Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110805

Financial Crisis
»A Volatile Wall Street Ends the Day Flat
»U.S. Triple-A Debt Rating Cut by Standard & Poor’s
»US Debt Now Surpasses 2010 GDP
»Anti-Terrorism Plan Allies White House With Muslim Groups Linked to Terrorism
»Cartoonist Targeted With Criminal Probe for Mocking Police
»Foreign Influence in US Politics: Imad Ramadan Runs in Va GOP
»Man Struck on I-295 in Bordentown Township; Police Probe Possible Link to Stabbing
»Union Trouble
Europe and the EU
»Norway Claims to be Surprised at Its Own Anti-Semitism
»Polar Bear Kills Young British Adventurer in Norway
»UK: Couple Charged With Planning Act of Terrorism
»UK: Pupils at East Lancashire Mosque Hit With Piping
»UK: So, Will the Left Blame Islam for Breivik’s Acts?
Israel and the Palestinians
»Caroline Glick: Obama’s Only Policy
Middle East
»Diana West: The Only ‘Murder’ Here Was of Justice
South Asia
»Indonesia: Sumatra: Ramadan Begins With the Burning of Two Protestant Churches
Far East
»Chinese Premier Congratulates Thailand’s New PM
»Asylum Roleplay to Explore Dublin Deportations in Helsinki
»Australia: No Backing Down on Malaysia Deal: Bowen
»Hundreds Rescued Aboard Stalled Boat, Dozens May Have Died
»UK: The Primary School Where Just Four Pupils Out of Over 400 Speak English as Mother Tongue

Financial Crisis

A Volatile Wall Street Ends the Day Flat

Stock indexes on Wall Street bounced around like a yo-yo on Friday, a day after they lost 4 percent of their value.

After a quick sigh of relief on better-than-expected jobs numbers at the opening, Wall Street moved lower as fears continued to hang over markets that the United States and Europe were not doing enough to counter their economic problems.

The three major Wall Street indexes were all over the map at the close, just as they were during the day. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 60.93, or 0.54 percent, to 11,444.61. But the broader Standard & Poorâ€(tm)s 500-stock index was off less than a point to 1,199.37. The Nasdaq index, meanwhile, was down 23.98 points, or 0.94 percent, to 2,532.41.

[Return to headlines]

U.S. Triple-A Debt Rating Cut by Standard & Poor’s

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The United States late Friday lost its triple-A debt rating from Standard & Poor’s for the first time in its history, with the credit-rating agency saying the political system of the world’s top economy has become less stable and that budget cutting announced earlier this week didn’t go far enough.

S&P lowered its rating on the U.S. by a notch to AA+ and, to compound the embarrassment, said the outlook is negative as well, as it threatened another reduction in two years. The rating agency said the deal reached by lawmakers to cut the federal deficit by an estimated $2.1 trillion over a decade didn’t go far enough, and “America’s governance and policymaking [is] becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed.” Read text of downgrade.

S&P, a unit of McGraw-Hill /quotes/zigman/233490/quotes/nls/mhp MHP -0.87% , had said in July that $4 trillion in cuts over a decade would be required if the U.S. were to keep its triple-A rating. The U.S. has over $14 trillion in debt, and, even after the deal reached this week, is anticipated to add another $7 trillion over the next decade. Read more on debt-ceiling deal.

By S&P’s analysis, the U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio will hit 85% by 2021.

The move caps a wild day for markets and S&P itself…

[Return to headlines]

US Debt Now Surpasses 2010 GDP

The U.S. Treasury Department came out today with its Debt Position and Activity Report for July. The news is bleak.

With the additional $238 billion the Treasury immediately borrowed when the debt ceiling was raised on August 2, total current debt now exceeds 2010 gross domestic product (GDP) for the entire United States.

Debt at these levels is why Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s is concerned enough to be considering a downgrade of their credit ratings on U.S. debt.

Debt as of July 31 totaled $14.342 trillion. That was made up of $9.756 trillion held by the public and $4.587 trillion the U.S. government owes itself (intergovernmental borrowing, largely from the Social Security and Medicare trust funds to the general fund). GDP—the value of all of the goods and services produced in the United States—in 2010 was $14.5265 trillion. With the Treasury’s additional borrowings of $238 billion so far in August, the total of all debt outstanding has now increased to $14.5807. That’s $54.2 billion more than average 2010 U.S. GDP, the last year for which we have final estimates on GDP from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

This is a noteworthy event. It is going to be a very long time before the politicians in Washington are able to pay this debt back with interest. They should at least not be borrowing more. One wonders how they would like to mark this new milestone on the road to economic ruin. They can’t hide it. Maybe they will want to pass out Dumbo dolls to commemorate the $14.5807 trillion elephant in the room.

