Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110919

Financial Crisis
»America’s Debt Woe is Worse Than Greece’s
»EU Finance Chiefs Cool on Geithner Plan for Eurozone
»From Tragedy, Triumph, Deceit and Failure — The Post-War History of the European Project
»Greece Scenarios Not Made Public, And Don’t Mention Greece
»Greece: Venizelos: Reforms Delayed, No New Taxes
»Greece: Further Tough Austerity Measures Soon
»Greece: Eating From Bins — the New Make Do
»The European Dream Lies in Ruins
»Astronomers Break Ranks Over Space Telescope Costs
»Ayaan Hirsi Ali Marries English Historian
»Food Preparation Standards in Muslim Community Up for Interpretation
»I Accuse President Barack Obama of Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, And Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy
»Michelle Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood
»NASA’s Future on Space Station Hinges on Private Spaceships
»Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party Aren’t Anti-Intellectual. They Just Don’t Agree With the Disastrous Policies of Ivy League Professors
»The Doors of Perception Are Closed
Europe and the EU
»Brussels Wants Say in Any Return of EU Internal Borders
»Desecration of Muslim Graves in France
»Dutch Tulips Blocked at Romanian Border in Schengen Dispute
»EU Issues Warning After Turkey, Cyprus Energy Exploration Row Escalates
»France: Lack of Doctors, Banlieue Schools Appeal to UN
»Inflatable Steel Could Revolutionize Industrial Design
»Italy: Silvio Berlusconi Wiretaps Reveal Boast of Spending Night With Eight Women
»Italy: Naples Has ‘Twin Miracles’ In Blood and Soccer
»Italy: Bossi Calls for Referendum on Separate State
»Nuclear Phaseout to Cost Germany €250 Billion
»Response to Fukushima: Siemens to Exit Nuclear Energy Business
»Sperm Bank Turns Down Redheads
»Telegraph Says Two Women Flown From UK for Berlusconi
»The Islamization of the Danish Passport
»UK: EU Ruling to Mean 9 Bins for Every Home
»UK: Muslim Cleric’s Peace Declaration Demands an End to Terrorism
»UK: Seven Arrested in Anti-Terrorism Operation
»UK: Tory MPs Demand Referendum on Europe
»UK: We’re Fed Up With Europe, So Give Us a Vote
North Africa
»Libya: Mustard Gas Depot Found in Rogfa
»Libya: New Confirmation, Gaddafi Eliminated Moussa Sadr
»Morocco: Instant Drug Tests to Help Families
Israel and the Palestinians
»Michael Gove Urges West to Support Israel, Not Terror
»The Dilemma of Palestine and the United Nations
Middle East
»Cyprus: Tension Over Oil, Turkey Threatens Warships
»Greece to Stand by Cyprus in Case of Turkey’s Attack, Minister
»Iraq: Mgr Sako: Middle East Christians, Between State Islam and Fundamentalism
»‘Pure Islam Root of Region’s Awakening’
»Qatar Airways to Operate 4 New Milan Malpensa-Doha Flights
»Turkey: Planes and Torpedo Boats Over Gas Fields, Erdogan
»Drunk Navigator Contributed to Russian Plane Crash
»Moscow Muslims Mourn Demolished Mosque
»Russian Minority Party Wins Latvian Elections
»Russian Company Plans to Set Up a Hotel in Space
South Asia
»India: Exclusive Mobile for Muslims
»Indonesia: Muslim Miss Universe
»Indonesia: Jakarta Governor Comes Under Fire by Women’s Rights Groups
»Maldivian Government Endorses Deobandi Islam, The Religion of the Taliban
»Pakistan: Acid Attacks: 7 Women Burned in Two Days
Far East
»China: With ‘Enforced Disappearances’, the Communist Party Becomes a Bunch of Common Criminals
»Thousands Protest Against Nuclear Energy in Japan
Australia — Pacific
»Australian Muslims Have New Leader
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Ghana: Muslim Leaders in Suhum Want School Head Removed
»Bachmann Claims Immigration Worked ‘Very Well’ Before 1960s Reforms, When Nonwhites Were Excluded
»Illegals Collecting Billions in Child Tax Credits
Culture Wars
»No Wonder Children Use ‘Gay’ To Mean ‘Rubbish’: Gay Culture is Shallow, Camp and Kitsch
»The Gender-Free British Passport: UK Travellers May No Longer Have to Declare Their Sex, To Spare Feelings of ‘Transgender People’
»UK Considering “X” For Transgenders on Passports
»Dino-Killing Cosmic Impact Wiped Out Ancient Birds, Too
»Global Heat May Hide in Deep Oceans
»The New Faces of Islam

