Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110330

Financial Crisis
»Federal Sugar Racket is Targeted
»A Warning to Proponents of Interfaith Dialogue
»Dems Retaliate for Rep. King’s Hearings on Islamic Extremism
»Is Media Matters Breaking the Law in Its ‘War’ On Fox News?
»Jumbo Problems: Dreamliner Becomes a Nightmare for Boeing
»NASA Probe Aims to Unlock Mercury’s Secrets
»Project Gunrunner: Obama’s Stimulus-Funded Border Nightmare
»Senate Democrats Back American Muslims
»Three ‘Strange’ Men Cause Flight Diversion
»Yes, It’s Time to Impeach Obama
Europe and the EU
»Danish Industry Emigrating Overseas
»Finland: Soini Aims for Outright Victory at the Polls
»French Religious Leaders Warn Against Islam Debate
»Germany: Teens Warned of Risks From ‘Vodka Tampon’ Use
»German Minister Slammed Over Proposed ‘Security Partnership’ With Muslims
»Is Euroscepticism on the Rise in Finland?
»Italy Sees Gaddafi Exile as Best Option to End Libyan Crisis
»Italy: Prosecutors Wasted 20m on ‘Ridiculous’ Charges, Says Premier
»Merkel Was Wrong: PC Alive and Well in Germany as Money is Raised for Iran
»Nuclear Power: Slovenia: Krsko Plant Reactivated
»Olympic 2012 Site in London: Security Guard Arrested for Explosives
»UK: ‘A Victory for Common Sense’: Cafe Owner Wins Extractor Fan Appeal After Neighbour Claimed ‘Smell of Bacon Offends Muslims’
»UK: Cloned Meat Betrayal: Unlabelled Dairy and Beef Products to Go on Sale Here After Our Minister Sabotages Europe’s Call for a Ban
»UK: Girl: 5, In Critical Condition After Being Shot and Injured by Gunman ‘Firing Indiscriminately’ In a London Street
»UK: Islamists Threaten to Disrupt Prince William’s Wedding
»UK: Now Salt Shakers Are Placed Under the Counter as ‘Nanny Council’ Launches Takeaways Health Scheme
»UK: The Invisible Police: In Worst Forces, Fewer Than 10 Per Cent Are Actually Fighting Crime
»YLE, Finland Strongly Supports Turkey’s EU Membership
»Bosnia: Croats Accuse International Envoy of ‘Unconstitutional’ Behaviour
North Africa
»Allies Disagree Over Arming Libyan Rebels
»An African View of Islamic Uprisings
»Another Stunner Behind Obama’s Libya Doctrine
»Colonel Gaddafi Goes Mao
»‘Freelance Jihadists’ Join Libyan Rebels
»Italy Says No to Arming Libya Rebels
»Libya: Gaddafi Beats Back Offensive on His Birthplace
»Libya: Russia: Defend Not Arm Civil Population
»Libya: Ras Lanuf Taken Back by Gaddafi, French Air Strikes
»Libya: Gaddafi Offered Asylum in Uganda
»Libya: Muslim Brothers, Want to be Main Players
»Libya: 1,000 Jihadist Extremists Join Libyan Rebel Movement
»Millions of Mummy Puppies Revealed at Egyptian Catacombs
»The Known Unknowns of Libya
»The Rebels From Benghazi: Chaos and Uncertainty in Libya’s Revolutionary Leadership
»Tunisia: Ideal Candidate for the EU
»Ultraconservative Muslims More Assertive in Egypt
»UN Res. 1973 vs. The US War Powers Act of 1973
»Wave of Al-Qaeda Fighters Heading to Libya From Afghanistan
Middle East
»Could This be the Biggest Find Since the Dead Sea Scrolls? Seventy Metal Books Found in Cave in Jordan Could Change Our View of Biblical History
»Iran is Top of the World in Science Growth
»Jordan: Abdullah Backs Reform Panel to End Crisis
»Syrian President Blames Conspiracy for Violence
»Syria: Assad: Reforms Starting, State of Emergency Stands
»Syria: Only Promises and Tanks From Assad
»Woman: 29, Sues UAE Five-Star Hotel After She Was Raped… Then Jailed for Having Sex Outside of Marriage
South Asia
»Pakistan: Shahbaz Batthi Killed by a “Mafia” Of Fundamentalists Holding the Government Hostage
Far East
»China Forges Uranium Pact With Kazakhstan
»Japan: Fukushima Beyond Point of No Return as Radioactive Core Melts
»Radiation in Seawater Around Japan Plant 4,385 Times Over Legal Limit
Australia — Pacific
»Liberal MP Says Debate Being Stifled Over ‘Racism’ Fears
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ex-South Africa Rugby Star ‘Murders at Least Three People With an Axe in Revenge for Gang-Rape of His Daughter’
»Nuclear Safety: Reactors That Can’t Melt Down
»Apulia’s Manduria Prepares for New Tunisian Arrivals
»Condoms for Migrants Urged on Southern Lampedusa Island
»Eritrean Refugees Critcise Italy and Malta
»France and Italy’s Refugee Ping-Pong
»Hundreds Escape From Mineo
»Italy: Frattini Slams France for Sending Back Migrants
»Lampedusa Will be ‘Freed’ of Immigrants Within Days, Says Berlusconi
»Malmstrom: EU Member States Must Help Italy
»Netherlands: Brussels Criticises Plan to Make Illegal Immigration a Crime
»Premier Favours Deportations to Stop Illegal Immigration
»Qatar: Considers Permanent Visas for Specialised Workers
»Ships to Take Migrants Off Lampedusa, Many to Ventimiglia
»Swedish House Debates Migration Policy
»Wilders is Right: Ban Muslim Immigration, Building of Mosques
Culture Wars
»Secularists at the European Parliament Are Distressed With the ECHR Ruling on Crucifixes
»Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers
»Amil Imani: The Missing Moderate Muslims

Financial Crisis

Federal Sugar Racket is Targeted

The federal government has been meddling with sugar production since 1934. Today’s convoluted system of supply controls, price supports, and trade restrictions benefits domestic sugar producers at the expense of consumers and utilizing industries. In other words, sugar producers “win” and the rest of the country “loses.”

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) just introduced the “Free Sugar Act of 2011,” which would abolish the federal sugar racket. In a Washington Times op-ed on his bill, Lugar doesn’t pull any punches:

“The collapse of communism brought an end to many of the world’s command-and-control economic systems and central planning by government bureaucrats. But a notable exception is the United States government’s sugar program. A complicated system of marketing allotments, price supports, purchase guarantees, quotas and tariffs that only a Soviet apparatchik could love, the U.S. sugar program has actually lasted longer than the Soviet Union itself.”

A Cato essay on agricultural regulations and trade barriers elaborates on points Lugar makes in his op-ed:

•The big losers from federal sugar programs are U.S. consumers. The Government Accountability Office estimates that U.S. sugar policies cost American consumers almost $2 billion annually. (Lugar says it could be as much as $4 billion.)

•The GAO found that 42 percent of all sugar subsidies go to just 1 percent of sugar growers…[e.g.,] Fanijul family in Florida…


•Numerous U.S. food manufacturers have relocated to Canada where sugar prices are less than half of U.S. prices and to Mexico where prices are two-thirds of U.S. levels.


[Return to headlines]


A Warning to Proponents of Interfaith Dialogue

Caveat Emptor — Buyers be aware — What you hear is NOT what you get

All over the U.S in countless churches as well as Jewish temples, interfaith dialogues with Muslim leaders thrive. The typical formula for these gatherings is as follows: pastors and rabbis invite a Muslim speaker, at times a member of an affiliate Muslim Brotherhood organization. The Muslim speaker tells them what he/she would like them to hear, contrary to the real truth. The ill-informed attendees ask questions which provide fodder for the Muslim presenter to further his/her deception. The result: most everyone leaves the event feeling enlightened about Islam, despite being cast further in the dark.

Case in point: recently a disguised “moderate” Muslim named Hassan Shibly, a law student at the University of Buffalo, was invited as a speaker at a Presbyterian church in the Buffalo vicinity. Shibly is not a newcomer to the stage. He already has quite a reputation as an imposter with articles written that outline his dubious presentations on Islam.

For instance, in 2005 during the last Israeli / Hezbollah war, Shibly was interviewed for the University of Buffalo students’ newspaper where he stated that Hezbollah is “absolutely not a terrorist organization; their targets have always been military targets…” “Hezbollah did not target Israeli citizens, and did what they could to minimize innocent lives lost.”

That was then. Now, Shibly has spent a few years developing his expertise at deceiving his listeners. Thus, at his last presentation he changed his tune saying that … “of course we condemn every single act of violence directed by Hamas and by Hezbollah against civilians.”

Except, Shibly declined to define who the “civilians” are. This is an important factor in the rule of engagement for Muslims since Infidels (non Muslims) civilians are never considered equal to Muslim civilians.


As for his last presentation at the Presbyterian Church, for an hour and a half Shibly kept discharging deceptions, half truth or outright lies on which at least one more article could have been written. Knowing his uninformed audience, Shibly playfully repeated the nonviolent nature of Islam to prove that Islam condemns terrorism.

For example, he evoked Koran 5:32 “whoever kills an innocent life it’s as if he has killed all of mankind. And whoever saves an innocent life it’s as if he has saved all mankind.”

However, Shibly failed to mention the next verse which is directed against the Jews in an offensive way warning them to “behave or else”.

Here is the complete quote: Koran 5:32 “For this cause we have prescribed to Jews “whoever kills an innocent life it’s as if he has killed all of mankind. And whoever saves an innocent life it’s as if he has saved all mankind.”

To compound the lie, Shibly refrained from quoting the following verse:

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dems Retaliate for Rep. King’s Hearings on Islamic Extremism

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois liberal Democrat, wants to hold hearings Tuesday to examine claims of anti-Muslim bias. His hearings are retaliation for Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) hearings earlier this month on the threat posed to the US by radical Islam.

But as it turns out, one of the witnesses Durbin plans to call has radical connections. And Durbin himself has met with Hamas-linked radicals.

According to the IPT’s report, Durbin’s meeting with the Hamas-linked Muslims took place at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Ill..

Both men were declared to be unindicted conspirators in the 2008 Holy Land Fund trial…

As for the problematic witness:

…[T]he selection of the main witness for the Tuesday hearing…is Farhana Khera, the Muslim director of a small legal firm — Muslim Advocates — that works closely with Hamas-associated Islamist groups in the United States…


There is a threat to America from radical Islam, and not nearly enough Americans are aware of it. Dick Durbin is Exhibit A…

           — Hat tip: Prospero[Return to headlines]

Is Media Matters Breaking the Law in Its ‘War’ On Fox News?

by Mark Tapscott

Media Matters, the George Soros-backed legion of liberal agit-prop shock troops based in the nation’s capital, has declared war on Fox News, and in the process quite possibly stepped across the line of legality.

David Brock, MM’s founder, was quoted Saturday by Politico promising that his organization is mounting “guerrila warfare and sabotage” against Fox News, which he said “is not a news organization. It is the de facto leader of the GOP, and it is long past time that it is treated as such by the media, elected officials and the public.”

To that end, Brock told Politico that MM will “focus on [News Corp. CEO Rupert] Murdoch and trying to disrupt his commercial interests …” Murdoch is the founder of Fox News and a media titan with newspaper, broadcast, Internet and other media countries around the world.

There is nothing in the Politico article to suggest that Brock, who was paid just under $300,000 in 2009, according to the group’s most recently available tax return, plans to ask the IRS to change his organization’s tax status as a 501(C)(3) tax-exempt educational foundation.

Being a C3 puts MM in the non-profit, non-commercial sector, and it also bars the organzation from participating in partisan political activity. This new, more aggressive stance, however, appears to run directly counter to the government’s requirements for maintaining a C3 tax status.

Since Brock classifies Fox News as the “leader” of the Republican Party, by his own description he is involving his organization in a partisan battle…


for additional analysis, check out Ed Morrissey’s balanced assessment here:

[Return to headlines]

Jumbo Problems: Dreamliner Becomes a Nightmare for Boeing

Boeing wanted to revolutionize the airplane business with its Dreamliner, which was to be built using a modular approach. But the US company went too far in its outsourcing, and the aircraft has been plagued by production problems. Delivery is now way behind schedule and the delays could cost the firm billions.

Eight years ago, managers at the American airplane manufacturer Boeing had a brainstorm. Their idea: Build airplanes the same way the automobile industry manufactures cars, with contractors producing entire components that are then assembled in a final step. That dream resulted in Boeing’s new long-range 787, the first model to be built using this modular principle. And perhaps it was that approach that inspired the plane’s name: Dreamliner.

A visit to Boeing’s factory in Everett, Washington, north of Seattle, shows what’s become of that heady vision. Here, gleaming airplane bodies stand nose to tail on a long factory work floor, as if on an assembly line. Most of them have already received the final coat of paint, adorned with logos for airlines such as Air India and Japan Airlines.

So far, though, not one of the planes, which cost up to $185 million (€131 million) each, has been delivered to buyers. They haven’t even received official authorization, due to problems with the software and electronics. Instead, the finished jets are taking up space in the area behind the building and on a nearby airfield.

There are already around two dozen planes waiting here, with more to join them in the next weeks and months. Boeing also plans to move part of the fleet to Texas for retrofitting. This spectacular airplane stockpile in Washington could one day go down in aviation history — as a monument to the hubris of Boeing managers and a warning for future generations.

New Era in Aviation?

Hardly any other project, with the exception of Airbus’ A380 wide-body jet, has fueled the imaginations of aviation experts and fans around the world as strongly as Boeing’s hypermodern showcase jet.

When the project officially began in 2003, it looked as if a new era in civilian aviation was about to dawn. Boeing managers promised their passengers more room, better cabin air quality and larger windows made of “smart glass” which could be adjusted to let in different amounts of light. It was all to be made possible by the increased use of a novel composite material called carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), instead of the traditional aluminum. The efficient new jet was also supposed to consume 20 percent less fuel and be easier to maintain.

Then there was the production process, which seemed even more revolutionary than the technology. According to Boeing’s plans, final assembly of the new jet would take just three days. To achieve that aim, the company even tossed out traditional industry rules which hold that production of complex airplanes is best entrusted to experienced teams and that important components should be constructed at the main production facility.

Instead, Boeing outsourced the production of the aircraft’s components, including important parts such as the plane’s wings and enormous fuselage, to around 50 subcontractors around the world. Boeing CEO James McNerney stated that the company would retain responsibility only for design, development, assembly and customer care. “The R&D investment level and risk-sharing model with suppliers was deemed appropriate at the time,” a Boeing spokesperson says today, in justifying the decision.

But revolutions always require sacrifices. It was a lesson Boeing learned the hard way. Nearly 60 customers worldwide are waiting for the 787, with first delivery now postponed for the seventh time. Even if the first of the 843 jets ordered so far is delivered to All Nippon Airways late this summer as planned, it will prove difficult to make up a delay that now amounts to three years.

Victim of a Cultural Shift

The delay is due to a series of problems. First, there were the bubbles that appeared during the process of baking the huge plastic fuselage components, which are made from sheets of carbon fiber soaked in polymers. Then there was a shortage of the necessary rivets and bolts. The horizontal stabilizers and the joint between the wing and fuselage also required improvements.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, last November a control box ignited during a test flight, setting off a chain reaction that caused essential onboard systems to fail. That meant overhauling the power supply and installing new control software.

Other new airplane models — for example Airbus’ A380 wide-body jet — have also had their share of mishaps and malfunctions in recent years. Most of the time, these were the results of the manufacturers setting themselves overly ambitious deadlines and cramming their planes full of new technology.

Still, those factors alone are not enough to explain Boeing’s run of bad luck. The company’s managers have fallen victim to a cultural shift they themselves helped to create before the decision to build the 787, and which is now threatening to overwhelm them.

It started with Boeing’s merger with competitor McDonnell Douglas in the late 1990s. Harry Stonecipher, former CEO of McDonnell Douglas and later of Boeing, felt airplane construction, measured against the high investment and risk involved, yielded only modest returns. He and his colleagues began looking for a way to build the 787 using as little of the company’s own resources as possible. The solution they settled on was large-scale outsourcing.

Attractive Options

The newly merged corporation certainly would have had the necessary funds to carry out production itself, but company higher-ups apparently preferred to use the cash to buy back the firm’s own stock, which had the agreeable side effect of increasing its share price. This not only benefitted the board of directors, with their attractive stock options, but also Stonecipher himself, who was one of the company’s largest single stockholders.

“Boeing pursues a balanced cash deployment strategy to ensure it meets its goals in funding its existing operations, investing in future growth and for ensuring an appropriate return to shareholders through dividends and share repurchase,” says a company spokesperson today.

Meanwhile, some of Boeing’s subcontractors grew overwhelmed by the tasks assigned to them. Some even outsourced parts of their contracts to other outside companies, further muddling communications and coordination.

The parts that trickled into Boeing’s final assembly plant in Seattle were often unfinished blanks instead of completed subassemblies. The original idea of simply putting together finished components, Lego-style, was out of the question.

Another problem was that the dimensions of the enormous fuselage sections also sometimes exceeded specified tolerance levels, which in the case of the 787 are often measured in mere millimeters.

‘Overly Ambitious’

In its desperation, Boeing had no choice but to take over some of the subcontracting companies itself. “We went too much with outsourcing,” Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, said in a recent interview with the Seattle Times. “Now we need to bring it back to a more prudent level.”

Albaugh’s boss, Boeing CEO McNerney, recently admitted the production schedule for the 787 may have been “overly ambitious.”

That insight comes a bit too late. As early as February 2001, former McDonnell Douglas manager John Hart-Smith, an experienced engineer, warned against too much outsourcing at a Boeing symposium. “Excessive downsizing can lead to an increase in costs,” he told his colleagues. “It can also reduce a company below the critical mass of technology needed to develop future product to stay in business.” But his warning fell on deaf ears.

Boeing won’t put an exact number on the additional costs for technical adjustments, aid to contractors and penalty fees for disgruntled customers, but industry experts put it at well over $10 billion (€7 billion).

So far, this amount has had only a limited effect on the company’s balance sheet. Unlike Airbus, for example, Boeing is able to distribute these costs across a longer time period and among a very large number of airplanes that either have been sold or are still to be ordered. Still, the company admitted in late January that its profits this year could shrink by up to 15 percent, due to delayed delivery of the 787…

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

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

NASA Probe Aims to Unlock Mercury’s Secrets

WASHINGTON — NASA scientists pored over stunning new images of Mercury as their MESSENGER probe began a year-long mission to map the surface of the solar system’s least-understood planet.

After a 4.9-billion-mile (7.9-billion-kilometer) journey that took six-and-a-half years, the MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft finally entered the planet’s orbit on March 17.

