Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110906

Financial Crisis
»ECB in the Italian Trap
»Italy: Milan Stocks Slide: Bond Spreads Rise
»Italy: Workers Strike as Senate Debates Austerity Plan
»Italy: Budget Raises VAT From 20 to 21%, Super-Tax Over 500, 000
»Switzerland: SNB Toughens Stance With Euro Rate Target
»UK: Bright New Ideas, But Are They Tory?
»What Can Greece Do Now?
»9/11: A ‘Babble of Idiots’? History Has Been the Judge of That
»America’s Selective Vigilantism Will Make as Many Enemies as Friends
»Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America
»Gold Heists Sweep L.A.
»Most US Muslims Back Ground Zero Mosque
»Muslims Feel Growing Hostility as 9/11 Anniversary Approaches and ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Is Built
»Pew Poll Quantifies the Radical Minority of U.S. Muslims
»The Consequences of Islamophobia in the US and Abroad
»The Ground Zero Mosque 1
»The Ground Zero Mosque 2
»‘She’s the Hottest Battered Woman Ever’: Hair Salon Ad That Promises to Make You Look Good… After Being Beaten by Partner
Europe and the EU
»Islamic Terrorism is Key Threat: Swedish Police
»Magistrate Challenges Cash Payments to Tarantini
»Spain: Municipality in Balearics Bans Burqa
»UK: ‘Squatters Aren’t Criminals and Can be Good for Society’: Judge Orders Council to Publish List of Empty Homes in Its Area
»UK: ‘A Policeman Could Have Died’: Shocking New Footage of Rioters Attacking Officers With Bricks, Metal Bars and a Concrete Slab
»UK: A Red Tape Nightmare Has Hit Our Village Cricket Club for Six
»UK: Comedy of Errors
»UK: EDL Thugs Sent Packing
»UK: Grandmother Faces Court for ‘Placing Golliwog in Window After Dispute With Neighbour and His Black Wife’
»UK: Niall Ferguson: ‘The Real Point of Me Isn’t That I’m Good Looking. It’s That I’m Clever’
»Turkish Foreign Minister Celebrates Eid in Bosnia; Welcomed by Grand Mufti Ceric
North Africa
»Flow of Libyans in Both Directions at Tunisian Border
»Libya: Should MI6 Have Come in From the Cold?
»Libya: Algeria: Fears for Algerians Held by Rebels
»Libya: The Real War Starts Now
»Libya: Factions Jockey for Power Amid Gaddafi’s Ouster
Israel and the Palestinians
»IDF Home Front Command: Likelihood of All-Out Middle East War Increasing
Middle East
»Caroline Glick: Ankara’s Chosen Scapegoat
»Israel-Turkey: Erdogan Breaks Commercial, Military Relations
»Turkey Suspends All Trade Ties With Israel
Sub-Saharan Africa
»20,000 Flee to Ethiopia to Escape Civil War in Sudan
Latin America
»Falkland Islands’ Bid to Grow Its Own Food Amid Fears of Argentina Blockade
Culture Wars
»UK: EDL: Rainbow Hamlets Ignored and the Longer-Term Politics
»UK: Father Will Fight Facebook in Court Over ‘Suggestive’ Photos of Girl, 12
»UK: Peter Tatchell on Saturday’s Anti-English Defence League Protest

Financial Crisis

ECB in the Italian Trap

Il Sole-24 Ore Milan

Faced with the risk of Italian default, the European Central Bank opted to provide support for Italy’s sovereign bonds in exchange for a commitment from Rome that it would rapidly implement of a package of austerity measures. Now the Berlusconi government’s failure to take decisive action is seriously threatening the credibility of the ECB.

Luigi Zingales

A month ago, the yield spread between Italian multi-year bonds and German bunds reached 413 basis points (that is to say 4.13%). Without immediate intervention from the European Central Bank (ECB), the Italian government was about to be locked out of financial markets, and effectively forced to default.

It was for this reason that Trichet wrote to Berlusconi: and it is said that in his much talked about letter, the ECB pledged to buy up Italian bonds in exchange for a Italian government commitment to boost growth and to balance the nation’s books by 2013.

The ECB’s intervention was based on the hypothesis that the markets — which were excessively pessimistic — had doubts about the Italian government’s capacity to repay its debts and restore economic growth. The goal of the letter of intention was to contribute to the credibility of an Italian government initiative. And it was assumed that in association with a number of strategic purchases on the secondary market, it would be enough to stabilise the situation.

That said, the success of the ECB’s intervention was contingent on one condition: the Italian government had to rapidly adopt an adequate budgetary adjustment plan. In spite of the large sums involved, the purchase of Italian bonds by the ECB was only a symptomatic treatment. The European institution had the clout to scare speculators, but if the underlying situation did not change the benefits of its intervention would vanish almost immediately.

Faced with a dilemma

And this is precisely what happened. The ECB’s intervention in tandem with the presentation of ambitious austerity package by the Italian government reduced the yield spread to less than 300 points. However, this was temporary respite and not a definitive turning point. The markets still remained unconvinced about the effectiveness of the Italian austerity measures.

Thereafter, internal conflicts in the Italian government resulted in number of negative consequences. The European Central Bank was hoping that it would simply have to dictate its conditions for an austerity package that the Italian government should have adopted in early July. However, this turned out to be wishful thinking. Reassured by the reduction in the yield spread, the Italian government began to slowly back away from some of the package’s key measures. Plans to cut funding for local governments and to introduce a “solidarity contribution” were put on hold, significantly reducing the scope and the impact of the overall initiative.

As a result, the European Cental Bank is now faced with a dilemma. If it wants to promote the process of European integration, it will have to punish Italy, or at least punish its government for not delivering on its promise. The feasibility of fiscal union, with the all of the transfers that it entails, depends on the capacity of European institutions to control national governments that overspend. If they do not have enough control, transfers will only serve to prolong financial crises in member states, without resolving them. And with this in mind, it is clear that if the ECB continues to provide support for Italy, which has failed to keep its word, it will sacrifice all future credibility, and, in so doing, endanger the continued existence of the European Union…

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

Italy: Milan Stocks Slide: Bond Spreads Rise

ECB buying should ‘not be taken for granted’, says Draghi

(ANSA) — Milan, September 5 — The incoming head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, warned Italy not to take the bank’s aid for granted as stocks plummeted and the yield on the 10-year bond spread fell to a record low.

More than 16 billion euros was wiped off the Milan stock market as stocks slumped 4.83% to close at 14,333 points.

Paris stocks fell 4.73% while Frankfurt shares dropped 5.28% to their lowest level in two years.

The Senate will begin a debate on Tuesday on Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s 45.5 billion-euro austerity package as CGIL, the nation’s biggest union, holds a national strike to protest against government cutbacks. Investor concern has been rising since the government agreed last week to drop spending cuts and tax increases from the plan, announced on August 5 to convince the ECB to buy Italian bonds to counter surging borrowing costs. “There is no magic wand,” said Draghi, head of the Bank of Italy, who will assume his new position in November.

“Members of the eurozone should not take for granted” the ECB’s programme to buy bonds, including Italian bonds, he said.

Speaking at a conference in Paris, he also urged European governments to undertake structural reforms to stimulate growth.

“We need large and credible packages that include a broad political commitment to increase competitiveness and employment based on decisive common strategies,” Draghi said.

Draghi’s comments came as Moody’s ratings agency said Italy’s Aa2 credit rating was “under observation” for a potential downgrade.

The spread between Italian bonds and the German bund rose to 370.3 basis points, with a yield of 5.57%.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Workers Strike as Senate Debates Austerity Plan

‘Budget cuts totally unjustified’, says union

(ANSA) — Rome, September 6 — Italian workers went on strike across Italy on Tuesday as the Senate began to debate the government’s 45-billion euro austerity package.

The national strike organised by Italy’s largest union, CGIL, was expected to halt public transport and disrupt schools, hospitals and other government services.

More than three million teachers, hospital workers and public servants were due to take part in the strike which included demonstrations in Rome and other major cities.

“When you are on the edge of the abyss, you have to take a step backwards,” said Susanna Camusso, the head of CGIL.

“This is a general strike against a budget measure which is totally unjustified and as we have seen in the past few hours totally irresponsible”.

Protesters who gathered in central Rome unfurled a banner that said: “Change the austerity package to give a future to the country — more growth, more employment, more development”.

The original budget measures were proposed and passed by Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative government in early August but the measures have since been revised several times.

The government has withdrawn a proposal for a wealth tax on high income earners and added a controversial measure that would make it easier for workers to be sacked.

Senate Speaker, Renato Schifani, from Berlusconi’s People of Freedom party (PdL) said: “This is a difficult time for Europe and Italy because the country is at the centre of great upheaval but we all have to try and do our utmost also in parliament”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Budget Raises VAT From 20 to 21%, Super-Tax Over 500, 000

(AGI) Rome — The Government has decided to call for a confidence vote on the emergency budget bill. The additions made to the budget are the following:& 13; raising VAT by 1 point, from 20 to 21%, the revenue being allocated to balancing the budget;& 13; until the budget is balanced, the bill provides for a 3% super-tax on incomes of over 500,000 Euros;& 13; adjusting women’s retirement age in the private sector starting in 2014.

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

Switzerland: SNB Toughens Stance With Euro Rate Target

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) has attempted to halt the “massive overvaluation” of the franc by setting a minimum exchange rate target of SFr1.20 to the euro.

The move on Tuesday morning shocked foreign exchange markets and had the desired effect. The euro, which had been trading around SFr1.10 before the announcement, shot up to SFr1.20 afterwards.

The intervention was welcomed unanimously by the main political parties and the business community. Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, who a day earlier had called on the central bank to take action, said the government backed the measures.

“I’m extremely happy that they took this decision. I think it was the right moment to do so,” said Schneider-Ammann. He said it would help ease problems for firms and had a psychological impact. “It will bring back confidence and some optimism.”

The central bank said it was aiming for the “substantial and sustained weakening” of the franc which has gained around 25 per cent in value against the euro and the dollar over the past four years.

Adopting a harder tone than in recent interventions, the SNB said it would “no longer tolerate” an exchange rate below the SFr1.20 threshold and promised to take further measures if the economic outlook and deflationary risks required it.

“The current massive overvaluation of the Swiss franc poses an acute threat to the Swiss economy and carries the risk of a deflationary development,” the SNB said in a statement.

The SNB stated that it was prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities, adding that the franc was still high at SFr1.20 to the euro, but should continue to weaken over time…

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

UK: Bright New Ideas, But Are They Tory?

No11 was packed earlier this evening for the launch of Masters of Nothing: How the Crash Will Happen Again Unless We Understand Human Nature, the account of the financial crisis by Matthew Hancock and Nadhim Zahawi, a couple of bright things from the 2010 intake. Mr Hancock was George Osborne’s chief of staff, so he presumably got a discount on the venue (how curious to experience the stark bare floorboards introduced by Gordon Brown to set off his austere tastes being trodden by Tories and their chums — the art on the wall hasn’t got much better). Mr Zahawi is a well connected entrepreneur so the place was full of intereting business types. There were understandably quite a few jokes at the expense of Mr Hancock, who is frequently teased for his ambition. “When Matthew told me he was writing a book, I told him I thought it was a bit early for his political memoirs,” the Chancellor said.

Danny Finkelstein and Peter Riddell talked up the merits of the book’s arguments in favour of a greater emphasis on behavioural science, better mechanisms for learning the lessons of past crises, and the public view that those who crashed the global financial system have got away with their catastrophic mistakes. Bad habits can’t be abolished, Mr Hancock said, but you can shrink the space in which they are allowed to happen. But how? Their suggestions have caught the media eye: quotas for women in executive roles (Jack Dromey welcomed Mr Hancock as a new member of Harriet Harman’s sisterhood in the street earlier) ; penalties for failure, not rewards; some kind of invigilator for banks — a ‘public protagonist’ to question investment decisions taken by boards.

Mr Osborne said he looked forward to them putting their ideas in to action “when they get the chance in the years ahead”. But will his colleagues say the same? Masters of Nothing is making waves for its eye-catching ideas, but are they Conservative? Quotas? Some kind of investment policeman? It has become fashionable in some Tory circles to decry the failures of capitalism. But what Messrs Hancock and Zahawi have done is thrown down the gauntlet to Tory traditionalists, and to judge by some of the comments about them I’ve heard this evening (‘commies in a blue wrapper’ was the best), they may just spark a bit of a ding dong.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

What Can Greece Do Now?

Arend van Dam

Everyone now grasps that the Greek government cannot reduce its debt as promised, and the news has rattled the financial markets. In Athens there’s a feeling of helplessness in the air, as captured in this editorial in To Ethnos

Panos Panagiotopoulos.

Europeans do not believe that we want to be saved! The indicators are in the red while structural reforms continue to lag. Without credibility, what is there to renegotiate? For anyone who knows a little about the Greek economy, it was abundantly clear that the goals of the austerity plan — above all, the measures announced in 2011 — were very ambitious, even too ambitious. In other words, they could not be pulled off.

It’s not just because of “political resistance”, which is nevertheless real and which no one can ignore; it’s because of unreasonable delays. And to this we must add the quality of political and administrative personnel in the country and that of the legal and judicial system.

The IMF-EU-ECB “troika” and the Greek government have made a big mistake by setting the bar too high, despite the reluctance regarding the “recipe” and how to push it through. With its back to the wall, the government received a visit from the experts of the troika last week — a visit that was hastily broken off.

The latter, meanwhile, continue to feed markets with unrealistic forecasts and more talk of “more difficult” and “more expensive”, which provokes consequences diametrically opposed to those intended. The reality is that, though much has been accomplished, Greece is seen internationally as a do-nothing country.

