Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110318

Financial Crisis
»Congressman’s Stunning Idea: Live Within Means
»NY Fed Confirms Intervention in Currency Markets
»Christians Speak Out Against Muslim Mistreatment in Mideast
»Croatian Arrested in KY On Bosnia Torture Charges
»DOJ to White Male Bullying Victims: Tough Luck
»GOP Leads House Vote to Defund NPR
»Has Sharia Law Now Replaced U.S. Civil Law Down in Tampa?
»Is America Becoming a Hispanic Country?
»Judge Temporarily Blocks Implementation of Public Union Law
»‘Organizing for America’ Goes Hamas
»Two Entities That Threaten Freedom
Europe and the EU
»Dutch Army May Scrap Its Tank Divisions: AD
»Germany: Muslim Shelf Stockers Can Refuse to Handle Alcohol
»Latvian Court Allows March Honouring Waffen SS Forces
»Netherlands: Government to Introduce Prostitutes’ Register, Clients Must Check First
»Netherlands: Right-Wing MPs Want to Stop Palestinian Funding
»Netherlands: ‘Supreme Court Paved the Way for Conviction of Wilders’
»Northern League Councillors Walk Out as National Anthem Opens Lombardy Regional Council Meeting
»Sweden: Malmö Mayor in New ‘Anti-Semitism’ Row
»Tongue Lashing Over Libya: French Vent Frustration Over German Partners
»UK: BA Worker Who Conspired With Al Qaeda Kingpin to Blow Up Transatlantic Flight is Jailed for 30 Years
»UK: Monica Ali: What if Diana Had Faked Her Own Death and is Living Under a False Identity in Small-Town America?
»UK: Pictured: The Tiny Mattress a Retired Doctor Forced Her £10-a-Month ‘Slave’ To Sleep on
North Africa
»Egypt: Communist Party of Egypt Comes Out of the Shadows
»Italian Govt Will Give ‘Full Support’ And Allow Use of Bases Against Libya
»Libya: Seif: Anti-Terror Forces to Enter Benghazi
»Obama Tells Gadhafi to Stop Attacks on Innocent Citizens
»Tunisia: Press Criticism Rains Down on Hillary Clinton
»Tunisia: Controversial Start for Revolution Council
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Israel’s Indivisible Legitimacy
»Itamar Massacre: The Result of the Culture of Hatred
Middle East
»Bahrain: Foreign Minister, More Gulf Troops on the Way
»Iran Launches Rocket With Monkey Doll Into Space
»Iran: ‘We’Ve Built a Flying Saucer’
»Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Warns Against Sedition
»Syria: Instructions on Facebook for “Friday of Dignity”
»Uprisings: S. Arabia: Shiites in Streets for Bahrain Solidarity
»Yemen: Tension in Sanaa Over Anti-Regime and Loyalist Marches
»Yemen Forces Open Fire at Protest, At Least 30 Dead
South Asia
»Pakistan: Christian “Blasphemer” Dies of Heart Failure But Relatives Speak of Poisoning
»Pakistan: Protest Continue Against CIA Contractor’s Release
Far East
»Japan: Dark Days in Ghost Town of Tokyo
»Japan: Why Fukushima Daiichi Won’t be Another Chernobyl
»Japan: The Moment Nuclear Plant Chief Wept as Japanese Finally Admit That Radiation Leak is Serious Enough to Kill People
»Radiation Spikes Slow Work at Reactor
Culture Wars
»Diversity Panel Wants Military to Look Like U.S.
»Most Pastors Would Like More Racial Diversity in Their White Congregations
»National Guardsman’s Career Destroyed by ATF
»Strasbourg Court Rules on Crucifix in Italian Schools
»Engineers Can Now Wirelessly Hack Your Car

Financial Crisis

Congressman’s Stunning Idea: Live Within Means

‘You’re almost looked at as odd if you talk about things that way’

It’s a stunning idea for Congress: Live within a budget. Spend less than what comes in. Look at the income before deciding what to buy.

That concept, that families, organizations, corporations, even churches and nonprofits rely on to make sure the bills are paid and the needs are met, is foreign to Congress, says one member who is doing his best to introduce the idea.

“You’re almost looked at as odd if you talk about things that way” in Washington, U.S. Rep. Michael C. Burgess, a Republican from Texas’ 26th District, told WND today.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

NY Fed Confirms Intervention in Currency Markets

The New York Federal Reserve Bank confirmed that it intervened in currency markets on Friday for the first time in more than a decade.

The disclosure came a day after the Group of Seven major industrialized nations pledged in a statement to join in a coordinated effort to weaken the Japanese yen. The yen has surged in the last week to post-war record levels following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

A spokesman at the New York Fed, which operates as the agent of the U.S. Treasury in currency operations, confirmed that it had intervened. The last time the U.S. government intervened in currency markets was the fall of 2000 when it sold dollars and bought euros to bolster the fledgling European currency.

The spokesman refused to provide any details on the amounts of the intervention or what currencies were involved.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Christians Speak Out Against Muslim Mistreatment in Mideast

American Christians are beginning to speak out against mistreatment of their Middle East brethren by the Muslim majority with whom they live.

The “Chicago Initiative” — a one-day conference held March 12 near Chicago — was focused on raising media awareness of the issue.

More than a dozen organizations, including churches and Middle Eastern Christian groups in the U.S., were behind the event.

Keynote speaker Walid Phares, author of “The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East,” told attendees that hostility toward Christians is “an undeniable fact of life in Muslim countries.”

Governments in the Middle East fail to protect the lives of indigenous Christians in the region, he said, a problem ignored in the West due to a lack of media coverage.

“I would like to see two hours on C-Span dedicated to the plight of Coptic Christians in Egypt,” he said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Croatian Arrested in KY On Bosnia Torture Charges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A woman who served in the Croatian army faces extradition from a small Kentucky town to face charges that she forced prisoners to drink human blood and gasoline during the bloody aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia.

U.S. Marshals arrested 52-year-old Azra Basic on Tuesday in Stanton, about 45 miles east of Lexington, where she lives and works at a nearby food processing plant. She has lived in Kentucky for several years, but it’s not clear how she wound up in the rural city best known for its annual corn festival.

The Croatian-born Basic is wanted in Bosnia on charges of committing war crimes against ethnic Serb civilians in 1992, including acts of murder and torture, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Arehart wrote in a complaint requesting extradition.

Arehart says Bosnian authorities accuse Basic, a one-time member of the Croatian Army, of killing at least one person and torturing others at three camps from April to June 1992, during Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.

Witnesses said Basic forced one man to drink gasoline, another to drink human blood and carved crosses into the flesh of a third man.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert E. Wier ordered Basic held in federal custody without bond pending an April 1 status hearing. Prosecutors argued that no bail amount would guarantee Basic’s presence in court.

Basic’s attorney, Patrick Nash of Lexington, said Thursday that he plans to request bail before the next court hearing.

“I’m still getting my arms around this case,” said Nash, who was appointed by the court to the case.

Basic said at the court hearing that she had been working at the Nestle Prepared Foods plant in Mount Sterling, where frozen foods are processed. Nash declined to comment on whether Basic has any family in the state and why she was in Kentucky. A message left for the media relations office at Nestle was not immediately returned Thursday.

Court records list her as having lived at two addresses in Stanton.

Basic also worked at the Stanton Nursing Home, said neighbor Eli Vires, whose mother-in-law stayed there. Basic displayed compassion toward her patients, Vires said, quoting her as saying: “The only thing that can’t be replaced was human life.”

U.S. Marshal Loren “Squirrel” Carl said considering the “shocking nature” of the accusations, officers were relieved to have captured Basic.

“This brings her long run from justice to an end,” Carl said.

Bosnian authorities in Doboj charged Basic in January 1993 as an unknown defendant, using witness statements, medical examinations and forensic experts between 1992 and 2001 to identify her. Interpol traced Basic to Kentucky in 2004 and an international arrest warrant went out in 2006.

Arehart’s complaint accuses Basic of committing crimes at three camps near the majority-Serbian settlement of Cardak in Derventa. Witness said the Croatian military took ethnic Serbs from the Cardak settlement in late April of 1992 and tortured them.

Radojic Garic, listed in the complaint as a witness, said Blagoje Djuras was beaten unconscious. Garic said Basic then stabbed him in the neck, killing him, and dragged other Serbs to the body “and made us drink that blood.”

A second witness, Dragan Kovacevic, told investigators in October 1994 that Basic slit the throat of Djuras. Arehart said Kovacevic identified a picture of Basic in December 2009.