NOTE: See embedded links at URL

[Return to headlines]


Anti-Terrorism Plan Allies White House With Muslim Groups Linked to Terrorism

The White House’s new plan to curb home-grown Islamic extremism calls for partnerships between local governments, various non-profits, and U.S. communities of Muslims. But critics say those partnerships often include Islamic groups whose ideology spurs terrorism.

Federal agencies are already using their “convening power to help build a network of individuals, groups, civil society organizations, and private sector actors to support community-based efforts to counter violent extremism,” according to the new strategy document, titled “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.”

But administration policymakers have not worked with pro-American Muslim groups, said Zuhdi Jasser, president of the Phoenix-based America Islamic Forum for Democracy. “The [groups] they work with are the wrong ones,” Jasser told TheDC.

Muslims in the United States “tend to be pro-Western and pro-American [but] the leadership of the mosques and the Islamic centers tend to be influenced by Islamists overseas,” said Andrew McCarthy, who successfully prosecuted Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven other terrorists in 1995. Rahman had earlier created a terror group in Egypt.

Instead of partnering with Islamic groups, the federal government should use routine policing and civil-rights laws to protect individuals in Muslim communities from being intimidated by politicized Muslims, many of whom are tied to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, McCarthy said.

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Cartoonist Targeted With Criminal Probe for Mocking Police

RENTON, Wash. — Police say a series of cartoons mocking officers and other city workers are criminal, and the people who posted them online are guilty of cyberstalking.

One member of the police department has already been demoted, but investigators are looking for additional parties that may be involved after another string of cartoons recently surfaced.

The cartoons, which first appeared on YouTube earlier this year, poke fun at an unnamed law enforcement agency. But Renton Police Chief Kevin Milosevich says his officers, as well as several Renton city employees, are the target.

“The purpose of these videos was to embarrass, torment and harass specific members of the police department and other city employees,” he said.

Some of the animation parody real situations that have occurred in the department, Milosevich said, but other events referenced in the cartoons never took place.

“There was an investigation some time ago; however, what was in the videos was a gross exaggeration of what the investigation was all about,” he said.

According to a search warrant requested by Renton police, the videos are aimed directly at several Renton police officers and a jail employee. In the warrant, the officers say the videos used embarrassing and emotionally-tormenting comments about past sexual relationships.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]

Foreign Influence in US Politics: Imad Ramadan Runs in Va GOP

…Barack Obama was allowed to pass through without providing basic details about his background. Is vetting of Republicans/conservative candidates any better?

Imad “David” Ramadan is running for the Republican nomination for the House of Delegates in Virginia’s 87th district. After a few years of generous donations to Virginia Republicans, Ramadan made his move. Investing an estimated $500,000 in his campaign, hiring out-of-state consultants, and pulling the strings of his obligated donation recipients, Ramadan appeared to believe he is owed the seat.

…Just over 40 years old, Ramadan has lived in the US for about 20 years. Public records show that he arrived in the US, on a student visa, and never went back to Lebanon. He had married a fellow Lebanese and declared bankruptcy in 1994. Then he suddenly opened a business after 2001, and became an “international business consultant.” With no apparent business experience, he bragged on his website that he served “a select group of clients.” He claimed to be the head of a law firm (though he’s not a lawyer). He claimed to represent an American women’s gym chain in India and “the Middle East.

On the streets of Beirut, it’s well known that Imad’s Lebanese wife, Ghanda Abdul Rahman Zoghbi is the daughter of Lebanese Army General Abdul Rahman Zoghbi. General Zoghbi, now retired was a Shia member of the General Security Service (GSS).


Newspaper articles quote him bragging that he landed in Egypt during the revolution this spring, to sell women’s gym franchises. And yet, while his apparent business interests were all overseas, Imad Ramadan, was pouring donations into the Virginia Republican Party, and the Loudoun County Republican Committee.

After establishing those details, I told my friend that only Ramadan himself could clarify the questions about his background. My friend arranged to meet Ramadan.