Bad recipe

That’s one side of the story. For many European leaders, bankers and technocrats have grasped what is happening and are denouncing the “excessive pressure” being applied to Greece that is leading to those results far removed from the ones expected.

The other side of the story is — failure. The government talks endlessly of “mergers” and “elimination” of public bodies and, more generally, of reforms, yet it has done next to nothing. What’s more, “mismanagement” in the public sector carries on largely as it did before. Recent statements by the Deputy Minister of the Interior on public administration bodies prove it. It is still rather strange that, two years after slashing wages and pensions by up to 1000 euros a month and raising taxes, fiscal fraud and mismanagement in the public sector remain at the highest levels.

All this makes for a ‘bad recipe’ that, beyond the social injustices it creates, leads to an out-of-control recession and a jobless rate that is “a knife to the throat.” That’s where we stand today.

Europeans do not believe that we want to be saved. Numerous indicators are in the red, and many of our goals have not been met. There is a problem of revenue, of delays in bringing forward structural reforms and, once again, credibility. This all makes it rather hard to implement the agreement of July 21 [the new rescue plan worked out by the countries of the euro zone] which is full of grey areas and limits the options for renegotiating the terms of the austerity plan.

We are on the edge…

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


9/11: A ‘Babble of Idiots’? History Has Been the Judge of That

The Guardian’s comment editor at the time of 9/11 on a savage response to those who foresaw the reality of a war on terror

By the time the second plane hit the World Trade Centre, the battle to define the 9/11 attacks had already begun, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the US President Bush made the fateful call for a war on terror, as the media rallied to the flag. In Britain Tony Blair and his cheerleaders enthusiastically fell into line. Inevitably, they faced a bit more opposition to the absurd claim that the atrocities had come out of a clear blue sky, and the country must follow wherever the wounded hyperpower led.

But not a lot. Political and media reaction to anyone who linked what had happened in New York and Washington to US and western intervention in the Muslim world, or challenged the drive to war, was savage. From September 11 2001 onwards, the Guardian (almost uniquely in the British press) nevertheless ensured that those voices would be unmistakably heard in a full-spectrum debate about why the attacks had taken place and how the US and wider western world should respond.

The backlash verged on the deranged. Bizarre as it seems a decade on, the fact that the Guardian allowed writers to connect the attacks with US policy in the rest of the world was treated as treasonous in its supposed “anti-Americanism”. Michael Gove, now a Conservative cabinet minister, wrote in the Times that the Guardian had become a “Prada-Meinhof gang” of “fifth columnists”. The novelist Robert Harris, then still a Blair intimate, denounced us for hosting a “babble of idiots” unable to grasp that the world was now in a reprise of the war against Hitler.

The Telegraph ran a regular “useful idiots” column targeted at the Guardian, while Andrew Neil declared the newspaper should be renamed the “Daily Terrorist” and the Sun’s Richard Littlejohn lambasted us as the “anti-American propagandists of the fascist left press”.

Not that the Guardian published only articles joining the dots to US imperial policy or opposing the US-British onslaught on Afghanistan. Far from it: in first few days we ran pieces from James Rubin, a Clinton administration assistant secretary; the ex-Nato commander Wesley Clark; William Shawcross (“We are all Americans now”); and the Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, calling for vengeance — among others backing military retaliation.

The problem for the Guardian’s critics was that we also gave space to those who were against it and realised the war on terror would fail, bringing horror and bloodshed to millions in the process. Its comment pages hosted the full range of views the bulk of the media blanked; in other words, the paper gave rein to the pluralism that most media gatekeepers claim to favour in principle, but struggle to put into practice. And we commissioned Arabs and Muslims, Afghans and Iraqis, routinely shut out of the western media.

So on the day after 9/11, the Guardian published the then Labour MP George Galloway on “reaping the whirlwind” of the US’s global role. Then the Arab writer Rana Kabbani warned that only a change of policy towards the rest of the world would bring Americans security (for which she was grotesquely denounced as a “terror tart” by the US journalist Greg Palast). The following day Jonathan Steele predicted (against the received wisdom of the time) that the US and its allies would fail to subdue Afghanistan.

Who would argue with that today, as the US death toll in Afghanistan reached a new peak in August? Or with those who warned of the dangers of ripping up civil rights, now we know about Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib and “extraordinary rendition”? Or that the war on terror would fuel and spread terrorism, including in Pakistan, or that an invasion of Iraq would be a blood-drenched disaster — as a string of Guardian writers did in the tense weeks after 9/11?

As the Guardian’s comment editor at the time, my column in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 was a particular target of hostility, especially among those who insisted the attacks had nothing to do with US intervention, or its support for occupation and dictatorship, in the Arab and Muslim world. Others felt it was too early to speak about such things when Americans had suffered horrific losses.

But it was precisely in those first days, when the US administration was setting a course for catastrophe, that it was most urgent to rebut Bush and Blair’s mendacious spin that this was an attack on “freedom” and our “way of life” — and nothing to do with what the US (and Britain) had imposed on the Middle East and elsewhere. And most of the 5,000 emails I received in response, including from US readers, agreed with that argument.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

America’s Selective Vigilantism Will Make as Many Enemies as Friends

Under the guise of humanitarianism, the frontiers of the west’s squalid protectorate are being decided in Washington

“Sovereign is he who decides on the exception,” Carl Schmitt wrote in different times almost a century ago, when European empires and armies dominated most continents and the United States was basking beneath an isolationist sun. What the conservative theorist meant by “exception” was a state of emergency, necessitated by serious economic or political cataclysms, that required a suspension of the constitution, internal repression and war abroad.

A decade after the attentats of 9/11, the US and its European allies are trapped in a quagmire. The events of that year were simply used as a pretext to remake the world and to punish those states that did not comply. And today while the majority of Euro-American citizens flounder in a moral desert, now unhappy with the wars, now resigned, now propagandised into differentiating what is, in effect, an overarching imperial strategy into good/bad wars, the US General Petraeus (currently commanding the CIA) tells us: “You have to recognise also that I don’t think you win this war. I think you keep fighting. It’s a little bit like Iraq, actually… Yes, there has been enormous progress in Iraq. But there are still horrific attacks in Iraq, and you have to stay vigilant. You have to stay after it. This is the kind of fight we’re in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids’ lives.” Thus speaks the voice of a sovereign power, determining in this case that the exception is the rule.

Even though I did not agree with his own answer, the German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas posed an important question: “Does the claim to universality that we connect with human rights merely conceal a particularly subtle and deceitful instrument of western domination?” “Subtle” could be deleted. The experiences in the occupied lands speak for themselves. Ten years on the war in Afghanistan continues, a bloody and brutal stalemate with a corrupt puppet regime whose president and family fill their pockets with ill-gotten gains and a US/Nato military incapable of defeating the insurgents. The latter now strike at will, assassinating Hamid Karzai’s corrupt sibling, knocking off his leading collaborators and targeting key Nato intelligence personnel via suicide terrorism or helicopter-downing missiles. Meanwhile, sets of protracted behind-the-scenes negotiations between the US and the neo-Taliban have been taking place for several years. The aim reveals the desperation. Nato and Karzai are desperate to recruit the Taliban to a new national government.

Euro-American liberal and conservative politicians who form the backbone of the governing elites and claim to believe in moderation and tolerance and fighting wars to impose the same values on the re-colonised states are still blinded by their situation and fail to see the writing on the wall. Their pious renunciations of terrorist violence notwithstanding, they have no problems in defending torture, renditions, targeting and assassination of individuals, post-legal states of exception at home so that they can imprison anybody without trial indefinitely. Meanwhile the good citizens of Euro-America who opposed the wars being waged by their governments avert their gaze from the dead, wounded and orphaned citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, Libya and Pakistan … the list continues to grow. War — jus belli — is now a legitimate instrument as long as it is used with US approval or preferably by the US itself. These days it is presented as a “humanitarian” necessity: one side is busy engaged in committing crimes, the self-styled morally superior side is simply administering necessary punishment and the state to be defeated is denied its sovereignty. Its replacement is carefully policed both with military bases and money. This 21st-century colonisation or dominance is aided by the global media networks, an essential pillar to conduct political and military operations.

Let’s start with homeland security in the US. Contrary to what many liberals imagined in November 2008, the debasement of American political culture continues apace. Instead of reversing the trend, the lawyer-president and his team have deliberately accelerated the process. There have been more deportations of immigrants than under George W Bush; fewer prisoners held without trial have been released from Guantánamo, an institution that Barack Obama had promised to close down; the Patriot Act with its defining premises of what constitutes friends and enemies has been renewed; a new war begun in Libya without the approval of Congress on the flimsy basis that the bombing of a sovereign state should not be construed as a hostile act; whistleblowers are being vigorously prosecuted and so on — the list growing longer by the day.

Politics and power override all else. Liberals who still believe the Bush administration transcended the law while the Democrats are exemplars of a normative approach are blinded by political tribalism. Apart from Obama’s windy rhetoric, little now divides this administration from its predecessor. Ignore, for a moment, the power of politicians and propagandists to enforce their taboos and prejudices on American society as a whole, a power often used ruthlessly and vindictively to silence opposition from all quarters — Bradley Manning, Thomas Drake (released after a huge outcry in the liberal media), Julian Assange, Stephen Kim, currently being treated as criminals and public enemies, know this better than most.

Nothing illustrates this debasement so well as the assassination of Osama bin Laden in Abbotabad. He could have been captured and put on trial, but that was never the intention. The liberal mood was reflected by the chants heard in New York on that day: “U-S-A. U-S-A. Obama got Osama. Obama got Osama. You can’t beat us (clap-clap-clap-clap-clap-clap) You can’t beat us. Bin La-den. F*** Bin La-den.” These were echoed in more diplomatic language by the leaders of Europe, junior partners in the imperial family of nations, incapable of self-determination. Cant and hypocrisy have become the coinage of political culture.

Take Libya, the latest case of “humanitarian intervention”. The US-Nato intervention in Libya, with United Nations security council cover, is part of an orchestrated response to show support for the movement against one dictator in particular and by so doing to bring the Arab rebellions to an end by asserting western control, confiscating their impetus and spontaneity, and trying to restore the status quo ante. As is now obvious, the British and French are boasting of success and that they will control Libyan oil reserves as payment for the six-month bombing campaign.

Civil society is easily moved by images and Muammar Gaddafi’s brutality in sending his air force to bomb his people was the pretext that Washington utilised to bomb another Arab capital. Meanwhile, Obama’s allies in the Arab world were hard at work promoting democracy.

The Saudis entered Bahrain where the population is being tyrannised and large-scale arrests are taking place. Not much of this is being reported on al-Jazeera. I wonder why. The station seems to have been curbed somewhat and brought into line with the politics of its funders. All this with active US support. The despot in Yemen, loathed by a majority of his people, continues to kill them every day by remote control from his Saudi base. Not even an arms embargo, let alone a “no-fly zone”, have been imposed on him.. Libya is yet another case of selective vigilantism by the US and its attack dogs in the west. That the German Greens, among the most ardent European defenders of neoliberalism and war, wanted to be part of this posse reveals more about their own evolution than the intrinsic merits or demerits of intervention.

The frontiers of the squalid protectorate that the west is going to create are being decided in Washington. Even those Libyans who, out of desperation, are backing Nato’s bomber jets, might — like their Iraqi equivalents — live to regret their choice. All this might trigger a third phase at some stage: a growing nationalist anger that spills over into Saudi Arabia and here, have no doubt, Washington will do everything necessary to keep the Saudi royal family in power. Lose Saudi Arabia and they will lose the Gulf states. The assault on Libya, greatly helped by Gaddafi’s imbecility on every front, was designed to wrest the initiative back from the streets by appearing as the defenders of civil rights. The Bahrainis, Egyptians, Tunisians, Saudi Arabians and Yemenis will not be convinced, and even in Euro-America more are opposed to this latest adventure than support it. The struggles are by no means over.

The 19th century German poet Theodor Däubler wrote:

The enemy is our own question embodied

And he will hound us, and we will hound him to the same end.

The problem with this view today is that the category of enemy, determined by US policy needs, changes far too frequently. Yesterday Saddam and Gaddafi were friends and regularly helped by western intelligence agencies to deal with their own enemies. The latter became friends when the former became enemies. And so the planetary disorder continues. The assassination of Bin Laden was greeted by European leaders as something that would make the world safer. Tell that to the fairies.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America

MORE than a dozen American states are considering outlawing aspects of Shariah law. Some of these efforts would curtail Muslims from settling disputes over dietary laws and marriage through religious arbitration, while others would go even further in stigmatizing Islamic life: a bill recently passed by the Tennessee General Assembly equates Shariah with a set of rules that promote “the destruction of the national existence of the United States.”

Supporters of these bills contend that such measures are needed to protect the country against homegrown terrorism and safeguard its Judeo-Christian values. The Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has said that “Shariah is a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it.” This is exactly wrong. The crusade against Shariah undermines American democracy, ignores our country’s successful history of religious tolerance and assimilation, and creates a dangerous divide between America and its fastest-growing religious minority. The suggestion that Shariah threatens American security is disturbingly reminiscent of the accusation, in 19th-century Europe, that Jewish religious law was seditious. In 1807, Napoleon convened an assembly of rabbinic authorities to address the question of whether Jewish law prevented Jews from being loyal citizens of the republic. (They said that it did not.)