Another man, Sreten Jovanovic, told investigators in September 1992 that he was forced to drink gasoline, beaten unconscious and his hands and face were set on fire by Basic, who was wearing a military police uniform from a brigade in Rijeka, a port city in Croatia.

Arehart wrote that a subsequent medical examination concluded that Jovanovic suffered “torture in captivity.”

Other witnesses listed in the complaint said Basic and other soldiers beat and burned them and pulled their nails out with pliers.

In August 1992, witness Cedo Maric told Bosnian investigators that Basic cut a cross and four “S” letters into his forehead before hacking his neck below the Adam’s apple.

In November 1994 testimony, Mile Kuzmanovic told investigators Basic forced him to “swallow a handful of salt and eat Yugoslav money” before beating him with boots, weapon butts, metal bars and batons. Kuzmanovic said Basic and others forced him to “lick blood off floors covered in broken glass and crawl on the glass with a knotted rope in his mouth with which soldiers used to pull out the teeth of prisoners.”

Federal prosecutors say each offense violates the United National Convention Against Torture, which prohibits inhumane and degrading treatment of people.

Boris Mrkela, an interpreter for the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo, said the Balkans have a history of violence, particularly in combat.

“War crimes are brutal everywhere and in the Balkans we have a long tradition of brutality,” Mrkela said.

           — Hat tip: 1389AD[Return to headlines]

DOJ to White Male Bullying Victims: Tough Luck

The viral video sensation showing a bullying incident at an Australian school has brought the issue of bullying back into the spotlight. Here in the United States, the Obama administration has made school bullying a federal issue. Last week, President Barack Obama addressed an anti-bullying conference with First Lady Michelle Obama at his side. The administration’s anti-bullying campaign has been ongoing since the beginning of Mr. Obama’s term. The Department of Justice announced in December 2010 its intention to hold liable school districts that fail to protect students that are bullied.

DOJ’s website states:

The Civil Rights Division and the entire Justice Department are committed to ending bullying and harassment in schools, and the video highlights the Department’s authority to enforce federal laws that protect students from discrimination and harassment at school because of their race, national origin, disability, religion, and sex, including harassment based on nonconformity with gender stereotypes.

The statement later says:

The enforcement of the Equal Protection Clause, Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 in school districts is a top priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information is available at the Civil Rights Division’s Educational Opportunities Section website at

Here is the catch. DOJ will only investigate bullying cases if the victim is considered protected under the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. In essence, only discrimination of the victim’s race, color, religion, or sex will be considered by DOJ. The overweight straight white male who is verbally and/or physically harassed because of his size can consider himself invisible to the Justice Department.

Apparently, the Justice Department is going by George Orwell’s famous Animal Farm ending: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

“We can only take action where we have legal authority,” wrote DOJ spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa in a December 2010 e-mail to The Washington Times Water Cooler. She continues:…

           — Hat tip: Frontinus[Return to headlines]

GOP Leads House Vote to Defund NPR

Executives have ‘admitted they don’t need taxpayer subsidies’

The House of Representatives voted today to defund National Public Radio in the wake of a video showing an executive telling actors posing as Muslim Brotherhood operatives the media enterprise could survive without federal dollars.

The video prompted the resignations of NPR President Vivian Schiller and NPR Foundation President Robert Schiller, who appeared on camera voicing anti-Semitic and anti-conservative sentiments in addition to saying NPR could survive without federal funding.

The undercover video produced by James O’Keefe of ACORN pimp fame spurred the GOP leadership to push the issue to the fore, with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying last week the NPR executive’s comment speaks for itself.

“Our concern is not about any one person at NPR, rather it’s about millions of taxpayers. NPR has admitted that they don’t need taxpayer subsidies to thrive, and at a time when the government is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that it spends, we certainly agree with them,” Cantor said at a press conference last week.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Has Sharia Law Now Replaced U.S. Civil Law Down in Tampa?

When one comes to an American court with a civil or criminal case, they should know their case will be decided by US civil or criminal law. However, Florida Judge Richard A. Nielsen has chosen to ignore American law and instead — enforce sharia (Islamic law).

In Tampa, Florida, a dispute arose over who controls the funds a mosque received in 2008 from an eminent domain proceeding. Former trustees of the mosque are claiming in court they have the right to the funds. Current mosque leaders are disputing that claim. The current mosque leaders want the case decided according to secular, Florida civil law, and their attorney has been vigorously arguing the case accordingly. The former trustees of the mosque want the case decided according to sharia law.

And what does the American judge do? The judge rules that “This case will proceed under Ecclesiastical Islamic law,” (sharia law), “pursuant to the Qur’an.”

As Brigitte Gabriel aptly notes at the link, what makes this case unusual, and highly troubling, is that a group of Muslim leaders — the CURRENT mosque leaders — who do NOT want to be subject to sharia law, are being compelled to do so by an American judge!

Judge Nielson’s ridiculous ruling makes the point that there’s sound reasoning behind anti-sharia laws: Such legislation protects non-Muslims AND Muslims alike from being subjected to sharia law.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Is America Becoming a Hispanic Country?

Hispanics aren’t a threat to the United States; they’re an essential component. Visit any military cemetery in the United States and count the Spanish surnames. You’ll see that Hispanics have already contributed so much to this country. And, in the decades to come, they and their children stand ready to contribute so much more — if we put aside our prejudice and let them. That’s the path to a better country.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Judge Temporarily Blocks Implementation of Public Union Law

Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a temporary restraining order Friday, halting Gov. Scott Walker’s law that would sharply curtail collective bargaining for public employees.

State officials said they immediately would appeal the judge’s decision, but GOP lawmakers declined to say whether they might also try the separate tactic of passing the bill through the Legislature again.

Sumi’s order prevents Secretary of State Doug La Follette from publishing the law — and allowing it to take effect — until Sumi can rule on the merits of the case. The next hearing on the case is slated for March 29.

Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, on Wednesday filed his complaint seeking to block the law because he said a legislative committee violated the state’s open meetings law in passing the measure. The committee voted for it March 9, the Legislature quickly passed it and Walker signed it March 11.

Sumi said Ozanne was likely to succeed on the merits of the case.

“It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the (collective bargaining law),” she said.

“We here in Wisconsin own our government…‚We own it in the sense that we are entitled to free and open access to government meetings.”

The judge’s finding — at least for now — is a setback for Walker and his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature. It is a victory for opponents, who have spent weeks in the Capitol protesting the bill. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said the governor’s side ultimately will prevail in court.

Assistant Attorney General Steven Means, who was part of the state’s legal team, said after the ruling that “we disagree with it.”

“And the reason they have appellate courts is because circuit court judges make errors, and they have in this case.”

Means said that the state will ask the state Appeals Court to overturn the temporary restraining order later Friday or early next week. He said the Appeals Court is not required to hear an appeal because a final decision has not been reached in the case.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Organizing for America’ Goes Hamas

Death threats to Wisconsin Republican Governor, Scott Walker, and his party’s 18 senators have been direct and unambiguous. They are numerous and specific and they are coming from protestors in sympathy with union protestors connected to the President of the United States. But the President is silent…Organizing for America is silent and so have been NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, and most major media. These are excerpts from an e-mail sent March 9 to Republican senators:


Only two months ago, President Barack Obama, Senator Dick Durbin and these same media outlets were clamoring for civility after the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords by a deranged gunman. Many accused Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and conservative radio hosts of creating the atmosphere that caused the shooting. Palin’s greatest sin was placing a gun crosshair over “targeted” districts. The Tea Party’s guilt came from claiming the Obama healthcare plan establishes “death panels”…which it does.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Two Entities That Threaten Freedom

In March, 2010, SPLC issued a report entitled “Rage on the Right: The Year in Hate and Extremism,” in which groups opposed to issues like the Obama health care plan and illegal immigration were lumped with white supremacist groups like the National Socialist Movement and Skin Heads.

In August, 2010 SPLC launched an attack against my organization and our national conference, The Freedom Action Conference, held at Valley Forge, PA, and featured such speakers as best selling author Tom Woods, former presidential candidate Michael Badnarik, Sheriff Richard Mack, several respected state legislators, and many more well known spokesmen.


Annually SPLC puts out a list of what it calls “hate” groups and individuals it deems dangerous to the nation. That list is almost exclusively respected pro- Constitution spokesmen.

Now why do I care what this private organization, with its own political agenda, says about me?

Because the Southern Poverty Law Center has direct ties to the Department of Homeland Security, helping to write official DHS policy that may affect my life, my freedom, my ability to travel and my ability to speak out.