The first thing that struck me about Imad Ramadan, when I met him on a July morning was how timid he was without a retinue. I’d arrived early, and greeted him with a handshake when he entered the café, by himself. He didn’t slow down, but kept moving, directly to the bathroom.

Fifteen minutes later, when he had yet to emerge, I realized that he was scared of me.


Read The Rest!

           — Hat tip: Blue Ridge Forum[Return to headlines]

Man Struck on I-295 in Bordentown Township; Police Probe Possible Link to Stabbing

BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP — A Connecticut man was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 295 on Friday morning, and police are investigating if he is the suspect who stabbed a deliveryman at a nearby gas station, police said.

Abdul Rahim Sulaiman, 25, of Bridgeport, was hit about 6:30 a.m. on the northbound side of the highway near the Route 206 interchange.

New Jersey State Police troopers responded to a report of an injured person on the highway and found Sulaiman unconscious with leg and back injuries, state police spokesman Sgt. Stephen Jones said.

He was taken to Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton with several broken bones.

“He’s expected to make it,” Jones said.

The stabbing occurred about 30 minutes beforehand at the Valero gas station on Route 206 in Mansfield.

Joel Bewley, spokesman for the Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, said a 43-year-old deliveryman was unloading goods for the station’s store when he was stabbed in the neck, shoulder and back.

The deliveryman, who was not identified, was also taken to Capital Health in Trenton. He was listed in critical condition Friday afternoon, according to state police.

Nothing was stolen from the station, the victim or the truck, Bewley said, adding that the investigation is ongoing to determine if the incidents are connected.

Sulaiman had parked his vehicle at the Bordentown Regional Middle School on Dunns Mill Road and climbed down a nearby embankment to the highway.

The person who struck him was a 45-year-old Cherry Hill woman, who is not likely to be charged, state police said.

The woman, who was not identified, had no time to react after the car in front of her swerved to avoid hitting Sulaiman, according to the state police.

The school is a short distance north on Route 206 from the gas station.

The accident forced the closing of a lane on I-295 for about 90 minutes, police said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Union Trouble

Chrysler, GM, and Ford all have contracts with the United Auto Workers (UAW) that expire September 14 of this year.

The UAW, while forbidden to strike or make greater demands of the two Washington-influenced automakers, will most certainly go after the one successful company that has been able to fend off the worst of the recession.

Ford Motors knows a struggle with the UAW is coming and even tried to prevent it, but to no avail. Earlier this year, Ford introduced a ballot initiative that would grant them exemptions similar to those that GM and Chrysler have. The UAW rejected it. They have much bigger plans for Ford when the time comes to renegotiate their contracts.

“Ford is the most likely to get whacked, because Ford is doing the best of the three companies,” says a U.S.-based executive of a foreign automaker in a recent Fortune article. “[Ford CEO] Mulally got the fattest pay package. And don’t forget, the government saved Chrysler and GM, in part for the sake of the union, so it would be ungrateful, if not incredibly self-destructive, for UAW to put the squeeze on those two.”

The UAW recently has shrunk to a third of its size. Ford’s UAW work force alone has declined to about 41,000 from about 100,000. It is safe to assume that when union contracts go up for negotiations, the UAW will want to turn these numbers around and Ford will be the punching bag.

           — Hat tip: Van Grungy[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Norway Claims to be Surprised at Its Own Anti-Semitism

The Norwegian government claims to be surprised by the results of a survey of the Oslo public schools, but anyone who read the story of Alan Dershowitz’s visit to Norway in April (also here) cannot be surprised. What is surprising is that after the report, the Norwegian government has the gall to appoint a minister with a proven track record of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel behavior to deal with the problem.

Last month’s publication of a study ordered by the Oslo municipality on racism and anti-Semitism among students of the 8th through 10th grades in the town’s schools came as a shock. The study found that 33 percent of the Jewish students regularly experience bullying at school. According to the definition used, this means that at least two or three incidents of verbal or physical abuse target these Jewish students per month.

It would be hard to find similarly extreme data anywhere else in Western Europe. The study also rendered it difficult to blame anti-Semitism exclusively on Muslim children, as it became evident that autochthonous Norwegians are also heavily involved.

After Jews, the next most pestered group was Buddhists, with 10 percent experiencing bullying; “Others” were at 7 percent and Muslims at slightly over 5 percent. Fifty-one percent of all students believe that the term “Jew” is used pejoratively, 41percent had heard ethnic jokes about Jews and 35 percent heard insulting comments. Close to 5 percent had been present when the Holocaust was denied in class. Only 25 percent of the students never witnessed anything negative about Jews in school….


