughter in Tanzania would be paid 120,000 Tanzanian Shillings a month: equivalent to £50, while she herself would receive a £10 allowance in London.

But although the arrangement was initially honoured following her arrival in the UK in October 2006, Khan stopped paying after the first year.

The daughter received 50,000 Tanzanian Shillings a month for the first two years, but those payments came to an end after that.

Meanwhile in London, Miss Mruke herself was made subject to conditions which Miss Haughey said amounted to slavery.

She said: ‘Deprived of her passport, communication with her family and her liberty, it is only right that the conditions she existed under with Saeeda Khan be described as modern-day slavery, exploitation, domestic servitude and abuse.’

The court heard that the victim’s plight was only discovered when she went to see doctor for an examination of her varicose veins.

Even then, Khan continued to shout at her in the medical centre car park, in front of a Swahili interpreter, who raised concerns about what she had seen to the authorities.

Ms Haughey told the jury: ‘In effect, we say that the conduct of Saeeda Khan outside the surgery demonstrated clearly that she considered Mwanahanisi Mruke as property, a chattel, and certainly not a human being.’

The court heard police officers raided Khan’s home on February 11 last year, and discovered the conditions Miss Mruke was living in.

Miss Smaller said: ‘She told the interpreter that she was sleeping in the floor of the kitchen.

‘She pointed out a thin mattress and some sheets rolled up in the hallway.’

Khan, from Harrow, denies trafficking a person into the United Kingdom for exploitation between October 21, 2006, and February 11 this year.

The charge alleges that she arranged Miss Mruke’s arrival in the UK intending to exploit her in this country.

The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Pink Slip’ At 82: Airline Veteran’s Gay-Slur Remorse

After 54 years working for American Airlines, Freddy Schmitt says he just wants the same thing the US Army gave him six decades ago — an honorable discharge.

Instead, the 82-year-old WWII vet was handed his walking papers after allegedly using a derogatory term for gays during a workplace bull session about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

The fact that Schmitt was defending gay soldiers’ right to serve — “Back then, a faggot coulda saved my life” — hasn’t changed the airline’s decision. Neither has his blemish-free employment record, nor the pleas of former JFK co-workers upset over the axing of their buddy known as “Papa Freddy.”

Schmitt had little to say about the remark in December that got him fired last month as a ground-crew worker following a suspension and two hearings. He just wishes he could have stayed on the job until November, when he was planning to retire with a milestone under his belt.

“It would look nice, going out with 55 years,” Schmitt said. “After 54 years, all I want is to go out in good faith.”

Schmitt is appealing the termination through arbitration, but the process can take months, according to union officials.

Nobody disputes that Schmitt — a baggage crew chief — used the term, or that the pugnacious Brooklyn native didn’t exactly grovel with remorse when reprimanded by a supervisor. But the context should be taken into account, say Schmitt’s former airline crewmates.

“This guy is like everybody’s father here,” said co-worker Jack Sullivan, who said it hurts to see his colleague of 26 years tossed out.

Under the terms of the firing, Schmitt retains his pension but loses his health benefits — and the travel privileges his wife of 45 years, Viola, so enjoyed.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]