Fear that Jewish law bred disloyalty was not limited to political elites; leading European philosophers also entertained the idea. Kant argued that the particularistic nature of “Jewish legislation” made Jews “hostile to all other peoples.” And Hegel contended that Jewish dietary rules and other Mosaic laws barred Jews from identifying with their fellow Prussians and called into question their ability to be civil servants. The German philosopher Bruno Bauer offered Jews a bargain: renounce Jewish law and be granted full legal rights. He insisted that, otherwise, laws prohibiting work on the Sabbath made it impossible for Jews to be true citizens. (Bauer conveniently ignored the fact that many fully observant Jews violated the Sabbath to fight in the Prussian wars against Napoleon.) During that era, Christianity was seen as either a universally valid basis of the state or a faith that harmoniously coexisted with the secular law of the land. Conversely, Judaism was seen as a competing legal system — making Jews at best an unassimilable minority, at worst a fifth column. It was not until the late 19th century that all Jews were granted full citizenship in Western Europe (and even then it was short lived).

Most Americans today would be appalled if Muslims suffered from legally sanctioned discrimination as Jews once did in Europe. Still, there are signs that many Americans view Muslims in this country as disloyal. A recent Gallup poll found that only 56 percent of Protestants think that Muslims are loyal Americans. This suspicion and mistrust is no doubt fueled by the notion that American Muslims are akin to certain extreme Muslim groups in the Middle East and in Europe. But American Muslims are a different story. They are natural candidates for assimilation. They are demographically the youngest religious group in America, and most of their parents don’t even come from the Middle East (the majority have roots in Southeast Asia). A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Muslim Americans exhibit the highest level of integration among major American religious groups, expressing greater degrees of tolerance toward people of other faiths than do Protestants, Catholics or Jews.

Given time, American Muslims, like all other religious minorities before them, will adjust their legal and theological traditions, if necessary, to accord with American values.

America’s exceptionalism has always been its ability to transform itself — economically, culturally and religiously. In the 20th century, we thrived by promoting a Judeo-Christian ethic, respecting differences and accentuating commonalities among Jews, Catholics and Protestants. Today, we need an Abrahamic ethic that welcomes Islam into the religious tapestry of American life. Anti-Shariah legislation fosters a hostile environment that will stymie the growth of America’s tolerant strand of Islam. The continuation of America’s pluralistic religious tradition depends on the ability to distinguish between punishing groups that support terror and blaming terrorist activities on a faith that represents roughly a quarter of the world’s population.

Eliyahu Stern, an assistant professor of religious studies and history at Yale, is the author of the forthcoming “The Genius: Elijah of Vilna and the Making of Modern Judaism.”

[JP note: Nuts.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Gold Heists Sweep L.A.

After a summer of brazen attacks on gold stores, parts of downtown Los Angeles now look more like a militarized zone than a commercial corridor.

The gold fever that has driven prices to an all-time high is also fueling a crime spree in the precious metal. Police nationwide are seeing an uptick in robberies and burglaries related to gold prices, which peaked at $1,891 an ounce last month, up more than $600 from a year earlier.

The FBI doesn’t keep numbers for gold thefts but local police departments have plenty of anecdotal evidence of a spike. Dozens of women have had their necklaces snatched in daylight attacks, burglars are targeting gold in homes and robbers in New Jersey even cleared out a mining museum’s irreplaceable collection of nuggets.

The beauty of gold, from a criminal stand point, is that it’s easy to fence. Rings and necklaces can be melted down — destroying the evidence — and sold. Precious items such as diamonds are harder to alter and easier to trace.

There were at least six Los Angeles gold store robberies in June and July. On Aug. 22, four men with hammers were arrested outside a jewelry store, Los Angeles police Lt. Paul Vernon said.

These thefts were suspected to have been carried out by gang members who covered their faces with hoods and hats, then rushed into stores and swiped what they could in a matter of seconds. One surveillance video shows a shopkeeper being blasted by pepper spray while robbers destroy display cabinets and grab what they can.

“Certainly the surging gold prices motivated these people to want to do these smash-and-grabs,” Vernon said. “They are not trading what they steal at the market value of gold. Even if they get it half that, they are making a pretty penny.”

In Oakland, police say dozens of women have had gold necklaces yanked from their necks on the street. More than 100 similar thefts have been reported in Los Angeles, a rash of robberies is taking place in St. Paul, Minn., and police in Phoenix say muggers chatted up high school girls then ripped their gold necklaces from them.

“We’ve never seen this,” said Oakland police Sgt. Holly Joshi. Most of the victims were robbed while distractedly looking at their phones.

In July, thieves smashed open a glass display in the Sterling Hill Mining Museum in New Jersey and made off with about $400,000 in gold samples collected from mines across the globe.


[Return to headlines]

Most US Muslims Back Ground Zero Mosque

WASHINGTON — Most Muslim Americans support the proposal to build a mosque and Islamic community centre near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 attacks on New York, a survey shows

The Pew Research Center survey found 81 percent of US Muslims have heard about the project, which is strongly opposed by American conservatives, and, of those, 72 percent say it should be allowed to be built. At the same time, 20pc of the country’s Muslims say it should not be allowed to be built, while 15pc say it should be allowed even though they personally believe it’s a bad idea to build it near the WTC site, the survey found. The survey revealed a decidedly different view among the general public. Of about 78 percent who heard of the project, only 38 percent said it should be allowed to be built, while 47 percent said it should not. The mosque and Islamic centre would be built just 2 blocks from where the World Trade Center stood before being destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attack. Asked about mosques or Islamic centres in their community, 14 percent of US Muslims said there had been opposition to building a mosque in the past few years and 15 percent said a mosque or Islamic centre in their community has been vandalized or a target of other hostility in the past 12 months, the survey found

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Muslims Feel Growing Hostility as 9/11 Anniversary Approaches and ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ Is Built

The scent of incense fills the room as the faithful gather quietly for afternoon prayers, their hands turned toward the ceiling, their shoes lined along the back wall. Outside, an NYPD van sits in the sunshine. Dozens of metal police barricades line the sidewalk bordering 51 Park St. — aka the controversial Ground Zero mosque. “People are not welcome anymore building mosques in neighborhoods,” says Mohammed Aziz, 49, who joined a diverse crowd of cops, MTA workers and financial wizards at the crowded service. We didn’t experience that before 9/11.”

The day Islamic terrorists brought down the World Trade Center changed life in many ways — some dramatic, others subtle — for the city’s 600,000 Muslims. Either way, NYPD crime stats show the change was almost instantaneous. Between Jan. 1, 2001, and Sept. 10, 2001, police reported zero bias incidents against Muslims. In the 112 days after the twin towers toppled, there were 96, nearly one a day. Things slowly returned to normal, with zero incidents reported in 2004 — although many Muslims felt a growing sense of unease.

Their fears were confirmed last year when a national furor erupted over the Park St. mosque. Bias attacks on Muslim New Yorkers tripled from the year prior, up from six to 19.

The assaults included a cab fare who slashed his driver with a knife after asking if the man was a Muslim. Such once-innocuous inquiries are now delivered with a menacing subtext, says Bhairavi Desai, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance. “The most subtle change is the tone of that question: ‘Where are you from?’“ says Desai, whose membership of 15,000 is about half Muslim. It’s almost kind of implying, ‘Why are you not an American?’ There’s a questioning of loyalty now in the tone.”

A taxi union survey done last year indicated 55% of city cabbies were told to “go back to your country” or targeted with ethnic slurs in the previous 12 months. Nationally, a Pew Research Center poll released last month found 43% of Muslim Americans reported experiencing harassment in the last year. Aziz’s assertion about anti-mosque sentiment was backed by a 35-page NYCLU report citing nine recent instances statewide — including public opposition to planned mosques in Sheepshead Bay and Staten Island. Abed Ayoub, who came to lower Manhattan for the ninth anniversary memorial last September, arrived to find the feud over the Ground Zero mosque in full roar. The Michigan native said he also found an undefinable tension in the heated air. “I don’t want to say hatred,” says Ayoub, legal director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. “But people looking as if I was different. Very upsetting. Here I am, born and raised in Detroit — it really caught me off guard.”

The head developer of the controversial 51Park Community Center, Sharif El-Gamal, says he never felt singled out because of his religion despite all the vitriol surrounding the project.

“Nobody bothers me at all,” he says. “I walk around, and there’s never any problem.” Yet many other Muslims are reluctant to speak, fearful of drawing the attention of law enforcement. They suspect their mosques are bugged, and their ranks singled out for surveillance. At a prayer service inside Masjid Hazrat-I-Abu Bakr Islamic Center in Flushing, a month before th 10th anniversary of 9/11, not one worshiper would speak. The mosque made the headlines when jailed would-be terrorist Najibullah Zazi prayed there during a 2009 New York visit. One of its former imams was revealed as an FBI informant — who also double-crossed the feds by alerting Zazi that he was under surveillance. Back at 51 Park, Aziz gets ready to start his prayers. He hopes for the best as the 10th anniversary approaches, although his optimism is tempered. “People are not completely friendly like they were before,” he says. “After 9/11, kids going to school were experiencing discrimination from other students. And from a minority of teachers.” He pauses to consider a question: Whose kids? My kids,” he replies

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pew Poll Quantifies the Radical Minority of U.S. Muslims

Four weeks after the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center released its study of Muslim Americans (IW analysis here), the Pew Research Center followed suit by publishing a survey (PDF here) of far greater value due to its broader range of topics, more direct questioning, and extensive demographic cross tabs.

Though the media, like Pew, have emphasized the mainstream attitudes of most U.S. Muslims, the data indicate that radical views are held by a small but important minority that cannot be ignored. These and other interesting results are highlighted below:

Radical Muslims remain uncommon in the U.S. — but not uncommon enough. Muslims’ opinions of al-Qaeda are 5% favorable (2% very, 3% somewhat) and 81% unfavorable (70% very, 11% somewhat); 14% did not answer.

This is a step forward, as only 68% recorded disapproval in 2007. Furthermore, 8% of U.S. Muslims — a larger percentage than in Pakistan — say that suicide bombing or other violence against civilians is at least sometimes justified to defend Islam.

Perhaps most troubling, 21% of U.S. Muslims see a great deal or fair amount of support for extremism among their own.

Underlining the significance of homegrown Islamism, more U.S.-born Muslims than immigrants hold radical views.

Native-born African-American Muslims lead with way: 11% have a favorable opinion of al-Qaeda, 16% say that attacking civilians can be religiously justified at least sometimes, and 40% see support for extremism among U.S. Muslims; each value is double the one characterizing Muslim Americans as a whole.

Despite pseudo-academic studies smearing those who sound the alarm about radical Islam as “Islamophobes,” Pew finds that 60% of Muslims are very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S. — almost as high as the figure for the general public (67%).

Are many Muslim Americans “Islamophobes” as well?

The Pew poll, like Gallup’s, erodes the Islamist meme that life in America is miserable for Muslims. Pew finds that 56% of Muslims are satisfied with the country’s direction, compared to 23% of the general public.

Muslims also are happier with their lives, have a more positive financial outlook, and feel more confident that hard work leads to success.

Pew combines the percentage of Muslim respondents (about 0.5%, roughly the same as Gallup) with census data to estimate a population of 1.8 million Muslim adults and 2.75 million total Muslims in the U.S. — barely a third of the number often claimed.

It is reassuring that most U.S. Muslims hold mainstream views, but history shows that Islamists need not be a majority to be dangerous. The moderate and largely silent masses do not offset a hundred thousand radicals, if not more, who approve of al-Qaeda and serve as potential recruits.

Congressman Peter King, who called Pew’s results “disappointing” and reiterated the need for hearings, has the right perspective: “Seventy percent of American Muslims are opposed to al-Qaeda. We are at war with al-Qaeda. One hundred percent should be opposed to al-Qaeda.”

[Return to headlines]

The Consequences of Islamophobia in the US and Abroad

by John Esposito

The July 2011 massacre in Norway was a tragic signal of a metastasizing social cancer — Islamophobia. The Norwegian assassin, Anders Behring Breivik’s, 1500-page manifesto confirmed the dangerous consequences of hate speech that has been spread by American and European xenophobes and websites that are quoted hundreds of times in his fear-filled tract. Because the small number of extremists responsible for 9/11 and terrorist attacks in Europe and the Muslim world legitimated their acts in the name of Islam, we have seen an exponential increase in the past ten years of hostility and intolerance towards fellow Muslim citizens. This hatred threatens the democratic fabric of American and European societies and impacts not only the safety and civil liberties of Muslims but also, as the attacks in Norway demonstrate, the safety of all citizens.

The broad spectrum of preachers of hate that include politicians, media commentators, Christian Zionist ministers, and biased media and internet sites exploit legitimate concerns about domestic security and engage in a fear-mongering that conflates Islam and the majority of Muslims with a small but deadly minority of militants. The Gallup World Poll revealed that 57% of Americans when asked what they admired about Islam said “nothing” or “I don’t know.” So. too, a Washington Post poll revealed that a shocking 49% of Americans view Islam unfavorably.

In the US, the 2008 presidential elections and the 2010 Congressional elections were marred by politicians like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Sharron Angle who grabbed headlines, using Muslims as convenient scapegoats. Gingrich created a reality that doesn’t exist by calling for a federal law barring US courts from considering Islamic Law as a replacement for U.S. law. Sharron Angle nearly topped him when she falsely suggested that Frankford, Tex., and Dearborn, Mich., were subject to a “Sharia” regime. Park 51 (the so-called “mosque at ground zero”) and anti-mosque and anti-Shariah hysteria across the country revealed the extent to which Islamophobia has gone mainstream in communities from New York to California. In the wake of this irrational emotion and fear, major polls by Time Magazine and The New York Times in August 2010 reported that 33% of those polled believed that Muslim Americans were more sympathetic to terrorists and, in general, 60% of those polled have negative feelings about Muslims.