NOTE: Links are embedded at original URL

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Polar Bear Kills Young British Adventurer in Norway

Horatio Chapple, 17, died and four others were injured on expedition at Von Postbreen glacier on Spitsbergen island

Norwegian authorities remove the carcass of a 250kg polar bear that killed Horatio Chapple and injured four others on Von Postbreen glacier. Photograph: Arild Lyssand/AFP

A British teenager has been mauled to death and four others injured by a polar bear that came into the youths’ tent as they camped on a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic circle.

Horatio Chapple, who was 17, died on Friday morning after the bear attacked on the Von Postbreen glacier on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago.

The bear was shot dead by one of the leaders of the party of 13, who were with a group of 80 taking part in a five-week Arctic expedition run by the BSES Expeditions, a youth development charity based at the Royal Geographical Society in London.

The injured were helicoptered to a hospital 25 miles away in Spitsbergen’s capital, Longyearbyen, after the group raised the alarm by satellite phone at 7.30am.

They were later flown to University hospital in Tromso, northern Norway. Two are understood to be severely injured.

The BSES said the injured were trip leaders Michael Reid, 29, and Andrew Ruck, 27, of Aberdeen plus Patrick Flinders, 16, of Jersey, and Scott Smith, 17, of Cornwall.

The first account of the attack came from Flinders’ father, Terry. “The bear got into the tent where Patrick was with two friends, and he just, for some reason, grabbed hold of the other boy and just killed him,” he told ITV Channel Television. “There were three of them in a tent and I don’t really know too much, why he chose the other boy — perhaps he was the closest one. If he looked at Patrick, he was the chubbiest one, he probably had more meat on him, bless him.

“Patrick, I think, was probably in the middle, because he grabbed hold of his head next, and then his arm, and I don’t know how Patrick got out to be honest.

“Unless it was when the guy came in and shot the bear and maybe that’s how Patrick got away with it, because they actually shot the polar bear, but the young lad was already dead.”

Flinders said a warning tripwire system — used to scare off polar bears by triggering a flare — had failed to activate.

“This time it didn’t happen apparently, and one of the other chaps came out with a rifle and tried to kill the polar bear and didn’t do it,” he said. “And then the leader tried to kill the polar bear, but just before he killed him apparently, the bear mauled him and he’s really, really bad.”

Edward Watson, chairman of the BSES, said: “Horatio was a fine young man who wanted to go on to read medicine after school. By all accounts he would have made an excellent doctor. We and the Norwegian authorities are currently establishing the full circumstances of his tragic death and will not be releasing this until we have discussed this fully with the family.”…

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UK: Couple Charged With Planning Act of Terrorism

Mohammed Sajid Khan, 32, and Shasta Khan, 37, of Oldham, Greater Manchester, are accused of engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism. The offences are said to have taken place between August 10 last year and July 24 this year. The pair, of Foster Street, are also charged with three counts of possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism. They will appear before City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court later today, said Greater Manchester Police.

A spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “A man and a woman have been charged under the Terrorism Act. Mohammed Sajid Khan and Shasta Khan have each been charged with the following — between August 10 2010 and July 24 2011 engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism contrary to section 5 (1) of the Terrorism Act 2006 “(And) Three counts of, on July 22 2011, possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism contrary to section 58 (1) (b) of the Terrorism Act 2000. “They will appear before Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. It follows an investigation by the North West Counter Terrorism Unit. There is no evidence to suggest any communities in Greater Manchester or the surrounding areas are at immediate risk in connection with the alleged offences under investigation.”

It is understood the matter is being treated as an isolated investigation and is not being linked to any other investigation by the North West CTU.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Pupils at East Lancashire Mosque Hit With Piping

A MOSQUE teacher has admitted hitting pupils with a plastic overflow pipe to stop them misbehaving in class.

Married father-of-eight Ibrahim Yusuf, 52, of Preston New Road, pleaded guilty to four charges of assault while he was taking a lesson at the Grimshaw Street mosque.

Yusuf, a mosque teacher of 36 years, responded to some unruly behaviour in his class by striking four boys, including one with learning difficulties.

He struck out with a thin flexible two-foot long piece of pipe which was used as a teaching aid.

Part of the incident was captured on CCTV. Two boys aged 11 were hit.