Financial Crisis

America’s Debt Woe is Worse Than Greece’s

The government’s total indebtedness — its fiscal gap — now stands at $211 trillion, by my arithmetic. The fiscal gap is the difference, measured in present value, between all projected future spending obligations — including our huge defense expenditures and massive entitlement programs, as well as making interest and principal payments on the official debt — and all projected future taxes…

In other words, the U.S. is in worse long-term fiscal shape than Greece. The financial sharks are circling Greece because Greece is small and defenseless, but they’ll soon be swimming our way.

To grasp the magnitude of our nation’s insolvency, consider what tax hikes or spending cuts are needed to eliminate our fiscal gap. The answer is an immediate and permanent 64% increase in all federal revenues or an immediate and permanent 40% cut in all federal noninterest spending.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

EU Finance Chiefs Cool on Geithner Plan for Eurozone

A unprecedented visit by US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner to a meeting of European finance ministers in Poland was coolly received by the gathered European economy chiefs, while the meeting itself saw little advance made on how the eurozone can deal with its ever-deteriorating debt crisis. In a sign of Washington’s growing alarm at the inability of EU leaders to tame the situation, Geithner on Friday pressed the bloc to ratchet up its fire-fighting power by leveraging the eurozone’s €440 billion rescue fund.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

From Tragedy, Triumph, Deceit and Failure — The Post-War History of the European Project

by Bruce Anderson

The great majority of Conservatives have come to a simple, implacable conclusion. They think that the power of Europe has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished. For twenty years, Europe has been the Tory party’s grievance of grievances. It has disrupted leaderships and intensified electoral defeats. At times, it made the party ungovernable, and the voters will not allow a party which cannot govern itself to govern the country. Partly because of the coalition, there is a wary truce, but this is the Peace of Amiens, not the Congress of Vienna. The conflict will have to be resumed. But it is worth using the uneasy peace for an historical retrospect.Britain’s relationship with Europe began with idealism. It was nourished by pessimism and even self-hatred, both of them enmeshed in deceit. It foundered on the rocks of geography, geo-politics and national revival.

Many Tories have come to regard the progenitors of Britain in Europe as traitors: the British equivalent of Quisling and Vichy. Yet there are no grounds for questioning the original good faith of Britain’s founding fathers, or rather, founding youngsters. In 1945, many of them were young officers in a victorious army. But it was a victory which left Europe on the verge of ruin. “An old bitch gone in the teeth” was Ezra Pound’s verdict on European civilisation after the First World War. By 1945, the lethal injection seemed even more imminent. Central Europe was full of shattered cities, ethnic cleansing, refugees and hungry, frightened populations. It seemed all too likely that there would soon be a third world war, with the once-dominant continent a mere playing field for the Russian-American contest. In their search for a way back from the abyss, it is hardly surprising that the thoughtful youngsters came to what must have seemed an obvious conclusion: that it was vital to move beyond the age of nationalism. National rivalries had mobilised peoples, stimulated economic growth, created the modern state. The nation states had then hurled the creativity, the stimulus, the mobility — into war. If Europe was to survive — if mankind was to survive — there had to be another way. Europe had to develop supra-national institutions.

It was a powerful argument and in the early years, it was reinforced by success. West Germany embraced democratic values. Europe recovered faster than almost anyone had thought possible. The Common Market was working. Although political union seemed a long way off, Europe was becoming part of the political psyche in its member states, which was hardly surprising. Holland was an ex-country. Belgium had never been a proper country. Luxembourg was a relic of the Holy Roman Empire. Many Italians felt that they were not fit to govern themselves, with good reason. Despite the Bundesrepublik’s progress, many Germans felt the same, for understandable reasons. The French had no such doubts. Nor were they ready to move beyond nationalism. But they were content with Europe, because they assumed that they would run it.

In Britain, meanwhile, it was an era of frustration, in which it appeared to be impossible to attain steady economic growth without bottle-necks and over-heating. The phrase “stop-go” was coined to express the frustrations. By then, the young officers of 1945 were moving into positions of power. They argued that the UK needed some European dynamism. This received an increasingly sympathetic hearing in elite circles, reinforced by the four “s” s: sizeism, sentimentalty, self-hatred, and Suez.