Despite all the paranoia, what objectively do we know about Muslim Americans? What does empirical evidence tell us? In contrast to the charges that Muslims cannot integrate and cannot be loyal citizens, a major Pew Research Center study (2007) found that most Muslim Americans are “decidedly American” in income, education and attitudes, rejecting extremism by larger margins than Muslim minorities in Europe. Similarly, a 2009 Gallup report found that 70% of Muslim Americans have a job compared with 64% of the US population. Muslim men have one of the highest employment rates of religious groups. After Jews, Muslims are the most educated religious community in the US. Muslim women are as likely as their male counterparts to have a college degree or higher. 40% of women have a college degree as compared to 29% of Americans overall. And how do these Muslims in their communities fight terrorism? Not only did tips from Muslim Americans provide information that helped authorities thwart terrorist plots, but also, as the Triangle Centre on Terrorism and Homeland Security’s study noted, “Muslim Americans have been so concerned about extremists in their midst that they have turned in people who turned out to be undercover informants.” This study also found that the number of Muslim Americans who were arrested for perpetrating terrorist acts dropped from 47 in 2009 to 20 in 2010. (pdf)

Despite much evidence to the contrary, Congressman Peter King, Chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, held controversial hearings on “Radicalization of Muslim Americans,” using legitimate concerns about national security for political gain. King has been consistent in his undocumented claims. In a 2004 interview with Sean Hannity he charged that “no American Muslim leaders are cooperating in the war on terror,” and that “80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” When challenged, he staunchly insisted, without providing any data or citing any government reports: “I’ll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us”.King and others like him also ignore statements by key government officials like FBI Director Robert S Mueller III, US Attorney General Eric H Holder, and Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, who have all praised the Muslim American community for playing an instrumental role in assisting law enforcement agencies. As Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Advisor to the President commented to Muslims in a speech framing the Obama administration’s strategy to successfully prevent violent extremism:

“You create jobs and opportunity as small business owners and executives of major corporations. You enrich our culture as athletes and entertainers. You lead us as elected officials and Members of Congress. And no one should ever forget that Muslim Americans help keep America safe every day as proud Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen. Indeed, some of these heroes have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and now rest in our hallowed national cemeteries.”

Like other Americans, Muslims also were victims; they too lost loved ones and friends in the 9/11 attacks. Moreover, they have seen their religion vilified and many in the mainstream Muslim majority have been victims of serious abuses — racial profiling, overzealous and illegal arrests and detentions, surveillance, wiretapping and trials using “secret evidence”. A campaign of ethnic profiling followed 9/11. Five thousand Arab and Muslim foreign nationals detained, 8,000 sought out for FBI interviews, 82,000 called in for special registration, not because they were terrorists, but because they were foreigners from Arab or Muslim countries. And still today, the use of tactics such as aggressive informants to “manufacture” crimes in Muslim communities, wiretaps, surveillance and monitoring of mosques without probable cause also remain a source of intimidation and fear. Yet, despite these extreme measures, as the FBI and Homeland Security have stressed, the majority of Muslims remain an integrated part of the American mosaic. It is time to digest the real, verifiable facts, to stop wasting energies on the wrong “enemies” and to use our collective strength to focus, together, on solving the very real problems that America is facing in the 21st century.

John Esposito is a professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University. He is also the director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. This article originally published at Chicago Project on Security and Terrorism (CPOST)

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Ground Zero Mosque 1

Pick Of The Day: The Ground Zero Mosque C4, 8pm

There’s no shortage of 9/11 TV ahead of the tenth anniversary of the attack — though this documentary, at least, has a fresh angle. Property developer Sharif El-Gamal wants to build a mosque and Islamic community centre two blocks away from Ground Zero. A press frenzy has erupted and outrage has been sparked, even though the man due to lead it, Imam Feisal, is a moderate who has openly declared the World Trade Center attacks to be un-Islamic. Untangling the high emotions is Bafta-winning director Dan Reed. Will protesters manage to derail the project completely?


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Ground Zero Mosque 2

‘They’re on a mission from Allah and they mean to accomplish it… it will be Mecca on the Hudson. But I can tell you right now it will be a battle, it will be a fight.’ So says Pamela Geller. Bafta Award-winning director Dan Reed untangles the hysteria, fury and politics surrounding the ‘Mosque at Ground Zero’. His film explores how this proposed mosque and Islamic community centre, two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks in lower Manhattan, has thrown into sharp focus the tensions at the core of American democracy regarding the country’s Muslim population. With unique access to the major players in the project and the unfolding events, The Ground Zero Mosque examines the press frenzy surrounding the plans, the vitriolic attacks on its high-profile spiritual leader, Imam Feisal, and the heartrending stories of some of the 9/11 families who oppose the building, as well as revealing the driving force behind the mosque.

[JP note: Links to the documentary screened on UK’s Channel 4 on 5 September 2011.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


‘She’s the Hottest Battered Woman Ever’: Hair Salon Ad That Promises to Make You Look Good… After Being Beaten by Partner

Edmonton business Fluid Salon said they had made her the ‘hottest battered woman’ ever and used the tagline ‘Look good in all you do’.

Released on a New York blog it shows the well-groomed but bruised woman as her boyfriend or husband is about to give her an expensive diamond necklace.

A comment posted by Fluid Hair under the picture on its Facebook site reads: ‘hottest battered woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.’

The image has swept across the internet and led to the premises being vandalised with the words in pink and purple paint ‘This is art that is wrongly named violence’ and ‘That was violence wrongly named art’.

‘Somebody had spilled paint and spray painted, and glued offensive messages to the windows of the salon,’ Edmonton sergeant Rick Evans said, adding the business has been receiving hate mail and death threats.

Salon owner Sarah Cameron said the advert reflects society and should be considered art.

‘It might strike a chord, but as the way our society and community is getting, we keep tailoring everything because everyone is getting so sensitive,’ she said.

‘Anyone who has a connection or a story behind anything can be upset or have an opinion. We are not trying to attack anyone.’

‘We wanted to push limits. You see the picture, you think it’s a nice photo and then you see the controversy.

‘We just like art, and it’s also objective.’

But campaigners have reacted furiously to the advert, which is one of six, saying that it glorified violence against women.

Jan Reimer, a provincial coordinator with the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters said:’It glamorises domestic violence. The ad is disturbing and chilling.

‘They may have had the best of intentions, but I don’t think they thought it out much in terms of what the message is. It seems like this is an ad for domestic violence.’

‘I was appalled,’ blogger Kasia Gawlak said.

‘It’s like saying, “at least you have good looking hair when your boyfriend abuses you.”

‘The women who have been abused (deal) with real pain, heartbreak and suffering — it’s not something that should be trivialised to sell a hair salon.’

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Islamic Terrorism is Key Threat: Swedish Police

Islamic terrorism remains the greatest threat to Sweden, according to Anders Danielsson, head of Sweden’s Security Service (Säpo).

Speaking at a seminar on Monday on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on the US on September 11th 2001, Danielsson said that the strength of al-Qaeda had been greatly weakened in recent years.

The threat from al-Qaeda could be complicated if the organisation divides into regions, according to Malena Rembe, an analyst at Säpo.

“It doesn’t make the job easier for us,” she said.

The September 11th attacks may in retrospect be seen as a culmination of al-Qaida’s capabilities, Danielsson said.

The attack was also unique in that it coincided with the age of mass communication, and so it could be witnessed live.

“This contributed to the scare factor,” the Säpo director said.

The worldwide broadcast of the second plane crashing into Manhattan’s World Trade Centre ensured that the propaganda effect was maximised.

“However, similar attacks have not occurred is not because al-Qaeda has not tried. Counter-terrorism is difficult,” Danielsson said.

“To ward off threats takes as long as finding out whether the threats are not true.”

Säpo’s mission is furthermore to prevent terrorist crimes, Danielsson underlined.

“Our mission is not to get convictions for terrorist crimes, that is not a measure of our effectiveness,” he Danielsson.

“We can and are likely to be exposed to terrorist attacks again. But it will not destroy our democratic system. Terrorism rarely does, even though it may seem that way.”

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

Magistrate Challenges Cash Payments to Tarantini

Money from premier contravened money-laundering regulations. Other off-the-books payments under microscope.

NAPLES — The cash payments to Gianpaolo Tarantini and Valter Lavitola arranged by Silvio Berlusconi contravene money-laundering regulations. Naples-based magistrate Amalia Primavera emphasises the point in her warrant for the arrest of the two men on charges of extortion, together with Mr Tarantini’s wife, Angela Nicla Devenuto. Public prosecutors have now ordered investigators to look into other off-the-books payments and could later on today set a date with Silvio Berlusconi’s lawyer, Nicolò Ghedini, to question the prime minister. Mr Ghedini has already made it known that this week the prime minister has official business that cannot be postponed. However, the public prosecutor’s office has stressed that the PM’s version must be heard in no more than ten days. It cannot therefore be ruled out that today or tomorrow Mr Ghedini will travel to Naples to arrange times and venues.

Investigations into cash transactions could affect the position of deal broker Valter Lavitola. Bank searches to be carried out by DIGOS security police officers will seek to reconstruct the activities of his many companies, and consider the possibility that they were used to siphon off and hide funds abroad. Important evidence for this line of enquiry will come from the dozens of intercepted phone calls made from mobiles with non-Italian SIM cards, which are being transcribed at the moment. The conversations, which involve individuals who have not so far cropped up in the investigation, could open up new scenarios, particularly concerning deals struck with government bodies and publishing funding obtained from the department at the Prime Minister’ Office…

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

Spain: Municipality in Balearics Bans Burqa

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, SEPTEMBER 6 — The Municipality of Sa Pobla in the province of Palma de Majorca is the first place in the Balearic Islands to ban the burqa in public spaces. The new municipal decision, cited by EFE, was approved following an initiative by the municipal council’s PP group, which controls Sa Pobla. The ordinance will take effect within a month after being published in the official state gazette. The new law bans “accessing or staying in spaces or buildings for public use or service for people who wear burqas”, as well as ski masks or helmets covering the face and “other garments or accessories preventing visual identification or communication”. Violators of the ordinance shall be fined from 50 to 200 euros, and up to 3000 euros in case of repeat offences. Sa Pobla is farming town with 12,500 inhabitants and a large number of immigrants who make up about 25% of the population and are mainly employed as potato harvesters. The ban will also apply to the owners of private establishments opened to the public, which, barring hygienic or safety purposes, will not be allowed to wear garments that prevent them from being identified visually. The example set by Sa Pobla has not been followed by other towns in the agricultural province, which also have a high concentration of immigrants.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Squatters Aren’t Criminals and Can be Good for Society’: Judge Orders Council to Publish List of Empty Homes in Its Area

Squatters should be encouraged because they bring empty homes back into use, a judge said yesterday.

Fiona Henderson ruled they were not criminals and there was no evidence they carried out more anti-social behaviour than rent-paying tenants.

Her judgment is a blow to the thousands every year who see their homes invaded — and struggle through the courts to win them back.

Yet the judge dismissed claims that squatting victims faced high costs and that those occupying council or housing association properties were queue jumpers.

She ordered a list of empty homes in North London to be made public to the Advisory Service for Squatters, an East London-based organisation known as the ‘estate agency for squatters’.

The group, run by Yiannis Voyias, publishes details of empty homes and a handbook showing how to take full advantage of housing laws.

It came as a surgeon and his wife begged squatters to leave their new London home amid fears the stress could complicate the birth of their first child, who is due tomorrow,

Oliver and Kaltun Cockerell were due to move into the house in West Hampstead when the group of 11 squatters took over.

The couple offered them £500 to move out but they demanded more. The couple will go to court today seeking an eviction order.

Judge Henderson’s ruling that squatting is a good thing and not a crime comes as Justice Secretary Ken Clarke considers laws that would finally make squatting a criminal offence.

Proposals include prison sentences for persistent squatters such as Mr Voyias and the repeal of ‘squatters’ rights’ rules that prevent owners using force to take back their properties.

A list of empty state-owned properties and private homes owned by companies or trusts rather than individuals in Camden must be provided to the Advisory Service under Judge Henderson’s ruling at the Information Rights Tribunal.

Judge Henderson heard evidence from Camden Council that almost all squatting involves criminal damage, that squatters jump the queue for scarce public housing and that police link squatting with vandalism, drugs and threatening behaviour.

The council’s lawyers argued that disclosing the addresses to Mr Voyias under Freedom of Information law would compromise efforts to prevent and detect crime.

But Judge Henderson said: ‘Squatting is not a crime.’

She said the release of the list could have ‘a negative impact’ on crime prevention and might be of use to organised criminals looking to burgle and gut empty homes.

But the judge said: ‘The tribunal does not consider that any perceived social disadvantage of living next door to squatters, or the costs of eviction of squatters, are matters that the tribunal is entitled to take into consideration since squatting is not illegal.’

She added that, although the list would be of use to professional squatters, its disclosure was unlikely to increase the drink or drug-fuelled opportunistic crime associated with empty properties.

Judge Henderson said that if squatters were able to jump the queue for housing, this would have no bearing on the prevention of crime.

She added: ‘There is evidence of some buildings remaining void for many years while planning and funding issues are resolved.

‘The Tribunal is satisfied that publication of this list would bring a proportion of the void properties back into use earlier than would otherwise be the case and that, consequently, this is a strong public interest in favour of disclosure.’