Another was hit on his arm and one on his lower back.

One of the boys was upset and told his mother who found a red mark on his back.

Yusuf told police that he had been waving the pipe around to control the class and it had struck the children.

He said that he used it as a pointing stick and to tap on the desk to get the attention of the pupils.

The mosque has a ‘no hitting’ policy…

           — Hat tip: Nick[Return to headlines]

UK: So, Will the Left Blame Islam for Breivik’s Acts?

There has been a tidal wave of media coverage about Anders Behring Breivik and his murderous rampage in Norway. Was he a solitary monster or part of a network of virulent white supremacists? Sane or a psychopath? Could he have been influenced by our own extreme nationalists, the English Defence League? Speculation has been rife. But one line of thinking has been absent. No one has pointed the finger of blame for his horrific crime at the target of his hatred: the Muslim world, with its ever-growing presence and influence in the West.

No one has argued: Yes, he was a mass murderer but consider the provocation. Al Qaeda, global Jihad, radical imams spawning terrorist cells in Europe and a liberal European political establishment that refuses to recognise the dangers. Perhaps Breivik’s violent act was the predictable consequence of all that. Should we not factor it into the equation?

Such reasoning, of course, would be obscene. The only one to blame is Breivik himself. He planned the attacks and he executed them. Chillingly, he was able to look innocent people in the eyes and calmly slaughter them. The suggestion that there could be some socio-political, ideological or cultural grievance that might explain — or even excuse — his actions is not one that any rational person would entertain.

In 2005, on another July day, four British Muslim men travelled from Luton to London, where they boarded three Underground trains and a bus and detonated their suicide vests. They murdered 52 and injured hundreds more. They, too, coolly observed the innocents on their way to work or school — people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities — and blew them to pieces. Ruthless killers with no regard for human life, they were every bit as culpable for their evil crimes as Breivik is for his.

Yet, in the aftermath of London’s 7/7 atrocities, there was a rush of leftist apologists laying the blame elsewhere. They claimed it was down to the war in Iraq. That ill-conceived war had made Muslims really mad, they argued, and 7/7 was the inevitable response. “The victims of the London attacks can blame Tony Blair’s government for their sufferings,” declared George Galloway, then an MP in the left-wing Respect Party. Well no, actually, they can blame four Muslims in suicide vests.

Within days of 7/7, London’s mayor, Ken Livingstone, publicly defended the use of suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because “Palestinians don’t have jet planes, don’t have tanks, they only have their bodies to use as weapons”. He didn’t want people blown up in his city, obviously, but it was okay if it happened in an Israeli one — that was some other mayor’s problem and Israel had only itself to blame.

A few years earlier, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in America in which nearly 3,000 perished, there was a clamour of voices from the left, shifting responsibility for the abomination from its perpetrators to its victims. They said it was the fault of America itself. For decades, so the argument went, the superpower had flexed its muscles around the world and 9/11 was the understandable backlash. (Never mind that the victims were from a multitude of nationalities and ethnic groups, and included dozens of Muslims.)

One would expect this view from Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, for whom America is the Great Satan, and naturally he didn’t disappoint. But the Rev Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s erstwhile Chicago pastor? The Reverend’s hatred for America evidently outweighed any qualms about Al Qaeda. “The United States has brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own terrorism” he asserted, “… and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought back to our own front yards.”

A tirade so wilfully ignorant that it almost beggars belief… except, of course, that this is exactly what we have come to expect of so many public figures, from the green Johann Hari to the elderly wit, Gore Vidal. The late Harold Pinter consistently blamed the US, Britain and Israel for the world’s ills. Had his vitriol been directed instead at truly brutal regimes in the Middle East and Africa, he would never have won the Nobel Prize.

The violent Jihadists who threaten us all are a source of anxiety among many around the world. For some, this has extended into a general aversion to Islam and its followers. But Galloway, Livingstone et al won’t be citing Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda’s catalogue of massacres as the root cause of Breivik’s killing spree. The unhinged Norwegian is wholly, personally accountable for what he did and, by the same token, responsibility for Islamist atrocities lies squarely on the perpetrators’ own heads and not at the door of Blair, Bush or anybody else. It’s time the left stopped playing its hypocritical blame game.