Consider the following facts:


Item: in the Spring of 2010, the Department of Homeland Security organized a “Countering Violent Extremism Working Group.”This is an advisory council given the task of creating a plan to reach out to local law enforcement and community activists for training to respond to potential violence and terrorist threat.


While the group includes several public officials and law enforcement officials from around the nation, and it also includes Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), and unindicted co-conspirator in a case concerning the funding of Muslim terrorist organizations.


That means that policy for this DHS working group is being created by the very organization that has labeled those who advocate Constitutional law to be potential terrorists.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Dutch Army May Scrap Its Tank Divisions: AD

The Netherlands may soon have an army without tanks, the AD reports on Thursday.

The paper says the defence minister is considering getting rid of all 80 tanks as part of measures to cut spending.

The two tank divisions were originally set up to protect the Netherlands from attack from communist states but are now used in foreign peacekeeping missions.

A number of transport helicopters could also be scrapped to save money, the paper says, quoting defence ministry sources.

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

Germany: Muslim Shelf Stockers Can Refuse to Handle Alcohol

A German court has ruled that Muslim supermarket workers don’t have to stock the alcohol shelves.

A Muslim supermarket employee in Germany was sacked when he refused on religious grounds to stock shelves with bottles of alcohol. Now the country’s highest labor court has ruled that the man’s objection was justified.

It’s not the first time a Muslim worker in Germany has gone to court over the right to practice his or her religion in the workplace. A number of high-profile cases in recent years have involved Muslim women who wanted the right to wear a headscarf while doing their jobs.

But the particulars of this case are unusual — and controversial: Germany’s highest labor court has ruled that a Muslim supermarket employee can refuse to handle alcohol on religious grounds.

The case in question involved a Muslim man who was employed in a supermarket in the northern German city of Kiel. He refused to stock shelves with alcoholic drinks, saying that his religion forbade him from any contact with alcohol, and was dismissed as a result in March 2008.

In a ruling Thursday, Germany’s Federal Labor Court confirmed that employees may refuse to perform a specific task on religious grounds. If there is an alternative task they can do which is acceptable to their religion and practical for the company, then the employer is obliged to let them do it. The firm can only dismiss the worker if there is no realistic alternative.

The man’s case is now being sent back to a lower court, which will decide if the supermarket could have given the man an alternative task to do. If so, the man’s dismissal will be declared invalid.

The case has already raised eyebrows in Germany. Media commentators have pointed out that the Koran only forbids drinking alcohol, not touching bottles. A front-page editorial in the Friday edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany’s leading conservative newspaper, criticized the fact that the man had apparently only discovered his religious leanings in 2008; he had previously worked in the supermarket’s alcoholic drinks section without complaint.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Latvian Court Allows March Honouring Waffen SS Forces

Hundreds of people met in the Latvian capital of Riga on Wednesday to remember World War II veterans who fought with Nazi Germany in the Waffen SS, after a court overturned a ban on the controversial annual gathering.

On Tuesday, a Riga court removed the city council’s ban on the “Legion Day,” allowing the veterans and their supporters to march through the city centre the next day.

They plan to commemorate the some 140,000 Latvian men who fought against the Russians with the German military.

Latvia was occupied by the Red Army in 1940, and many residents saw the Germans as liberators when they marched in one year later. A number of men subsequently volunteered or were conscripted into the Latvian Legion, an offshoot of the Waffen SS.

While the group, nationalist veterans’ organisation Daugavas Vanagi, says the march is simply a remembrance of those forced to wear the Nazi uniform, critics allege that it actually exalts the fascist forces.

“A brave Latvian leader must say to his people: These should not be heroes to a democratic member of the European Union,” director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center Efraim Zuroff told German news agency DPA.

A group of ethnic Russians also gathered in central Riga to protest the march, saying it dishonoured their fight against Nazi Germany, according to news agency AP.

A large number of police were also reportedly on hand to ensure the ceremony was conducted peacefully.

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

Netherlands: Government to Introduce Prostitutes’ Register, Clients Must Check First

People wishing to use the services of a prostitute who advertises her services may have to first phone a central number to find out if she is on the official register and is over the age of 21, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

The paper says justice minister Ivo Opstelten is planning to introduce the checks as part of a crack down on human trafficking in the sex industry.

If the customer fails to make the check and the prostitute is unregistered or too young, then he will have committed a criminal offence, the paper says.

No passes

The government had first considered introducing special passes for prostitutes which they would have to show clients but that was abandoned following widespread criticism and a lack of support in parliament.

The details of how the register will exactly operate still have to be worked out, but Opstelten told MPs on Tuesday it is a ‘fine system’.

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

Netherlands: Right-Wing MPs Want to Stop Palestinian Funding

A majority of MPs wants the government and European Union to stop giving money to the Palestinian Authority unless it takes steps to stop the ‘idolisation’ of terrorism.

The motion, drawn up by the orthodox Christian parties SGP and ChristenUnie, was supported by the two governing parties and anti-Islam alliance partner PVV.

In reaction, foreign minister Uri Rosenthal said he was willing to talk to the Authority but that the Netherlands should continue to subsidise useful projects.

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

Netherlands: ‘Supreme Court Paved the Way for Conviction of Wilders’

AMSTERDAM, 18/03/11 — The president of the Supreme Court last November restricted freedom of speech, as a result of which it could have been easier for other judges to get Party for Freedom MP Geert Wilders convicted. So, at least, suggests TV programme Uitgesproken WNL.

The Supreme Court ruled on 23 November that a T-shirt with the slogan Combat18 constituted incitement to hatred and was therefore forbidden. According to WNL, the president of the Supreme Court, Geert Corstens, was personally co-responsible for this verdict.

The Combat 18 verdict offers a handle for being able to convict Wilders of incitement to hatred, according to lawyer Gerard Spong. Spong, who is not a party to the Wilders court case, said that Corstens gives the impression with the verdict that he wants to achieve an accounting with the PVV leader “via the back door.”

The accounting that Corstens is said to want to effect arose after Wilders sharply criticised the functioning of the judiciary last October, promoted by his own court case. About a week later, Corstens criticised the statements of the PVV leader on TV programme Buitenhof. According to the lawyer, Wilders undermined confidence in independent jurisprudence with his remarks.

Wilders’ lawyer Bram Moszkowicz also has doubts on the course of events. He said that his clients is “not amused.” Moszkowicz considers it disquieting that members of the Supreme Court make statements about Wilders while his case might still come up there at a later stage.

Moszkowicz also referred in this connection to last year’s leaked memorandum by Diederik Aben, Solicitor-General to the Supreme Court. In this, Aben termed it wrong that lower courts honoured the request by Wilders to have the judges hearing his case replaced due to the appearance of bias.

Wilders is currently on trial for incitement to hatred and defamation of Muslims. The case concerns statements that he made outside parliment, as within parliament, he enjoys immunity.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Northern League Councillors Walk Out as National Anthem Opens Lombardy Regional Council Meeting

Only chairman Boni stays behind. Formigoni: “Seventy seconds of Inno di Mameli won’t do anyone any harm”

MILAN — It was the first performance of the Inno di Mameli, Italy’s national anthem, in the Lombardy regional council for the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and, as promised, the Northern League’s representatives did not join in. Northern League councillors had opposed the regional law requiring performance of the national anthem at today’s session and left the chamber before the anthem opened the meeting celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Unity of Italy. Only the chair of the regional council, the Northern League’s Davide Boni, stayed behind to perform his institutional duties. Other Northern League councillors had a coffee at the bar.

The protest had been expected, as the Northern League’s opposition to the 17 March holiday was well known, but it still created a stir even before it was put into practice. As announced, regional authority chair Roberto Formigoni turned up sporting a lapel pin with a 150 symbol. “Seventy seconds of Inno di Mameli won’t do anyone any harm. It is an important symbol of what we are”, he said when the Northern League councillors withdrew. “As Lombards, we participate in the celebrations for the Tricolore. Lombardy played a very important part in bringing about the unification of Italy. We contributed blood and ideals, and today we continue to be the locomotive for Italy’s development in Europe and the world”.