Judge Henderson said she accepted that disclosure of the list would ‘facilitate squatting and associated crime’, that this would cost public money to prevent and that ‘the feeling of security of people living in neighbouring houses’ would be undermined.

Meanwhile, more empty homes are to be taken over by councils to tackle a national housing shortage.

The move will help the homeless and protect the green belt, according to Local Government Minister Bob Neill.

Mr Neill, a Tory, said he would step up the ‘empty dwelling management orders’ brought in by Labour in 2006.

‘In the five years they’ve been in force, there have been only 46 orders, and that contrasts with the 300,000 empty homes,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘A Policeman Could Have Died’: Shocking New Footage of Rioters Attacking Officers With Bricks, Metal Bars and a Concrete Slab

The video shows hooded youths smashing in the windows of a police car with café tables and chairs and hacking off a wing mirror.

The frenzied attackers, wearing dark clothing and scarves over their faces, were filmed in Woolwich at around 8pm on Monday, August 8, wrecking the car with makeshift weapons including metal bars and street signs torn from the pavement.

A brave bystander tries in vain to remonstrate with the group, before a policeman with a riot shield can be seen fleeing the violence.

Further horrifying CCTV footage, shot in the same area less than a minute later, shows one of the same boys hurling a concrete slab through the windscreen of an unmarked Met police car.

Wearing a distinctive adidas hoodie, he screams wildly before reaching through the window to punch the driver, who was left with cuts to his face.

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

UK: A Red Tape Nightmare Has Hit Our Village Cricket Club for Six

The demands made on our little village cricket club in Litton, Somerset, reflect wider problems with the way Britain is run.

Compared with some of the weightier matters addressed in this column, the threatened closure of a tiny Somerset cricket club might seem trivial. But the team for which I play on Sundays is battling for survival because it has been caught by a bizarre bureaucratic doube-whammy which reflects much of what is going askew with the way our country is run — not least the extent to which our mighty government machine has lost contact with the everyday lives of those it is meant to serve. On the one hand, our club has been told that, for the field and two semi-derelict sheds where we change and keep our mowers, we must pay “non-domestic rates” equivalent to more than £100 for every home game we play. On the other, we are told by Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs that we cannot get any relief on this exorbitant demand because our constitution does not state explicitly that membership is open to anyone regardless of “sex, age, disability, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or other beliefs”.

Litton Cricket Club’s constitution has always stated that we are open to anyone who wants to join. Our players range in age from 11 to 73 and have included a Nigerian and my son’s 12-year-old Indian nephew. Wives help with teas, children play on the boundary; the club is warmly supported by many villagers, not least at our fund-raising annual dinners and quiz nights. But because our constitution does not include a “non-discrimination” clause worded in exactly the way laid down, we must pay rates 10 times larger than any other village club in our area, and more than our members could be expected to pay. Our battle to win rate relief began 10 years ago, when we were first faced with a demand for over £700. We discovered that this was only £400 less than a demand that was being objected to by one of the top city clubs in southern England, with 150 playing members and a large, fully-equipped clubhouse. Eventually we won relief, thanks to the intervention of local councillors.

Some years back, however, our council outsourced responsibility for its business rates to Capita, a private firm based in Bromley, Kent, which last year told us the policy had changed. In March we were told we would now have to pay the full tax unless HMRC classified us as a CASC, a Community Amateur Sports Club. We filed an application to HMRC and paid £70 as a first instalment, but were then threatened with court action unless we paid the full sum. Thanks to the intervention of our local councillor, we were given a stay of execution until our CASC application had been processed. Last month we finally had a letter from Liverpool to say that our application had been refused. This was because our constitution did not in effect make it absolutely explicit that the club would not discriminate against any one-legged Inuit lesbian Druid pensioner who might wish to join.

We appealed, explaining that the club’s survival depended on it. Having rewritten our constitution exactly according to the formula suggested on HMRC’s website, we asked whether, if we made a new application, this would now be acceptable. Liverpool’s refusal of our appeal last week explained that it was not HMRC’s concern whether our club closed. It said nothing about our new constitution, but merely repeated its insistence that the old one had not stated. the prescribed wording that our club was open to anyone (it merely said “membership is open to anyone”).

There was a time when matters like this could have been quickly sorted out by a couple of councillors familiar with our village. Instead, this battle, involving enough paperwork to fill an inch-thick file, has taken so many months that, if only I were a lawyer and able to charge £500 an hour, I could retire on the proceeds. We have now made our new CASC application, which we hope will tick every one of the many required boxes. Meanwhile the fate of our club hangs on the ruling of one official in Liverpool and another in Bromley, Kent, each more than 100 miles from the little Someset village where their decisions are awaited with considerable interest.

[JP note: My advice to Mr Booker would be to forget the cricket — just leave the country before it’s too late.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Comedy of Errors

An NHS advert for an anaesthetist in Liverpool speaks volumes for those weary of politically correct platitudes.

Viewed from a newspaper office, typographical errors are calamitous. Sub-editors everywhere live in fear of seeing their instructions to colleagues appear in print — “Usual 30pt blah-di-blah rubbish here” — and whoever typed the headline “Flash foods kill dozens in Istanbul” must still tremble at the memory; yet some mistakes really aren’t so bad. The NHS ad for an anaesthetist that ended with the line “the usual rubbish about equal opportunities etc” seems to have left some Liverpool councillors requiring medical attention, but whether due to carelessness or sabotage, those words speak for a generation weary of politically correct platitudes and hectoring. The NHS employs a wider variety of nationalities and creeds than any organisation in Britain; and anaesthetists can take care of themselves. They are, after all, in charge of the laughing gas.

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

UK: EDL Thugs Sent Packing

Thousands march in support of tolerance

Scores of EDL troublemakers arrested

Thousands of East Enders stood firm yesterday and saw off the threat of more than 1,000 hooligans from the English Defence League (EDL) attempting to march on the borough of Tower Hamlets. The banned EDL march took place on the cusp of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when the local Jewish community and trade unionists saw off the threat of tens of thousands of Oswald Moseley’s Blackshirt fascists. Now, as then, our community and our friends stood firm against hatred.

Over 10,000 people rallied against the EDL throughout the day in the Whitechapel area, celebrating ‘No Place for Hate’ under the banner of the United East End (UEE). Speaker after speaker from groups representing Muslims, Jews, Christians, trade unionists, local politicians, artists and musicians vowed the EDL would not bring their hatred to Tower Hamlets. Volunteers from the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) provided exemplary stewarding and helped keep calm throughout the day, despite an attempt by a coachload of EDL supporters to harass worshippers at the East London Mosque in the early evening.

Thugs stopped

The EDL had gathered in pubs in various locations in the City, including King’s Cross and Liverpool Street station, and were then escorted by police to hold a ‘static’ demonstration near Aldgate (City of London). Smoke bombs, bottles and other missiles were hurled by EDL thugs at the police and scuffles broke out, as police tried to maintain order. 60 EDL members were arrested; 16 for “assault on a police officer, common assault, drunk and disorderly and affray” and another 44 for “suspicion of violent disorder.”

EDL leader, convicted soccer thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, broke bail conditions (for hooligan-related offences) to lead the demo, disguised somewhat bizarrely as a rabbi. Only recently, more than 600 members of the group had been closely-linked with the far-right extremist, Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Norway in July. Shortly before his bombing and shooting spree, Breivik had emailed copies of a 1,500 page “manifesto” to EDL and other far-right individuals across the UK, and had admitted to visiting the UK several times. A known-EDL leader was recently interviewed by Norwegian police in connection with the Breivik slayings.


Acting borough commander for the Metropolitan Police, Robert Revill, commended stewards from the IFE and London Muslim Centre for their hard work on the day. “It was amazing to see the way they controlled very tense situations, I wish I had some of them in the police force!” [JP emphasis] Mayor Luthfur Rahman thanked all for attending the UEE celebration, saying: “This is a wonderful gathering and a show of our diversity”.. The EDL “would never be able to break us with their hatred and Islamophobia”, he said.

Glyn Robbins, acting chair of UEE, said: “We denied the EDL in 2010, we have denied them space today too…There will never be an okay time for the EDL to come to Tower Hamlets because this place is a ‘No Place for Hate’.” Also speaking at the event, East London Mosque executive director Dilowar Khan added: “The EDL have been inciting hatred towards Muslims for many years… They consider the East London Mosque to be at the heart of extremism — you are here now — you can witness for yourself whether we are extremists or not. We want to live in peace with the rest of society and Muslims are part of this society.”

Speaking about how the EDL tried to stir-up hatred, chair of Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum, Revd. Alan Green, rejected claims that non-Muslims were apparently unsafe to walk the streets of Tower Hamlets: “I tell you we most certainly do walk these streets — and we don’t walk them on our own, we walk them together with everyone else who lives here.” Saturday’s events were the second time the EDL had attempted to march on the area; in June last year they failed to turn up after more than 5,000 locals took to the streets to protect shops and the community.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Grandmother Faces Court for ‘Placing Golliwog in Window After Dispute With Neighbour and His Black Wife’

Jena Mason had been embroiled in a long-running dispute with a neighbour and his wife, who is of Jamaican descent.

Rosemarie O’Donnell complained to police after Mrs Mason put the ‘racially offensive’ toy in her window.

And the grandmother has now been charged with racially aggravated harrassment, with the golliwog described as ‘threatening, abusive or insulting’ by police.

The toy appeared in the ground-floor window of an annexe at Mrs Mason’s 16th-century manor house home in Worlingham, near Beccles Suffolk.

Mrs O’Donnell, 48, who lives next door in a converted barn with her husband Stephen, was offended when she saw the doll from the road.

Last month she complained to police that the golliwog was being used as a form of racial harrassment, and gave officers a photo of the toy in Mrs Mason’s window.

Two days later the grandmother was arrested at the home she shares with husband Terry, and taken to Lowestoft police station for questioning.

She is thought to have claimed that a child put the toy in the window in order to keep it out of the way of a family dog.

But last Friday Mrs Mason was charged with racially aggravated harrassment likely to cause alarm or distress on the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service when she answered police bail last Friday.

She is expected to plead not guilty when she appears before magistrates in Lowestoft next week. The maximum sentence for this offence is two years in jail.

Mrs Mason refused to comment today, but last month she claimed to be ‘completely and utterly surprised’ by the accusation.

She said: ‘For me to be accused of this is silly. It must be a misunderstanding. The toys have been removed now.’

Mrs O’Donnell was also unavailable for comment. Last month she said she was ‘shocked and upset’ by the sight of the golliwog.

Her husband Stephen added: ‘I am pleased the police are taking this seriously. My family have found the whole thing quite dreadful.

‘Often these things can get out of control and our objective is to put an absolute stop to it.’

The two families are believed to have had several disagreements in the past, but the cause of the arguments is unknown.

The golliwog, a popular toy for decades following its origins in a series of children’s books, has become controversial in recent years as race campaigners argue that it represents a caricature of black people.

Although it formerly appeared on jars of Robertson’s jam, the company dropped the character from its marketing in 2001.

Two years ago, Carol Thatcher was sacked by the BBC after comparing black French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to a golliwog.

A police spokesman confirmed that Mrs Mason had been charged with a racial offence.

She said: ‘Police were contacted just after 7.10pm on August 7 by a member of the public who reported that following a dispute between her family and parties at the address a toy had appeared in the window of a property and she considered this to be racially offensive.

‘A 65-year-old woman was arrested and later released on police bail. She has now been charged with racially aggravated harassment.

‘The charge relates to the display of writing, signs or other visible representations, which are threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.’

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

UK: Niall Ferguson: ‘The Real Point of Me Isn’t That I’m Good Looking. It’s That I’m Clever’

Historian Niall Ferguson on why broken Britain, celebrity culture and being called a pin-up make him angry.

I have not yet asked Niall Ferguson about him leaving his wife and three children, or his relationship with the Somalian feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, so when he launches in to a lengthy and verbose attack against the press during what I thought was a pretty innocuous chat about political correctness (he loathes it, naturally), it seems a little out of the blue.

“I really hate it,” he scowls. “I can’t stand it. I find the prurience, the prying, the sneering… I find it utterly odious. But the problem isn’t just the amorality of editors and their minions, it is that the British public also has a nauseating prurience. And what I find disgusting is that people want to judge footballers — and professors for that matter — by an entirely anachronistic yardstick. It’s as if by reading this stuff we become Victorians, and we are scandalised, I mean scandalised, to discover that a professor of history is getting divorced, which is clearly outrageous in this day and age. “I mean, how can this be news? How can this be ———- news? To me, it’s just a collective hypocrisy that attracts people to these stories. This desire to look into the BEDROOMS” — he is practically shouting now — “and pick up the sheets and have a gander. It disgusts me.”

I understand Ferguson’s anger. His new girlfriend, who was circumcised as a young girl in Somalia and is now pregnant with their first child, lived under a fatwa even before Theo Van Gogh — her friend and collaborator on a film about Muslim women — was murdered by extremists, a message affixed to his chest with a knife saying that she was next. Both Ferguson and Ali are on an al-Qaeda list now and have security. “It’s not just that I can’t understand why the British press should want to write stories about the private life of an academic who has done a bit of telly [his series for Channel 4, Civilization, based on his book of the same name, about the fall of the West, proved incredibly popular]. More than anything else what makes me tremendously angry is that one consequence of the intrusion was to place Ayaan in danger. That is just contemptible.”

But I don’t think it is just the British press that he loathes. It is Britain as a whole. Ferguson moved to Massachusetts to take up a prestigious role as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard seven years ago. He has just completed a year as Philippe Roman Chair in History and International Affairs at the London School of Economics, but he doesn’t even bother to pretend he likes it here. His contempt is evident in his sneering delivery, the way he contorts his handsome face. “Get me to the airport,” he says, emitting a rare laugh. “I just want to get back to the US. I just want to get away from all of this.”