As the fraught Fifties gave way to the failures of the Sixties and the follies of the Seventies, a lot of diplomats, other civil servants and politicians grew disillusioned with Britain. We seemed condemned to mediocrity, backwardness, littleness. By contrast, Europe was big and exciting. So a closer engagement with Europe would have two desirable consequences. It would provide a crutch for crippled Britain. It would also supply a large canvas for ambitious administrators, just as the Empire had been for their predecessors. Better the wide blue skies of Europe than the grey constraints of Whitehall.

Among the more sentimentally-inclined, travel is also a liberation from constraint, never more so than on departure from 1950s Britain. Those who went to Europe, still an adventure in those days, discovered good food, cheap wine, and abundant sun with, of course, the possibilty that sunshine plus alcohol would have aphrodisiac consequences. It was easy to believe that the more European Britain became, the better. The late Auberon Waugh proclaimed himself a good European, because he thought that Europe would mean decent table wine at five francs a bottle: they order these things better in France. Such sentiments are attractive, even enticing. But they often merged with a much less appealing characteristic of the British liberal bourgeoisie: a tendency to despise one’s own country. To my knowledge, no-one has yet explained why such feelings should be so widespread in the British and American intelligentsia, while virtually absent in France. But a lot of people, liberal-minded about anything except their own country, were attracted to Europe as a means of doing down Britain (so were and are a lot of Frenchmen).

The liberal/leftie tendency to national self-denigration drew heavily on Suez. It is impossible to overestimate the dismay which that degringolade caused among the high-minded classes, who believed that it was the insane overreach of post-imperial delusion. To them, joining Europe was a way of getting real and growing up. But they had one difficulty with getting real. They profoundly distrusted their ability to take the British electorate with them. Hugo Young documented this in his book “The Blessed Plot”. The phrase comes from Shakespeare’s John of Gaunt, praising England. Mr Young adapted it to mean a plot which he was happy to bless: to beguile the UK into a federal Europe. Throughout most of the years of plotting, the Tory federasts were always the most dishonest, brazen and shameless. They would constantly reassure the voters that Europe was nothing to do with federalism, that any loss of sovereignty would be trivial and that it was all about free trade. They treated the electorate rather as a parent might minister to a sick child, fractiously refusing to take its medicine. Distract its attention, shove the teaspoon down its gob, then quickly proffer a sweet: “there, there. what was all the fuss about?” But the voters were not sick children. Bless them, they went on fussing.

The Euro-fanatics might still have succeeded, if the patient had been unable to recover. As it was, they were confounded by ancient and modern: primeval geography and a modern demiurge. Margaret Thatcher cured the patient. She revived the animal spirits of the middle classes; she re-awakened national self-confidence; she restored common sense. If the government pursued sound fiscal and monetary policies while British commerce produced goods and services that people wanted to buy at a price they were prepared to pay, the country would prosper. Our destiny was in our hands. So Europe should be our market, not our master.

The success of Thatcherism meant that we could once again place our trust in our oldest asset. An Englishman who believed in divine providence might well cite the sundering of his country from the European mainland as triumphant proof of divine beneficence. The creation of a national moat, the English Channel, shaped all subsequent British history. By insulating us from the turmoils of the continent, it helped the development of a unitary state and of constitutional structures which owed far more to evolution than to revolution. Partly as a necessary corrective to leftism and subversion, many Englishmen believe in their nation’s innate moral superiority. But there is a problem: Occam’s Razor. The Channel explains so much that moral pre-eminence is almost an unnecessary afterthought.

As a result of their experience of continental savagery, most other Europeans have come to distrust the nation-state. It is too keen on wearing jackboots. To us, however, the jackboots march under the banners of pan-Europeanism: Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler. Most of us trust our nation-state to make our laws and protect our liberties. Today, most people in Britain are clear about the current threat to their freedoms. It arises from the EU and the ECHR. That is why Jacques Delors was right. Britain is allergic to Europe.

Europe is also the victim of its earlier successes and its more recent failures. European institutions did help Europe to recover. But as a result, the fears of 1945 have gone, for ever. Germany and France will never again go to war over Alsace-Lorraine. We do not need a federal Europe to prevent a third world war. There is nothing inherently evil about modern European nation-states, even France.