BONI: “IN THE CHAMBER BUT MENTALLY ELSEWHERE” — Chairman Boni, in the chamber “against his will”, later commented: “Sadly, I wasn’t able to have a cappuccino with the rest of my group. I was in the chamber because I am chair for everyone, but mentally I wasn’t listening. I viewed it as a tendentious, overblown piece of rhetoric, as if the problems of Lombardy’s citizens could be solved with all this jingoism. Italy today wants a more sober approach, not this hypocritical self-celebration”. An ironic Mr Boni added: “The positive side is the fact that Formigoni will be in the chamber from now until the end of 2011. Seeing how enthusiastically he greeted the idea of playing the anthem, I’m sure he won’t want to miss a performance” at the beginning of each of the year’s other sessions. Mr Boni also criticised the €3,500 spent by the regional chairman’s office to purchase a thousand Tricolore flags for the region’s residents, 490 of which were, however, given to regional councillors. In conclusion, council chairman instructed attendants to make sure that no Tricolore flags were waved during the anthem. He noted: “These things should be done soberly and solemnly with respect for everyone, not as if we were two football teams playing against each other”…

English translation by Giles Watson

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

Sweden: Malmö Mayor in New ‘Anti-Semitism’ Row

The conflict between the US-based Wiesenthal Center and Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu has taken another acrimonious turn after he was accused of anti-Semitism and echoing “conspiracy theories against Jews in the 1930s”.

Jews still struggle to feel at home in Malmö (16 Feb 11)

Following a five-day visit to Malmö in southern Sweden, one of the Wiesenthal Centre’s representatives, Dr. Shimon Samuels, has penned a letter in which he forwards strongly worded criticism of Reepalu, according to the local Sydsvenskan daily.

Samuels has taken offence over Reepalu’s comments after Monday’s meeting in which he said the responsibility for policing was a matter for the police and the justice ministry in Stockholm.

One of the proposals discussed at the meeting concerned the formation of a hate crime police unit along the lines of a US model.

“We wrote to Beatrice Ask already a couple of years ago but have not received a reply. Perhaps the Wiesenthal centre with its power and influence can draw a better response,” Reepalu said of the initiative.

The mayor’s reference to the Wiesenthal Center’s “power and influence” has however incurred the wrath of the US Jewish leaders and Samuels argued in his letter that the comments “echo the conspiracy theories against Jews in the 1930s”.

Reepalu has previously been the target of criticism for allegedly failing to protect Jews in the city and for comments to the media which were interpreted to indicate that the city’s Jewish committee had some responsibility to denounce Israel.

After several days of meetings designed to find common ground, Samuels’ letter renewed prior criticism of the mayor and Sweden for failing to take the concerns of the city’s residents seriously.

Reepalu, who has hitherto been cautious of countering prior criticism from the Wiesenthal Center, was however unable to hold back on receipt of the letter.

“I have said that it is always dangerous when one group considers itself worth more than another group of people. When people say that we have a right to take your land because we have some form of thousand-year promise from God that this is our land, then it creates conflicts,” Reepalu said to Sydsvenskan.

“Then they say that I am anti-Semitic when I put this across. I am flabbergasted that they are then able to tie all this together,” he said.

Reepalu continued to question whether the Wiesenthal Centre, which describes itself as a “global Jewish human rights organization” from six offices worldwide and claims a constituency of 400,000 households in the US, was simply a research centre.

Samuels’ letter ends with an ultimatum to the mayor to say that if he doesn’t start to take the issues discussed seriously then the warning issued by the centre in December against travel to Sweden’s third city, will remain in place.

“To be honest with you I think we are working as seriously as we can with these issues, and we will do so regardless of what they say, think and feel,” Reepalu told the newspaper.

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

Tongue Lashing Over Libya: French Vent Frustration Over German Partners

Gadhafi is praising Germany, but France is complaining. Berlin’s strict “no” to a no-fly zone over Libya has created tensions with its European partners in London and Paris. The UN is now considering a draft resolution to prohibit flights in the war-torn country, but critics say it is probably already too late.

Once again, the West failed to reach a deal on Tuesday: At a meeting in London of G-8 foreign minister, opponents led by Germany rebuffed France and Britain. Both countries have been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone or other military measures in Libya in order to stop the advance of dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s troops. But they have been repeatedly stalled by their allies, led by Germany.

Positions have changed little since the NATO defense minister meeting and at the European Union summit last week. In their closing statement, the club of industrial nations merely warned the Libyan leader of “dire consequences,” with no mention of a no-fly zone.

Despite ongoing opposition to such a measure, Lebanon on Tuesday evening submitted a first draft resolution for a no-fly zone to the United Nations Security Council, which meets on Wednesday in New York. The resolution would “take all necessary measures to enforce compliance” of a “ban on all flights in the airspace of (Libya) in order to help protect civilians.” It would also include flights from abroad suspected of carrying mercenaries from other countries to back Gadhafi’s effort to stamp down the revolt.

But the success of the draft, which Britain and France helped to formulate, is anything but certain. Skeptics are well represented on the Security Council. China, Russia and Germany have all expressed their reservations.

Frustration-Inspired Attacks and Accusations

The diplomatic differences have already triggered the first round of frustration-inspired accusations. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé said the West shared responsibility for the success of Gadhafi’s troops in winning back terrain lost to rebels in recent days. “If we had used military force last week to neutralize some runways and several dozen airports at Gadhafi’s disposal, maybe the reversal that is happening now to the opposition’s disadvantage would not have taken place,” Juppé told France’s Europe 1 radio station on Tuesday.

In New York, French Ambassador to the United Nations Gerard Araud, said the administration of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was “deeply distressed by the UN Security Council’s failure to act.” In Britain’s House of Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron warned “the clock is ticking.”

No one named Germany or the United States by name, but it was clear where the criticism had been directed. In every international body, the German government has opposed British and French proposals for military action. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle have personally taken steps to ensure that the words “no-fly zone” did not become part of any closing statements. After the G-8 meeting, Westerwelle reiterated the German position yet again. He said a military intervention is no solution. He described a no-fly zone as a slippery slope, saying that no country wanted to be drug into a war.

So far, the US has largely kept its distance from the internal European Union dispute. But officials in Washington seem pleased that Germany’s position has allowed the administration of President Barack Obama to stay out of the debate. Obama’s statements on the issue have been reserved. On Tuesday, he said merely that he had asked his “team to continue to fully engage in the discussions at the United Nations, NATO and with partners and organizations in the region.”

Many in Washington consider a protracted deployment in a third Muslim country, in addition to Afghanistan and Iraq, to be too risky. As an alternative suggestion, the White House has proposed transferring money from Gadhafi’s frozen accounts to the rebels. That, too, has raised questions, however. Using the money to buy weapons would violate the current UN embargo.

Praised by the Dictator, Secretly Cursed by Partners

The passive stance of the US and the disunity of the EU amount to yet another unimpressive Western response to the crisis. “Europe fiddles as Libya burns,” Britain’s Guardian newspaper commented on Tuesday.

A former British foreign minister, Malcolm Rifkind, called for an “open and urgent” supply of weapons to the rebels, to avoid repeating the “mistake” of the Bosnian war in the 1990s. If Gadhafi ended up remaining in office, it would send a signal to despots that opposing reforms and resorting to violence can in the end enable them to hold on to power, the Conservative parliamentarian wrote in the Times newspaper.

Robert Danin of the Council on Foreign Relations accused the White House and the UN of having hesitated too long. A no-fly zone now may be “too little, too late,” he told US broadcaster Fox News. “Obama should not have called for Gadhafi to step down if the US was not willing to back up that call with a real sense of an ‘or else’,” said Danin.

Gadhafi swiftly seized on the dispute to try to drive a wedge into the Western alliance. Germany, China and Russia could continue to count on Libyan oil, while the rest of the West could forget it, he declared.

This transparent attempt to sow further discord won’t work but it could embarrass Berlin. To be praised by the dictator and secretly cursed by one’s closest EU allies — that can scarcely be deemed a diplomatic success.

And Berlin will have to reiterate its position this week in the face of Lebanon’s resolution now before the Security Council. It is unclear what action Germany’s ambassador to the UN, Peter Wittig, will take this week. On Tuesday evening, he repeated Germany’s objections to a no-fly zone. But he has one less argument following the Arab League’s call at the weekend for the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone. Before that, Merkel had been able to cite Arab disunity as a reason for not intervening. But now the Libyan rebels, the Council of Gulf States and the Arab League are unanimously calling on the West to intervene. The regional support that Germany had demanded now exists.

But the German government has its doubts about the sincerity of the Arab League. In the statement calling for a UN resolution, the League also opposes any foreign intervention in Libya. Wittig pointed out this contradiction at the Security Council meeting. Lebanon’s UN ambassador, Nawaf Salam, insisted that a no-fly zone would not be regarded as foreign intervention.