Civilization is about the West losing its grip, though clearly he reckons that Britain lost it a long time ago. Indeed, it is difficult to know which of his gripes about the country to start with, and being with him at times feels like one long moan. I leave him — or rather he leaves me, though not before telling me to pay for our coffees, which I would have done anyway — with the distinct impression that the country should feel honoured that he has deigned to come back and spend any time with us at all.

The 47-year-old’s three children by his former wife, journalist Sue Douglas, may live in Britain, “but, if you asked me to choose because for some reason air travel became impossible, I would choose the States. I find it more fulfilling, more exciting, and I find myself engaged in work that I suppose has a greater traction in the US, such as the Kissinger biography I am writing now. [He has written 16 books.] And I think there are a lot of things about the English that are really bloody annoying.”

Is this just the Glaswegian in him talking? I’m not sure. Anyway, I ask him to give me examples. “The obsession with social status of an hereditary nature. Nobody gives a s—- about that in America.” Really? Aren’t their schools and universities and their political systems just as elitist, if not more so? But he’s off on one, and there is no point trying to interrupt.

Here’s another reason America is better: they have, he says “proper stars”. He continues: “Like Brad and Angelina. I’ve never heard of the people the [tabloids] write about here. If there is hell for me, then it is watching reality television. I can’t describe to you my feelings of just…” — he screws up his face -”DISGUST. To me, it’s just degrading of the human race. Britain is in the grip of a strange mania in which 95 per cent of the public wants to watch the other five per cent make fools of themselves.” When I suggest that America watches just as much reality TV, if not more, he says: “Intelligent people [in the US] don’t pay the blindest bit of interest to it. I can’t imagine having a conversation about Celebrity Big Brother in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”

Well, that’s told me, so off we go on to his next problem with Britain — a reliance on the welfare state. When I mention the riots, he says: “It sort of makes me feel I’m doing the right thing not staying. I was in China at the time, so I can’t give you any profound insight.” But then he proceeds to do just that. “It confirms my belief that the process of social and cultural decay, the decline of civilisation, is pretty advanced in Western Europe.”

What does he think of fellow historian David Starkey’s now infamous Newsnight comments on the riots? “David’s a brilliant man, and he’s a brave one to challenge the politically correct assumptions of the British media. Starkey was just telling it like it is, and anybody who isn’t able to stomach that is trapped in a self-imposed mental prison. We’ve got to be able to talk about this stuff, otherwise we are never going to understand why relatively poor kids feel so alienated from civilisation and their own rule of law.” I imagine it is exhausting to be Ferguson. His brain is so giant — does he ever switch off? “Well, I’ve been trying to develop other parts of my life, mainly in order to see more of my children.” They are 17, 16 and 12 . Do they want to be historians? “I haven’t encouraged them to be. My attitude is: find the thing you love, and then excel.” He’d like to be more strict with them, he says, but that’s not so easy when you are divorced.

What else does he do when not working? Does he socialise? “Well, I think that it is important to be gregarious and that friendships are not just a leisure pursuit, that they are an integral part of what it is to be human, and one does better work if one has a circle of friends that is active.” How typical of him to look at friendships academically. I probe for other hobbies and come up with surfing and skiing. He is also part of a jazz quintet. He plays the double bass, which he likes because it means he gets to stand at the back of the stage. “ It’s a fabulous respite from the kind of performance I usually do, which is one man doing a cross between an academic lecture and stand-up.” He says he is quite good at that.

Towards the end of our chat, I ask if he minds being described as a Harvard heart-throb. “Through pure accident of birth I’ve managed to stay relatively youthful. The ratings would probably be lower if I looked hideous. But the real point of me isn’t that I’m good looking. It’s that I’m clever. I’ve got a brain! I would rather be called a highly intelligent historian than a gorgeous pouting one.” Yes, well, I’m not so sure that I believe him.

‘High Financier: The Life and Times of Siegmund Warburg’ by Niall Ferguson (Penguin Books, RRP £12.99) is available from Telegraph Books at £11.99 + £1.25 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515, or visit

[JP note: Why would an allegedly serious and clever historian condescend to participate in such a ridiculous puff-piece? Perhaps he is not as clever as he likes to think he is.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Turkish Foreign Minister Celebrates Eid in Bosnia; Welcomed by Grand Mufti Ceric

Ceric said it symbolized the “rebirth of a new politics and new realities in the Balkans, particularly in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Posted By GlobalMB On September 5, 2011 @ 4:03 pm In Daily Turkish media is reporting that Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoðlu celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr in Bosnia and Herzegovina where he was welcomed by Bosnian Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric. According to the report [1]:…

           — Hat tip: Andy Bostom[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Flow of Libyans in Both Directions at Tunisian Border

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 6 — The flow of Libyan arrivals at the Tunisian border crossing of Dehiba-Wazen remains significant, though the number of Libyans leaving Tunisia to return to their country is also growing. The Libyan side of the crossing was previously the setting for long and intense fighting between loyalists and rebels.

Figures collected by the TAP agency in recent days show that 3,625 Libyans have entered Tunisia at Dehiba-Wazen, while 2,390 have returned home, despite the fact that fighting is continuing in some areas and that the general economic situation does not yet guarantee the conditions needed for the crisis to be overcome.

As well as vehicles carrying Tunisian goods, the crossing is also being used by humanitarian convoys carrying injured Libyans to Tunisian hospitals that have been equipped to tackle the emergency.

Meanwhile, the number of Libyans arriving at the border crossing of Ras Jedir (which has seen the greatest influx of Libyan since the crisis began) remains very high, reaching an average of 9,000 people per day.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: Should MI6 Have Come in From the Cold?

Newspaper revelations about the secret service’s dealings with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s spy masters would have horrified the spooks of George Smiley’s day.

In the spying game, there is no greater indignity an intelligence service can suffer than to see its secrets splashed all over the front of the morning’s newspapers. So it is not difficult to imagine the extreme discomfiture senior officers at Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6, as it is more familiarly known) are today experiencing over embarrassing revelations relating to its past involvement with Colonel Gaddafi. That MI6 had dealings with the Gaddafi regime was not, in itself, much of a secret. Indeed, Tony Blair’s government was more than happy to trumpet the lead role the service had played in persuading Gaddafi to give up his nuclear and chemical weapons arsenals in late 2003.

Despite the Gaddafi clan’s repeated denials to the contrary, by early 2002 MI6 had uncovered compelling evidence that the regime had a well-advanced nuclear weapons programme, as well as a stockpile of hundreds of chemical warheads that could be detonated from the air. By any standard, getting Gaddafi to renounce this deadly arsenal was an intelligence coup of the first order. It was on a par with getting the Soviet Union to remove its nuclear missiles from Cuba at the height of the Cold War in 1963 (missiles whose very existence were similarly denied by Moscow), which was achieved as a result of crucial intelligence provided by MI6’s Russian agent Oleg Penkovsky.

David Cameron would certainly not have enjoyed taking on the Gaddafi regime this year had it been armed with chemical and nuclear weapons. In fact, Mr Cameron would not have gone to war with Gaddafi and the Libyan dictator would still be brutalising his countrymen.What was less well known about Britain’s intelligence links with Libya was the intimacy of the cooperation that then followed between MI6 and Libya’s external security office, the regime’s main intelligence-gathering body headed by Gaddafi’s former henchman Moussa Koussa.

The Blair government had made vague references to there being a closer intelligence-sharing arrangement between the two countries as a result of the WMD deal, not least because Gaddafi was very worried that Islamist militants with links to al-Qaeda were seeking to overthrow his regime. But very few people outside Whitehall’s clandestine intelligence community had any idea of just how close that relationship had become, with Mark Allen, the former head of MI6’s counter-intelligence branch, signing personal letters to Koussa “Your Friend, Mark” after he had received a gift of “delicious” dates and oranges from the Libyan strongman. Until, that is, a group of enterprising human rights activists blew the whistle on this unlikely alliance after stumbling across a pile of incriminating documents that, quite fortuitously, had been abandoned in Koussa’s decidedly ramshackle office in a Tripoli suburb.

According to Human Rights Watch, the group which now has possession of the documents, they reveal that MI6, together with the CIA, enjoyed such a close working relationship with their Libyan opposite numbers that they arranged for Libyan dissidents to be shipped back to Libya for interrogation, and helped the Libyans to spy on dissident groups in Britain and elsewhere. MI6, in particular, became so chummy with Koussa that it is now claimed he was even provided with details of Britain’s annual intelligence budget. While these revelations have made for some sensational headlines this week, with Mr Cameron yesterday calling for them to be examined by an independent inquiry, it is important not to lose sight of one of the first principles of the shadowy world of espionage: things are never as clear-cut as they seem. It is, after all, perfectly feasible that these documents were deliberately abandoned by Gaddafi’s former henchmen as an act of sabotage to discredit the reputation of the West’s leading intelligence agencies, and embroil them in yet another round of costly litigation. Yesterday, Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of Britain’s most radical Islamist groups, lost no time in condemning the Government’s “collusion with Gaddafi’s torturers”.

Then there is the more complex issue of the role Islamist groups are playing in post-Gaddafi Libya. Abdulhakim Belhadj, who now commands the main anti-Gaddafi militia in Tripoli and claims he was unlawfully repatriated to Libya by MI6, was, until just a few years ago, a prime target of MI6 and the CIA. Belhadj came to their attention following reports that he had fought with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan and was a founder member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Although Belhadj says he never attended al-Qaeda training camps, MI6 and the CIA claim that the LIFG was an ally of al-Qaeda whose main aim was to overthrow Gaddafi and establish an Islamist state in north Africa. Even though the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group renounced violence in late 2009, the fact that Belhadj holds a senior position within the opposition movement has fuelled fears that the rebels have a secret plan to set up an Islamist government in Tripoli. But for the moment it is Belhadj and his accomplices who are being portrayed as the innocent victims, and MI6 that stands accused of being complicit in acts of illegal rendition and torture, a state of affairs that many former proponents of the world’s second oldest profession will regard with incredulity.

It was not that long ago, after all, that only a handful of people even knew that Britain’s spies were located in an ugly, grey tower-block, Century House (it has now been converted into luxury flats) south of Waterloo Station. It was here that the previous generation of spies immortalised in John le Carré’s book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the film version of which is currently attracting rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival, did battle with the KGB. It could be argued that MI6 played a crucial role in winning the Cold War through its recruitment of highly valued Soviet agents, from Penkovsky through to Oleg Gordievsky, the KGB’s station chief in London who eventually defected in 1985. For the most part, this important work was done entirely in secret. The only time the spooks broke through to the public consciousness was when one of their number, such as Kim Philby, the service’s former station chief in Washington, defected to Moscow.

But MI6’s happy life in the shadows came to an abrupt end in 1994 when Douglas Hurd, the then Foreign Secretary, decided to make the Service more accountable by placing it on a statutory footing. At a stroke Britain’s spies no longer enjoyed the cloak of anonymity and were publicly accountable not only to their political masters, but also to the wider public.

Many former senior MI6 officers blame that seismic change for some of the difficulties the Service has suffered in subsequent years, from its involvement in the “dodgy dossier” on Iraq to its current embarrassment over Libya. “Ever since MI6 became public property, there has been a tendency for senior officers to try to cosy up to the government of the day, with disastrous consequences,” a former senior officer told me. “Rather than just concentrating on what MI6 does best, which is intelligence gathering, it has got itself involved in politics, where its track record is clearly not very impressive.”

The nadir of MI6’s fortunes arguably came during the build-up to the Iraq war when John Scarlett, an MI6 officer with a distinguished record as a former Moscow station chief, became a close confidant of Tony Blair — so much so that Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s press secretary, took to calling him a “mate”. Not surprisingly, there are many officers in today’s Service who would argue that, to safeguard our national security, it is essential that they put more distance between the very different worlds of politics and intelligence-gathering.

Equally, John Scarlett, who became head of MI6, was fond of telling colleagues: “There’s not much point in having a secret intelligence service, unless you keep the intelligence secret.” That is how it was in the era of George Smiley, and there are many in the Service who wish the same held true today.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Libya: Algeria: Fears for Algerians Held by Rebels

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, SEPTEMBER 6 — Tension is rising between Algiers (which has taken in certain relatives of Colonel Gaddafi for “humanitarian purposes”) and Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), amid fears in the Algerian capital for the wellbeing of around sixty Algerian nationals who, at the request of the rebels, have been detained on the generic charge of being investigated for collusion with Libyan loyalist forces in clashes around the country.

The Algerian media have branded the accusation “grotesque”, as it has been levelled at “fathers” (some of whom are under house arrest) who had travelled to Libya for professional reasons and never took up arms against the rebels.

Media outlets have focussed on the case of the Algerians imprisoned as part of a precise NTC strategy to put pressure on Algeria, after accusations — which have always been denied — that they supplied weapons to the Gaddafi regime after hostilities had begun and that the country had sent mercenaries to help struggling loyalist troops.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: The Real War Starts Now

by Pepe Escobar

Enough about The Big G’s downfall. Now comes the real nitty-gritty; Afghanistan 2.0, Iraq 2.0, or a mix of both.

The “NATO rebels” have always made sure they don’t want foreign occupation. But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — which made the victory possible — can’t control Libya without boots on the ground. So multiple scenarios are now being gamed in NATO’s headquarters in Mons, Belgium — under a United Nations velvet cushion.