MESSENGER could unlock the secrets of a planet where temperatures reach a mind-boggling 800 degrees Fahrenheit (427 degrees Celsius) during the day but plummet to minus 150 degrees (minus 100 degrees Celsius) at night.

Despite its relative proximity to the Earth, Mercury has been little explored because it is the closest planet to the Sun and therefore subject to enormous gravitational pulls and massively high levels of radiation.

The first image, released on Tuesday, showed a dark crater called Debussy, while the lower part revealed a portion of Mercury near its south pole that has never before been photographed by a spacecraft.

MESSENGER, the first spacecraft ever placed in Mercury’s orbit, captured 363 more images over six hours, 224 of which had been transmitted back to eager NASA scientists by Wednesday afternoon.

“Mercury has many mysteries, and now we will be able to get the close-up information that will unlock these secrets,” said James Head, a geological sciences professor who is part of the MESSENGER team.

“In the coming year, we will be making discoveries every day, answering old questions and revealing new mysteries that we can’t even suspect today.

“On Earth, we don’t understand how plate tectonics started several billion years ago. Mercury may hold the answer,” Head said.

“We also want to know that if the material in the permanently shadowed craters on Mercury is water ice, how does it get there in this hellishly hot environment? Could this be a record of the history of water in the solar system?”

Mariner 10, an earlier probe that made three passes of Mercury in 1974 and 1975 mapped out about 45 percent of the surface of the planet. NASA hopes now to be able to complete that work.

MESSENGER will begin continuous mapping on April 4, orbiting the planet every 12 hours at a minimum altitude of 124 miles (200 kilometers).

Scientists believe enormous volcanic eruptions produced many of Mercury’s expansive plains, which are littered with meteor craters, and say its strong magnetic field appears to be generated by a molten iron core.

MESSENGER, a 1,067-pound (485-kilogram) robotic probe, was launched in August 2004, making one flyby of Earth, two of Venus and three of Mercury before entering its new orbit.

“The entire MESSENGER team is thrilled that spacecraft and instrument checkout has been proceeding according to plan,” said mission spokesman Sean Solomon of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington.

“The first images from orbit and the first measurements from MESSENGER’s other payload instruments are only the opening trickle of the flood of new information that we can expect over the coming year. The orbital exploration of the solar system’s innermost planet has begun.”

Named after the Roman messenger god, hence the name of the NASA probe, Mercury is heavily cratered and similar in appearance to the Moon. It is the smallest of the eight planets and orbits the Sun every 87.969 Earth days.

[Return to headlines]

Project Gunrunner: Obama’s Stimulus-Funded Border Nightmare

By Michelle Malkin


To its credit, CBS News gave this deadly Obama culture of corruption nightmare mainstream coverage last month. But it’s been brewing on the blogs of gun rights advocates David Codrea and Mike Vanderboegh and the website, where the story originated, for months prior. Codrea’s journalists’ guide to Project Gunrunner here. Here’s Vanderboegh’s blog with massive Gunrunner links and background document caches, including this one of all official correspondence on the Gunrunner scandal between GOP watchdogs Sen. Charles Grassley and Rep. Darrell Issa and the House GOP Judiciary Committee and various Obama officials and agencies.


[Ed.Note: This is a huge story. Go to Malkin’s site for a round-up of all the links and information.]

[Return to headlines]

Senate Democrats Back American Muslims

Hill hearing comes some three weeks after Republicans heard about radicals

Less than three weeks after a much-criticized House Republican hearing on the radicalization of American Muslims, Senate Democrats countered Tuesday with a hearing of their own — this one focusing on protecting the civil rights of Muslims.

The two hearings highlight the chasm between the Republican-led House and the Democratic-led Senate on the issue of balancing the religious and civil rights of Muslims against the need to protect the country against radical offshoots of Islam.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Three ‘Strange’ Men Cause Flight Diversion

At least one man of “Middle Eastern descent” got into a fight with an attendant, passengers say

A Portland, Ore.-bound flight made a “level two emergency” stop in Chicago Tuesday night after passengers said three men, reportedly of Middle Eastern descent, were acting strangely, even fighting with flight crews.

At least one of the men walked back to the area of the plane where flight attendants work, laid down and began complaining of illness. That man engaged in “some sort of altercation” with the flight attendant, a passenger said.

At one point another man, who was pacing back and forth in the aisles, also got into a “verbal altercation” with a flight attendant, according to a passenger.

Other men of “Middle Eastern descent” were passing notes and “writing in their notebooks,” a source told NBC Chicago.

United contacted officials at O’Hare and alerted them that the flight, which originated in Washington D.C., would stop. The flight was diverted to Chicago.

Three passengers were removed from the aircraft, and the remaining passengers were re-screened through security, before being sent on their way.

Passengers arriving at Portland told NBC affiliate KGW they were aware of problems during the flight. Cliff Robinett described the incident as “strange goings on in the back of the plane.”

Another passenger, Lydia Omelchenko, said the three individuals removed were “strange people.”

Robinett said the man was lying on the floor in the back of the plane did not speak English, and an interpreter had difficulty translating. Robinett said a doctor on the plane also tried to assist the passenger.

He said three men got off the plane, one of them ill. No one knew what was happening at the time, including TSA officials in Chicago, he said.

Stacy Niedermeyer of Southwest Portland was on the flight with her husband and four children.

Niedermeyer said one of the men went to the back of the plane and “sat down on his bottom.” Some type of heated altercation took place.

Lydia Omelchenko said passengers knew something was amiss and were texting about the incident. She reported that two men, one of them young, left the plane and neither looked ill.

Other passengers interviewed did not wish to be identified. One passenger said a man with a backpack was pacing back and forth and got into an argument with a flight attendant.

Another said she understood it was some type of medical issue and despite it all, she never felt unsafe.

United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson refused to elaborate Wednesday morning on the reasons for the passengers’ removal other than saying “they were not following crew member instructions.”

“It was agreed they should not continue on to Portland.” Johnson said the crew and passengers spoke with law enforcement on the ground. A Chicago police spokesman professed no knowledge of the incident and said officers at O’Hare were not contacted.

The flight was diverted to O’Hare at 7:30 Tuesday night, then left Chicago for Portland at about 11 p.m. and arrived at 3 a.m. Chicago time.

           — Hat tip: Takuan Seiyo[Return to headlines]

Yes, It’s Time to Impeach Obama

Never before in the history of the United States has an occupant of the White House displayed less concern for the Constitution and the rule of law than Barack Obama.

It’s about time somebody said it: It’s time to impeach Obama.

Both Obama and his vice president stated explicitly and emphatically while serving in the U.S. Senate that the president did not have authority to take the nation into armed conflict without the express will of the U.S. Congress or unless the nation was under attack or faced imminent attack.

Sen. Joe Biden said a president who did so should be impeached.

I don’t often agree with Obama and Biden, but they were right then. And it’s time for them to be accountable to the same rule of law they saw so clearly in 2006 and 2007.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Danish Industry Emigrating Overseas

Nearly one in every two big Danish firms with plans to invest in production machinery will be making those investments abroad.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Finland: Soini Aims for Outright Victory at the Polls

Timo Soini, chair of the populist True Finns, has abandoned the idea of working in a non-consensual government coalition.

Soini was reacting to the curt rejection by the National Coalition and Centre parties of his view that the True Finns should be allowed to oppose the permanent European Stability Mechanism in a coalition government. Instead, Soini has decided to aim for a landslide victory at the polls that would put today’s government partners on the opposition benches.

On Monday, Soini found himself in the eye of a political storm when he said he would join a coalition government if the True Finns could vote against supporting the EU debt crisis package. After a tongue-lashing from the Centre and National Coalition parties, he was left licking his wounds.

“If the old parties say that we’re either part of government or not, that message is clear,” he conceded.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

French Religious Leaders Warn Against Islam Debate

A lay Muslim politician caused a stir this week by suggesting Muslims wear a five-pointed green star to protest against what he called persecution recalling that of

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Germany: Teens Warned of Risks From ‘Vodka Tampon’ Use

Police in southern Germany warned this week of a dangerous new form of alcohol abuse among teens — using tampons soaked in vodka to get drunk quickly and hide the smell. The practice poses grave health risks, they said.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

German Minister Slammed Over Proposed ‘Security Partnership’ With Muslims

The German interior minister’s proposal for a “security partnership” between German Muslims and security agencies has met with criticism from the opposition and the press. On Wednesday, commentators write that the newly appointed cabinet member is out of his league.

It has been billed in the past as a way to further the integration of Germany’s around 4 million Muslims. But a meeting of the national conference on Islam in Germany ended Tuesday with the country’s new interior minister in the hot seat and an opposition party calling for a future boycott.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), made headlines earlier this month when, after assuming the position of interior minister in a cabinet shakeup, he said during his first press conference: “That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proven by history.” The comment, an apparent rebuke of statements made by German President Christian Wulff last fall, immediately provoked ire in the Muslim community.

At the Islam Conference in Berlin Tuesday, Friedrich ruffled feathers when he called for a “security partnership” between Muslim groups and German security agencies. The move was apparently a response to a recent attack on US Air Force personnel at Frankfurt Airport, which left two dead and two seriously wounded. The attack was allegedly carried out by a Kosovar Albanian living in Germany.

In a statement issued Tuesday by the Interior Ministry, Friedrich said: “We want, together with the Muslims, to make it clear to the general public that we are taking a stance against Islamic extremism and in favor of more security, within the framework of a security partnership.”

Aydan Özoguz, a member of the Bundestag for the opposition center-left Social Democrats (SPD), said Tuesday that Muslims should not take part in the conference until another host is at its helm. Guntram Schneider, the SPD integration minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, told the newspaper Rheinischen Post that “one should not mix security issues with religious questions. The attack in Frankfurt and the Islam Conference have nothing to do with one another. That is not appropriate.”

But Cem Özdemir, the national co-leader of the Green Party, said the call by the SPD to boycott the Islam Conference was the wrong move. “What we need is a believable fresh start,” he said in Berlin Wednesday. Özdemir was the first German of Turkish descent to be elected to the Bundestag, the German parliament, when he won a seat in 1994.

Five Years Running

The Islam Conference was founded in 2006 by then-Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, with a goal of giving Muslims in Germany better political integration.

The second phase of the Islam Conference, which began last year, has been billed as being more practical in nature, with the aim of achieving concrete results. Some of the topics under discussion have included Islam as a religious subject in public schools, the prevention of radical forms of Islam, and equal rights between men and women.

Conference participants include representatives from the federal, local, and state governments, as well as from Muslim organizations and various Muslim individuals.

Two conservative Muslim organizations, the Islam Council and the Central Council of Muslims, are no longer taking part in the conference. Former Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière decided that the Islam Council should no longer participate, because of investigations against senior officials of its member organization Milli Görüs. The Central Council of Muslims withdrew from the meeting because of disagreements over who would be participating, and because they believed the problem of “Islamophobia” was not being properly addressed.

On Wednesday, German commentators criticize Friedrich over the new direction of the conference, with some even calling for its abolition.

The conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

“Each federal interior minister has his own unique signature. Wolfgang Schäuble founded the Islam Conference in order to give due diligence to the most controversial part of the chancellor’s integration policy. Thomas de Maizière … formulated what the expectations were of the Muslim associations, and accepted their suggestions, offers and demands, though they were less nobly pursued.”

“His successor, Friedrich, who will likely also head up future meetings, considers it time not to talk about the integration of Islam and Muslims into everyday life in Germany, but rather to turn German Muslims into responsible citizens. His plan to have a security partnership should, however, be handled separately from former conference topics, so as not to have a negative impact on them.”

“The dialogue is difficult enough… In the end, Friedrich must achieve the feat of being fair to Muslims as a community and as individuals. The only question is, how does one do that successfully?”

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

“When the former Interior Minister Schäuble called for an Islam Conference, it was a wonderful idea. The government was inviting German Muslims to participate in a dialogue, in order to make the society more cohesive. When Schäuble said in the Bundestag that ‘Islam is a part of Germany and of Europe, it is a part of our present and of our future,’ it had enormous symbolic power. Instead of distrust and denial, there was finally good faith, and with it, an invitation to talk on equal terms. That was a signal that the Islam Conference made sense.”

“But with Friedrich that is not the case, because he has chosen the opposite path to Schäuble. Shortly after taking office, he questioned the place of Muslims in Germany. And now he wants, as his first initiative, to develop a security partnership between Muslims and the security agencies, in order to fight Islamism. But such partnerships already exist in many places. More importantly, with Friedrich the good faith with the Muslims is over, and distrust and denial are once again winning the upper hand…”

“With Schäuble the conference made sense — with Friedrich it does not. The Islam Conference has become superfluous. The Interior Ministry should put an end to it.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Is Euroscepticism on the Rise in Finland?

Recent publicity could leave the casual observer with the impression that Finland is now a hotbed of eurosceptic sentiment. Politicians are jostling to lay down ever more stringent conditions on increasing Finland’s contribution to the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), and the biggest refusenik party is surging in the polls to the point where it could be a part of the next government. So is the country a bastion of euroscepticism?

“The Finnish political landscape has changed more than we have changed,” says Astrid Thors, Finland’s Minister for European Affairs and a member of the liberal, pro-Europe Swedish People’s Party, when asked why her pro-European positions are now more lonely than in the past.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy Sees Gaddafi Exile as Best Option to End Libyan Crisis

Frattini attends Contact Group meeting in London

(ANSA) — London, March 29 — Italian diplomats attending the international Contact Group meeting on the Libyan crisis here said Tuesday that offering exile to Muammar Gaddafi could be the best way to find a political solution.

The diplomats led by Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini were set to propose allowing Gaddafi to find exile in another African country to pave the way for a ceasefire and talks between rebels and regime loyalists.

“The international community no longer considers Gaddafi a credible political talking partner,” diplomatic sources said at the sidelines of Tuesday’s meeting of representatives of 40 governments and international organizations.

Britain is said to support the exile idea, while Italy views persuasion from the African Union (AU) as vital for it coming to fruition, so the AU’s late decision not to attend the London talks was a setback.

Frattini said Monday that he hoped the African Union “finds a valid proposal” for Gaddafi and that it would be a “gesture of courage” for the embattled strongman to say he was ending his 40-year rule.

Italy is again trying to influence the international community’s response to the conflict in nearby Libya after the United Nations-sanctioned military operation was put in NATO’s hands, a move Rome had worked towards.

Last week French opposition to the extension of the role of NATO, which was already commanding a naval blockade to ensure an arms embargo, was overcome so that it was also given control of no-fly operations.

Italy had threatened to resume control of its seven air bases made available to the UN-mandated intervention unless NATO took command.

Britain also pressed for the move over opposition led by France and Turkey who argued more involvement for NATO, already engaged in Afghanistan, might raise hackles in the Arab world.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Prosecutors Wasted 20m on ‘Ridiculous’ Charges, Says Premier

Don’t turn trials into reality show, says opposition

(ANSA) — Rome, March 29 — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that prosecutors in one of the four trails he faces had wasted 20 million euros of public money in bringing charges he will prove are false.

Berlusconi was speaking the day after making his first court appearance since 2003 for a preliminary hearing ahead of an expected trial into alleged tax fraud on broadcasting rights traded by a unit of his Mediaset media empire, Mediatrade.

The premier has said he will try to attend the hearings of trials, three regarding alleged corruption and one concerning accusations he used an underage prostitute, to show his claim that left-leaning prosecutors have trumped up the accusations to oust him from power.

“The Milan prosecutors have again shown they want to persecute me,” Berlusconi said in an audio message. “I’ve decided to attend these new hearings to show the accusations against me are not just groundless, they are ridiculous. “Once again the attack will fail, the truth will be recognized and we will come out of it stronger than ever, as has always happened.

“The accusation is totally false, my lawyers have shown it, and one wonders how the Milan prosecutors have the courage to spend around 20 million euros in taxpayers’ money on consultants, warrants and legal proceedings”. The new cases come after a long series of corruptions trials into alleged wrongdoing by Berlusconi, none of which have led to a definitive conviction, sometimes following law changes passed by his governments or the expiry of the statute of limitations.

Opposition figures blasted the umpteenth attack on Italian prosecutors by the premier, who is seeking to pass justice reforms to rein them in.

“Berlusconi should have more respect for the magistrates and he shouldn’t turn his trials into (reality shows) Big Brother or Survival,” said Leoluca Orlando of the anti-graft Italy of Values party.

“Italy is the only country in the world where the premier allows himself to attack judges and approve laws in parliament to escape trials”.

Berlusconi also faces another corruption trial regarding alleged offences at Mediaset, with the next hearing set for April 11, and one for allegedly bribing British tax lawyer David Mills for favourable testimony in two past cases.

On Wednesday April 6 a trial begins into allegations he paid to have sex with a Moroccan belly dancer, Karima El Mahroug, aka Ruby ‘Heartstealer’, before she was 18 years of age, during alleged sex parties at his home near Milan.

The three corruption trials were reactivated after the Constitutional Court in January partially struck down the latest judicial shield passed by Berlusconi governments.

In the Mediatrade case, Berlusconi has been indicted along with his son Piersilvio, Mediaset Chairman Fedele Confalonieri and nine others.

They are accused of arranging for Mediatrade to buy Paramount Hollywood film rights at inflated rates, with a part of the fees being fed back into offshore accounts controlled by Berlusconi to dodge taxes.

Legal experts say it will not be easy for prosecutors to prove this and, even if they do, that Berlusconi had a hand in any of the wrongdoing.

The premier said Monday he had “never dealt with TV rights,” and described himself as “the most indicted man in history and in the universe”.

Prosecutors say their charges are backed by anomalies such as the fact that Mediatrade bought the rights through an intermediary and that the intermediary was not a company but an individual, Egyptian director and producer Frank Agrama. They also cite the fact that it has been shown that Agrama paid kickbacks to some Mediaset managers.

Berlusconi said Tuesday his company was obliged to deal with Agrama to obtain certain film rights and that court papers proved the Mediaset managers had used any kickbacks they received for their “own interests”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Merkel Was Wrong: PC Alive and Well in Germany as Money is Raised for Iran

A poll earlier this month caused some consternation when it found “high levels of anti-Semitism in Germany” and, particularly, 47.7 percent of Germans saying that “Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.”

… Some German academics, however, explain such findings in terms of “secondary anti-Semitism” — or “that Germans are filled with pathological guilt about the Holocaust and shift the blame to Jews and Israel to assuage their complexes.” One wonders if Germans are really that consumed with guilt, or if it’s just old habits resurfacing.


…But its record, too, at least toward Israel, is fraught with problems.