The draft resolution will now be scrutinized in the capitals of the 15 council member states before Wednesday’s meeting, which will focus on the text of the resolution. “We would like the council to act as quickly as possible and hope there is a consensus,” said. Salam said. “It is a necessary measure to put an end to violence, to protect civilians there.”

In the end, any such resolution could ultimately become superfluous. Gadhafi’s forces have continued their advances on rebel-held cities on Wednesday and have reportedly retaken Ajdabiya, just south of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. Jalal al-Gallal of the National Libyan Transitional Council told the BBC on Wednesday that there would be a “massacre” should the international community refrain from intervening.

“Gadhafi will kill civilians,” Gallal said. “He will kill dreams. He will destroy us.”

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

UK: BA Worker Who Conspired With Al Qaeda Kingpin to Blow Up Transatlantic Flight is Jailed for 30 Years

A British Airways computer expert was jailed for 30 years today for plotting to launch a 9/11-style terror attack from the UK.

Rajib Karim, 31, wanted to use his position at the airline to plant a bomb on a plane as part of a ‘chilling’ conspiracy with Anwar Al-Awlaki, a notorious radical preacher associated with Al Qaeda.

U.S.-born Al-Awlaki has previously been linked to a number of high-profile terror plots, and was thought to have inspired the 9/11 bombers. He is currently believed to be hiding in Yemen.

Among numerous plots to bring the airline to its knees, Karim hoped he could exploit industrial action by staff to become a cabin crew member and cause an explosion on a U.S.-bound flight.

He was found guilty last month of four counts of planning terrorism.

Sentencing him at Woolwich Crown Court, judge Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said they were offences ‘of the utmost gravity’.

The judge recommended that Bangladesh-born Karim be automatically deported after he has completed his sentence.

He told Karim that he ‘worked incessantly to further terrorist purposes’ while leading a quiet and unobtrusive lifestyle.

The judge said: ‘The offences were of the utmost gravity.

‘You are and were a committed jihadist who understood his duty to his religion involves fighting and, God-willing, dying and then being rewarded in the afterlife.’


After gaining a post-graduate job at BA in 2007, Karim held ‘John le Carre-style’ secret meetings with fellow Islamic extremists at Heathrow and, in 2009, began communicating with al-Awlaki from his home in Brunton Lane.

In one of his encrypted communications recovered by police, Karim said: ‘From the moment I entered this country, my niyah (purpose) was to do something for the deen (for the faith), it was not to make a living here and start enjoying life.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Monica Ali: What if Diana Had Faked Her Own Death and is Living Under a False Identity in Small-Town America?

Monica Ali’s first novel Brick Lane won rave reviews, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and became a global bestseller. Her latest work, Untold Story, imagines what might have happened if Princess Diana had not died in that fateful car accident in Paris in August 1997, but had instead faked her own death and started life anew.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Pictured: The Tiny Mattress a Retired Doctor Forced Her £10-a-Month ‘Slave’ To Sleep on

This is the mattress that a woman ‘slave’ had to sleep on for three years while she was working in London earning just £10 a month.

A retired doctor has been convicted of forcing the middle-aged woman to work for her around the clock while forcing her to sleep on the kitchen floor of her suburban London home.

Saeeda Khan, 68, trafficked African Mwanahanisi Mruke into the UK from Tanzania and initially paid her £10 a month — less than 33p a day — before giving up paying her altogether.

Khan, who was yesterday sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years, was ordered to pay her victim £25,000.

She must also pay £15,000 towards police and prosecution costs on top of the compensation for Mrs Mruke. She has 42 days to pay the compensation and the court costs.

Judge Geoffrey Rivlin QC told Khan the only reason she was not facing an immediate custodial sentence was because of her age, the fact she has two adult disabled children and due to her own poor health.

As a jury at Southwark Crown Court found Khan guilty of trafficking a person into the UK for exploitation, Ms Mruke said she could ‘never forgive’ her captor.

‘I felt like a fool, I was treated like a slave,’ she said.

‘Even the money I was promised, I was never paid. I feel terrible about this.

‘I was hoping I would receive a salary and improve my life. But my hopes were dashed, my strength was reduced and I became unwell.’

During her three-year ordeal from October 2006, Ms Mruke’s parents died and her daughter was married. Yet Khan granted her no contact with her family.

‘I have missed all the love from my family,’ Ms Mruke said. ‘My father’s love, my mother’s love and my daughter’s love.’

She was brought to the UK after getting a job at a hospital in Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania which Khan 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 Ms Mruke’s daughter in Tanzania would be paid 120,000 Tanzanian shillings a month — equivalent to £50 — while she would receive a £10 allowance in London.

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

Khan fed her two slices of bread a day and ordered her around by ringing a bell she kept in her bedroom.

The 47-year-old was banned from leaving the house in Harrow, north west London, and never learned English because the family watched Pakistani TV.

Her working day began at 6am and she would often not be allowed to rest before midnight as she cleaned, gardened, cooked meals and accompanied Khan’s disabled son on walks.

Ms Mruke said she was paid £120 for her first year’s work, just £10 a month, and received no pay for the following three years.

‘I didn’t have any time for myself at all,’ she said. ‘I worked for very long hours — sometimes I didn’t sleep.

‘I used to do all the housework, cook, cleaning, inside and out.

‘She didn’t attack me physically. It was just the words and the way she was treating me.’

The victim’s plight was discovered only when she went to see a 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.

Recalling her ordeal, Ms Mruke said: ‘I was working very hard and I became ill. I was working many hours, impossible hours.

‘I feel that justice should be passed and others should learn from this. I feel terrible about her.

‘I lost my family and my health is not so good at the moment.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Communist Party of Egypt Comes Out of the Shadows

Emboldened by a “revolution” that they helped organize, the Egyptian Communist Party is coming partially out of the shadows.

From the Communist Party of Egypt website:

“The Egyptian Communist Party held a comprehensive meeting that included all its different entities and subcategories. The meeting resulted in a unanimous decision to officially announce the party’s existence and activities, considering the new and healthy political and social environment that has resulted from the January 25 revolution, and after years of being forced to work in utter secrecy and under much repression…

“The Egyptian Communist Party confirmed that it will be holding its 4th genral conference in the near future to determine the ideal plan of action and organizational chart that will guarantee the demands and aims of our revolution during the coming period.”

There will be no “democracy” in Egypt. Barring a miracle, there will only be a blend of Marxism-Leninism and radical Islam.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Italian Govt Will Give ‘Full Support’ And Allow Use of Bases Against Libya

Rome, 18 March (AKI) — Italy said it would permit its military bases to be used to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya backed by the United Nations.

“Italy will demonstration its full support of the UN on Libya with “active participation that includes the use of its bases,” foreign minister Franco Frattini told a joint session of parliament’s defence and foreign affairs commissions in Rome on Friday.

The UN Security Council late Thursday approved a no-fly zone to limit Gaddafi’s ability to attack civilians from the air.

Nato, Britain and France were holding emergency meetings Friday on enforcing the UN measure.

Libya on Friday called a cease-fire in its assault on rebel-held areas less than a day after the United Nations Security Council threatened military action against to protect the country’s civilians against aggression by forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Italy said it would allow seven of its bases to be use for the operation.

AWAC planes used to provide surveillance already leave from the Trapani-Birgi airbase, around 500 kilometres north of Tripoli, the Libyan capital where Italy has closed its embassy.

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

Libya: Seif: Anti-Terror Forces to Enter Benghazi

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 18 — A few hours after the UN Security Council’s backing of a no-fly zone over Libya, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Seif Al-Islam, has said that “anti-terrorism” forces will be sent to Benghazi to disarm rebels. This is according to the satellite channel Al Jazeera.

GADDAFI FORCES BOMB MISURATA, FIGHTING IN AJDABIYA But forces loyal to the Colonel are already attacking Misurata, a rebel-held city 200 kilometres east of Tripoli, after a night of heavy artillery fighting. This is according to a spokesperson for the anti-government troops, while Al Jazeera’s English language channel has reported fighting between “loyalists” and insurgents not only in Misurata but also in the city of Ajdabiya, 200 kilometres south of Benghazi, the anti-regime stronghold. “Dozens of bombs of all types have been raining down since last night on the city” of Misurata, the spokesperson told France Presse. “There is still intense artillery fire,” he added. Yesterday, the regime said that loyalists had retaken Misurata, but an anti-government spokesperson denied the claims.