According to already leaked plans, sooner or later there may be troops from Persian Gulf monarchies and friendly allies such as Jordan and especially NATO member Turkey, also very keen to bag large commercial contracts. Hardly any African nations will be part of it — Libya now having being “relocated” to Arabia.

The Transitional National Council (TNC) will go for it — or forced to go for it — if, or when, Libya spirals into chaos. Still it will be an extremely hard sell — as the wildly disparate factions of “NATO rebels” are frantically consolidating their fiefdoms, and getting ready to turn on each other.

There’s no evidence so far the TNC — apart from genuflecting in the altar of NATO member nations — has any clue about managing a complex political landscape inside Libya.

Guns and no roses

Everyone in Libya is now virtually armed to its teeth. The economy is paralyzed. A nasty catfight over who will control Libya’s unfrozen billions of dollars is already on.

The Obeidi tribe is furious with the TNC as there’s been no investigation over who killed rebel army commander Abdul Fattah Younis on July 29. The tribals have already threatened to exact justice with their own hands.

Chief suspect in the killing is the Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah brigade — a hardcore Islamic fundamentalist militia that has rejected NATO intervention and refused to fight under the TNC, branding both TNC and NATO as “infidels”.

Then there’s the drenched-in-oil question; When will the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)-al-Qaeda nebula organize their own putsch to take out the TNC?

All over Tripoli, there are graphic echoes of militia hell in Iraq. Former US Central Intelligence Agency asset and former “war on terror” detainee, General Abdelhakim Belhaj — issued from the Derna circle, the ground zero of Islamic fundamentalism in Libya — is the leader of the brand new Tripoli Military Council.

Accusations have already been hurled by other militias that he did not fight for the “liberation” of Tripoli so he must go — whether or not the TNC says so. This essentially means that the LIFG-al-Qaeda nebula sooner or later may be fighting an arm of the upcoming guerrilla war — against the TNC, other militias, or both.

In Tripoli, rebels from Zintan, in the western mountains, control the airport. The central bank, Tripoli’s port and the Prime Minister’s office are being controlled by rebels from Misrata. Berbers from the mountain town of Yafran control Tripoli’s central square, now spray-painted “Yafran Revolutionaries”. All these territories are clearly marked as a warning.

As the TNC, as a political unit, already behaves like a lame duck; and as the militias will simply not vanish — it’s not hard to picture Libya also as a new Lebanon; the war in Lebanon began when each neighborhood in Beirut was carved up between Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christian Maronites, Nasserites and Druse.

The Lebanonization of Libya, on top of it, includes the deadly Islamic temptation — which is spreading like a virus all across the Arab Spring.

At least 600 Salafis who fought in the Sunni Iraqi resistance against the US were liberated from Abu Salim prison by the rebels. It’s easy to picture them profiting from the widespread looting of kalashnikovs and shoulder-launched Soviet Sam-7 anti-aircraft missiles to bolster their own hardcore Islamist militia — following their own agenda, and their own guerrilla war…

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

Libya: Factions Jockey for Power Amid Gaddafi’s Ouster

Tripoli, 6 Sept. (AKI/Bloomberg) — Muhsen al-Gubbi, a 30-year-old Libyan fighter from the western city of Misrata, refuses to watch the New Libya Television station set up after he and his fellow combatants drove Muammar Gaddafi from power.

The station, controlled by National Transitional Council spokesman Mahmoud Shammam, rarely mentions the role played by Misrata’s fighters in defeating Gaddafi’s army, he says.

“They don’t want to say anything about Misrata,” he said in an interview at a seafront military base in the city. “I don’t know what they want — for Misrata’s revolution to disappear, that’s what they want.”

The pledge by Libya’s new leaders to form an all-inclusive government rings hollow for the fighters and the residents of Misrata, who were under siege by Gaddafi forces for most of the six months of fighting and feel the transitional administration is being hijacked by people from Benghazi in the east.

The council, which is moving its offices from Benghazi to Tripoli, says it’s committed to the rule of law, the writing of a constitution and the holding of elections, while attempting to revive the economy and return oil production to pre-conflict levels of more than 1.5 million barrels a day.

“This is unlikely to be a smooth process, but it can succeed if all actors agree to a set of basic principles of political conduct, enshrine them in institutions, and remain united,” Stefan Wolff, a professor of international studies at Birmingham University, said in a telephone interview.

The NTC faces the challenge in Tripoli of controlling little more than the offices it has begun to occupy and the small teams of bodyguards, in crisp new desert-combat uniforms, who follow its officials in their white armor-plated jeeps.

The rest of the city, where a third of Libya’s 2 million people live, is a patchwork of checkpoints manned by fighters from Misrata to the east and Nafusa to the west, or neighborhood militias on the lookout for so-called fifth columnists or Gaddafi soldiers masquerading as civilians.

When al-Gubbi’s unit approached Tripoli last month, it was met not by Gaddafi forces, but crowds of civilians throwing red flowers. He joked that fighters almost “tired” of the petal showers. He’s the fifth driver of his unit’s pockmarked black jeep with a 106 mm recoilless rifle, after the previous four were killed. “I have lost so many friends,” he said. “There are so many empty places.”

While opposition supporters now control most of Libya, Gaddafi has avoided capture. The former rebels said he may be in one of their three target cities: Sirte, 280 miles southeast of Tripoli; Bani Walid, 90 miles southeast of the city; or Sabha, home to a major military base about 400 miles south of the capital.

Representatives of the transitional government agreed today with elders from Bani Walid for the peaceful entry of their forces into the town. The meeting was televised live by Al Jazeera.

Vehicles of Qaddafi’s army troops crossed the border into Niger yesterday. The convoy entered the Niger city of Agadez late yesterday and was headed to the capital, Niamey, Salley Kolle, a police officer, said today by phone. Niger’s Nomade FM radio station reported yesterday that Qaddafi’s intelligence chief, Mansour Daw, was in the one of the vehicles.

A group of about 60 nations, dubbed the Friends of Libya, agreed at a 1 September meeting in Paris to provide the new leadership with economic and military support, including continued NATO airstrikes. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the council to form an inclusive democracy, and avoid reprisals and violent extremism.

In Libya, the Misrata Military Council said on 2 September it was “surprised” the transitional council didn’t include any representatives from Misrata, Libya’s third-largest city, on its board. Instead, it’s dominated by appointees from Benghazi and eastern Libya.

Benghazi’s power is anchored on Cyrennaica, the eastern Libyan province, while the Misratan and Tripoli brigades are from Tripolitania. The Nafusa brigades are from mountains running from the Tunisian border along the divide between Tripolitania and the southern and mostly desert province of Fezzan.

The three provinces were consolidated into a single country by Italy, which in 1934 was the colonial power and named the territory Libya, taking the name from the ancient Greek word that applied to all of North Africa, excluding Egypt.

Still, regional affinities cut across tribal politics, leaving Libya largely free of sectarian divisions. All groups regard themselves as Libyan and all are Sunni Muslim.

“We know from experience that winning a war is no guarantee of winning the peace that follows,” Clinton said in Paris.

The first cracks in Libya’s rebel coalition opened in June, when the Misrata Council decided not to recognize the officially issued NTC press passes, and required its own accreditation for journalists to operate in Misrata.

Abdel Fattah Younis, the rebel military chief and defector from Gaddafi’s government, was killed on 28 July after he was taken into custody for questioning by his own side. The council has never explained his death.

Then, on 29 August protests erupted in Misrata against the decision of NTC Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril to appoint Gaddafi’s former army general, Albarrani Shkal, as security boss of Tripoli.

The Misrata Council lodged a complaint with the NTC, saying its units in Tripoli would refuse to carry out council orders if the appointment was confirmed. While Jibril backtracked, the announcement triggered a debate and unearthed divisions over reconciliation.

The members of the NTC say they will allow former government members into the interim administration to avoid a process similar to so-called de-Baathification in Iraq that saw officials loyal to Saddam Hussein purged, fueling sectarian tensions.

“The name of the game is inclusion to establish legitimacy to avoid chaos like happened in Iraq,” Jibril said in May.

Hassan El Amin, who returned to Misrata in June after 28 years exile in the U.K. and is an adviser to the Misrata Council, said that while its members were prepared to see former Gaddafi officials in non-security posts, such as the economic and health ministries, the security apparatus must be cleared out.

“These people were in power before and they failed,” he said. “Otherwise all the martyrs, all the blood, will be in vain.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

IDF Home Front Command: Likelihood of All-Out Middle East War Increasing

The likelihood of an all-out regional war in the Middle East is increasing, the head of the IDF Home Front Command said on Monday, Channel 10 reported.

Speaking to the Institute for National Security Studies, Major General Eyal Eisenberg said that such a conflict could potentially include the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Eisenberg cautioned that the Arab Spring could turn into the “Radical Islamic Winter”.

Eisenberg also noted that a new weapon was used by Gaza militants in the recent round of escalation in the south, which led the Home Front Command to instruct the public to seek shelter under two roofs, rather than one.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Caroline Glick: Ankara’s Chosen Scapegoat

Monday morning Turkey took its anti-Israel campaign to a new level. Beyond downgrading diplomatic relations with Israel; beyond suspending military agreements; beyond threatening naval war; beyond threatening to foment an irredentist insurrection of Israeli Arabs; the Turks decided to terrorize Israeli tourists landing in Istanbul airport.

Forty Israeli passengers, mainly businessmen who had landed in Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight from Tel Aviv, were separated from the rest of the flight passengers. Their passports were confiscated.

They were placed in interrogation rooms and stripped down to their underwear. Their carry-on bags were checked. And then they were lined up against a wall, forbidden to sit down or use the washroom…

           — Hat tip: Caroline Glick[Return to headlines]

Israel-Turkey: Erdogan Breaks Commercial, Military Relations

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 6 — Militarily allied with Israel since 1996, Turkey is a step away from formally breaking off all ties with Jerusalem. Today Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, announced the “complete suspension” of military and commercial relations with Tel Aviv, accused Israel of behaving like a “spoiled child” towards the Palestinians, and, in a clearly anti-Israeli controversial tone, did not rule out his intention of making a personal visit to Gaza on the sidelines of his visit next week to Egypt. This is a clear provocation, since Gaza is backed by Hamas, a group viewed by Israel as a terrorist organisation. Jerusalem has not replied. Government sources limited themselves to stating that “Israel does not intend to respond” to the most recent statements made by the Turkish premier. Erdogan did not exactly tolerate Israel’s lack of an apology for the 9 Turkish citizens who died on May 31 2010 during a raid carried out by Israeli forces in international waters against a pro-Palestinian flotilla. During the raid against the Mavi Marmara ship which was travelling towards the Gaza Strip, 9 Turkish activists were killed. The deaths of these individuals continue to leave a mark: Until Israel formally apologises, Turkey will not only cease to be Israel’s ally, but they will also be openly against them. And today Erdogan, who in recent days had taken an increasingly harsh stance against Israel, hardened his relations with Tel Aviv even further: “We totally suspend our commercial, military and defence industry ties,” he said while speaking with journalists. He added that next week, on the sidelines of his visit to Egypt, he may even go to Gaza.

This is only the most recent act in an escalating diplomatic situation in Turkish-Israeli relations, which are on the brink of being permanently fractured, according to Ankara. On September 2 Turkey had already expelled the Israeli ambassador to Ankara and announced that it has turned to the International Court of Justice to challenge the legality of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Turkish ships “will be seen more frequently in those waters,” said Erdogan today, referring to international waters in the eastern Mediterranean facing the Gaza Strip. The Turkish Premier’s change in tone is clear. Turkey’s irritation comes in the wake of the publication last week of a UN report on the incident involving the boarding of the Mavi Marmara. The report explains that the Israeli Army made use of “excessive and unreasonable” force against the Turkish boat. Nonetheless, the report acknowledges the legality of the naval blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza, and this is what has irritated Turkey. In view of the most recent developments, the change in Turkey’s position in the Mediterranean has become increasingly evident. The country that has always been seen over the last decade by Western diplomats as the true potential ‘bridge’ towards Islam (the military cooperation deal between Israel and Turkey dates back to 1996), is now in more of an anti-Israeli position than ever before. Erdogan’s words made this clear. But Turkish Industry Minister, Zafer Caglayan, made it a point to specify that the suspension of commercial relations only affects the military industry. An important point: from January to July, the overall figure for bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel this year amounted to over 2.7 billion dollars.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey Suspends All Trade Ties With Israel

Ankara’s rhetoric becomes harsher as PM Erdogan warns his country will enforce more sanctions on Israel in wake of Palmer Report

Israel-Turkey crisis escalating: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that more sanctions against Israel could follow the expulsion of Jerusalem’s ambassador and the suspension of military ties.

Erdogan said that pending the decision on such sanction, Turkey will suspend all of its trade ties with Israel: “Trade ties, military ties regarding defence industry ties, we are completely suspending them. This process will be followed by different measures,” Erdogan told reporter in Ankara.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

20,000 Flee to Ethiopia to Escape Civil War in Sudan

(AGI) Addis Ababa — Thousands of Sudanese citizens are fleeing to Ethiopia to escape the civil war in the country. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that at least 20,000 people had crossed into Ethiopia’s western region of Assosa, through Kurmuk and Gizen, to flee ongoing fighting in the Blue Nile and Sennat states between the Khartoum army and the forces of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), aligned with the newly independent state of South Sudan.

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

Latin America

Falkland Islands’ Bid to Grow Its Own Food Amid Fears of Argentina Blockade

The Falkland Islands has announced a plan to become self-sufficient in meeting its food needs amid increased concern about Argentine efforts to blockade surrounding waters.

A budget of £250,000 will be used to produce more fruit, vegetables, salad and eggs on the islands, overseen by the Falkland Islands Development Corporation (FIDC).