Monica Porter’s books include ‘The Paper Bridge: A Return to Budapest’

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Obama’s Only Policy

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has explained repeatedly over the years that Israel has no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. So news reports this week that Netanyahu agreed that the 1949 armistice lines, (commonly misrepresented as the 1967 borders), will be mentioned in terms of reference for future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seemed to come out of nowhere.

Israel has no one to negotiate with because the Palestinians reject Israel’s right to exist. This much was made clear yet again last month when senior PA “negotiator” Nabil Sha’ath said in an interview with Arabic News Broadcast, “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.”

Given the Palestinians’ position it is obvious that Netanyahu is right. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PA will reach any peace deal in the foreseeable future. Add to this the fact that the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and will likely win any new Palestinian elections just as it won the last elections, and the entire exercise in finding the right formula for restarting negotiations is exposed as a complete farce.

So why is Israel engaging in these discussions?

The only logical answer is to placate US President Barack Obama…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Diana West: The Only ‘Murder’ Here Was of Justice

They are the forgotten warriors of the Iraq War, the men whose lives and families and careers blew up in “murder” charges on a vicious battlefield, the pieces coming down in Fort Leavenworth’s military prison where the men now serve long sentences. Together, they make up the Leavenworth 10, not always at Leavenworth and not always 10, a group of cold-luck cases still working their way up the ladder of appeals and the clemency process, their families hoping to free them before many more years go by.

They all got bad news recently when word came that the Army Court of Appeals denied Army Ranger 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, 28, a new trial despite the introduction of exculpatory evidence originally withheld by the prosecution. Behenna faces 13 more years of a 15-year sentence for the unpremeditated 2008 “murder” of an insurgent who killed two of his men in post-surge Iraq, an al-Qaida terrorist for whom the Army would issue a kill/capture order before realizing he was already dead.

Why no new trial?

At almost the same time, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan Garcia overruled recommendations from the Naval Clemency and Parole Board and from brig officials at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station that Marine Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins, 27, be granted early release. Hutchins has served more than five years on a 15-year sentence that was reduced to 11 years. The sentence was once recommended to be cut to five years, and once thrown out (he spent nine months free starting June 2010). He faces the balance of the 11-year-sentence for conspiracy and unpremeditated “murder” of a man he believed was the killer of Marines and civilians in pre-surge Iraq.

Why no parole?

I put quotation marks of incredulousness around “murder” because this was a war zone — a chaotic, urban war zone in which counterinsurgency theory (COIN), winning hearts and minds, just didn’t go according to the book. Those restrictive rules of engagement (ROEs) failed to impress jihadists or their clans with America’s good intentions, and the schizoid mishmash of firepower, nation-building, harsh interrogations, bribery, police work and social work made our forces pawns of an untenable policy. These young men shouldn’t be the ones to pay for that policy. We should use this week’s one-two punch of “military justice” for some national soul-searching. It’s the least we can do for men who risked everything for our country…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesia: Sumatra: Ramadan Begins With the Burning of Two Protestant Churches

A crowd of at least 100 people attacked and torched a prayer centre of the Christian Batak Synod (Hkbp). They had previously attacked another Christian church five miles away. The violence took place on the first day of the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — A mob of a hundred people attacked and set fire to two Protestant house churches in Logas Tanah Darat, in the Regency of Kuantan, Riau Province (Sumatra). The incident occurred August 1, coinciding with the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer for Muslims, but the news was broadcast by a radio station in Jakarta only late yesterday afternoon. The new attack against the Christian minority, according to some experts, is also a consequence of the “soft” sentences recently imposed by courts against extremists and Islamic leaders in Indonesia.

One of the two places of worship burned belonged to the Protestant Christian Batak Synod (Hkbp). Sahat Tarigan, leader of the Protestant Christian Karo, reports of at least 100 people who gathered around the building, chanting hostile slogans and brandishing weapons. Suddenly the assailants poured gasoline over the place of worship, then set it on fire. Previously, the crowd had attacked another house church located about five kilometers away. The Christian leader added that “our people have nothing to do with the assailants,” who struck on Aug. 1 to coincide with the start of Ramadan.

The Christian prayer centers were situated in an area with a Muslim majority, but there are no records of episodes of violence or intolerance in the past. “In short — Tarigan Sahat concludes — we have no idea why they set fire [to the church].”