QATAR, WE WILL TAKE PART IN NO FLY ZONE, FIRST ARAB COUNTRY Meanwhile, Qatar has announced that it will take part in the no-fly zone over Libya. It is the first Arab country to declare its involvement since the UN Security Council announced its decision to back the decision and following the green light from the Arab League. Reports suggested that Arab participation in the measures could soon be strengthened by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Jordan.

FRANCE, AIM NOT OCCUPATION BUT FALL OF GADDAFI Military intervention due to be staged “in the coming hours” and which will see France on the front line, “is not an occupation of Libyan territory” but an “operation to protect the Libyan people and to allow them to reach the freedom they have been longing for, which entails the fall of the Gaddafi regime”. The comments were made by the government spokesperson, Francois Baroin, who was speaking to the radio station RTL.

EUROPEAN UNION, READY TO PUT UN RESOLUTION IN PRACTICE In a joint statement by the High Representative for Foreign Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the permanent President, Herman Van Rompuy, the EU says that is ready “to put into practice” the UN resolution on Libya.

TEXT APPROVED BY 10 COUNTRIES. GERMANY, RUSSIA, CHINA ABSTAIN The UN Security Council text has been approved by ten countries: France, the United Kingdom, the USA, Bosnia, Gabon, Nigeria, South Africa, Portugal, Colombia and Lebanon. Russia and China abstained, both with a right to veto, as did Germany, Brazil and India. Backed by delegations from London, Washington and Beirut (representing the Arab League), the resolution gained one vote more than the predicted nine. Portugal also backed the measure, while Germany (on account of the “considerable dangers and risk”, according to the Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle), was the only voting European country to abstain.

The new text rules out the possibility of an “occupying force” in Libya but considers use of “all necessary measures” to protect civilians. These measures explicitly include the implementation of a no-fly zone, but some UN diplomats could pave the way for other military operations on the ground.

As a result of the approval of the resolution by the UN Security Council, a series of Libyan financial bodies have been blocked, such as the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Investment Authority, the Libyan Foreign Bank and the Libyan National Oil Company. All commercial flights to and from Libya are also suspended, while military flights have also been banned, in order to stop the flow of cash into the Colonel’s coffers and to prevent the arrival of new mercenaries.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Tells Gadhafi to Stop Attacks on Innocent Citizens

U.S. President Barack Obama is warning Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that his forces must stop attacking innocent civilians or face military action.

NATO countries have begun moving planes and other military assets closer to Libya to enforce the U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone and military strikes against government forces.

Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have launched a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his more than 40 years in power.

Gadhafi’s forces are closing in on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and western leaders are worried about the potential for a bloody battle there.

[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Press Criticism Rains Down on Hillary Clinton

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 18 — The Tunisian press has fiercely criticised the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, after her short visit to Tunisia yesterday, during which she held talks with the interim President, Foued Mebazaa, the Prime Minister, Beji Caid Essebsi and the Foreign Minister, Mouldi Kefi.

The delay and subsequent cancellation of the press conference due to be held in the early afternoon was labelled intolerable and unjustified, while political commentators also condemned comments made by Clinton and, a result, US policy in the area.

“Is she sure she came for Tunisia?” is the provocative headline of Raouf Khalsi’s editorial on the front page of Le Temps, in which he says that if the press conference had been held, the Secretary of State could have been asked “What new threat will America invent to snare Tunisia again?” The editorial also points ot that the US “took its time” before celebrating the Tunisian revolution. Khalsi asks why Clinton really came, suggesting that the move may have been “to check the temperature in Libya”.

There was also considerable criticism in La Presse, particularly in an account of the cancelled press conference, an event defined as the result of a “limitless arrogance” and an “unacceptable lack of respect”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Controversial Start for Revolution Council

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 18 — The first meeting of the Council set up to oversee the aims of the Tunisian revolution, which will preside over the delicate transitional phase between the Ben Ali regime and democracy in the country, has been marked by widespread controversy.

The TAP agency reported today that the make-up of the Council, and therefore the criteria followed for the selection of its members, was the subject of criticism. The presumed desire of certain parties to take up privileged positions in the country’s future structure was also challenged.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Israel’s Indivisible Legitimacy

Over the past several years, a growing number of patriotic Israelis have begun to despair. We can’t stand up to the whole world, they say. At the end of the day, we will have to give in and surrender most of the land or all of the land we took control over in the 1967 Six Day War. The world won’t accept anything less.

These statements have grown more strident in the wake of the slaughter of the Fogel family last Friday night in Itamar. For example, on Thursday Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit called Israeli communities built beyond the 1949 armistice line the local equivalent of Japan’s nuclear reactors. Like the reactors, he wrote, they seemed like a good idea at the time. But they have become our undoing…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Itamar Massacre: The Result of the Culture of Hatred

How can a normal human being tell the story of yesterday’s horrific attack on a family in the village of Itamar, Samaria, just one of the many stories of ordinary Palestinian terrorism? Here we find the confirmation that Palestinian terrorism is one of the fiercest kinds in the world, always aimed at families, defenceless people, women and children that the media then label “settlers”, in order to justify the assassins?

Yet last night we witnessed untold horrors for the umpteenth time: a 12 year-old girl takes part with other friends in a scouting event until midnight, close to her village, where around 100 families live. She arrives home and knocks on the door. Nobody answers. When she goes inside with the help of her neighbour, what she sees is her mother, her father, her three brothers (respectively 11, 3 years and 3 months old) all slaughtered with their throats cut. Two other little brothers, aged 6 and 2, had managed to escape; she holds them close to her as the pointless ambulances and pointless police teams arrive.

The village is defended by a wire fence, not a brick wall, and has already suffered an attack on a family literally shot in the back by another “heroic” Palestinian commando. Once again it involved a mother, Rachel Shabo, and three of her children, as well as the head of security Yossi Twitto, who was killed as he tried to defend them.

Responsibility for the attack is claimed by the “moderate” side of the Palestinian political spectrum, the Brigades of Al Aqsa, the armed branch of Fatah, founded by Marwan Barghouti. Word has it that a meeting has also been held in Khartoum by members of Hamas and sundry Muslim Brothers, attended by Palestinians, Egyptians, Tunisians and even English people: they supposedly coordinated a large-scale international plan for Islamic terrorist attacks to be headed by Iran, the primary target of which would be Israel.

But if we stay with the Israeli-Palestinian scenario, it is easy to grasp the context of the horrific attack at Itamar. On the one hand, we have the stammered reaction of Salam Fayyad, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, against “all forms of violence”, whilst Hamas distributes sweets and celebrates the terrorist “heroes” in the streets, and Netanyahu accuses the ongoing Palestinian hatred campaign as being at the root of the massacre. Obama, amongst others, issues some words of condemnation.

The background to the attack carried out the other night is on one side that of the revolution occurring in the surrounding Arab countries, and on the other side that of the most traditional form of hatred. The leadership of Abu Mazen and Fayyad is in a state of alarm, which led both of them to adopt aggressive, unwavering attitudes toward Israel in a bid to win over the masses who are threatening their power on Internet and out in the streets. They call Abu Mazen the slave of Israel and of the Americans and their campaign has been dominated by the call for unity with Hamas. The social networks act as a sounding board, praising the “resistance” and rejecting any peace projects, including the largely unknown new interim project which Netanyahu intends presenting at Washington to facilitate a return to the negotiation table. At any rate, Abu Mazen and Fayyad have already said they are not interested…

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

Middle East

Bahrain: Foreign Minister, More Gulf Troops on the Way

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 18 — Coming to Bahrain’s “rescue” will be further “troops from the Gulf”, to help tackle the anti-Shiite revolt that has been troubling the state over the past weeks. The troops will remain in the area “as long as necessary”, according to the Bahraini Foreign Minister shaykh Khaled ben Ahmad al Khalifa speaking in Manama today. Gulf troops presently stationed in the country comprise one thousand Saudi soldiers and around 500 police officers from the United Arab Emirates. “These service personnel will play no role in re-establishing order in the country, but are only there to protect strategic sites,” the Minister added, accusing neighbouring Iran of “using its public statements to interfere with the internal affairs” of his country. The Minister’s message to the United States, which two days ago condemned the use of force by the Manama authorities and the deployment of Saudi troops, was that “it is not true that we are on the wrong road,”. The Minister also stated that “contacts are under way to clarify the situation” with Washington. The Minister’s press conference ended with an assurance that Bahrain had not “received any pressure from Saudi Arabia to intervene with its troops, which was a decision coordinated within the Gulf Cooperation Council,” the organisation uniting the six Arab states with Gulf coastlines, to the exclusion of Iraq.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iran Launches Rocket With Monkey Doll Into Space

Iran has conducted another experiment in its race to reach space, launching a rocket that bears a capsule that can contain an animal into the atmosphere Tuesday, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. The Islamic republic plans to send a manned spaceship into space by 2022; in this experiment they made do with launching only a monkey doll.