Much of this concerns a Hamburg-based entity called the European-Iranian Trade Bank, or EIH. As Fox News reported last month, the U.S. Treasury Department states that “EIH has acted as a key financial lifeline for Iran as one of Iran’s few remaining access points to the European financial system.” Earlier in February, eleven U.S. senators wrote to the German foreign minister “asking that he stop EIH from doing business with Iran” and expressing concern about EIH’s “continued financial support of Iran’s nuclear proliferation activities.” To no avail.

Iran’s geopolitical aggression and nuclear program are recognized by now as a threat to the West and not just to Israel — hence the U.S. effort to coordinate sanctions against Iran…


           — Hat tip: Prospero[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Power: Slovenia: Krsko Plant Reactivated

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, MARCH 30 — The only nuclear power plant in Slovenia, located in Krsko, was reactivated today after it was temporarily shut down on March 23 for technical and safety problems, announced sources at the plant, indicating that the nuclear facility resumed production during the night at 3am.

“The shutdown did not have any effect on the people who live near the plant and the surrounding environment,” added the sources.

The measure was necessary due to an unplanned shutdown of the line that goes towards Zagreb in Croatia, and reactivation was delayed further due to problems with a long distance power line connected to the plant.

The Krsko plant — about 200km from Trieste — is the only nuclear facility in the former Yugoslavia, and was built in the 1980s jointly by Slovenia and Croatia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Olympic 2012 Site in London: Security Guard Arrested for Explosives

A female security guard has been arrested near London’s Olympic stadium site on suspicion of possessing explosives, it has emerged.

The 40-year-old dog handler was held after her vehicle was searched in a car park off Pudding Mill Lane on Tuesday, but police said the incident was not thought to be terror-related.

Scotland Yard said the woman was arrested on suspicion of possession of a “very small amount of a substance” that was being forensically examined.

The suspect is currently being held in custody at an east London police station.

The arrest was made by the officers from the Olympic Site Support Unit following information received by police.

Officials said another car was stopped and searched on the M11, but nothing was found in the car, and the driver was not arrested. Searches were also carried out at residential addresses in Kent and London, but no further substances were found.

In a statement the Met insisted that the incident “did not represent a threat to the safety and security of the Olympic site.”

[And blah, blah…]

[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘A Victory for Common Sense’: Cafe Owner Wins Extractor Fan Appeal After Neighbour Claimed ‘Smell of Bacon Offends Muslims’

A cafe owner who was ordered to tear down an extractor fan because the smell of bacon offended Muslims was celebrating a ‘victory for commons sense’ today.

Beverley Akciecek has won her appeal against the ruling by Stockport councillors.

Mrs Akciecek’s neighbour’s had claimed their Muslim friends were refusing to visit because they ‘couldn’t stand’ the odour.

And the Lib Dem-run council ruled the smell from the fan, which has been in Bev’s Snack Shack for more than three years, was ‘unacceptable on the grounds of residential amenity’ and told her to take it down.

But the mother-of-seven and her husband Cetin, 50, who is himself a Turkish Muslim, appealed the decision.

After a six-month legal battle, the Planning Inspectorate finally announced they had won their case.

The council will now have to pay all of Mrs Akciecek’s legal costs plus their own, which include the costs of planning reports, lawyers’ consultations and meetings. All will be met by the public purse.

She said today: ‘This a victory for common sense but we shouldn’t have been put through this in the first place.

‘We’re just relieved it’s all over. I would like to thank the planning and environmental services who backed my appeal.

‘We had lots of support from the Muslim community. The Muslim community were infuriated by what had happened.

‘The council have got to pay our legal fees which is a great relief because we were beginning to struggle.

‘It would have cost us a couple of grand to move it which we just didn’t have.

‘We would have had to shut down while they were doing it, which would have taken a couple of weeks and it would have been a nightmare.

‘This has really taken it out of us as a family. We were like robots, we did everything we had to do but it was always there and it caused us so much stress.

‘Now we can just get on with being a normal family.’

The couple took, who both work 50 hours a week, over the takeaway in Cale Green, Stockport, in 2007.

On taking charge they replaced the existing extractor fan, which had been there for six years, with a new modern one.

They claim they received no complaints about the cafe, which is open from 7.30am-2.30pm six days a week, until around eighteen months ago.

They received a letter from environmental services to say their neighbour Graham Webb-Lee had complained about the smell.

‘This is disgraceful. It makes our house stink of vile cooking smells, we can’t eat our breakfast in the morning. I will be speaking to my lawyer.

‘The vent is 12 inches from my front door. Every morning the smell of bacon comes through and makes me physically sick.

‘I have a lot of Muslim friends. They refuse to visit me any more because they can’t stand the smell of bacon.’

Mrs Akciecek said: ‘I just think it’s just crazy. Cetin’s friends actually visit the shop, they’re regular visitors, they’re Muslim people, they come in a couple of times a week.

‘I have Muslim people come in for cheese toasties. Cetin cooks the food himself, he cooks the bacon.

‘When we go to a cafe my husband wouldn’t be offended by the smell of bacon.

‘His friends are not offended by it, we have three visitors who come here for a sandwich, friends of my husband, and the smell doesn’t offend them at all.

‘We’ve never had a problem about the smell because everything is pre-cooked. We cook it in the oven so there’s no foul smell.

‘It’s pre-cooked so the smell isn’t as strong when we’re frying it off.

‘It’s been a sandwich shop for about eight years, cooking exactly the same stuff. The lady before me did double because they were actually building new houses across the road so she was really busy.

‘They were there before me but they were also there when the lady who owns the business was here. She had five staff, you can imagine how busy that shop was and they never complained at all.’

The couple said that Environmental Services inspected their property after their the complaint and ruled the smell was not causing a problem — but their neighbour continued to complain.

The couple had never applied for planning permission as they had simply replaced an existing extractor fan with one of the same size and position, but they were informed by the council they would have to apply retrospectively as an objection had been raised.

They applied for planning permission in May last year, but the application was refused at a meeting of Stockport Area Committee on October 14.

Mr Webb-Lee had objected to the application, complaining that his Muslim friends refused to visit him because they ‘can’t stand the smell of bacon’.

The couple are naturally delighted with the decision to let them keep the extractor fan in place, but their neighbour Mr Webb-Lee is not happy.

He said: ‘This is disgraceful. It makes our house stink of vile cooking smells, we can’t eat our breakfast in the morning. I will be speaking to my lawyer.’

He previously said: ‘The vent is 12 inches from my front door. Every morning the smell of bacon comes through and makes me physically sick.

‘I have a lot of Muslim friends. They refuse to visit me any more because they can’t stand the smell of bacon.’

Paul Lawrence, service director for regeneration for Stockport Council said: ‘We are pleased that the planning inspectorate has made a decision and that this issue has now been resolved.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Cloned Meat Betrayal: Unlabelled Dairy and Beef Products to Go on Sale Here After Our Minister Sabotages Europe’s Call for a Ban

A campaign to put controls on cloned meat and milk was killed off yesterday by the UK Government and Brussels.

The move signals the start of a free-for-all in ‘Frankenfood’ — despite claims the technology is cruel and unethical.

Shoppers will be left in the dark because products from the offspring of cloned animals will not require special labels. One MEP warned supermarkets could soon be flooded with their milk.

More than 100 clone offspring animals, mostly dairy cows, are being reared on British farms. Meat, milk and cheese from these and similar animals could go on shelves within months.

Caroline Spelman, Tory food and farming secretary, led the moves in Brussels to sabotage attempts to regulate or mark food from clones and their descendants.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Girl: 5, In Critical Condition After Being Shot and Injured by Gunman ‘Firing Indiscriminately’ In a London Street

A five-year-old is in a critical condition after being gunned down in a London street.

Police believe that the young girl and a shopkeeper were caught in the crossfire of a gang targeting two youths who sheltered in their shop.

The shopkeeper, 35, is also being treated in hospital after he was hit inside Stockwell Food & Wine shop, on Stockwell Road, South London, at 9.15pm last night.

Both of the victims are understood to be Sri Lankan, but they are not related. The young girl was shot in the chest and the man was shot in the face.

The parade of shops was cordoned off today and five police cars were parked outside.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘It is believed two black youths ran into the shop shortly before the shots were fired.

‘The youths had been chased from Broomgrove Road, across Stockwell Road, and into the shop by three other black youths on bicycles.

‘Once the youths on bikes were outside the shop, one of them fired shots into the shop front.’

The pair — who police said are not related — were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital. Detectives are continuing their hunt for the gunman.

Sandra Rossetto, 45, said the child was awake as ambulance crew tried to stabilise her. She said: ‘One of the paramedics was stroking her forehead over and over. She was awake.

‘They were pushing on her chest for about 10 minutes trying to stop the bleeding. There were a lot of people so they put up two red blankets either side to shield her.

‘The other person was on the floor being treated. There was a lot of blood, you could tell it was serious.’

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: Islamists Threaten to Disrupt Prince William’s Wedding

The radical group Muslims Against Crusades announced that they will disrupt Prince William’s wedding next month. Daiji World reported:

A group of extremist Muslims has allegedly threatened to disrupt the wedding of Prince William, saying “the day the nation has been dreaming of will become a nightmare”.

William, 28, will marry Kate Middleton, 29, at Westminster Abbey April 29.

A Muslim group — named Muslims Against Crusades — vowed to disrupt the royal wedding and even threatened to start a riot during the celebrations, The Sun reported citing Scotland Yard officials.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Now Salt Shakers Are Placed Under the Counter as ‘Nanny Council’ Launches Takeaways Health Scheme

Council hope ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scheme will reduce northern town’s salt intake

‘British people don’t like being ordered around. If you actually want people to use more salt, then tell them not to’

Salt shakers are being removed from counters and table-tops at curry houses, fish and chip shops and cafes in a council-backed health drive.

It means thousands of customers in Greater Manchester will have to specifically ask for salt if they want to add it to their food.

It comes just months before supermarkets are due to remove cigarette displays nationwide under a Government-enforced ban. Corner shops will have to remove tobacco from sight by 2013.

In Stockport, five shops have already signed up to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ scheme and the council hope it will spread.

Among them is Taylor’s Fish and Chips in Woodley, where manager Anne Wallace says customers often ask for salt without thinking.

She said: ‘We just wanted people to stop and think. Don’t just shake it for the sake of it.’

Gatley Tandoori, Chilli Massala and Last Monsoon in Edgeley and Startpoint cafe in Woodley have also signed up to the new scheme.

The move is part of the Stockport council-backed ASK campaign.

It aims to cut excessive salt consumption, which is linked to high blood pressure, stomach cancer and asthma.

Businesses that sign up to the scheme will display an ASK symbol in their windows.

It is not the first time the council has tried to shake up fast food addicts.

In 2009 it gave cafes salt cellars with five holes instead of 17. The move was welcomed by health campaigners and celebrity chef Paul Heathcote, who said it would nudge people in the right direction.

created a ‘nanny town’.

Cllr Jones said the council’s latest move could actually be counterproductive.

He said: ‘British people don’t like being ordered around. If you actually want people to use more salt, then tell them not to. It’s a foolish thing to do.’

Stockport is not the only council to clamp down on fast-food junkies.

Last month Oldham council said it was considering introducing a £1,000 ‘fat tax’ to cut obesity.

New takeaways would pay the controversial levy as part of their planning permission.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

UK: The Invisible Police: In Worst Forces, Fewer Than 10 Per Cent Are Actually Fighting Crime

Fewer than one in ten uniformed officers in some police forces are available to man the front line at any one time, a damning report reveals today.

There are also more officers on duty on a quiet Monday morning than at any other time of the week — and the fewest just after midnight on Friday when levels of drunken violence soar.

Antiquated shift patterns, court hearings and training requirements mean that in two forces only 9 per cent of officers can actually tackle crime, the police inspectorate found.

Bedfordshire, along with Devon and Cornwall, came bottom of a study into what proportion of officers in England and Wales are available to answer 999 calls or patrol the streets — the definition of front-line work.

The watchdog found many other forces fared little better, with an average of 12 per cent of officers available to catch crooks and keep people safe.

The findings come despite vast increases in police budgets over the past decade.

The figures include officers and Police Community Support Officers. In some forces PCSOs typically do not work after 8pm.

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor also highlighted how one in three members of the police workforce is not employed in a front-line role. These include staff working in personnel, maintenance and administration.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

YLE, Finland Strongly Supports Turkey’s EU Membership

The state visit to Turkey by President Tarja Halonen said Finland strongly supports Turkey’s EU membership, says Yle. According to Halonen, however, what is more important than the timetable is “what kind of marriage, namely the relationship between Turkey and the EU there will be”.

During the official visit to Turkey, President Halonen will meet with President Abdullah Gül. In addition to prospects for the talks on bilateral relations and Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, they will focus in the Middle East and North Africa region, ongoing change and sustainable development.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]


Bosnia: Croats Accuse International Envoy of ‘Unconstitutional’ Behaviour

Sarajevo, 30 March — (AKI) — Nine political parties representing Croats in Bosnia have accused top international envoy Valentin Inzko of undermining the constitution and of placing himself above the law.

One of Bosnia’s two entities, the Muslim-Croat federation, is in a political stalemate because almost six months after October elections it has been unable to form a government and other institutions.

Two weeks ago, the government was formed by two Muslim parties and a minor Croat party, bypassing the two main Bosnian Croats parties, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and its sister party HDZ 1990.

The central electoral commission last week ruled that the government was formed illegally. But Inzko, has sweeping powers in Bosnia, on Tuesday annulled the commission’s ruling, pending a decision by the constitutional court.

The current federation president Borjana Kristo and two Croat ministers handed their resignations to Inzko, protesting his decision.

“By suspension of the ruling of the Central electoral commission, the only competent body to implement the election results, the rule of law in Bosnia-Herzegovina, has been reduced to the absurd,” Kristo said.

“I simply don’t want any part in undermining the constitutional system of this country,” Kristo said.

Inzko’s decision represented an “introduction of a state of emergency and undermining of the constitutional order,” the nine Croat parties said in a joint statement.

The decision reduces the Croat population in Bosnia to the status of “lower than a national minority” and favours majority Muslims, the statement said.

The parties accused the international community of trying to turn the Federation into Muslim entity alone, saying under such arrangement Bosnia had “no chance of survival at all”.

Meanwhile, the institutions have been formed in the Serb entity, and have been functioning normally, but central Bosnian government still has to be agreed upon.

Vice-president of the Serb entity, Emil Vlajki, a Croat, said Inzko’s decision was a proof that Bosnia is “occupied and colonized country.

That occupation is primarily in favour of Bosniacs (Muslims) and at the expense of Christian peoples — Serbs and Croats,” Vlajki said.

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

North Africa

Allies Disagree Over Arming Libyan Rebels

Qatari PM al-Thani (front L) speaks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (2nd L) while UN chief Ban Ki-moon (2nd R) and UK Foreign Secretary William Hague look on as a picture is taken ahead of the London conference. AFP photo.

Disagreement over arming the rebels battling Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi emerged Wednesday with at least three of the countries enforcing the no-fly zone over the North African nation opposing the idea.

Russia also criticized the proposal amid dissent within NATO over the conduct of the whole Libyan operation. Both France and the United States have raised the possibility of arming the rebels, though critics have said such a move would go beyond the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which provides for the protection of civilians.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Tuesday that Paris was prepared to discuss with its allies the supply of military aid to the rebels, whose disorganized fighters are facing stiff opposition from Gadhafi’s forces despite being aided by coalition airstrikes.

Speaking at an international conference in London, Juppe conceded that that arming or training the rebels was not covered by two U.N. Security Council resolutions on Libya in recent weeks. “This is not allowed by either Resolution 1973 or Resolution 1970. For the time being, France is sticking to the strict application of these resolutions. Having said that, we are prepared to discuss this with our partners,” he told reporters after the conference on Libya, which concluded that Gadhafi should step down.

British Prime Minister David Cameron refused Wednesday to rule out arming the rebels. Asked in parliament what Britain’s policy was, given the existence of a U.N. arms embargo on Libya, Cameron replied: “We do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so.”

The British hosts of the meeting and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had both said the issue of arming the rebels was not discussed at the London talks. U.S. President Barack Obama says the aim of the mission is not to oust Gadhafi by force, although he said Tuesday that he was confident the Libyan leader would “ultimately step down.”

But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN that the mission’s aim is to shield civilians, not arm the rebellion. “The U.N. mandate authorizes the enforcement of an arms embargo,” Rasmussen told the U.S. news network on Monday. “We are not in Libya to arm people, but to protect people.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said Moscow believed that foreign powers did not have the right to arm Libyan rebels under the mandate approved by the U.N. Security Council “and here, we completely agree with the NATO secretary-general.”

Norway, which has provided six F-16s to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, also ruled out arming the rebels, with Defense Minister Grete Faremo saying on a visit to the aircrew in Crete that such a move was “not on the agenda.”

Belgium voiced its opposition Wednesday, warning that the move could alienate Arab nations. Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere, whose country has also deployed fighter jets as part of the NATO-led campaign, said providing weapons to the insurgents would be “a step too far.”

“This would cost us the support of the Arab world,” he said.

Danish news agency Ritzau Wednesday quoted Foreign Minister Lene Espersen as saying Copenhagen, another participant in enforcing the no-fly zone, was also against arming the rebels. “We have said very clearly that we do not want to be an active party to a civil war,” she said. “We are present militarily to protect civilian populations but we do not want to take the extra step by beginning to supply weapons to one side.”

Germany and Turkey have not hidden their reservations about the whole Libyan operation, with Germany refusing to take part.

Chinese President Hu Jintao meanwhile told visiting Sarkozy on Wednesday that coalition military strikes on Libya could violate the “intention” of the U.N. resolution if civilians suffer. The tough talk from Hu came during a meeting at the start of Sarkozy’s mini-tour of Asia, which will include a G-20 meeting on global monetary reform and a stop in disaster-struck Japan.

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

An African View of Islamic Uprisings

We watched plenty of reporters live on-scene, reporting how the demonstrations erupting across the Arab world represented largely peaceful expressions of flowering democracy.

Yet for some reason, capturing and critically analyzing what’s happened since seems to warrant less examination. This is because what’s happening — particularly in Egypt — doesn’t exactly fit the media’s original assumption that democracy, at least the Western understanding thereof, would develop.

It must be stated that Islamic views of democracy are complex and bear little resemblance to those found in the West. So certainly, Western reporters — so largely secular they clearly understand little of Islam — are ill-equipped to decipher those complexities.

Like any great debate, it begins with defining the language — which, while familiar to Western ears, is foreign in practice to most Africans (and nearly all Middle-Easterners). Congo calls itself a democratic republic, but don’t let the words fool you; they’re little more than clever marketing. In fact, words like “freedom” and “democracy” don’t have the same meaning in Africa as they do in the United States. “Freedom” usually means access to resources or government jobs. “Democracy” often means supporting one man, with one vote (under severe pressure), once and never again as he retains power as permanently and ruthlessly as possible.