However, in Indonesia there are frequent cases of violence against religious minorities and places of worship. And the police, instead of pursuing those responsible, justify the fires — as happened in the last case — arguing that the churches are built of wood “and so burn easily.” Added to this is the inertia of the judges and courts which impose laughable penalties against extremists and Islamic leaders who foment violence or commit heinous crimes (see AsiaNews 29/07/2011, Light sentences for Muslim extremists who attacked Ahmadis AsiaNews 18/06/2011, Central Java, Justice held in check only one year for imam who ordered attack on three churches).

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

Far East

Chinese Premier Congratulates Thailand’s New PM

BEIJING, Aug. 5 (Xinhua) — Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Friday congratulated Yingluck Shinawatra on her election as Thailand’s new prime minister.

In a message, Wen said: “On behalf of the Chinese Government and in my own name, I wish to extend to Your Excellency the warmest congratulations and best wishes.”

Saying that China and Thailand were “friendly and close neighbours”, Wen said the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Thai peoples had a long history.

“The exchanges and cooperation between our two countries in a whole range of fields has been deepening in a comprehensive manner, ever since the establishment of diplomatic relationship between our two countries 36 years ago,” Wen said.

The development of relations between China and Thailand “has substantially benefited the two countries and the two peoples, and has also contributed to peace, stability and prosperity of the region,” he said.

Shinawatra, 44, is the sister of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and is a member of her brother’s Pheu Thai party.

Pheu Thai won a landslide victory with 265 out of the 500 parliamentary seats in the general election on July 3 and it has formed a coalition government with four small parties, giving it control of about 60 percent of the lower house seats. Shinawatra won the backing of 296 lawmakers in the vote for prime minister.

[Return to headlines]


Asylum Roleplay to Explore Dublin Deportations in Helsinki

YLE: A role-playing game designed to show the workings of refugee movements across the European Union will take over a square in downtown Helsinki this weekend. The organisers describe it as an ‘art project dealing with European asylum policy’.

Helsinki’s Lasipalatsi square will be turned into a refugee camp, where those playing refugees in the game will try to move forward with their lives. The square will be modelled on those established by migrants in southern European countries.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Australia: No Backing Down on Malaysia Deal: Bowen

The federal government insists it won’t relent on plans to ship the latest asylum seeker arrivals to Malaysia, despite rising pressure to grant exemptions to the large number of minors.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said those coming to Australia or who put their children on boats should work on the basis that they would be taken to Malaysia.

“No blanket exemptions. I will not have the situation where we provide a reward for people who put their children on a boat, and undertake that dangerous journey,” he said.

The immigration department on Friday confirmed there were 18 children among the latest boatload of asylum seekers.

The department said it had checked the ages of all asylum seekers who had claimed to be minors and found one to actually be an adult, bringing the number of children to 18, including 13 who were unaccompanied.

The high proportion of children on the vessel has been interpreted as a deliberate move by people smugglers to test the government’s resolve in implementing its Malaysian solution.

Mr Bowen said the government would adopt a case-by-case approach to any particular vulnerabilities among the asylum seekers.

“But I know, sure as night follows day, that if you have blanket exemptions people smugglers would exploit that loophole and put children on boats, and we’d be dealing with the dangerous situation of boatloads of children,” he said.

Opposition deputy leader Julie Bishop said the government had painted itself into a corner.

“It either allows unaccompanied children to be taken to Malaysia to an uncertain fate where the Australian government has no control over what happens to them or the government caves in to the people smugglers.”

Either was a diabolical outcome for asylum seekers and a bad outcome for Australia, she said.

United Nations Children’s Fund Australia chief executive Norman Gillespie said it was extremely concerning that unaccompanied minors might be deported.

“It’s a trauma to come to Australia in this manner, and it’s an even greater trauma to then be deported,” he said.

Lawyers are worried Mr Bowen could send children to Malaysia despite his position as the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum.

Australian Lawyers Alliance president Greg Barns says if children are deported, Labor will be breaching its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“Sending unaccompanied children to a third country such as Malaysia is clearly not something that can be said to be consistent with protection from harm,” he said in a statement.

“It is unconscionable.”

Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said Mr Bowen had a conflict of interest, being both the minister making decisions on deportation and the children’s guardian.

“He needs to hand over the guardianship of these children if he fails to act in their best interest,” she said.

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said there was nothing easy about the issue but Australia would be neglecting its responsibility if unaccompanied children were sent away.

“It is absolutely indefensible for Australia, a prosperous country, to send children by themselves to another country. I think we are failing in humanity in doing that,” he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hundreds Rescued Aboard Stalled Boat, Dozens May Have Died

(AKI) — The Italian coast guard said it has rescued around 300 migrants aboard a boat stranded at sea after its motor stalled five days after setting sail from Northern Africa.