The experiment tested out the Kavoshgar-4 rocket, which was launched 120 kilometers into the atmosphere. According to a photograph that was published by IRNA, a monkey doll was placed inside of the rocket’s capsule instead of an animal for the purpose of the experiment.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Iran: ‘We’Ve Built a Flying Saucer’

It’s not clear how far or how high it can fly — or even how big it is and what makes it take off.

But an aircraft created by scientists in Iran is, they claim, the world’s first flying saucer.

Called the Zohal — or Saturn in English — it said the unmanned spaceship is designed for ‘aerial imaging’ but added it can be used for ‘various missions’.

For president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the advances demonstrate Iran’s ability to push on with its science programme despite international sanctions over its nuclear programme

The hardline Fars news agency illustrated its story with a photo of a flying saucer, akin to one appearing in a 1950s Hollywood B-movie, hovering over an unidentified wooded landscape.

The reports gave no indication of the spaceship’s size. But they indicated it was small by claiming, somewhat bizarrely, that it can also fly indoors.

‘Easy transportation and launch and flying, making less noise, are some of the advantages of the device,’ said ISNA, Iran’s students’ news agency.

‘The device belonging to the new generation of vertical flyers is designed for aerial photography.

‘It is equipped with autopilot, image stabiliser and GPS and has a separate system for aerial recording with full HD quality!’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia: King Abdullah Warns Against Sedition

(AGI) Riyadh- King Abdullah said his security forces will ‘strike’ anyone who endangers the security and stability of the kingdom. In a rare television appearance the king warned his people against any disorder. On Thursday evening thousands of Shiites took to the streets of the eastern city of Qatif to protest against the dispatch of troops to neighbouring Bahrain.

Security forces intervened, firing warning shots into the air.

The king, speaking on Al-Ekhbareya state TV, also announced an aid package for his people, including an increase in unemployment pay, study grants, investments in housing, and healthcare.

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

Syria: Instructions on Facebook for “Friday of Dignity”

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 18 — An unknown number of Syrian protesters are preparing to mark the “Friday of Dignity” by taking to the streets today in Damascus and the country’s other big cities, demanding the fall of the Ba’athist regime that has been in power for almost half a century.

On a Facebook page called “The Syrian revolution against Bashar Al Assad”, the President who has been at the head of the country for over ten years after inheriting power from his late father Hafez, around 50,000 people signed up to the initiative, which was launched last Tuesday when dozens of protesters marched through the centre of Damascus.

Two days after an unprecedented gathering of aroud 150 people outside the Interior Ministry and the day after the incrimination of over 30 activists arrested during Wednesday’s sit-in, the organisers of the “Friday of Dignity” this morning published over the Internet a list of the cities and mosques designed to be the departure point for marches from midday. As well as Damascus, cities involved include Aleppo, Raqqa and Idlib in the north, Homs and Hama in the centre, Qamishli and Hasake in the north-east, which is home to the country’s most significant Kurdish minority and Albukamal and Dayr Az Zor in the east, near the border with Iraq.

The coastal cities, inhabited mainly by Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam to which the Assad family belongs and therefore clans allied to the regime, will not feature in today’s action.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Uprisings: S. Arabia: Shiites in Streets for Bahrain Solidarity

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 18 — Hundreds of Saudi Shiites have protested today in a show of solidarity for their religious counterparts on Bahrain, who have been protesting for around a month against the country’s Sunni Khalifa regime, who are allied with the house of Saud. This is according to local press sources quoted by the pan-Arab television station, Al Jazeera.

“Free Bahrain! Foreign troops out!” is the slogan chanted by protesters who took to the streets last night in Qatif, a town in Saudi Arabia’s southern provinces, which are rich in oilfields and crude oil and where there are already a number of oil terminals on the Gulf, opposite the coasts of Bahrain and those of nearby Iran.

Eyewitnesses quoted by the sources have reported the widespread intervention of Saudi security forces, who fired tear gas to break up the protesters, who themselves took to the streets in the towns of Awwamiya, Safwa and Tarut.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia sent around a thousand soldiers on a “rescue” mission to Bahrain, which is also a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an inter-Arab organization set up at the beginning of the 1980s by the six coastal states (with the exception of Iraq) to face up to Iran. The presence in Manama of Saudi troops and of around 500 police from the United Arab Emirates is part of the GCC’s “peninsula shield” programme.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Tension in Sanaa Over Anti-Regime and Loyalist Marches

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 18 — Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni anti-government protesters are today preparing to march towards the centre of the capital Sanaa, demanding the overthrow of the regime of President Ali Abdallah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years, while thousands of loyalists have announced a counter march, the pan-Arab channel Al Arabiyya is reporting.

The anti-regime protest has been dubbed “Warning Friday” while loyalists have responded by launching a counter-protest they are calling “Harmony Friday”. The Sanaa correspondent of the pan-Arab channel has said that further violence between the two sides is expected later, the day after at least twenty people were injured in the capital and in the south of the country.

Since last Sunday, around 300 people have been injured in clashes between protesters and police.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Yemen Forces Open Fire at Protest, At Least 30 Dead

Yemeni security forces and unidentified snipers opened fire at a protest in Sanaa after Muslim prayers on Friday, killing at least 30 people and wounding 200 others, medical sources and witnesses told Reuters.

Security forces at first fired into the air to prevent anti-government protesters from marching after prayers from their headquarters at Sanaa University.

After the initial gunfire, the shooting continued and the toll mounted. It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the deaths, with witnesses saying firing appeared to come from different directions.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: Christian “Blasphemer” Dies of Heart Failure But Relatives Speak of Poisoning

For hospital staff, the jailed man died from heart failure, but his family note that he was threated after the assassinations of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti. Christian activists believe he is the latest victim of the blasphemy law. Now many fear for the life of Asia Bibi, next on the “list”.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — The post-mortem on the body of Qamar David, a Christian man sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy who died overnight on Monday, indicates that heart failure was the ause of death. The doctor who performed the examination said in his report that there was no wound or injury mark or any sign of assault. However, his family has objected to the official version, demanding the matter be further investigated. Samples have taken from the body to determine whether he was poisoned by a cellmate or a guard. Meanwhile, Pakistani Christians are rallying around Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five sentenced to death for blasphemy, who might be the next victim on the extremists’ “list” after Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

According to prison authorities, David was suffering from tuberculosis and under treatment for the disease. The family of the 55-year-old man, which reached Karachi to make arrangements for the funeral, said that the hospital administrations did not allow them to see the body. They explained that he was not suffering from any disease, insisting instead that he had received threats from inmates and prison staff. In their view, he was poisoned. After the murder in January of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, and Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti on 2 March, David was threatened because he had condemned the two crimes.

According to the administrator of the Civil Hospital Col Aziz K M Khan, there was “no wound or injury mark or any sign of assault on Qamar David’s body”. In his view, this confirms that the cause of death was heart failure caused by “stress or depression”. However, since he could not exclude poisoning, samples were sent to a lab for tests and “the internal report may take up to 3-4 weeks.”

The body was returned to the family today to be taken back to Lahore for the funeral. His wife said she was concerned about the trip because of possible attacks by extremists.

Representatives of religious minorities and members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in the Sindh Assembly have expressed their condolences to Qamar David’s family. They also called for an inquiry into the real causes of his death.

Fr Anwar Zaki, a priest in Karachi, “thanked political parties that raised their voice in favour of the abolition of the blasphemy law, and showed concern for minorities in Pakistan,” gestures that confirmed the fact that Christians are victims of pressures and threats to convert to Islam.

David’s death has also raised concerns over the fate of Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old Christian women sentenced to death in accordance with the infamous ‘black law’.

The Masihi Foundation expressed fears about her fate because of threats from Muslim fundamentalists. Bibi herself is now afraid that she might be the next victim on a target “list” of after the deaths of Taseer and Bhatti.

Catholic sources in Karachi expressed great sorrow over the death of Qamar David, another victim of the blasphemy law. At this time of Lent, they call for “prayers, especially for Asia Bibi”.

“Everyone has the right to believe or not believe in something,” the Catholic leaders said. “It is inadmissible to use force or threats to get people to convert”.