This firmly rooted mentality is ripe for Islam’s all-encompassing level of influence. That’s why I assert unflinchingly that Western-style democracy cannot develop in an Islamic society, and the evidence testifies to such. Islam — and the Shariah law that serves as its ideal of justice — is intolerant of anything resembling representative government and human rights.

Islam is incompatible with anything recognizing those self-evident truths your founders so eloquently summarized “that all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator” with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The beauty of this language and the rest of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution affirming its assertions lies in its recognition of where rights, life, freedom and any chance at happiness derive — from a sovereign, holy and forgiving God. Your founders’ understanding and enshrinement of this gave a more natural embrace to its most fitting governmental expression — a federal constitutional republic.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Another Stunner Behind Obama’s Libya Doctrine

You won’t believe who helped devise policy used by president

TEL AVIV — A staunch denier of the Holocaust who long served as the deputy of late PLO leader Yasser Arafat served on the committee that invented the military doctrine used by President Obama as the main justification for U.S. and international airstrikes against Libya.

As WND first reported, billionaire philanthropist George Soros is a primary funder and key proponent of the Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect, the world’s leading organization pushing the military doctrine. Several of the doctrine’s main founders sit on multiple boards with Soros.

The doctrine and its founders, as WND reported, have been deeply tied to Obama aide Samantha Power, who reportedly heavily influenced Obama in consultations leading to the decision to bomb Libya. Power is the National Security Council special adviser to Obama on human rights.

Now it has emerged that Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi served on the advisory board of the 2001 commission that originally founded Responsibility to Protect.

That commission is called the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. It invented the term “Responsibility to Protect,” while defining its guidelines.

Ashrawi is an infamous defender of Palestinian terrorism. Her father, Daoud Mikhail, was a co-founder of the PLO with Arafat. The PLO was engaged in scores of international terrorist acts and was declared a terrorist group by the U.S. in 1987.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Colonel Gaddafi Goes Mao

by Victor Kotsev

Muammar Gaddafi’s purported Long March from Benghazi to Tripoli, which began on Friday, was cut short on Tuesday as his army routed and then — almost as if carried by inertia alone — chased the rebels back across a few small towns along the Mediterranean coast. The opposition performed so poorly in its advance on his town of birth, Sirte (which it claimed — falsely — to have captured on Monday), that Gaddafi did not even get to use the full gamut of asymmetric warfare tactics he had in store.

As he struggles to hide his considerable forces from increasingly powerful coalition air attacks but nevertheless holds sway on the ground, the Libyan leader is very likely to be spicing up the long hours of hiding by brushing up on legendary Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong’s experiences in using mobile warfare against the Kuomintang and the Japanese.

“Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” a famous Chinese proverb goes. Even without testimonies, the opposition advance that began on Friday resembled much too much the initial phase of the rebellion that captured much of Libya before crumbling under the strikes of Gaddafi’s forces. As first-hand accounts started to emerge from the rebels themselves, this suspicion deepened. “There wasn’t resistance,” Faraj Sheydani, 42, a rebel fighter interviewed by The New York Times, said on Monday. “There was no one in front of us. There’s no fighting.”

Where did the army go? A few days earlier, it had posed an urgent threat to Benghazi, a city of over 500,000 inhabitants and full of rebel fighters. “People coming along the coastal road from Sirte said Gaddafi forces were gathered around 60 kilometers outside the city, positioned in trees,” al-Jazeera reported on Monday.

An army of trees waiting for the enemy — to a civilian, it is an image almost out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Not that it is something completely unusual — ambush is very much a part of standard military operations — but it certainly signals a shift of tactics for Gaddafi.

Mobile warfare, Mao’s specialty, can be loosely interpreted as a cross-breed between positional warfare (defense and conquest of territory, what regular armies usually do) and guerrilla warfare (hit-and-run tactics; small units that melt into the civilian population or disappear into the surroundings).

It is designed for regular units with certain permanent bases, but it draws heavily on guerrilla tactics: battle lines are blurred, the forces use surprise to strike quickly and regroup, exploiting specifically the overextended communication and supply lines of the enemy. To quote one of Mao’s speeches in the compilation On Protracted War (1938):…

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

‘Freelance Jihadists’ Join Libyan Rebels

Ex-al Qaeda member speaks out

A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.

Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.

On Capitol Hill, Adm. James Stavridis, the NATO commander, when asked about the presence of al Qaeda terrorists among the rebels, said the leadership of the opposition is made up of “responsible men and women.”

“We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah,” the four-star admiral said. “We’ve seen different things. But at this point, I don’t have detail sufficient to say that there’s a significant al Qaeda presence, or any other terrorist presence, in and among these folks.”

The military is continuing to “look at that very closely,” he said, because “it’s part of doing due diligence as we move forward on any kind of relationship” with the opposition.

Outside observers generally estimate the number of trained Libyan fighters to be about 1,000.

Concern over the makeup of opposition forces surfaced Tuesday as representatives from 40 governments and international organizations met in London and stepped up efforts to oust the Gadhafi regime and prepared for a hoped-for transition to a democratic state.

Col. Gadhafis forces, meanwhile, launched counterattacks Tuesday against rebels advancing westward toward the capital, Tripoli.

Mr. Benotman told The Washington Times that al Qaeda’s North African affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, has tried without success to co-opt the leadership of Col. Gadhafi’s opposition. But Mr. Benotman said the interim council leading Libya’s opposition is seeking democratic elections, not an Islamic republic.

“We have freelance jihadists,” he said. “But everything is still under control of the interim national council. There is no other organization that says, ‘We are leaders of the revolution with this emir,’ like al Qaeda would. Everyone is afraid to do this; they would be labeled as undermining the people.”

The jihadist presence among the opposition to Col. Gadhafi is a critical question for Western governments conducting military operations aimed at protecting Libya’s citizens from their leader, who ordered attacks against them with warplanes, troops and pro-government militias.

If NATO countries end up sending ground forces to stabilize Libya at a later date, the al Qaeda presence could morph into an anti-Western insurgency as al Qaeda did in Iraq after the March 2003 invasion.

President Obama, in a televised address Monday, said he would not send ground troops to Libya. But Adm. Stavridis said during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the “possibility of a stabilization regime exists” based on the history of other NATO-led humanitarian interventions.

Mr. Benotman, the former jihadist, initially said the number of unaffiliated jihadists in Libya was in the hundreds but later put the number at “around a thousand.”

Last week, Libyan rebel leader Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi told the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore that he had recruited 25 Islamic fighters in Dernaa and gave his view that al Qaeda members were “good Muslims.”…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Italy Says No to Arming Libya Rebels

‘UN and African Union should weigh Gaddafi exile’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 30 — Italy on Wednesday came out against the idea, aired by the United States and other countries, of arming the Libyan rebels fighting strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

“Arming the Libyan rebels would be a controversial measure, an extreme measure,” said the Italian foreign ministry’s spokesman, Maurizio Massari.

Speaking on Italian radio, he said the mooted move would “split the international community” and stressed that Italy wanted to restrict the intervention in Libya to a no-fly zone and humanitarian action.

On a safe haven for Gaddafai’s possible exile, pushed by a conference in London Tuesday, Massari said the United Nations and the African Union would be the best international bodies to handle the issue.

“We need the help of the African Union,” which was not at the London gathering, he said.

Russia also voiced its opposition to arming the rebels Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Beats Back Offensive on His Birthplace

Tripoli, 30 March (AKI/Bloomberg) — Libyan rebels retreated under fire from Muammar Gaddafi’s troops as the coalition of nations supporting the opposition met in London to discuss a strategy for driving the Libyan leader from power.

The insurgents’ westward advance on Sirte, Gaddafi’s birthplace, stalled in the face of artillery and rocket attacks, and they were driven back to the town of Bin Jawad and from there to the oil port of Ras Lanuf, according to reports on Al Jazeera television and the Benghazi-based newspaper Breniq. There were no air strikes in support of the rebels as they fled from Bin Jawad under shellfire, the Associated Press said.

Gaddafi’s advance showed he retains some military capacity after almost two weeks of US-led bombing that has targeted his army installations. In London, leaders of the anti-Gaddafi coalition pledged to take further action against him. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton called for a “unified front of political and diplomatic pressure” that presses Gaddafi to quit and “sharpens the choice for those around him.” She didn’t rule out arms supplies to the rebels, saying they would be legitimate under United Nations resolutions.

The six-week conflict in Libya, which began as a popular anti-regime protest movement of the kind that unseated leaders in Egypt and Tunisia, has helped push oil prices up more than 20 percent and divided the international community, with Russia and China opposing UN-backed intervention. As many as 12,000 people may have died in the fighting, according to rebel estimates.

At the London conference, Qatar, which was the first Arab nation to join the coalition enforcing a no-fly zone, offered to facilitate oil sales from Libya and use the proceeds for humanitarian aid, the British government said in a statement.

The rebels will respect all Gaddafi-era contracts with foreign nations and companies if they take over the government, the head of their council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, told Italy’s Rai television. Jalil, a former justice minister, said the pledge applies to oil contracts, including deals with Italy’s Eni, Libya’s biggest foreign investor.

Before yesterday’s setbacks, the rebels had advanced along the coast and recaptured the oil ports of Brega and Ras Lanuf, helped by US-led air strikes on government positions.

US president Barack Obama, in an interview with the CBS Evening News, said the “noose has tightened” around Gaddafi and that “it may at some point shift to him figuring out how to negotiate an exit.” Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jabr Al Thani, said the Libyan leader should quit now before an offer to let him go into exile — which he didn’t detail — is taken off the table “in a few days.”

UK prime minister David Cameron told the heads of Nato and the UN and more than 37 foreign ministers that while the Libyan people should determine their own destiny, “they cannot reach that future on their own.” He said UN resolutions against Gaddafi’s regime must be enforced, humanitarian aid rushed to rebel-held parts of Libya and plans drawn up for postwar rebuilding of hospitals, homes and “the mosques and minarets smashed by his barbarity.”

The officials agreed to form a “contact group” that will meet next in Qatar, and will seek to “provide leadership and overall political direction to the international effort” and to “provide a focal point” for contact with Libya groups, the statement said.

Libya’s rebel Interim National Council published its “vision of a democratic Libya” before the London talks with a pledge to establish a constitution, give citizens the right to vote and guarantee political pluralism.

“We are not seeking any outside power to change the regime in Libya,” Guma El-Gamaty, the UK coordinator of the opposition Interim Transitional National Council, told reporters yesterday in London. “That is a job for the Libyan people and the Libyan people alone.”

Gaddafi sent a message to the London meeting, comparing the international action against his forces to Hitler’s march across Europe and bombardment of Britain.

“Stop your barbaric and unjust offensive against Libya,” Gaddafi said in comments on the official state news agency, JANA. “Leave Libya for the Libyans. You are carrying out an operation to exterminate a peaceful people and destroy a developing country.”

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

Libya: Russia: Defend Not Arm Civil Population

(AGI) Moscow — Russia is against giving arms to the Libyan rebels, warning that the opposition may include covert al-Qaeda members. Sergei Lavrov, Federation Foreign Minister, voiced Moscow’s concerns. Recalling recent remarks made by the French Foreign Minister, Mr Larov repeated the UN Secretary General’s words to the effect that Moscow had agreed to action “that provides for the defence and not the armament of the civil population” in Libya.

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

Libya: Ras Lanuf Taken Back by Gaddafi, French Air Strikes

(ANSAmed) — THE ROAD TO RAS LANUF, MARCH 30 — “French warplanes arrived and bombarded Gaddafi forces,” said a rebel returning from the front line, Ras Lanuf, which was taken back by pro-government forces today.

A Reuters reporter confirmed that he heard warplanes fly over the area, and heard noises that sounded like explosions, although this could not be confirmed because the noises heard could have been flyovers carried out by jets and not explosions.

The Ras Lanuf oil terminal was taken back this morning by pro-Gaddafi forces, which advanced towards the east and bombed rebel positions.

“Gaddafi hit us with enormous rockets. He has entered Ras Lanuf,” said rebel fighter Faraj Muftah. “We were at the western entrance to Ras Lanuf and we were bombarded,” added a second rebel by the name of Hisham, while a third rebel fighter said that clashes are ongoing in the area surrounding the town: “It is a back and forth battle,” he explained.

The rebels said that they were overwhelmed by the superior firepower of the pro-government forces. Eyewitnesses reported seeing dozens of rebels flee to the east in pickup trucks.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Gaddafi Offered Asylum in Uganda

(AKI) — Uganda would be willing to grant asylum to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, according to a Al-Arabiya, citing comments by Uganda government spokesman Yoweri Museveni.

Gaddafi for about a year hosted exiled Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

Other countries that are willing to let Gaddafi live within their borders are Venezuela, Chad and Zimbabwe, according to the Dubai-based satellite news channel.

Amin was overthrown as president of in 1979 after eight years in power following a military coup. He fled to Libya where he resided until 1980, and then to Saudi Arabia, where he died in exile in 2003.

US president Barack Obama on Tuesday said he may be willing to supply arms to Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Gaddafi after 41 years of authoritarian rule.

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

Libya: Muslim Brothers, Want to be Main Players

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 30 — “The revolution in Libya was made by the people, neither we nor any political group can claim to have led it. but we are the most organised group in the Country, we know and practie democracy and we plan to carry out a major role in its future democratic system”. The statement was made by Mohamed Abdul Malek, the vice president of the Libyan Muslim Brothers, who has been living in the United Kingdom since 1983 and is now in Italy for a few informal meetings.

But the message he delivered to Italy as well during the press conference is clear: the Muslim Brothers support the Benghazi Pnc and want to be considered “a political party, like your ‘Democrazia Cristiana”‘ and plan to maintain with Rome the same political relations, respect the same international treaties and confirm the economic investments that the Libyan State set up under the Gaddafi government. Abdul Malek stated that “February 17 took us all by surprise, including us, then emerged the risk of a political vacuum, and the Pnc was set up following the initiative of some people. A council that we have decided to support and it should also be recognised in some way by all western Countries”.

Abdul Malek however stated that he did not know whether, among the public and anonymous members, there are any members of the Brotherhood, nor how many have joined the Country’s movement. The group, established in the early 1960s, was outlawed by the regime and those who did not wind up in jail had to flee abroad or stay abroad, like he did. But he has no doubt that the Muslim Brothers are “numerous all over Libya”, leaders “on the field in all sectors”, especially in the humanitarian one. In any case they are already proposing themselves as political interlocutors for Italy as well, to whom they promised in particular compliance with immigration treaties. “Even in Libya immigration is hard to manage, and we are ready to cooperate to control it. But we do not want to be the policemen of the west, rather equal partners”.

And he has no doubts about what the West has to do as soon as possible to wrap up the game with the regime: no military intervention on the ground. “which would be an occupation and would lead to the appearance of al Qaeda, but should arm the rebels to speed up Gaddafi’s end”. He warned that in effects there is the risk that Gaddafi will also make use of al Qaeda to attack Europe, even though he does not believe that it is already present in the Country. “But we know that there are already some Libyans in Bosnia who are recruiting mercenaries and maybe terrorists as well”.

As for Gaddafi’s fate, “the first option is that he must leave to save human lives”. Putting him on trial in Libya could end up like Saddam’s trial in Iraq, he added, preferring the International Criminal Court.

As for the Country’s Constitution, he replied that he would like to include the Koran as a source of law, and emphasised that democracy “is Islam’s objective”, since it holds the principle of “dialogue” — even though the latter cannot be exercised, he pointed out, on matters that are “not allowed by Islam”, such as drinking alcohol or eating pig meat. Abdul Malek added that “We want women to actively participate in political life, both in Parliament and in civil society”, and expressed his admiration of the meeting point between Islam and democracy identified by Akp in Turkey: “hard to do better than that”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: 1,000 Jihadist Extremists Join Libyan Rebel Movement

Yesterday NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe ADM James Stavridis told a committee that there were “flickers” of Al-Qaeda in the Libyan rebels ranks. So 1,000 jihadists is a “flicker”?

Today a “former” Al-Qaeda member told reporters that he believes there are 1,000 jihadists who have joined the Libyan rebel movement. This is the same day that Hillary Clinton suggested that we arm the rebels. The Washington Times reported:

A former leader of Libya’s al Qaeda affiliate says he thinks “freelance jihadists” have joined the rebel forces, as NATO’s commander told Congress on Tuesday that intelligence indicates some al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists are fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s forces. Former jihadist Noman Benotman, who renounced his al Qaeda affiliation in 2000, said in an interview that he estimates 1,000 jihadists are in Libya.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Millions of Mummy Puppies Revealed at Egyptian Catacombs

The excavation of a labyrinth of tunnels beneath the Egyptian desert has revealed the remains of millions of animals, mostly dogs and jackals. Many appear to have been only hours or days old when they were killed and mummified. The Dog Catacombs, as they are known, date to 747-730 B.C., and are dedicated to the Anubis, the Egyptians’ jackal-headed god of the dead. They were first documented in the 19th century; however, they were never fully excavated. A team, led by Paul Nicholson, an archaeologist at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, is now examining the tunnels and their contents, they announced this week. They estimate the catacombs contain the remains of 8 million animals.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

The Known Unknowns of Libya

According to Obama, he went in because he refused to wait for images of mass graves. Other things he refused to wait for were basic intelligence, stated objectives and congressional approval.

The Libyan war may be dumbest war we have ever stumbled into. It is a war where the Secretary of Defense has admitted we have no national interest, a war where we don’t know on whose behalf we’re fighting or why we’re even there. A war that the White House did not bother to run by either congress or the American people, except after the fact. A war that appears to be fought at the behest England, France, their oil companies, and a motley collection of Libyan rebels ranging from former regime thugs to Al Qaeda.

A week after launching it, the administration still can’t get its own story straight as to why we’re fighting it at all. According to Obama, he went in because he refused to wait for images of mass graves. Other things he refused to wait for were basic intelligence, stated objectives and congressional approval. It took us ten years to decide to remove Saddam, it didn’t even take Obama ten days.


What kind of war is it, when a week after it begins, the NATO commander admits that he’s examining the possibility that maybe we’re actually fighting for Al-Qaeda. Our main enemy in that other war, which we’re neglecting in order to begin a war on yet another front.


Despite our No Fly Zone, Gaddafi is still winning. Which means that now we have to get even deeper, to justify our original course of action. Now we may supply the rebels with arms and begin hitting Libyan armor. Then we’ll have to start bombing armed camps. And if the rebels still can’t pull it off, how many more steps will it take before we start sending the troops in?