Those are the threats from success. They are far outweighed by the threats from failure. Whatever view one takes of Suez, the Euro is far, far worse. The position is easy to summarise. It can neither go forward, nor backwards, nor stay as it is. Those who invented the Euro can console themselves on one remarkable feat. They have devised a problem which may be beyond the power of the human mind to solve. For the rest of us, at least in Britain, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that British federasty is dead. The bad news is that no-one is sure how to keep the European economy alive.

[JP note: In addition to the Euro, other problems beyond the power of the human mind to solve would probably include Islam and multiculturalism, and all combinations thereof.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Greece Scenarios Not Made Public, And Don’t Mention Greece

A continuing European debt crisis will lead to a 40% drop in Dutch share prices and a 20% fall in house prices, according to new finance ministry calculations, the Telegraaf reports.

The figures are contained in a confidential briefing for MPs about the likely effect on the Netherlands of three different forms of financial crisis: a general financial crisis, a continuing European debt crisis and a global crisis.

MPs had called on finance minister Jan Kees de Jager to look at the options in the wake of increasing concern about the effect of an eventual Greek bankrutpcy on the Dutch economy.

The briefing does not mention Greece by name, according to media reports. In June, De Jager said if Greece was allowed to go bankrupt, it would cost the Netherlands several tens of billions of euros, because confidence in Portugal, Ireland and Spain would also be hit.

National debt

According to the Financieele Dagblad, the figures show that should there be another credit crisis like that of 2008, the Dutch national debt will rise by 25% over the next five years. Unemployment will rise 2%.

A European debt crisis will see the euro fall 20% in value, while the national debt will go up 18%. Unemployment will rise 2%.

The third scenario, a global economic crisis, will cause most damage, with the national debt rising 30%. The economy will shrink by 8%, the calculations show.

In his covering letter the minister says the figures are not being made public because they are very rough estimates with a high degree of uncertainty.

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

Greece: Venizelos: Reforms Delayed, No New Taxes

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 19 — Greece is “behind schedule” with the reform programme that was agreed with the international community. Now the country must “speed up” to reach the set goals. This statement was made by Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos during a press conference in Athens, Bloomberg reports. The Greek Minister underlined that to reach these goals Greece must “sell State assets, close government agencies and tackle surplus staff” in public administration. Venizelos ruled out the “introduction of new taxes,” because “that is not possible.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Further Tough Austerity Measures Soon

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 19 — After last week in Poland, when European partners clearly told Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos that his country would not be receiving any further aid without the full implementation of the measures decided alongside the troika (IMF, EU and ECB), the Athens government has been faced with a dilemma: meet the requests of the troika — leading to a heavy political price to pay — or hold early elections, as opposition party Nea Dimocratic leader Antonis Samaras continues to call for. The path of early elections was ruled out during yesterday’s government meeting since “it would make the country’s problem even more complicated”. The government, therefore, is obliged to follow the troika’s indications: bring in fresh austerity measures, which will be discussed today during a video conference between Venizelos and troika representatives. The minister — report newspapers — will inform the creditors’ representatives on the new measures the government is about to bring in and will try to overcome the diffidence of European partners on the government’s ability to implement the measures provided for by the Medium-Term Economic Package decided on over a year ago. Among the new “shock-measures” (as the media have called them) are the immediate application of a new salary system for state employees, the elimination of most subsidies and sector incentives, a reduction in the number of employees (in enterprises in which the state has a stake as well as ministries), the shutting down of “useless” state agencies and the equalisation of heating fuel with vehicle diesel. All of these new measures will have to have as their target — according to the troika — the finding of 2.5 billion euros more than those provided for in the plan presented last week by Venizelos, including the special real estate tax. In order to achieve this target, the troika has left it up to the government to find alternative solutions to bring in 2.5 billion euros: an increase in the tax on alcohol or cigarettes, or others that will add to the state coffers the money needed. In any case, the Athens government’s main aim now is to convince the troika to grant the sixth 8-billion-euro instalment, part of the first 110-billion-euro aid package granted to Greece.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Eating From Bins — the New Make Do

On 19 September, the Greek government announced new cuts designed to convince its partners to hand over the 6th tranche of international aid. Meanwhile in the streets of Athens, more and more people are searching for a cheap way to feed themselves.