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

Pakistan: Protest Continue Against CIA Contractor’s Release

Islamabad, 18 March (AKI/Dawn) — Countrywide protests continued in Pakistan were against the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis on Friday, DawnNews reported.

Political and religious parties had called for peaceful protests across Pakistan against Davis’ release.

Moreover, the Sunni Ittehad Council had called for a nationwide strike to protest the release.

Announcements were being made urging people to gather for protests in front of mosques after Friday prayers.

Also, due to the strike call, traffic in Karachi was relatively thin and residents commuting to work were facing difficulties.

The government had also declared ‘high alert’ across the country for at least a week because of apprehensions of subversive activities and also possible violence during protests by different groups over the release of Davis, official sources said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, US authorities in Pakistan also decided to close the embassy in Islamabad and consulates in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar on Friday because of protests planned against Davis’ release.

Although the closure was announced only for Friday, the reopening date was not mentioned and it would depend on the situation.

“The US embassy in Islamabad and the US consulates general in Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar will be closed on Friday,” a notice issued by the embassy said.

“The embassy will issue an updated Warden Message when the embassy and the consulates general reopen for routine business,” it added.

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

Far East

Japan: Dark Days in Ghost Town of Tokyo

It is one of the great cities of the world, home to 13million and as advanced as any metropolis on the planet.

Now Tokyo, usually so full of life by day and night, has the aura of death about it.

Its lights have been cut, supermarket shelves are empty, there are queues for everything and aftershocks come every day.

You could find a few die-hard Brits and other expatriates who wouldn’t leave their beers on the counter in the party-time district of Roppongi for any threatening radioactive cloud, but mostly Tokyo has become eerily quiet. Nobody wants to venture out and the streets are deserted.

Everyone, it seems, shares the opinion that something very bad is happening at the Fukushima nuclear power plant 148 miles away, and nobody wants to risk breathing the air.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan: Why Fukushima Daiichi Won’t be Another Chernobyl

Six days after the earthquake that rocked Japan and left thousands dead, the nation is now struggling to avert disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Events have moved fast and risks are hard to assess.

The worst nuclear accident in history was the Chernobyl explosion of 1986 in what is now Ukraine. Nuclear experts have repeatedly stated that the Japanese situation cannot get as bad as Chernobyl. New Scientist explains why.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Japan: The Moment Nuclear Plant Chief Wept as Japanese Finally Admit That Radiation Leak is Serious Enough to Kill People

Officials admit they may have to bury reactors under concrete — as happened at Chernobyl

The boss of the company behind the devastated Japanese nuclear reactor today broke down in tears — as his country finally acknowledged the radiation spewing from the over-heating reactors and fuel rods was enough to kill some citizens

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted that the disaster was a level 5, which is classified as a crisis causing ‘several radiation deaths’ by the UN International Atomic Energy.

Officials said the rating was raised after they realised the full extent of the radiation leaking from the plant. They also said that 3 per cent of the fuel in three of the reactors at the Fukushima plant had been severely damaged, suggesting those reactor cores have partially melted down.

After Tokyo Electric Power Company Managing Director Akio Komiri cried as he left a conference to brief journalists on the situation at Fukushima, a senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis.

He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: ‘The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans.

‘In hindsight, we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster.’

Nuclear experts have been saying for days that Japan was underplaying the crisis’ severity.

It is now officially on a par with the Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania in 1979. Only the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 has topped the scale.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Radiation Spikes Slow Work at Reactor

TOKYO, March 18 (UPI) — Work at Japan’s crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima was slowed Friday by interruptions because of high radiation levels, officials said.

Engineers were trying to restore power to two of the reactors at the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the Los Angeles Times reported. They were frequently forced to retreat when radiation levels spiked.

Workers are unsure if the cooling systems will work because of damage from last week’s earthquake, the tsunami that followed and subsequent explosions at the plant. The reactors shut down properly after the quake but the systems designed to cool spent fuel rods failed.

Tokyo Electric said it hoped to restore electricity to the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors by the end of Friday and to No. 3 and No. 4 by Sunday, The Japan Times reported.

“We will concentrate on the work to set up the electricity lines from the outside,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

The alert level near the plant was raised from four to five on a seven-point scale, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said.

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned in Tokyo that time was a concern in the battle to stabilize the facility, rocked by explosions and fires triggered by last week’s 9-magnitude earthquake.

“This is a very grave and serious accident,” Amano said after meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. “So it is important that the international community, including the IAEA, handles this jointly. Especially, cooling (the reactors) is extremely important, so I think this is a race against time.”

The change in the level moves the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant two levels below the 1986 Chernobyl disaster on the international danger scale for nuclear accidents.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Diversity Panel Wants Military to Look Like U.S.

Urges change to let women in male-only combat units

Just as the U.S. military is indoctrinating troops to accept open gays in their ranks, a federal commission is pressing the Pentagon to make the force more diverse by, among other ideas, opening infantry and armor units to women.

With the Military Leadership Diversity Commission’s report out this month, its leaders have briefed Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn and plan to deliver its 162-page report to every member of Congress.

The commission says it wants the military to resemble the ethnic makeup of America. It is urging the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force to “validate” the standards — such as education, test scores, criminal records and drug use — that disqualify large numbers of blacks and Hispanics.

“Racial/ethnic minorities are less likely to meet eligibility requirements than are non-Hispanic whites, and that gap is widening,” the report says.

The commission said women should be allowed into male-only land combat units to “create a level playing field” in promotions “for all service members who meet the qualifications.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Most Pastors Would Like More Racial Diversity in Their White Congregations

Most white pastors would like more racially diverse congregations.

But they understand why they aren’t.

“Worship style, preaching style and traditions of leadership usually cause the separation among us,” said the Rev. Bob Hill of Community Christian Church at 46th and Main streets near the Plaza.

“I think the worship style and preaching style are huge factors for both Anglo congregations and African-American congregations,” he said. “They both cherish their traditions and don’t want to let them go.”

That mirrors the views expressed by the African-American ministers.

One of the lessons a pastor learns is that a congregation can reflect what the members see standing in front of them, said the Rev. Paul Rock of Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City.

“For example, if you have a younger pastor with kids, that tends to be the demographic you attract,” he said.

Of the 106 congregations in the Heartland Presbytery, 97 percent of the ministers are white, “and if that’s who are called to the pulpits, that will be reflected in the congregations,” Rock said.

Rock said most white churches are serious about integrating.

“When we are with Christ, it will be a multicultural experience,” he said. “If heaven is multicultural, our churches should be multicultural. Also, our churches should reflect the increasing multiculturalism in our country.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

National Guardsman’s Career Destroyed by ATF

In recent weeks I have focused on a variety of stupid gun laws. This week I want to look at an example of how application of these stupid laws has seriously harmed one individual.

Albert Kwan lost his small firearms business and his commercial real estate business along with his 25-year career in the National Guard, much of his extensive and extremely valuable firearms collection and all of his life savings. He currently works for a Christian mission program in China and owes his attorney something in excess of $400,000 — all in the name of stupid gun laws and over-zealous enforcement.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Strasbourg Court Rules on Crucifix in Italian Schools

(AGI) Strasbourg — The European Court for Human Rights has ruled Italy has the right to have crucifixes in the country’s schools. The sentence passed by the Grande Chambre, with 15 votes in favour and two against, overturns the sentence dated November 3rd 2009, which had found Italy guilty of violating religious freedom, following an appeal presented by Sole Lautsi, an Italian citizen of Finnish origin. The judges established that there is nothing to prove that students are allegedly influenced by the presence of the crucifix in classrooms.

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


Engineers Can Now Wirelessly Hack Your Car

It wasn’t too surprising when scientists first hacked into a car using its own onboard diagnostic port—sure, it’s easy to get into a car’s electronic brain if you’re already inside the car. Now the science of car-hacking has received a digital upgrade: Researchers have have gained access to modern, electronics-riddled cars from the outside. And in so doing, they’ve managed to take control of a car’s door locks, dashboard displays, and even its brakes.

The oddest part of these findings, which were presented this week to the National Academy of Science’s Committee on Electronic Vehicle Controls and Unintended Acceleration, is that they weren’t entirely intentional: It was all part of an investigation prompted by the Toyota acceleration problems, and was meant to probe the safety of electronic automotive systems. But testing those systems’ safety also uncovered some flaws.

How It Works

The researchers took a 2009 sedan (they declined to identify the make and embarrass the manufacturer) and methodically tried to hack into it using every trick they could think of. They discovered a couple good ones…

           — Hat tip: DS[Return to headlines]