The credibility of Obama and key European allies is on the line. The Arab League has already made sure to stake out positions on both sides of the fence. Russia is against it, except when they’re sort of for it. China expects to benefit no matter what happens. It’s probably the safest bet of any player in the game. Obama and Sarkozy have elections coming up, and they need a win. But their only possible Victory Condition is either Gaddafi getting on a plane or going in the ground. And the latter is clearly more likely to happen than the former.

It’s not that Gaddafi is worth saving. He isn’t. He isn’t even worth the cost of a cruise missile. But it’s doubtful that his replacements, most of whom either worked for him or think the Taliban didn’t go far enough, will be any better. And what’s worse is that we haven’t done the due diligence to decide that one way or another. Our military people are just guessing. And they know that it doesn’t matter. The politicians have committed themselves, which means that even if tomorrow Libya’s rebel council were to appoint Osama bin Laden as its chief, some way would be found to rationalize and normalize the whole thing.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

The Rebels From Benghazi: Chaos and Uncertainty in Libya’s Revolutionary Leadership

The international community is using air strikes and missiles to defend freedom, human rights and democratic ideals in Libya. But are those also the values the rebels themselves are fighting for?

The chief of staff of the Libyan revolution receives guests in a villa not far from Benghazi’s airport. When the uprising began, Abdul Fattah Younis was celebrated in the streets for having his soldiers raid the city’s military base, thereby stripping Moammar Gadhafi of control over the eastern part of the country.

Now, Younis has found shelter in a living room outfitted with brocade curtains and plush carpeting. When the general wants to know what’s happening outside, he watches the BBC’s Arab-language TV channel and calls his associates on a satellite telephone. It is his connection to the outside world — a connection he uses to support American and French air strikes, which he keeps track of on a map along with the new front lines.

Tomorrow, Younis will sleep in yet another house together with his wife and daughter, who sit next to him in silence. These days, Benghazi is home to hit squads of both rebels and Gadhafi loyalists. Shots pierce the nighttime silence. By sunrise, the morgues and emergency rooms are full.

Formerly Libya’s interior minister, Younis has been leading the fight against Gadhafi since February 22. To that point, the brawny 66 year old with silver hair had spent almost his entire life serving the dictator. And for that reason, his defection marked a major turning point in this revolution. Now wearing green fatigues, he refers to himself as the chief of staff. This is not his first revolution, and he therefore knows that events now depend on military leaders rather than on politicians.

Posing for Photographs

Younis’ special forces have vanished, having either deserted or rushed to the front. Now, he’s assembling an army to liberate Libya. His associates, he says, have trained 15,000 men in recent weeks. In the Benghazi stadium, they learn how to shoot, to fire rockets and to drive tanks. They are taught to avoid the mistakes of the early days of the revolution, when the young fighters — known as the Shabab — accidentally killed each other up, ruined captured tanks and shot down their own airplanes. Younis, though, has been talking about these troops for weeks, and there is still little difference from the chaos seen at the beginning. Even with the backing of the air strikes, advances have been halting and temporary. They seem to prefer posing for photographs on wrecked tanks.

Since the air strikes began, the revolution has become a war with foreign support legitimized by a United Nations resolution and, as of this week, led by NATO. Western planes — whether American, French, Spanish or Canadian — have flown hundreds of sorties, bombing Gadhafi’s supply convoys, military bases, tank columns and primary residence in Tripoli.

It was a moral decision, meant to help people rising up against one of the most brutal dictators in the Arab world. But there is no turning back. If the West intends to liberate the country from its dictator, it really has only three options: annihilate Gadhafi’s forces in a massive bombing campaign; send in ground forces; or equip the rebels with heavy weapons. The rebels have ruled out peace negotiations with Gadhafi.

For the international community, the intervention in the Libyan conflict is about defending the fundamental values of freedom, human rights and self-determination. But the question is: Are all those who have a say in Benghazi just as interested in freedom, human rights and self-determination?

An Opportunist?

The first time that General Younis participated in a revolution was in 1969, in an uprising against the king. He was a 24-year-old army officer at the time, and he successfully took control of Benghazi’s radio station. The revolution ushered Colonel Gadhafi into power, a man who calls himself “king of the traditional kings of Africa.”

Younis rose to the rank of general. For 41 years, he headed Libya’s special forces, from the end of one revolution to the beginning of the next. He was a rare constant in a country ruled by a paranoid leader, one who saw enemies everywhere. For the last three and a half years, Younis was also the interior minister, and many saw him as the country’s second most powerful man behind Gadhafi. He says, however, that he was never a politician and that for four and a half months, he refused to assume the post. He only gave in, he says, on the condition that he would never fire upon his own people.

Still, there are many who do not trust Younis, particularly younger Libyans, who view him as an opportunist who waited six days before switching sides. But maybe Younis did indeed have too much of Gadhafi. Maybe he really does want to become a hero in this war of liberation?

Younis recounts how he sent a letter to Gadhafi in January warning him about unrest in the country and about the anger triggered by sharp rises in food prices. He says Gadhafi sent the letter back to him with the text crossed out in red pen. A warning letter — that was Younis’ form of protest.

Now Younis is a revolutionary for the second time — but, this time, he says he’s fighting for democracy. When asked the kind of democracy he envisions, Younis says: “I dream of a genuine democracy in which we Libyans can lead a five-star life. Libya earns $150 million (€106 million) with its oil — in a single day. And just look around at the condition Benghazi is in!”

Fighting Could Drag On for Months

Younis believes that establishing a democracy in Libya won’t be all that difficult. “We have no political parties, no diverse ethnicities or different religious beliefs,” he says, “so it will be entirely unproblematic.” Once his dream has been achieved, he adds, he intends to withdraw from public life and spend his time reading books.

It could be some time before Younis can make a dent in his reading list, however. The stakes are infinitely high for Gadhafi. He’s not going to give up any time soon and fighting could drag on for months.

For the time being, it seems unlikely that Gadhafi’s troops will be able to capture Benghazi, the rebel stronghold. But it’s just as unlikely that the rebels will take Tripoli. Indeed, if the capital’s inhabitants do not rise up, this will be a long war.

Still, Younis is optimistic. “In two or three weeks,” he says, “the balance of power will tip in our favor.” He speaks of reinforcement lines, positions and snipers — all while trying to emit that calming aura of military professionalism. He fears nothing more than a sudden halt to the air attacks because he believes it would cause the resistance to crumble.

But, as long as they continue, he claims that Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte will be captured in at most 10 days, and that Tripoli will follow soon thereafter. Younis only believes the fighting will end once Gadhafi has either died or fled, perhaps to northern Chad. He puts the chances of the latter occurring at about 75 percent.

What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Libya is a political no man’s land. There are no parties or unions, and the highest form of political organization are soccer clubs. The only thing this country can draw on is the ruling elite in the leadership circle surrounding Gadhafi and his children.

Part 2: A Growing Climate of Fear in Benghazi

Indeed, after six weeks of revolution, the tone is no longer being set by the youths, lawyers and professors that were there at the beginning, but also an increasing number of defectors from the old regime. Most of these men, in their ironed shirts and ties, were ministers, ambassadors, military officers or businessmen, and many of them had ties to Saif al-Islam, one of Gadhafi’s sons. They all had good lives under the Gadhafi regime, and now that want to salvage what’s left. Since the air strikes began, it’s been clear that the end is coming for Gadhafi. So they are pushing their way to the forefront.

The National Libyan Transitional Council established in the revolution’s early days is supposed to be replaced by a government. For now, there are people who refer to themselves as ministers without being able to explain who actually appointed them. The rebels have press spokesmen, who in turn have their own deputies. In the media center in Benghazi, one man runs around wearing his father’s military decoration on his chest; another hands out business cards with gold filigree. The revolution has spawned a seemingly endless network of both real and imagined functionaries, and few know what they do or whether they wield any actual influence.

“The new ministers should take on tasks according to their abilities, but I’m not currently in a position to say exactly what that should look like,” says Ahmed Khalifa, a rebel spokesman with light hair and a gold-buttoned blazer. Each day at the media center in Benghazi, Khalifa reads out the numbers of dead, wounded and captured, along with the names of the places that have been taken.

These ministers, Khalifa says, are to be experts — professors, lawyers and business people — from across the country, but will also include Libyans from abroad, who are now returning home. The names, though, remain secret: “It would be suicide to publicize them now,” Khalifa explains. He has no answer, though, when asked what exactly a secret government should do. As to the qualitative difference between a self-appointed national council and a self-appointed government, he says, “the National Council had more general qualifications, while the government is more specialized.”

Straight from the Soviet Revolutionaries

Not long later, however, it is said that there won’t be a government after all. Instead, the National Council will be transformed into a “crisis management council.”

Meanwhile, a quasi-president and quasi-prime minister are in place, both jockeying for position. The new prime minister is Mahmoud Jibril, whose job it is to lead the new government that may or may not exist. Jibril has spent much time traveling abroad, having met Bernard-Henri Lévy and Nicolas Sarkozy in France and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa and Egyptian military leaders in Cairo. The other man, the one people call “our new president” is Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, chairman of the National Council.

The one thing that unites these two men is that both were long-time supporters of the regime — Jibril as an economic functionary and Abdel-Jalil as justice minister.

Abdel-Jalil wears a red wool cap and the lapels of his woolen coat bears pins in the colors of the revolution. The soldiers guarding his door wear cobbled-together uniforms and cartridge belts. A prayer rug is folded on the table and the prayer bump on Abdel-Jalil’s forehead identifies him as a devout Muslim. He is unshaven, his eyes narrowed in exhaustion, and is currently giving interviews at 10-minute intervals. The sentences he speaks could have been lifted directly from a Soviet revolutionary handbook. “The National Council is legitimized by the local committees made up of revolutionaries in the liberated cities and villages,” he declares.

To hear Abdel-Jalil talk, it sounds like the rebels gaining full control of the country is only a matter of technical details. He met with a UN special envoy and, Abdel-Jalil says, nearly every country in the world has established contact with him. He believes his forces will take Tripoli within a matter of weeks, and says leaders are in the process of getting an idea where immediate action must be taken — in terms of health care, infrastructure and the reconstruction of destroyed buildings. So far they’ve achieved little, and city administration, schools, universities and oil production have all ground to a halt.

Asked when elections will be held, the president replies, “We’re not concerned with these details.”

Great Contacts with the WHO

Next to Abdel-Jalil sits a man in a chocolate-colored suit named Ali al-Essawi, 44, a former economic minister and most recently ambassador to India. He now calls himself foreign minister, although it’s not entirely clear why — perhaps because he’s the only one here who speaks English. He says he’s in excellent contact with the World Health Organization.

Most of those now calling the shots here are sons of the former regime and it’s worth asking what kind of state they want to create. Is it possible for democracy to prevail after 41 years where politics were forbidden? Or will the revolution fail in the end, even if it succeeds in toppling Gadhafi? And perhaps the greatest danger of all: Could this country, cobbled together by force under Gadhafi, end up disintegrating back into its component parts, into tribes, criminal gangs, warlords and Jihad groups, well-armed with Western weapons?

Ahmed Khalifa, the revolution’s spokesman, says all 30 of Libya’s tribes have pledged their support to the National Council, with the exception of Gadhafi’s tribe. “The Libyan people are united,” he says. “We have as many supporters in Tripoli as we do here. There won’t be a split between east and west, definitely not!” When it comes to the country’s unity, Khalifa seems to speak in exclamation points. And it’s impossible to find anyone who sees things differently.

Across the liberated east, rebel radio broadcasts spread both imagined victories and horror stories. First they said Khamis al-Gadhafi had been killed by a kamikaze pilot and that Ras Lanuf and Misrata were “80 percent” recaptured. Another broadcast reported 2,000 foreign workers from Egypt tied up and thrown into the harbor, while a conflicting report said the same people were used as human shields. A video currently in circulation claims to show members of the Khamis Brigade forcing African mercenary soldiers to eat meat from a dead dog. None of it can be verified.

On the Verge of Collapse

Six weeks after the revolution began, Benghazi, capital of free Libya, is descending into mistrust and fear. More stores have closed and most people no longer dare to give out their phone numbers. No one wants to say anything anymore beyond the revolution’s set phrases — nothing against the rebels and nothing against the government in Tripoli. One of many rumors says Gadhafi has spies within the National Council — why else would it be the youth who are now being cut down?

A cartoonist and an actor who parodied Gadhafi at a demonstration are now dead. Mohammed Nabbous, who ran the rebels’ television station, was shot by a sniper on March 19 in the middle of Benghazi, as he filmed the crash site where one of Gadhafi’s fighter jets was shot down. Fathi Turbel, the lawyer whose arrest touched off the revolution as young people demonstrated for his release, has disappeared.

No one dares to go out at night, as rounds of machine gun fire thunder through the empty streets. National Council members are no longer seen in public and they’re hard to reach for interviews. “There are death squads on both sides,” says Nasser Buisier, who fled to the US when he was 17, but has returned for the revolution. Buisier’s father is a former information minister, but was also a critic of Gadhafi, and his son doesn’t have much that’s positive to say about the new leadership. “Most of them never had to make sacrifices, they were part of the regime and I don’t believe they want elections,” Buisier says. He believes the National Council is on the verge of collapse and once that happens, he’d rather not be in Benghazi.

Buisier is heading back to the US, but is reluctant to say precisely when. He’s afraid he’s been blacklisted. He recently attended four funerals in a single day, for both rebels and regime supporters. Benghazi’s central hospital admits five, sometimes 10, patients each day with gunshot wounds. Two pick-up trucks outfitted with machine guns guard the hospital entrance and photos of missing people adorn the walls…

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein and Josh Ward

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

Tunisia: Ideal Candidate for the EU

Freed from the regime of Zine el Abdinine bin Ali and on the road to democracy, Tunisia should join the European Union, a group of French and Tunisian academics have suggested in the columns of Libération. A country “in transition”, as were formerly Greece, Portugal, Spain and even the communist countries, Tunisia

“is a more European country than many EU countries themselves. Three-quarters of its trade is with Europe, and it shares with European countries many historical roots, cultural traditions, norms and people (due to the diaspora and a multiplication of lifestyles bringing together both shores of the Mediterranean).”

“It is a small country with limited geographical differences in wealth (nothing in common with the eastern part of Turkey, whose extreme poverty will require significant structural funds if Turkey enters the EU); the GDP per capita is of the same order of magnitude as that of Turkey. Macroeconomic stabilisation was evidenced up to December, a sign that Tunisia had taken advantage of positive constraints contained in the Association Agreement with the EU. This suggests that the prospect of joining does accelerate reforms, as is happening in Turkey. Finally, national cohesion remains strong, and the average skill level is high and extends to a broad middle class.”

The EU would benefit from its membership, as it would establish new North-South relations, “stimulate the transition of other Arab countries, and frustrate the designs of U.S. and Asian powers in the Maghreb,” the authors conclude.

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

Ultraconservative Muslims More Assertive in Egypt

Members of an ultraconservative Muslim sect clashed with villagers south of Cairo over demands that a liquor store and coffee shops be closed, officials said Tuesday, a sign of the increasing assertiveness of the fundamentalist Salafi movement.

One villager was killed and eight others were injured in the armed clashes, which erupted late Monday in the village of Kasr el-Bassil in Fayoum province, a security official said.

The fighting broke out after Salafi followers ordered the owner to close the liquor store and coffee shops as they try to forcibly impose their strict interpretation of Islam by banning the drinking of alcohol.

Salafis were tolerated as a religious group under ex-President Hosni Mubarak to counterweight Mubarak’s top foe, the Muslim Brotherhood group but has gained power as it rises to play a more political role as followers now ponder nominate a presidential candidate, following the 18-day uprising that led to the ouster of the former regime. That has alarmed many of the secular and liberal forces in Egypt because of the group’s extremist discourse and imposition of Islamic sharia law.

Dozens of Salafis also staged a protest Tuesday in Cairo, accusing the church of abducting Camilla Shehata, a Coptic priest’s wife who some believe converted to Islam and is being held against her will. Salafis also have accused the police of collaborating with the church by handing Shehata over to Church authorities to reconvert them. The woman’s whereabouts are currently unknown.

Such protests were held almost weekly by the Salafis over the summer as they accused the Coptic Church of conspiring to “Christianize” Egypt, but they largely stopped after a suicide bombing on New Year’s Day outside a Coptic church in the port city of Alexandria killed 21 people.

Protesters held signs reading, “peaceful, nonviolent,” to defuse fresh rumors that the movement planned a massive rally on Tuesday aimed at supporting moves to force all Egyptian women to wear a veil and punish those who don’t adhere by burning their faces with acid.

The rumors spread on Christian websites and the Salafi movement quickly issued denials.

Despite the denials, one Coptic church in the southern province of Assuit evacuated some 340 female students from their university dormitories to hostels affiliated to the church and monasteries.

Though Salafis in Egypt reject violence, their doctrine is only a few shades away from that of groups such as al-Qaida. Both adhere to a strict interpretation of Islam that supposedly is a purer form of Islam said to have been practiced by Islam’s Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century.

The growth of Salafism is visible in dress. In many parts of Cairo women wear the “niqab,” a veil which shows at most the eyes rather than the “hijab” scarf that merely covers the hair. The men grow their beards long and often shave off mustaches, a style said to imitate the Prophet Muhammad.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

UN Res. 1973 vs. The US War Powers Act of 1973

U.N. RES. 1973 was the only authority under which Barack Obama ordered U.S. troops into combat in Libya. Congress was not consulted. Congress did not declare war. Congress did not issue specific statutory authority for the action. Congress was not even advised in advance. The United Nations alone, backed by the U.S. administration waged war on Libya without congressional oversight.

Is it coincidental that the U.N. resolution is titled 1973?

The U.S. War Powers Act became U.S. law in 1973, over the veto attempt of President Richard Nixon. The War Powers Act stands as U.S. Law today. Democrats Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are the only presidents since to taken military action in direct violation of the War Powers Act.

Since its passage in 1973, the War Powers Act established that a U.S. President can use military force in only three situations.

  • When congress declares war, which congress has not done since WWII.
  • When congress issues specific statutory authorization, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • When the United States in under direct attack, be it on U.S. soil, U.S. assets, or U.S. interests.

U.N. RES. 1973 is the tool being used to violate The War Powers Act of 1973. Congress did not declare war or pass specific statutory authority for Obama’s U.N. war on Libya. Clinton, Obama and the U.N. must be rolling on the floor in laughter over poking congress and the American people in the eye, using U.N. RES. 1973 to void the War Powers Act of 1973.

When asked if Libya presented any threat to the U.S., its assets or interests, Secretary of Defense Gates responded — “No, no,” Gates said — “It was not — it was not a vital national interest to the United States.”