Authorities are trying to confirm reports of that that dozens of people died during the journey that began last Friday.

Five people were evacuated by helicopter to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment after the coast guard reached the vessel late Thursday.

“Dozens and dozens” of people died, according to some migrants. The coast guard said it found a single corpse aboard.

“On the boat we found only a single body,” a coast guard officer told Adnkronos. “We didn’t see any bodies floating in the sea.”

It was not immediately clear if the boat set sail from Libya, from where dozens of boats have embarked since civil war broke out there in February.

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

UK: The Primary School Where Just Four Pupils Out of Over 400 Speak English as Mother Tongue

A School with more than 400 pupils has only four for whom English is their mother tongue.

In one of Britain’s most extreme cases, it has emerged that less than 1 per cent of pupils at Bradford Moor Community Primary School speak English as their first language.

The school is in one of the city’s most deprived areas, and 90 per cent of the 417 pupils are from Pakistan. Many arrive at the school unable to speak a word of English.

A leading think-tank said it was a worrying sign that cities were becoming ‘racially segregated’ and leading ‘parallel lives’, while MPs described the situation as ‘unacceptable’.

Almost one million children in the UK speak English as a second language. Last month, the Mail reported on St Matthew’s Primary School in Redhill, Surrey, where pupils can speak 44 languages.

A snapshot survey of Bradford’s primary schools revealed that more than half of pupils spoke English as a second language.

In three schools, fewer than ten children spoke English as their native tongue. Last night Shipley MP Philip Davies criticised parents who allowed their children to start school with scant knowledge of their adopted home’s language.

He said: ‘This is a totally unacceptable situation that primary schools find themselves in.

‘Primary schools have got to presume that children can at least communicate in some form. Teachers are having to start with one hand tied behind their backs.

‘For me it is one of the key factors as to why Bradford so under-performs nationally on education.’

Official figures show that nearly 17 per cent of pupils in state-funded primary schools did not speak English as a first language last year, up from 12 per cent in 2006.

Dr David Green, of independent think-tank Civitas, said the language barrier was creating ‘dangerous divisions’ in society.

He said: ‘Children cannot even start to get an education if they do not even speak the same language as the teacher.

‘The only long-term solution is that people should not be allowed into Britain if they don’t speak English.’ Razwana Mahmood, the chairman of Bradford Moor’s governors’ board, is a former pupil and did not speak English when he started.

On the school’s website, he writes: ‘I remember very clearly my first day at school and everything the teachers said to me.

‘Nothing unusual you might think, except, I had only just arrived from Pakistan and could not speak a single word of English.

‘My teachers were very kind to me. They offered me words of reassurance and went out of their way to comfort me as I was so distraught. Years later, when I had a better understanding of the English language, it all fell into place.’

He says that despite ‘most of our children still starting school unable to speak much English’, this has never been considered a ‘hindrance’.

The school holds several ‘booster’ classes every week to help pupils with their English and is understood to have teaching assistants to help the students with their language skills.

One former Asian pupil, who attended Bradford Moor in the mid-1990s, said: ‘When I was at school there, there were white kids speaking to us in Urdu or Punjabi.

‘Many kids were embarrassed to speak their own language. I had one white friend who could speak Punjabi fluently.

‘Bradford is full of Asians and their first language is always going to be Urdu or Punjabi.’

In a 2009 Ofsted report, inspectors noted that ‘most pupils enter school with either little or no English and are weak in home language development.’

Kath Tunstall, Bradford Council’s Strategic Director for Children’s Services, said: ‘The fact that the children speak English as an additional language does not mean they do not speak English, and we know that young children learn languages very quickly.

‘Bradford Moor Primary School has a strong record of performance, having been judged ‘good’ in its Ofsted report following inspection in 2009 and this year’s provisional figures at Key Stage 2 show a 10 percentage point increase in English and maths since the school was last formally assessed two years ago.

‘Ofsted also found that the school has very strong support from the parents and there is a high rate of attendance at parents’ evenings and other events.

‘Schools do receive Government funding through their Ethnic Minority Achievement Grants to support children who have English as a second language. This support is welcomed by families who also have a responsibility to encourage their children to ensure they are able to speak English as well as being integral to the education delivered by schools.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]