The plan comes following heightened tensions over British sovereignty and renewed Argentine attempts to disrupt shipping in the area as British companies explore the region for oil.

President Cristina Kirchner decreed last year that all ships sailing though waters between the Argentine coast and the Falklands must hold a permit to do so.

“The aim is for the Falklands to become self sufficient and less susceptible to external pressure,” said David Waugh, general manager of the FIDC.

The Falklands imported approximately 319 tons of fresh vegetables and fruit by air and sea in 2009/2010 but it is estimated by the FIDC that 64 per cent of the produce could be grown in fields or polytunnels in the Falklands.

Around 12,000 eggs are also imported by plane once a fortnight.

Grants will be made available for new businesses seeking to help supply fresh produce on the islands.

Mr Waugh said the object was, “not to attract keen gardeners or hobbyists, but to encourage and assist professional, serious business minded operators.”

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: EDL: Rainbow Hamlets Ignored and the Longer-Term Politics

As the dust begins to settle after Saturday’s strange events, I’ve been made aware of this email which was sent out on Friday by Jack Gilbert, one of the leaders of Rainbow Hamlets, which represents LGBT people in Tower Hamlets. As you’ll see, Rainbow Hamlets had been part of the United East End coalition — a body that includes Mayor Lutfur Rahman, ex-Respect chair Glyn Robbins and the Rev Alan Green, who leads the Tower Hamlets Inter-Faith Forum and the IFE. Here’s a couple of pictures taken by Fokrul Hoque on Saturday:

This is the above trio with Wapping’s independent Labour councillor, Shafiqul Haque, a man you might well have wanted on the front line if violence erupted.

And here’s Lutfur thanking the IFE brigade after the march.

It seems that Rainbow Hamlets, on the eve of the demo, withdrew their support. Here’s the email:



Rainbow Hamlets has played a strong role in developing an inclusive United East End coalition, which reaches beyond UAF and into other local communities. We also worked hard to ensure the dual approach of a cross-community event and a ban was adopted, and have actively supported both publicly.

We remain unambiguously opposed to the EDL, to all forms of fascism, to all forms of hatred and to any prejudice and discrimination. However, we regret to report that activities undertaken in the name of United East End since Friday have not been the subject of any consultation with us. Indeed, we were shocked to discover we had not been party to key discussions, that literature bearing the UEE name giving false information was being circulated, and that misleading information about LGBT matters was being communicated at UEE/UAF events. Ensuring mixed public meetings are safe spaces for LGBT people, given the recent history of the area [see here], cannot be dealt with in such a tokenistic manner. We cannot have confidence this will be a safe space for LGBT people and therefore cannot continue to call for mass participation.

In addition, a number of our members have voiced concerns about the UAF tactics themselves. To many, it appears likely this event will provoke a flout of the ban on marches and public disorder. Others argue that this is not the community-inclusive, family-friendly event originally envisaged and agree with the many political figures, who argue that this event is not the best way to oppose the EDL. Nonetheless, several members wish to attend because they want to make a clear statement against the EDL by being present. We all respect that and support their right to demonstrate, free from violence and any type of harassment.

Our message to them is: do not go alone; stick with a few friends; keep away from the front lines; ensure you have used facilities just in case your movements are restricted; leave at the first sign of any trouble; if you experience harassment of any type, report it. We continue to work with community partners, the local authority and the police to ensure rights to demonstrate peacefully against the EDL are protected and to ensure the potential damage to the borough and to community relations is minimised. We hope Saturday goes off peacefully and that a strong message of opposition to the EDL remains.

But what are the politics of Saturday? The images of Lutfur forming a barricade against a racist invasion into Tower Hamlets are sure to figure prominently in his re-election material in 2014. They will play brilliantly with his core supporters and fuel the spin that he’s the man of the people who stands up for his principles. He deserves praise for seizing the opportunity and the EDL are probably too thick to understand that they’ve played into his hands. But let’s not be fooled about who really stopped the EDL — it was the police. And why were the police out in such numbers? Partly because Unite Against Fascism, helped by Respect and tacitly supported by UEE, had bussed in several hundred people from around the country, many of whom would have been itching for a fight. The cost of the police operation will no doubt come out in due course but I imagine we’ll be talking serious numbers. As Labour had called for the UAF/UEE counter-demo to be cancelled, they will be able to exploit those numbers when taxpayers realise what they’ve had to fork out. However, the email from Rainbow Hamlets is fascinating. If anyone can shed light on why they were excluded from the discussions, do share.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Father Will Fight Facebook in Court Over ‘Suggestive’ Photos of Girl, 12

A father is launching a landmark legal battle against Facebook after suggestive photographs of his 12-year-old daughter allegedly appeared on the website.

In the ground-breaking writ, he claims that ‘photographic images and literary content’ on the site have put his daughter in danger of being targeted by paedophiles.

If his claim is successful, the company — which is valued at £17.5billion — could face a massive compensation payout.

Facebook, which has more than 750million users across the world, requires its members to be over 13, but relies on children to be truthful about their age and doesn’t ask for verification.

Last night the girl’s father, who cannot be named in order to protect his daughter’s identity, revealed his fears that she may be enticed to run away by sex abusers who use the social networking site. He told how one picture of the girl lifting her top had been removed, but said another showing her wearing a low-cut top and make-up is still visible.

In the writ, filed last night, he warns he will seek an injunction ordering Facebook to close down her account and to take steps to ensure she isn’t able to open another account.

If that doesn’t happen, he will seek an injunction to stop Facebook operating in Northern Ireland.

The writ says the site is ‘guilty of negligence’ and has created ‘a risk of sexual and physical harm’ to the vulnerable child.

It also claims she has received text messages of an inappropriate nature from adult men who were asking her to post sexual messages and photographs of herself on Facebook.

The child from Country Antrim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is in care and suffers from behavioural problems. She allegedly posted the photographs and sexually explicit material on the site herself, giving personal details of her life, including the area where she lives and the school she attends.

Her father said: ‘I’m taking this case against Facebook as a last resort. I was horrified when I saw the photographs my daughter had posted of herself on the site.

‘She is far too young to understand what she is doing. She suffers problems and engages in self-destructive behaviour. She is currently receiving counselling.’

The girl’s father claimed her current profile picture on Facebook was sexually suggestive, adding: ‘She is wearing make-up and a low-cut top. It’s completely inappropriate to show such a picture of a 12-year-old.

‘I am worried sick even thinking about the danger she could be in. There was another picture on Facebook of my daughter lifting up her top but thankfully that has been removed.’

The man also revealed his daughter had a history of running away. ‘She has done so several times,’ he explained. ‘Once she was found in a derelict house. My grave concern is that she would go off with someone she met on Facebook.’

The father’s solicitor, Hilary Carmichael, has set up, a website for parents who believe their youngsters may be at risk on the social network.

She said: ‘I believe Facebook isn’t suitable for under-18s but the company isn’t even able to uphold its own policy of keeping under-13s out. If a child goes into an off-licence to buy alcohol or a shop to buy cigarettes, they’re asked for ID to prove their age.

‘Yet a child can join Facebook — and be exposed to a bigger population than that of the entire EU — without any ID being requested. An age check, like asking for a passport number, would be a simple measure to implement.’

The writs lodged in Belfast High Court are against Facebook Ireland and Facebook headquarters in California. A writ has also been lodged against the health and social care trust in whose care the girl is residing. It alleges that the trust has been negligent for failing to prevent the child accessing Facebook.

           — Hat tip: An EDL buck[Return to headlines]

UK: Peter Tatchell on Saturday’s Anti-English Defence League Protest

Like many other people, I went to last Saturday’s protest in East London first and foremost to oppose the far right English Defence League and to defend the Muslim community against EDL thuggery. But I also wanted to stand in solidarity with Muslims who oppose far right Islamists. These fundamentalists threaten and intimidate the Muslim community; especially fellow Muslims who don’t conform to their harsh, intolerant interpretation of Islam. To varying degrees, both the Islamists and the EDL menace Muslim people.

In addition, I wanted to be visible as a gay man, to demonstrate that East London is not and never will be a “Gay-Free Zone” and to show that most lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are not anti-Muslim; that there are LGBTs who want to work in solidarity with Muslim people to oppose all prejudice, discrimination and violence.

To these ends, my human rights campaign colleague Ashley McAlister and I joined the anti-EDL protest, carrying double-sided placards which read on one side: “Stop EDL & far right Islamists. No to ALL hate” and on the other side: “Gays & Muslims UNITE! Stop the EDL”. We got dirty looks from a small number of left-wing and LGBT anti-EDL protesters, some of whom said explicitly that our placards were “insensitive…provocative…inappropriate…divisive” and that I am “racist…fascist…anti-Muslim.”

There was also hostility from a minority of Muslims who were part of the anti-EDL demonstration, including attempts to snatch and rip my placard. These fanatics mostly objected to the slogan: “Gays & Muslims UNITE! Stop the EDL”. I was surrounded several times throughout the day by angry Muslim youths who ordered me: “You must remove this placard…You can’t walk here with these words…We don’t allow gays in this area…Gays are not permitted here…We don’t have gays in Tower Hamlets.” When I suggested that LGBT Muslims must also be defended against the EDL, I was told: “Gays can’t be Muslims…We will never accept them (LGBT Muslims)…They can’t come around here…We won’t allow it.”

My response was to engage with these Muslims hotheads and argue against them. The discussions got very heated; at times even menacing and scary. There were moments when I thought I was going to be physically attacked. Thankfully, this did not happen, probably because there were police nearby and, more significantly, because several Muslims intervened to defend my right to be there and to express my viewpoint. Some Muslims even thanked me for joining the anti-EDL protest.

In the course of the arguments, I diffused the hostility of quite a few Muslim critics. I suggested that love and compassion were core Islamic values and that even if Muslims personally disapproved of homosexuality there is nothing in the Qu’ran that sanctions hatred or discrimination against LGBT people. Several eventually agreed that homophobia was wrong. Some shook my hand and parted with a more ‘live and let live’ attitude — a big improvement on their initial response. This change in attitude as a result of Ashley and I being willing to engage in dialogue was really positive and inspiring. It shows how important and effective such an engagement can be. We need more of it.

Interestingly, there was very little overt, identifiable Muslim hostility to our placard slogan: “Stop EDL & far right Islamists. No to ALL hate.” There were a few nasty, aggressive looks but that’s all. Indeed, several Muslims indicated that they also oppose the Islamist far right. They realise that extremist groups like Islam4UK and Hizb ut-Tahrir, which want to establish a religious dictatorship, threaten the human rights of mainstream Muslims. These fundamentalists have a similar bigoted agenda to the EDL and BNP.

Our experience on Saturday is further evidence that we need an East End Gay Pride that goes through the heart of the Muslim community in E1, to engage with the Muslim communities and build mutual understanding. Interestingly, there were lots of LGBT protesters against the EDL. But I never saw a single one with a gay badge, placard, t-shirt or rainbow flag. It was as if they’d all gone back in the closet. Why? Normally, on other demos, they always proclaim their LGBT identity. How strange. Ashley McAlister and I were the only visibly gay protesters in the entire anti-EDL demonstration.

The people who called for the anti-EDL protest to be called off were mistaken. In the absence of a visible counter-protest, the EDL would have been able to rally unchallenged and claim a victory. It would have sent the wrong signal if the EDL had been permitted to claim any part of East London as its own. Saturday’s peaceful protest against the EDL was important because it showed that most of our communities are united in solidarity and that we will not be divided by the hate-mongering of the far right.

What too many anti-fascists refuse to acknowledge is that Islamist fundamentalism mirrors the right-wing ideology of the EDL (and the BNP). In fact, the Islamist goals are much more dangerous. They want to establish a theocratic tyranny, ban trade unions and political parties and deny women equal human rights. They endorse hatred and violence against Jewish, Hindu and LGBT people. Muslims who don’t follow their particular brand of Islam would face severe persecution in their Islamist state. These fanatical sects condone terrorism and the suicide bombing of innocent civilians. Not even the BNP and EDL are this extreme.

The failure of many people on the Left to speak out against Islamist fundamentalism is de facto collusion with extremism and a betrayal of the Muslim majority. It also creates a political vacuum, which the EDL is seeking to exploit and manipulate. Some anti-fascists argue that we should not condemn the Islamists because this will fuel anti-Muslim sentiment. Wrong. Protesting against the fundamentalists and defending mainstream Muslims is actually the most effective way to undermine Islamophobia. In the absence of a left-wing critique of the Islamist far right, the EDL is able to pose as the sole critic of Islamist extremism and to mount indiscriminate attacks on the whole Muslim community. This silence and inaction by many on the left is objectively (albeit unintentionally) colluding with both fundamentalist fanaticism and anti-Muslim prejudice. To be credible and effective, opponents of the EDL need to be consistent by also taking a stand against right-wing Islamists. Only this way can we offer a principled alternative to the EDL that isolates and targets the extremists without demonising the whole Muslim population.

[JP note: This could be a re-run of the British comedy series Little Britain with Peter Tatchell taking on the role of the only gay in the (Tower Hamlets) village.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Anonymous said...

Peter Tatchell = Mohammed's useful idiot

Islam is all about power dynamics.

Islam is fine with LGBT behavior - as long as NO love (or monogamous relationship) is involved - and as long as participants are discreet - where homosexual discretion is defined as a predatory adult man threatening an innocent young boy with painful death by raging mob if the young boy reveals rape or molestation.

After all, in Islam, it's moral to be the powerful rapist - but it's immoral to be the helpless victim of a sexual predator!