This is exactly why the Founders trusted the power to declare war with congress, not the president.
After several presidents violated that trust, initiating use of military force without congressional authority, congress attempted to put a stop to such behaviors with the passage of the War Powers Act in 1973.


Representing thousands of retired U.S. Military Officers, Co-Chair of the United States Patriots Union Veterans Council is speaking out, loud and clear!

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely (Ret.) had already called for the immediate resignation of Obama and his entire cabinet, in the best interest of the United States and the people. But in light of the situation in Libya, that call from Vallely and many other Veterans in the Council and beyond is reaching a crescendo.

“We all took an oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law and the people of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic” — said Maj. Gen. Vallely.

We have more violence and threat to national security on our southern border with Mexico than in Libya; at least before the Obama administration ignited a firestorm across the Middle East.” — Vallely said.

Maj. Gen. Vallely went even further —

“The Obama administration has repeatedly shown a total disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law, and now they have violated the War Powers Act as well. — This administration cannot be trusted with such power. They have thumbed their nose at the Constitution, the rule of law, the will of the American people and our national sovereignty and security. In the interest of the United States, I call upon the Obama administration to immediately resign. I further call upon the U.S. Congress to immediately begin impeachment of this lawless administration if they do not have the decency and honor to resign.” — Maj. Gen. Vallely

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Wave of Al-Qaeda Fighters Heading to Libya From Afghanistan

Al-Qaeda fighters can’t believe their luck that Americans are helping them bomb the Gaddafi regime back to the Stone Age. The Daily Beast reported:

As the battle for the future of Libya continues, the excitement is almost palpable among Libyan-born al Qaeda fighters and other Arabs hunkered down in Pakistan’s remote and lawless tribal area. According to Afghan Taliban sources close to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group, some of the 200 or so Libyans operating near the Afghan border may be on their way home to steer the anti-Gaddafi revolution in a more Islamist direction.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Could This be the Biggest Find Since the Dead Sea Scrolls? Seventy Metal Books Found in Cave in Jordan Could Change Our View of Biblical History

For scholars of faith and history, it is a treasure trove too precious for price.

This ancient collection of 70 tiny books, their lead pages bound with wire, could unlock some of the secrets of the earliest days of Christianity.

Academics are divided as to their authenticity but say that if verified, they could prove as pivotal as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947.

On pages not much bigger than a credit card, are images, symbols and words that appear to refer to the Messiah and, possibly even, to the Crucifixion and Resurrection.

Adding to the intrigue, many of the books are sealed, prompting academics to speculate they are actually the lost collection of codices mentioned in the Bible’s Book Of Revelation.

The books were discovered five years ago in a cave in a remote part of Jordan to which Christian refugees are known to have fled after the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD. Important documents from the same period have previously been found there.

Initial metallurgical tests indicate that some of the books could date from the first century AD.

This estimate is based on the form of corrosion which has taken place, which experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially.

If the dating is verified, the books would be among the earliest Christian documents, predating the writings of St Paul.

The prospect that they could contain contemporary accounts of the final years of Jesus’s life has excited scholars — although their enthusiasm is tempered by the fact that experts have previously been fooled by sophisticated fakes.

David Elkington, a British scholar of ancient religious history and archeology, and one of the few to have examined the books, says they could be ‘the major discovery of Christian history’.

‘It is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church,’ he said.

But the mysteries between their ancient pages are not the books’ only riddle. Today, their whereabouts are also something of a mystery. After their discovery by a Jordanian Bedouin, the hoard was subsequently acquired by an Israeli Bedouin, who is said to have illegally smuggled them across the border into Israel, where they remain.

However, the Jordanian Government is now working at the highest levels to repatriate and safeguard the collection. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of biblical studies at Sheffield University, said there was powerful evidence that the books have a Christian origin in plates cast into a picture map of the holy city of Jerusalem.

‘As soon as I saw that, I was dumbstruck,’ he said. ‘That struck me as so obviously a Christian image. There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city.

‘There are walls depicted on other pages of these books too and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem. It is a Christian crucifixion taking place outside the city walls.’

The British team leading the work on the discovery fears that the present Israeli ‘keeper’ may be looking to sell some of the books on to the black market, or worse — destroy them.

But the man who holds the books denies the charge and claims they have been in his family for 100 years.

Dr Margaret Barker, a former president of the Society for Old Testament Study, said: ‘The Book of Revelation tells of a sealed book that was opened only by the Messiah.

‘Other texts from the period tell of sealed books of wisdom and of a secret tradition passed on by Jesus to his closest disciples. That is the context for this discovery.’

Professor Davies said: ‘The possibility of a Hebrew-Christian origin is certainly suggested by the imagery and, if so, these codices are likely to bring dramatic new light to our understanding of a very significant but so far little understood period of history.’

Mr Elkington, who is leading British efforts to have the books returned to Jordan, said: ‘It is vital that the collection can be recovered intact and secured in the best possible circumstances, both for the benefit of its owners and for a potentially fascinated international audience.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Iran is Top of the World in Science Growth

Which country’s scientific output rose 18-fold between 1996 and 2008, from 736 published papers to 13,238? The answer — Iran — might surprise many people, especially in the western nations used to leading science. Iran has the fastest rate of increase in scientific publication in the world. And if political relations between Iran and the US are strained, it seems that the two countries’ scientists are getting on fine: the number of collaborative papers between them rose almost fivefold from 388 to 1831 over the same period.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Abdullah Backs Reform Panel to End Crisis

(by Mohammad Ben Hussein) (ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 30 — King Abdullah of Jordan on Wednesday threw his support behind a national committee for reform following mass resignations from the panel after the government unleashed riot police and thugs to disperse protesters in Amman.

The committee was formed by the government upon instructions from the king following a spat of protests by several opposition groups calling for sweeping reform. At least 8 members of the committee resigned this week in the aftermath of clashes near a central square in Amman, where one person was killed and 100 injured.

“You play a very significant role to take Jordan to a new level, a stage of reform, modernisation and development and I am the guarantor of what you will come out with,” the King said during a meeting with members of panel.

Chaired by senate president and highly respected politician Taher Masri, the committee comprises representatives of the private and public sectors as well as media and civil society.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the most influential in the kingdom have boycotted the committee for failing to receive guarantees over issues on the table for discussion.

The opposition wants limitation to the king’s powers by which a parliament government is formed according to majority in the house. Opposition figures and former government officials blame lack of reform on a conservative establishment that controls most of the kingdom’s vital institutions including security apparatus.

But the king assured panel members that reform is on its way.

“We are not afraid of reform and we will respect the recommendations of the national dialogue panel regarding any constitutional amendments related to developing the Elections Law and the partisan and parliamentary life,” the King told the panel members. The government mobilized a strong force of the notorious gendarmerie forces at Jamal Abdul Nasser Square in Amman and allowed thugs and police in civilian cloths to corner youth protesters camping at the central square. Protesters were bombarded with rocks from roof tops while gendarmerie forces used batons and water cannons to force the group evacuate the premises. The Islamist movement described prime minister and former army general Maruf Bakhit during a recent press conference as “president of thugs,” after the latter accused the Islamist movement of instigating violence.

Abdullah told panel members that reform should include amendments to the elections law to represent all Jordanians.

The current one-man one-vote law is tailored to allow Jordanians in rural areas to maintain a majority of 80 percent in the house. “Loyalty and reform are equally important to us,” King Abdullah said. He noted that there are those who speak about reform with good intentions while there are others who have different agendas.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syrian President Blames Conspiracy for Violence

(AGI) Damascus — In his nationally televised address Syrian President Basher Al-Assad said, “a great conspiracy is coming from inside and outside the country.” The president continued saying, “around us the world is changing, with regional repercussions that include Syria.” He went on to explain that recent events had put the nation’s unity to the test and that Syria, “is not immune” from events taking place in the Arab world. President Basher Al-Assad succeeded his father, Hafez Al-Assad, as Syrian president in 2000.

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

Syria: Assad: Reforms Starting, State of Emergency Stands

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 30 — “It is an exceptionally difficult moment, but we will make it, I feel sorry for the victims”, stated Syrian president Basher Assad today to MPs in Parliament during a speech broadcast live on television in which he announced that he asked the new government to implement the announced reforms, but not the expected withdrawal of the emergency law that has been in effect for 48 years.

Assad specified that “we are examining a plan against corruption”, while “an hour ago we increased the wages of public employees, and a bill on parties is already ready. The reforms are not an impromptu and sudden procedure, and a Country that does not reform itself is a Country that destroys itself”, according to the president, who justified himself for not implementing the reforms up to now: “we were forced to change our chosen priorities because of the repeated regional crises and because of four years of drought. Syria’s stability has become the priority on our agenda”.

The rais, who yesterday accepted the government’s resignation as the first tangible act of slight change after two weeks of unprecedented protests against the regime in power for almost half a century, mentioned the demonstrators stating that “the State must be pleased that the citizens are expressing the need for their rights to be respected”, before reporting “a major external and also internal conspiracy” against the Country.

“A minority prompts chaos using the slogan of reforms”, Assad accused, which evoked the clashes in Daraa, the southern city that in recent days was the centre of the harsh repression of anti-regime demonstrations, stating that he “gave clear instructions so that no citizen would be wounded. The region of Daraa is in the heart of all Syrians, the people are not responsible for what happened”. He stated that amateur videos “are all false. The Pan-Arabian TVs and text messages have been fomenting sedition for weeks”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Syria: Only Promises and Tanks From Assad

Despite earlier announcements, the Syrian president only promises reforms but says nothing about expected steps to end 48 years of emergency rule and the one-party state. Deraa is surrounded by the army. According to some sources, a huge crowd has gathered for the funerals of demonstrators killed during clashes.

Beirut (AsiaNews) — President Bashar al-Assad has promised reforms but sent in the tanks. It appears that the Syrian leader is convinced that he can contain calls for reform and democracy, which have driven thousands of people into the streets and caused dozens of dead from clashes with security forces.

Today was the much-awaited day in which the president would address the Syrian parliament. Announced several times, it had been postponed, according to Assad, by the need to see the situation more clearly.

Demonstrators and observers were expecting an end to the country’s 48-year-old emergency rule. Under its terms, police have the power to arrest anyone without charges and hold them for an undetermined length of time. People also anticipated an end to media censorship, which prevents an independent press, as well as the one-party rule by the Ba’ath party. They also looked forward to plans to tackle corruption.

Many were certain that such changes would be announced. Presidential spokeswoman Bouthaina Shaaban had almost said as much on Sunday. The resignation en masse of the cabinet, which the president accepted, was seen as a sign of changes to come.

However, in a speech interrupted by roaring applause, Assad simply said, “We tell those asking for reform that we were late in implementing reform but we will start now. [. . .] We are studying decisions to combat corruption and increase job opportunities.”

As he expressed regrets for the victims of clashes, the president also noted, “Our enemies are working to continuously hit Syria’s stability,” targeted by “a big plot from the outside”.

Similarly, he said that Syrians were “duped” into going into the streets by “satellite TV stations”, adding that the people in Deraa “must contain the minorities that sought to create chaos”. In his view, the latter are to blame for the deaths.

As for the rest, after yesterday’s pro-regime rally organised to boost support for the president, the usual themes dear to the regime’s propaganda were reiterated. The president in fact insisted that the ties that bind state and people are not based on pressure but on the rights and needs of citizens. He also claimed that Syria was the victim of a plot designed to end its leadership role in the resistance against Israel. Equally, he explained that the latest developments should be used to help the Palestinian cause and that Syria’s foreign policy is based on a decision to uphold the rights of Arab resistance and that Syria was not isolated in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, Deraa, the city that has come to symbolise the uprising, continues to be surrounded by tanks. Checkpoints have been set up at all points that permit access to and from the city. At the same time, opposition sources say that thousands of people are gathering in front of the al-Omari Mosque for the funerals of the latest five victims. (PD)

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

Woman: 29, Sues UAE Five-Star Hotel After She Was Raped… Then Jailed for Having Sex Outside of Marriage

An Australian woman is suing a five-star UAE hotel after she was drugged and raped by co-workers — but ended up in jail for eight months for having sex outside marriage.

Alicia Gali, 29, had her drink spiked and was raped by four co-workers at the luxury Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort in the United Arab Emirates in June 2008.

She is seeking compensation from her former employer for breaching its workplace duty of care after she reported the assault to authorities, only to be jailed for eight months on an adultery charge.

Ms Gali spent eight months in prison as having sex outside marriage in the UAE is illegal.

Australian embassy staff advised Ms Gali and her family not to go to the media during her time in custody, when she was locked in a cell with 30 other women.

She has since been pardoned and was released in March 2009.

Ms Gali claims the hotel failed to protect staff against assault and its legal consequences.

She alleges the resort encouraged workers to drink illegally, despite strict laws and the requirement of drinking permits.

The ‘harrowing’ ordeal has since caused Ms Gali severe post traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, flashbacks, depression and claustrophobia, according to her lawyer Melissa Payne.

Ms Gali said: ‘I thought I would be safe and protected in an international hotel group.

‘They didn’t give me the correct advice and didn’t help me when I was charged and imprisoned.

‘I still feel angry and upset. It’s distressing because I was a victim in all this and I was punished.

‘The UAE is being promoted hugely here as a tourism destination — they sponsor things here.

‘They are not complying with human rights, women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights.’

Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort describes itself as ‘a paradise on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates’.

The website for the resort says: ‘The resort is perfectly placed for guests to make the most of the Emirates’ year-round sunshine’.

Ms Payne says the incident could have been avoided, as the hotel should have had segregated quarters for female employees and provide adequate induction training on the local laws and customs.

Ms Payne said: ‘When she reported the assault to the human resources manager he did not advise her of the potential consequences of reporting that assault.

‘Alicia’s employer has let her down in the most terrible, terrible of ways. A company like this should know better.

‘The resort promotes itself as paradise on Earth… it wasn’t paradise for Alicia.

‘Alicia is very concerned there are other women who might find themselves in similar situations. ‘She now feels brave enough to speak out.’

Trey Maurice from the resort’s parent company Starwood Hotels, said safety and security of staff is a paramount priority.

Mr Maurice says the management of the resort was aware of the unfortunate circumstances and provided support and assistance to Ms Gali and her family during her imprisonment.

Ms Payne said Ms Gali’s lawsuit against the resort was likely to take place in court in Queensland, Australia, but could possible happen in the UAE.

An exact figure for the compensation has yet to be determined, Ms Payne said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistan: Shahbaz Batthi Killed by a “Mafia” Of Fundamentalists Holding the Government Hostage

The minister for minorities, Salman Taseer and other victims of the “organized movement” fighting for power. The violence has raised such fear that that any discussion about the law on blasphemy has been dropped. But Christians must cultivate the hope and with the help of the universal Church, build a better future.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) — “A kind of mafia” dominates Pakistan, one that holds the country hostage and “destabilizes the name of religion”, it “is very important” to fight this criminal organization but it is equally important to “think about how to fight it,” by strengthening schools and the education level, Fr Bonnie Mendes tells AsiaNews. The priest, a leading figure in the Catholic Church of Pakistan, says that “militant extremists” linked to organized movements “killed Salman Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti and David Qamar”. These murders, also, “have generated fears” that might bring down any debate on amendments to the blasphemy law.

Salman Taseer, Governor of Punjab and staunch opponent of blasphemy laws, was killed Jan. 4 by one of his bodyguards for his defense of Asia Bibi, a 45 year old Christian mother of five children, sentenced to death because of the “black law” and pending appeal. Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Minorities, was murdered by an armed commando on March 2 last, government and police blame each other for the death of the Catholic politician, but the culprits are still at large. David Qamar, 55, died in prison in Karachi, where he was serving a life sentence for blasphemy. The prison authorities have spoken of a cardiac arrest, but the family suspects that the man was poisoned.

Fr. Mendes, from 1986 to 1999 Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Episcopal Conference, said that the mafias operate “under the cloak of religion” and “cause suffering for the whole nation”. After the death of Catholic minister for minorities, “the situation of Pakistani Christians will be as it has always been” because “other leaders will emerge and things will continue.” “Maybe not high profile personalities like Shahbaz Bhatti — he adds — but there will be others.”

For Father Mendes, currently regional coordinator of Caritas Asia, sees the appointment of Paul Bhatti — brother of the assassinated Catholic minister — as chairman of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) is very significant, because it shows that “the group does not want internal divisions”. Fr. Mendes makes it clear that it is too early to assess whether Paul “will be a good replacement for Shahbaz, but it is fundamental that” there are no divisions in the group, partly because Shahbaz Bhatti “was not formed in one day, but took time “.

The most urgent objective is to “eliminate discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan and for this “we need to sit down and discuss” issues. He invites greater attention on the widespread problem of discrimination, “not only on a particular law” (a reference is to the notorious blasphemy laws, ed.) In this way, he explains, “we will avoid offending” the Muslim majority, by not offering excuses to the extremist fringe and “be able to do more for the persecuted Christians in Pakistan”.

After the death of Salman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, the priest says, “people do not want to talk about the blasphemy laws because they are afraid”, but the organizations for the protection of human rights “also seek to combat discrimination in the country.” Fr. Mendes sees no “short-term solutions”, but rather thinks that it is necessary to look at “the long term, promoting education, eliminating discrimination from the ground up, even in schools and for this reason I feel the need to encourage the emergence of Catholic institutions. “

“On a personal level — the priest said — I think study is fundamental for young people” even if it is “very expensive” today in Pakistan. Young Christians have talent and ability, but they have no incentives to tackle and qualify for the most challenging courses of study, because access to higher level and the most prestigious occupations is closed to them”. In this sense, he adds, “ the help of international partners is essential.” The Pakistani Christian community, says Father Mendes, “is strong and determined, with the help of the universal Church it will be possible to build a strong Church in Pakistan.”

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

Far East

China Forges Uranium Pact With Kazakhstan

By Farkhad Sharip

Future prospects for cooperation between China and Kazakhstan were high on the agenda during President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to Beijing on February 21. This overshadowed all other complicated and long-drawn out issues like the water sharing on Ili and Irtysh Rivers, on which a preliminary agreement was reached and the talks on transborder rivers, as it was disclosed to journalists, will be finalized during the trip by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Kazakhstan scheduled for June.

Nazarbayev said after his talks with Hu that Kazakhstan will deliver uranium fuel pellets “worth billions of dollars” to Chinese nuclear power plants. Nazarbayev declared that the joint development of nuclear energy has become much more promising and economically beneficial than cooperation on oil and gas.

Underdeveloped energy infrastructure and strong dependence on imports for electricity from Kyrgyzstan and gas from Turkmenistan to supply its southern regions forces Kazakhstan to look for alternative sources of energy. In April 2010, the atomic energy committee of Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and New Technologies worked out a new draft law on the use of nuclear energy. However, the bill, intended to eliminate bureaucratic hurdles on the planned construction of nuclear power plants in Aktau seaport city (Western Kazakhstan or, as a possible alternative, in Kurchatov in Eastern Kazakhstan region), although endorsed by the government, has remained deadlocked in parliament.

In November 2010, the ministry announced that a Kazakh-Russian joint venture company was conducting a technical feasibility study of the nuclear power plant to be built in Aktau by the year 2020. But in Kazakhstan there has been a backlash in public opinion against the project because of the public reaction to the radiation leaks at Japanese nuclear reactors damaged by the severe earthquake and tsunami. Several years ago, the public opposed government plans to dump foreign nuclear waste in Kazakhstan, and under such pressure the authorities, abandoned the plan, albeit temporarily.

Nevertheless, Duisenbay Turganov, deputy minister of industry and new technologies, reaffirmed the intention of the ministry to secure an endorsement from the presidential administration for the draft law on nuclear energy. Turganov said the disaster at the Japanese nuclear plants should not deter Kazakhstan from using its rich uranium deposits, the second-largest in the world, for its own nuclear energy requirements rather than exporting uranium to a foreign country…

Farkhad Sharip is an independent journalist who lives in Alma-Aty, Kazakhstan.

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

Japan: Fukushima Beyond Point of No Return as Radioactive Core Melts

The battle to save the Fukushima nuclear power plant now appears lost as the radioactive core from Reactor No. 2 has melted through the containment vessel and dropped into the concrete basement of the reactor structure. This is “raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site,” reports The Guardian, which broke the story. A former General Electric nuclear expert told The Guardian that Japan appears to have “lost the race” to save the reactor.

The only feasible interpretation from this analysis is that radiation emissions from Fukushima could suddenly become much greater. It is also now obvious that the radioactive fallout from Fukushima will last for decades, if not centuries.

Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan last night admitted the situation at Fukushima remains “unpredictable.” Meanwhile, the presence of plutonium in soil samples is proof that the nuclear fuel rods have been compromised and are releasing material into the open atmosphere.


So what happens now that the fuel core from Reactor No. 2 has burned its way through the containment vessel and dropped to the concrete floor? It follows the laws of physics, of course: The super-heated nuclear fuel reacts with the concrete material in the floor, producing highly radioactive gas which now runs the risk of escaping into the atmosphere if it gets through the outer containment wall.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Radiation in Seawater Around Japan Plant 4,385 Times Over Legal Limit

TOKYO, March 31 (Reuters) — The levels of radioactive iodine found in seawater near Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant was 4,385 times more than the legal limit on Thursday, the nuclear safety agency said.

The level was the highest recorded since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant that was triggered by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Deputy Director-General Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news briefing.

He added that this did not present a health risk because nearby residents have already been evacuated from a 20-km (12-mile) zone around the complex that extends out to sea.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Liberal MP Says Debate Being Stifled Over ‘Racism’ Fears

THE Liberal senator widely attacked for describing Islam as a totalitarian ideology has warned that Australians at odds with the “politically correct” orthodoxy are being forced to whisper their views for fear of being labelled racists.

South Australian senator Cory Bernardi has also demanded migrants observe Australian customs and core values, urging the nation to reject a path of “isolation and separatism” by tolerating breaches of the nation’s “social covenant” by newcomers.

But the nation’s first Muslim MP, Sydney’s Ed Husic, has rejected the comments, saying no-one needs to whisper opinions that represent considered and thoughtful argument.

Last month Senator Bernardi said in a radio interview: “Islam itself is the problem, it’s not Muslims. Muslims are individuals that practise their faith in their own way, but Islam is a totalitarian, political and religious ideology.”

The comments provoked a storm of critics, with Julia Gillard accusing the Liberals of “race-baiting” and demanding Tony Abbott dump Senator Bernardi as his parliamentary secretary.

Yesterday Senator Bernardi launched an impassioned defence of his stance on his website in a blog titled “The Whisper Zone”.

“Those who speak publicly, — normally these are people of a conservative or traditional viewpoint — are too often shouted down, mocked and derided simply for expressing a viewpoint that does not align with the prevailing PC orthodoxy,” Senator Bernardi wrote.

“This has the effect of silencing people because they are afraid of being intimidated and ridiculed.

In effect, they are reduced to whispering their views to others.” Mr Husic, who holds the seat of Chifley, said Australia was a democracy where people were free to express their views.

“But in doing so, we should also be mindful that what we say, where these views may not be based on fact, can cause hurt or marginalise,” Mr Husic told The Australian Online.

“People in public life have to be especially conscious of this. “I’d respectfully suggest there’s no need to whisper considered, thoughtful argument.”

“If one’s views aren’t based on fact or are indifferent to others in a rush to make a headline, then perhaps keeping those views to oneself is the best course of action.”

Senator Bernardi said he was not precious or thin-skinned, but noted that it seemed publicly acceptable for Labor MPs like Kevin Rudd and Chris Evans, as well as independent senator Nick Xenophon, to express concerns about particular groups, while he was shouted down for expressing his views.

“If the cost of raising legitimate community concerns, whether or not others actually agree with the question raised, leads to lies, smears, irrational accusations of racism and bigotry, then we really do have a problem with free speech in this country,” he wrote.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ex-South Africa Rugby Star ‘Murders at Least Three People With an Axe in Revenge for Gang-Rape of His Daughter’

A famous former rugby player has been arrested in South Africa after allegedly butchering at least three people to death with an axe.

A newspaper claimed the unnamed 34-year-old sportsman had launched a murderous rampage in revenge after his daughter was gang-raped and infected with HIV.

Afrikaans daily Beeld reported that one of the star’s alleged victims had been decapitated during a string of brutal attacks which happened last week near Durban in South Africa’s eastern KwaZulu-Natal province.

It is believed the man’s head was found at least a mile away from his body in a separate suburb of the Indian Ocean city.

Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge told South Africa’s Sowetan newspaper the sportsman was being held in custody after being arrested yesterday.

The star is due to appear in court tomorrow to face three charges of murder and one of attempted murder in relation to a fourth alleged victim named Khangelani Mdluli, who managed to escape.

Lieutenant Colonel Mdunge said: ‘When they pounced on him they found an axe, which we believe is the murder weapon, clothes with blood stains and a hired car that we suspect he could have used during the alleged attacks.

‘He is currently being detained in one of our police stations.

‘We can’t disclose where for security reasons.

‘He will be charged formally with three counts of murder with aggravating circumstances and one of attempted murder.’

Police said the man was arrested in a planned raid on a residential property at around 1.30am yesterday.

He is accused of stalking his victims over several days in townships and slum suburbs around Durban before hacking them to death with an axe.

Detectives announced details of the horrific killing spree last week and appealed for information on the brutal crimes.

Investigating officers then said the incidents had happened between last Sunday and Wednesday in the Durban districts of Yellowood Park, Lamontville and Umbilo.

Detectives said they were convinced the same man had been responsible for at least three murders and that it was likely he could have also earlier claimed a fourth victim.

One of the dead men was named as Paulos Hlongwa, a 46-year-old whose body was found last week in Merebank.

Police said his head was later discovered in a dustbin more than a mile away.

The decomposing bodies of the other victims were found later last week.

Police spokesman Anton Booysen said one of them had been almost fully-decapitated.

He added: ‘His head was hanging by nothing more than a nerve.’

It is believed yesterday’s arrest came after officers received a tip-off from members of the public.

Local media today reported that the sportsman had played for the top-flight Blue Bulls rugby side, based in Pretoria.

Under South African law police are not permitted to name a suspect in a crime until they have appeared in court.

However officials indicated it was likely the star’s identity could be publicly withheld even after tomorrow’s scheduled hearing, in order to protect the dignity of his daughter following the speculation she had been raped.

Meanwhile some fear the tragedy could create fresh fissures in South Africa’s fragile race relations.

The vast majority of South African rugby stars are white and it is possible the suspect could be accused of deliberately targeting black victims.

Meanwhile, the suggestion that he was acting out of revenge for his daughter’s alleged rape could spark a new debate about the effect of crime in a country where many live in constant fear of violence.

Blue Bulls spokesman Ian Schwartz was this morning unavailable to comment on the arrest as he was travelling with the team to New Zealand.

The premier league side is based in Pretoria and enjoys a huge cult following among mainly-white fans, among whom it is known by its Afrikaans name Die Blou Bulle.

The Bulls compete each year in South Africa’s Currie Cup league and are one of the most successful of the country’s domestic teams.

This afternoon it was reported that the arrested former player lived in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province and had been visiting relatives in Durban.

The Cape Argus said the star’s identity was known by journalists but would be withheld to protect his daughter.

The newspaper also published an interview with a man believed to have narrowly escaped the axe killer.

Durban resident Khangelani Mdluli, 27, told police he was walking through the city’s Lamontville suburb last Tuesday when a man approached him in his car.

In comments reported by the Argus, Mr Mdluli said the man accused him of raping his daughter before lunging at him with an axe.

He said: ‘He stopped the car, jumped out with an orange plastic bag and walked down the road towards me.

‘I continued walking but I looked at the plastic bag.

‘He said to me: ‘Did you know we would ever meet? You think I’m stupid. You infected my daughter with HIV’.’

Mr Mdluli said the man then pulled an axe out of a bag we was carrying and slammed it down towards his head.

He said: ‘As the axe came down towards my head, I ducked and it scratched my stomach.

‘I started running down the road as he followed me and swore at me.

‘He eventually gave up and turned back to head to his car, which was parked up the road.’

The alleged victim said he ran straight home after the incident, which had left him traumatised.

He added: ‘The incident has really affected me.

‘I don’t feel at ease when I am working night shift and have to walk home. I am scared and I don’t feel safe.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Safety: Reactors That Can’t Melt Down

However, over recent years, engineers have developed an innovative alternative nuclear reactor design, known as High Temperature Gas Reactors. Instead of water, they employ helium gas as a coolant. In South Africa, a similar reactor design was developed: the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). Its fuel is small tennis-ball-sized graphite balls containing granules of uranium, rather than large metal fuel elements. The balls cannot melt.

The PBMR design was developed to be “walk away safe,” which means that the nuclear reactor and its cooling system can be stopped dead in their tracks. The reactor cannot overheat, but will just cool down by itself. A real-world trial of the reactor system was carried out in Germany, and the reactor cooled just as designed. The operating team really can walk away to have lunch, and the reactor will take care of itself in the event of an emergency shutdown.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Apulia’s Manduria Prepares for New Tunisian Arrivals

(AGI) Taranto- Taranto hosted anti-immigrant protests today as Tunisian refugees left Lampedusa heading for the Apulian port city. Protesters blocked the main thoroughfare connecting Manduria and Oria; the latter host to makeshift accommodation for the refugees. The Oria camp currently hosts 800 and will have to host a further 1,300, recently offloaded from Sicily.

Established at the former Oria military airfield, the shelter camp’s total hosting capacity is of 3,800. The area is to be surrounded by 2m fencing. The facility will serve identification purposes. Out of the 800 current ‘residents’, a total of 230 have already filed asylum requests.

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

Condoms for Migrants Urged on Southern Lampedusa Island

Roma, 30 March — (AKI) — Condoms should be distributed to thousands of migrants crowded on southern Lampedusa island to prevent unwanted pregnancies and halt the spread of sexually transmitted disease, a prominent Italian medic said Wednesday.

“Just as cigarettes can be distributed, we can hand out condoms and other forms of contraception, the head of Italy’s association of gynaecologists and obstetricians, Nicola Surico, told Adnkronos.

“The contraceptives can be distributed to men and women, to cut the risk of STDs such as syphillis and the (cancer causing) papillomavirus, as well as unwanted pregnancies,” Surico added.

The risk of STDs spreading among more than 6,000 mostly Tunisian illegal immigrants on Lampedusa as of early Wednesday, was high, according to Surico, as such infectious diseases are widespread.

The influx of migrants has caused severe overcrowding and has angered residents on the tiny fishing island whose population is around 5,300.

Six navy and passenger ships were expected to transfer many of the migrants to other centres elsewhere in Italy as food is running out and sanitary conditions are described by officials as “desperate.”

There could could be dozens of unwanted pregnancies among female migrants, he warned. “Unfortunately, in many cases, these women are likely to seek abortions,” he said.

About 20,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Lampedusa since the unrest in in North Africa and elsewhere in the Arab region began in January, loosening frontier checks that blocked the way into Europe.

Lampedusa lies around 113 kilometres from Tunisia and 205 kilometres south of Sicily.

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

Eritrean Refugees Critcise Italy and Malta

Eritrean refugees believe Italy and Malta maintain poor reception conditions to scare off other African migrants. For 30-year old Simon Tesfamichael, an Eritrean refugee living in Italy for eight years, the news coming from Lampedusa sounds all too familiar. As hundreds of Eritrean, Somali, Sudanese and Ethiopian flee Libya by boat to the tiny Italian island, Tesfamichael wonders “why the Italian authorities are sitting on their hands” instead of speeding up the transfers to the mainland. “Italy is a big country, it could manage, but it doesn’t seem to want to. At least Malta is asking for help from other nations when it can’t cope with the immigrants,” he told this website on Tuesday (29 March) during a conference organised by the Jesuit Refugee Service on migrants’ lack of rights. “They gave me refugee status in six months, but that was eight years ago, now it takes much longer. And the rights are zero, when you are out of a job, or while you wait for your asylum claim to be processed,” he says in fluent Italian.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

France and Italy’s Refugee Ping-Pong

Hundreds of North African refugees are continuing to land on the Italian island of Lampedusa off the Tunisian coast, provoking a humanitarian and political crisis. At the same time, hundreds of others are attempting, usually without success, to cross the border between Italy and France, which is their final destination.

Giuseppe Salvaggiulo

“Italy does not interest us. It’s just a stop-over. We want to go to France, but they don’t want us there.” Camped out at the station by low walls that serve as urinals, taking afternoon naps in public parks or sleeping out on the banks of the Roia: most are illegal, some are refugees, and all of them are clearly desperate. Welcome to the world of the migrants.

Having passed through the bottleneck of Lampedusa, they face the reality of their own containment in Ventimiglia — a town populated by a potentially explosive admixture of young men in transit with no more baggage than a pair of jeans, trainers and a mobile phone, and worried locals who keep asking mayor Gaetano Scullino, “When are you going to get rid of them?”

Ventimiglia station is the third Italian stage in the journey for migrants leaving Tunisia. After landing on Lampedusa, they are transfered to provisional accommodation centres on the continent — in Bari, Foggia, and Crotone — from which they can easily escape. Then comes the train ride to Italy’s northern border.

A fax to the Italian police is enough to send them back

Italy is only a transit destination. Usually their goal is to reach France, where they can count on the possibility of help from relatives, and jobs that are easier to find on the Côte d’Azur. But negotiating the meager ten kilometres that separate Ventimiglia from the French border town of Menton can prove to be more treacherous than crossing the Strait of Sicily.

For the migrants the French-Italian border is a virtually unbreachable wall. Attempts to cross it are hampered by the possibility of nightmarish encounters with border police, who are increasingly flagging down cars with dark skinned passengers, and mounting patrols in trains.

Anyone who is caught without the right documents is immediately sent back to Ventimiglia, without any questions about their status or their health. A simple fax to the Italian police is all that is required. We take them back without objecting.

Official attitudes in Italy are in stark contrast to those in France: there are no controls, and no one asks for ID. Our accommodation centres are overflowing, and no one knows where to send asylum seekers. And we wonder why should we bother detaining people who do not even want to live here?

Local people remain tolerant for the moment

Ventimiglia has become a small-scale northern Lampedusa. Every day, around 50 migrants arrive here from the south of Italy, and a similar number attempt to cross the French border. However, relatively few of them succeed: about 30 come back to camp in Ventimiglia before trying again.

And the numbers are steadily increasing. Today there are more than a hundred: usually Tunsian men aged under 30 with a scattering of Libyans, all of them armed with a few sandwiches and money for the train.

Until now there have been no public order problems. The residents of Ventimiglia, which was invaded by Kurds in 1998, prefer to suffer in silence. But if you listen to the talk in cafe’s and at institutional meetings, which are now held almost daily, everyone is warning that “if it does not change soon, the situation will be explosive.”

At night, the migrants camp in the railway station underpass, where there is a plug for their phones. In response to protests from the mayor, the rail company has agreed to leave the waiting room and the toilets open. During the day they spend their time in the town centre, wondering about a risk free route to France.

In a few weeks, Samir will be celebrating his 24th birthday. He was a child when he arrived Italy, and when he left school he got a job in a shipping company which subsequently closed down. Thereafter, he followed a girlfriend to Nice, where he now works as a carpenter. He shows me his French carte de séjour which entitles him to travel everywhere in Europe.

Throughout the day, he remains on his guard: “I have come to pick up my borther, who is 20 years old. He paid 1,800 euros for a passage from Sfax to Lampedusa, and then he was transfered to Puglia. When he phoned me, I told him, I’ll come and get you in Ventimiglia. So here I am. Yesterday, I traveled back and forth to Nice four times to see how the patrols are operating. Driving over the border is too risky: if we’re caught I’ll be arrested.”…

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

Hundreds Escape From Mineo

(AGI) Catania — Several hundred immigrants, nearly all Tunisians, are missing from the solidarity village of Mineo according to some foreigners living in the former residence of the oranges. Their compatriots may have gone to the North of Italy and other European countries .

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

Italy: Frattini Slams France for Sending Back Migrants

‘Grave lack of solidarity’ says FM as border tensions mount

(ANSA) — Rome, March 30 — Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini on Wednesday criticised France for stopping migrants from Tunisia on the French-Italian border.

Thousands of Tunisians have been packed in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia for the last few days, demanding to be allowed to join relatives in France.

But Paris has turned a deaf ear to their pleas.

The move has raised Italian hackles, especially as the country is grappling with a bigger migrant emergency on the southern island of Lampedusa, where most of the Tunisians landed.

Frattini told Italian TV news that France was showing a “grave lack of solidarity”.

An estimated 3,500 Tunisians have arrived in the Ligurian town of Ventimiglia in the last two days after escaping from detention centres further south, Italian officials say.

The governor of nearby Lombardy, Roberto Formigoni, on Wednesday called for the European Union to “strongly stigmatize France’s position”.

Frattini denounced a lack of coordination by the EU, saying “it is not up to Italy to open a dispute with France”.

In Brussels, the European Commission rejected Italian claims of inaction, saying Italy had received “some 18 million euros in the 2010-2011 period for the repatriation of immigrants, as well as the 25 million euros earmarked for all member states for emergency measures”.

“That is the European Union’s response”.

But Frattini said the EU had been “totally lacking” in allegedly leaving Italy alone to cope with the arrival of almost 20,000 economic migrants and asylum seekers on Lampedusa since the start of the year.

Aside from the funds, the EU has sent officials from its border agency Frontex to Lampedusa. The 7,000 migrants on the island, many of them without food, are set to be shipped out to other parts of Italy Wednesday after a visit by Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

Protests from many of Lampedusa’s 5,000 native inhabitants have risen as a sanitary crisis loomed, with the island’s town hall occupied and threats to block public services.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lampedusa Will be ‘Freed’ of Immigrants Within Days, Says Berlusconi

Lampedusa, 30 April — (AKI) — The tiny southern fishing island of Lampedusa will be ‘freed’ of thousands of illegal immigrants from North Africa within two to three days, Italy’s prime minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Wednesday.

Berlusconi travelled to Lampedusa where some of the island’s 5,200 residents gave him a warm reception chanting “Silvio, Silvio!”.

The 74-year-old premier vowed to oversee the relocation of 6,200 migrants, mainly young Tunisians, who as of early Wednesday had arrived on Lampedusa, outnumbering its residents and overwhelming its infrastructure.

Berlusconi said the migrants would be removed from Lampedusa “within 48-60 hours”. Five ships have been sent to transport the migrants to centres elsewhere in Italy, he said.

Authorities on Lampedusa have said they are unable to feed and house so many migrants and that their sanitary conditions were “desperate”.

About 20,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to Lampedusa since the unrest in in North Africa and elsewhere in the Arab region began in January, loosening frontier checks that blocked the way into Europe.

Italy argues that other European Union countries must share the burden placed on it by the recent migrant landings, but the EU on Wednesday rejected claims made by Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini that it was “inactive”.

The 27 nation bloc allocated 80 million euros to help Italy handle the influx of would-be immigrants over the period 2010-2011 and encourage their voluntary repatriation, the EU Commission said. Italy had asked for 100 million euros.

Berlusconi said the Italian government will earmark funds to help Lampedusa recover from the harm done to its fishing and tourism industry by the migrant influx and clear up the debris left by the makeshift migrant camps.

“I put forward Lampedusa as candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize,” he quipped to applause from islanders, adding that he had bought a house there.

The Italian government has been forced to transport food and water to Lampedusa. Local residents have staged regular protests, including using fishing boats to block ships carrying rescued immigrants from entering the port.

Italy will give Tunisia 80 million euros to train border guards and buy equipment to help it stop illegal migration to Europe, Frattini told reporters in Tunis on 25 March. Italy will also provide 150 million euros of credit to help revive Tunisia’s economy, Frattini said.

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

Malmstrom: EU Member States Must Help Italy

(AGI) Brussels — EU member states must step up efforts to help Italy cope with the immigration emergency. The EU’s immigration affairs chief, Cecilia Malmstrom, said that the EU countries must step up efforts to help Italy cope with the massive influx of migrants who have fled unrest in North Africa. “EU states want to show solidarity, then they have to make this solidarity a reality “ Malmstrom said. Then, she added: “The European Commission can only encourage them. It cannot force states to take in people”.

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

Netherlands: Brussels Criticises Plan to Make Illegal Immigration a Crime

The European Commission on Wednesday criticised the Dutch government’s plan to make being an illegal immigrant a crime, reports news agency ANP.

Criminalising illegal immigrants is against EU rules on deportation, the commission said. It is also against EU rules to imprison people on the grounds of their nationality alone.

The new government has not yet drafted a new law making it a criminal offence but European MPs who wrote to the commission are pleased with the response.

‘It will now be extremely difficult for the government to draft a bill that will be accepted by Brussels,’ Socialist MP Dennis de Jong told the Volkskrant.

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

Premier Favours Deportations to Stop Illegal Immigration

(AGI) Lampedusa — Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said that deportations are the best way to stop illegal immigrants arriving from Tunisia. The premier told citizens in Lampedusa, “Taking them back to the countries they have left, provides a stronger signal, teaching them that it is pointless for them to pay money and run risks if they know we will then send them back.” .

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

Qatar: Considers Permanent Visas for Specialised Workers

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, MARCH 30 — Qatar is considering the idea of issuing permanent visas to foreign specialised workers, a measure that is being looked at as an attempt to capitalise on the technical expertise and professionalism currently available in the country before the large-scale projects to prepare for the 2022 Football World Cup, reports the local press. The measure is part of the 2011-2016 national strategic development plan presented this week and calls for “a permanent residency programme for immigrants that responds to specific criteria”: essentially advanced expertise their relative sectors. Currently expats are allowed to work in Qatar only if sponsored by an employer with permits that are valid for up to three years and which are renewable. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council that have the highest number of foreign workers.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Ships to Take Migrants Off Lampedusa, Many to Ventimiglia

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 30 — The first of five ships have arrived which were sent by the government to reduce the 6,000 migrants on the island, who have given rise to a bona fide emergency on the small strip of land in the Sicilian Channel.

This morning Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is also expected to arrive on Lampedusa to explain to the island’s inhabitants what the government intends to do to aid the population, which has reached an extreme limit.

The 6,2000 migrants slated for transfer will most likely spend a few days on the ships since the tent cities currently ready are not enough and the others — some in northern Italy — have yet to be set up. “The situation on the island will be resolved tomorrow,” ensured Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, saying that the prime minister would be announcing “indemnifying and compensational measures for the island.” The premier’s arrival on Lampedusa also caused today’s scheduled Cabinet meeting to be puff off until tomorrow, which was to have taken stock of the current situation and — above all else — to have found a way to pressure Tunisia to enforce the agreement reached by Maroni and Frattini to halt the departures. It is a postponement which will also serve, in reality, to find an agreement with the regional governments — after the latest in a long string of warnings by Napolitano and the CEI’s call to recognise the migrants as “citizens”, holders of “rights and duties” — so that everyone takes on responsibility for the emergency. Maroni noted that an agreement is in place with Tunisia which calls for the repatriation of irregular migrants once their identity has been ascertained. The repatriations, ensured the minister, will be carried out “in full compliance with all EU directives and international treaties and with the guarantee that even for these clandestine migrants, who are in any case human beings as well, all laws will be strictly followed, as we have always done.” The matter of repatriation is in any case all but settled.

Migrants continue to leave and Interior Minister Farhat Rajhi — with whom Italian government representatives spoke four days ago — has been replaced. The difficulty of dealing with a provisional government is becoming clear, a government experiencing enormous problems and little inclined to take on binding commitments, taking into account that elections for the Constituent Assembly are to be held on July 25. The problem is now where to send the migrants being transferred from Lampedusa. The reception and identification centre in a tent city set up in the military zone of Mandria (Taranto) already holds 1,500, while the other tent city which will soon be ready is in Trapani, where about 5-800 migrants are expected to be sent, and the one in Coltano, in the Pisa province, can take in another 500 and will be ready by the weekend. In any case, the places identified are still too few, and so other areas have been proposed which will be chosen today after a meeting with regional governments. There will not be any forced repatriations, with Cecilia Malmstrom rejecting the possibility. The EU commissioner said that “Those needing protection and seeking asylum cannot be rejected.” However, Maroni is at loggerheads with the EU due to a lack of contribution for the emergency. The other aspect currently being worked on is a plan for the reception of 50,000 refugees who are expected to leave from Libya, and who will have to be divided out among the regions. Over a thousand have already arrived on Linosa and been transferred in part to the Villaggio degli Aranci in Mineo and in part to other facilities in Sicily and Calabria.

Problems have also been seen in Ventimiglia, on the border with France which many Tunisians arriving in Italy would like to go to, though they are refused entry at the border. So far the number is only a few hundred, who are camping out in a makeshift manner in the station and wandering around the city with only a few euros in their pockets. Yesterday evening the Auser Spes association, alongside the CGIL union, distributed over 200 meals to foreigners crowding the small station.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Swedish House Debates Migration Policy

Sweden’s parliament debated the agreement on migration and asylum policy between the Alliance coalition government and the Green Party at the request of the Sweden Democrats on Wednesday.

Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson opened the debate by arguing that Sweden’s immigration policy was “extreme” and “irresponsible” in an EU context.

“It is obvious that generally speaking (the government) wants to see an increase in immigration to Sweden,” he said, arguing that the agreement is a document in favour of “unfettered mass immigration”.

Migration minister Tobias Billström underlined that the agreement provided for a legal basis for long-term migration policy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Wilders is Right: Ban Muslim Immigration, Building of Mosques

By Bryan Fischer

The leftwing political websites lit up over my column of last week in which I took the position that the First Amendment provides no guarantees to practitioners of the Islamic faith, for the simple reason it wasn’t written to protect the free exercise of Islam. It was written to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.

I was quite explicit that all non-Christian religions ought to enjoy the presumption of religious freedom, although none of the critical reactions to the column even mentioned that clear and unambiguous statement. In other words, the First Amendment does not explicitly protect the Islamic faith, nor does it prohibit it. The First Amendment is simply silent about the issue of Islam.

Thus Islam should enjoy only the liberty it merits, and permission, for example, to build new mosques can be revoked if Islam does in American what Islam does everywhere it exists in the world, which is labor to subvert democracy and impose sharia law.

This view of the First Amendment is confirmed by a review of the debate surrounding the First Amendment in Congress in 1789. A re-reading of the all the entries in the congressional record of the debate over the First Amendment reveals no mention — zero, nada, zilch — of Islam.

Instead, as the Founders grappled with the wording of the First Amendment, they road-tested several variations, all of which make it clear that the objective here was specifically to protect the free exercise of the Christian faith.

Here are some of the alternative versions that were considered:

* “Congress shall make no law establishing One Religious Sect or Society in preference to others.”

* “Congress shall not make any law, infringing the rights of conscience or establishing any Religious Sect or Society.”

* “Congress shall make no law establishing any particular denomination of religion in preference to another, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.”

* “Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith, or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion.”

* “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

The last, of course, is the wording Congress finally chose and passed on to the states for their approval.

The use of words and phrases such as “religious sect or society,” “particular denomination,” “articles of faith” and “mode of worship,” all terms exclusively used at the time for variations of Christian expression, confirm that what the First Amendment was all about was simply prohibiting Congress from picking one denomination and making it the official church of the United States, and about protecting all Christian denominations from the intrusion of the federal government.

There was no mention of Islam, no reference to Islam, no effort to protect the free exercise of the Islamic faith.

Since the Founders intended the First Amendment to apply only to Congress (“Congress shall make no law.”), this leaves the states free to do as they wish on matters of religious expression.

Some critics have pointed to the religious liberty plank in the Virginia constitution, and the statement of some of its advocates at the time that it specifically provided for the free exercise of Islam as well as Buddhism and Hinduism. But this only illustrates my point, because that has to do with religious expression in a state constitution, not the federal constitution.

States, under the Constitution as established by the Founders (that is, the Constitution before federal judges got hold of it and mangled it beyond recognition), were permitted to establish any denomination they wanted to and to prohibit any religious expression they wanted to. In fact, nine or 10 of the original 13 states did have an “established” Christian denomination in their states, that is, a denomination that was officially supported by the state and supported by the tax dollars of the citizenry. (By 1833, all state established denominations had wisely been removed from state constitutions.)

But states still maintain, in an originalist view, a great deal of latitude in matters of religious expression. They are restrained in this matter only by the strictures of their own state constitutions. From the standpoint of the federal constitution, they remain free, for example, to ban the building of any more mosques in their state, in the interest of societal security and tranquility. They would not be in violation of the federal constitution in doing so, since the First Amendment ties the hands of Congress and Congress alone.

The incorporation doctrine, by the way, which argues that the 14th Amendment imposed the First Amendment on the states, is a bogus doctrine and another manifestation of rank judicial activism. Years after the 14th Amendment was passed, Sen. Blaine attempted to amend the federal constitution by explicitly imposing the wording of the First Amendment (“No State shall make any law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”) on the states. His proposed amendment never made it out of Congress.

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, in what is the most important speech of the 21st century thus far, has argued that the spread of Islam to the West must be stopped. His speech is positively Churchillian, and anyone who cares about the survival of Western civilization in general and America in particular should read it. (American Thinker has posted his speech here.)

Wilders points out that the heads of Germany, France and England have all publicly proclaimed that multiculturalism is a dismal failure and that Islamic immigration is largely to blame, and yet have offered no solutions to solve the problem.

Wilders has, and his prescription is timely and of necessity must be followed to the letter by America if we are to stop the catastrophic Islamization of our culture.

His strategy can be pursued in America in a way that is perfectly consistent with our federal constitution.

First, Wilders says “we have to defend freedom of speech.” As I have often said, we are at a place where truth about Islam is now considered hate speech, as if criticism and disagreement were by definition expressions of hatred. This demonization of free speech must stop.

Islam should be no more exempt from criticism than Christianity is, and it’s quite obvious that every sector in society, including media, politicians, educators and pundits feel perfectly free to pummel the Christian faith at will. Unless that is criminal hate speech, then they have no right to complain when we point out the simple and straightforward truth about Islam.

Secondly, Wilders says we “must end cultural relativism,” and “proudly proclaim: Our Western culture is far superior to the Islamic culture.” He’s exactly right. It’s time we all stop apologizing for America, starting with the occupant of the Oval Office on down, and without hesitation affirm that a culture shaped by the Judeo-Christian tradition is vastly superior to anything we see in the Islamic world.

Third, Wilders says we must “stop Islamization.we must stop immigration from Islamic countries, we must expel criminal immigrants, we must forbid the construction of new mosques. There is enough Islam in Europe (note: and in America as well) already.”

Immigration is obviously a matter for Congress, since authority to control immigration is vested by the Constitution in Congress. But we must never forget that immigration to the United States is a privilege, not a right, and that we should follow the wisdom of the Founders who urged that we only admit to our shores those who will strengthen our nation and assimilate themselves into it, adopting our flag, our history, our heroes, and our values. This is something that devout Muslims simply cannot do. The privilege of immigration should be reserved for those willing to integrate into our culture, become unhyphenated Americans, and adopt American values.

So immigration is a congressional issue. But as I explained above, states have considerable latitude in religious liberty matters, and states are thus free to ban the building of any more mosques within their borders. If states won’t do it, then local planning and zoning commissions can and must do it. And if we understand the Constitution as given to us by the Founders, there is no constitutional impediment in their doing so.

Local governments are well within their rights to protect their citizens from the encroachment of a toxic ideology that will in time threaten religious liberty and equality under the law in their own communities.

As Wilders point out, based on the bitter experience of Europe, “The truth is that Islam is evil, and the reality is that Islam is a threat to us.” He reminds us that, while there may be moderate Muslims, there is no such thing as moderate Islam.

We must learn from our friends across the pond. The time to stop the spread of Islam in America is now. We have the constitutional power to do it. The only question is whether we have the will.

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

The Moral Liberal contributing editor, Bryan Fischer, is Director of Issue Analysis for Government and Public Policy at the American Family Association, and is the host of the daily ‘Focal Point’ radio talk program on AFR Talk, a division of the American Family Association. ‘Focal Point’ airs live from 1-3 pm Central Time, and is also simulcast on the AFA Channel, which can be seen on the Sky Angel network.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Secularists at the European Parliament Are Distressed With the ECHR Ruling on Crucifixes

Liberal Dutch MEP Sophie in’t Veld is a politician really committed to the “progressive” cause. Being vice-president of the European Parliament LGTB Intergroup is not enough for her activism. She is also Chair of the EP Platform for Secularism in Politics (EPPSP).

Naturally, the ECHR Grand Chamber ruling in the case of Lautsi v. Italy, allowing the display of crucifixes in the country’s classrooms, has dreadfully distressed Sophie and her comrade in arms.

“The rise of Europe’s religious right” revealed by the Strasbourg-based Court decision has to be stopped!

Mrs. in’t Veld is thus inviting her parliamentary colleagues and their assistants to attend a Platform’s lunchtime meeting that will be held tomorrow, Wednesday 30 March, at room P5B001 in Brussels’ European Parliament. For hungry secularists, sandwiches will be served in front of the room before the meeting starts (a sensible measure to avoid the most radical ones indulging in some form of bouffer du curé after the meeting).

This EP Platform for Secularism in Politics pretends to be a cross party working group of members of the European Parliament that addresses issues relating to the relationship between religion, philosophical convictions and politics.

The group is particularly concerned by any eventual “Church intrusion” in issues like education, sexual and reproductive health rights (=abortion), freedom of speech (except for Christians!), gay rights and women’s’ rights.

Indeed, the Atheist State they dream of cannot tolerate competing Weltanschauungen to challenge their monopoly regarding public affairs.

EU Enlightened Despots, inspired by EPPSP, will work hard to dissipate the Christian roots of Obscurantism and help the common herd to get rid of their superstitions and taboos…

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]


Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers

Starting this year, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65. As they age, one of out of eight will go on to develop Alzheimer’s…

Increasingly for baby boomers, it will no longer be their grandparents and parents who have Alzheimer’s — it will be them. A new report, “Generation Alzheimer’s: The Defining Disease of the Baby Boomers,” sheds light on a crisis that is no longer emerging — but here.

Dowload the study from the URL above.

[Return to headlines]

Amil Imani: The Missing Moderate Muslims

But where are all the peace-loving moderate Muslims that supposedly are in great majority? The Muslims who are neither jihadists themselves, nor do they support them? I and others, time and again, have been calling upon them to stand up and show the world that they oppose the fanatical Islamists. It is small comfort even if the vast majority of Muslims are not fanatic radicals, when they do nothing to demonstrate their position. It is instructive to recall that it is invariably a minority, and more often than not a very small minority, that launches a campaign of death and destruction.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking on the part of the non-Muslims to believe that one can be a Muslim moderate, given that Islam is radical at its very core. To be a moderate Muslim demands that the person explicitly renounce much of the violent, exclusionary, and radical teachings of the Quran. By so doing, the individual issues his own death warrant in Islamic countries, is condemned as apostate if he lives in a non-Islamic land and may even earn a fatwa on his head.

It is deadly, in any confrontation, to assess the adversary through one’s own mental template, because the two templates can be vastly different from each other. People in the West are accustomed in relativistic rather than absolutistic thinking. To Westerners, just about all matters range from black to white with an array of gray shades between the two poles. To Muslims, by contrast, nearly everything is in black and white and with virtually no shades of gray. The former type of thinking is typical of more mature minds, while the latter is that of young children and the less-enlightened.

This absolutist thinking is enshrined in the Quran itself. When the starting point for a Muslim is the explicit fanatical words of Allah in the Quran, then the faithful are left with no choice other than literally obeying its dictates or even taking it to the next level of fanaticism. Good Muslims, for instance, do not shake hands with women, even though the Quran does not explicitly forbid it. Although the Quran stipulates that men are rulers over women, good Muslim men take it upon themselves to rule women not much better than they treat their domesticated animals.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]