Giorgos Pouliopoulos

Until now, the phenomenon was unknown in this country, but with the economic crisis, we have seen more and more people searching bins for food. In the past, only tramps and Roma rooted through bins. Then came the arrival of the Asian and African migrants who sifted through rubbish, heaping their finds into supermarket trolleys. Today Greeks are also looking through bins. Many of them are looking for things to sell, but others are searching for food.

For 25 years, Iranian born Samat Eftehar has owned a tavern in Exarchia. “It is still a lively little neighbourhood. I have known most of the people here for years. Some of them who were already on low salaries have had their wages cut. They are decent people, and now they are forced to eat from bins,” he says.

Sometimes, he gives away food to needy people he knows. “I don’t think we have seen the last scene in this tragedy yet. Things are getting worse. There’s a real famine,” insists Samat Eftehar. “I don’t mean a famine where there is nothing to eat, like in Africa. I’m talking about a famine where people can’t even afford to buy meat once a month.”

Even during the recession, Europe still throws away 89 million tonnes of food every year. That is 180 kilos of food for each of the EU’s citizens. Households are responsible for 43% of this wastage, which is often caused by the trompe l’oeil of expiry dates.

“At least I have pocket money”

Giorgos Arabatzoglou works as a street cleaner for Penteli district in the north of Athens: “Even in this well-off suburb, people are going through the bins, especially on market days. And it’s on the increase,” he says. “We are always finding torn bin liners, so we think more people are rooting: not just in the supermarket bins, but also outside souvlaki shops. Recently, I saw the extraordinary spectacle of a well-dressed young woman, rooting through a pile of expired yogurts trying to find the one with the most recent date.”

For Athens city councillor Giannis Apostolopoulos, “the phenomenon has been on the rise over the last six weeks, although it has been present in the country for 10 years. We notice it more now because we are more directly affected. There are plenty of retired people whose incomes have been cut, and sometimes you see young unemployed people too.” And the phenomenon is not limited to Athens. “No doubt about it. But we have a daily soup kitchen here, which attracts people from other neighbourhoods. And the skips in Athens are piled that bit higher.”

For several years, Dimitri, age 40, has worked as a crane operator for Athens city council. One day, the father of four found a piece of furniture he thought might suit his hallway that had been put out on the street. “I didn’t even have 10 euros in my pocket to buy cigarettes. The council hadn’t paid us for months, and that is when I found this furniture which had been thrown away in the Egaleo district. So I took it while I had the chance. A colleague told me to sell it off for cheap. That was the first time I did it, and I earned 60 euros in two afternoons.”

Dimitri has since traded in his car and bought a small van. When his eldest daughter sees furniture out on the street, she tells him to come and get it, while the garage of his building has become his workshop. “I get 300-400 euros a month out of it, so at least I have pocket money.” But Dimitri still has to contend with a growing number of competitors who are also searching the streets…

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

The European Dream Lies in Ruins

by Janet Daley

Europe’s leaders seem incapable of solving the crisis unfolding in front of them.

I have to say that even in my most apocalyptic Eurosceptic moments — when I had moved on from thinking the federalist project simply preposterous to believing that it was criminal folly — I never anticipated this. What I expected was growing disillusionment followed by an almost imperceptible unwinding which would be finessed with political double-talk and diplomatic duplicity. The implosion would come, but it would be with a whimper, not a bang. Faces would be saved and enormous numbers of lies would be told, and somehow the thing would be brought to an end — or made so vestigial that it would no longer matter.

Well, so much for that idea. This is going to be huge: so cataclysmic that it may summon up forms of ugliness that we have not seen walking abroad in Western Europe for half a century. This is where the story goes beyond irony. The European federal dream was devised by its architects to be a definitive repudiation of the ideological conflicts of the 20th century. Pragmatism, consensus and regard for the greater supra-national good would reign where once wicked nationalism and zealotry had prevailed. But what strikes me when I hear the surreal statements emanating from those emergency summits and absurd Franco-German-Greek conference calls is that this is precisely a continuation of the old ideological delusions of the European past. The EU leadership and the Greek prime minister announce implacably that Greece will not leave the euro (ever), as if their uttering of the words made them indisputable. In fact, this is simply a statement of political will that dares the world to defy it.

It seems that the European political class still thinks that an assertion of its mystical belief can alter reality: that what it insists is so, will be so. If its idea of itself and its design for the future are in conflict with the facts of economics or life as it is actually lived, then it is those facts that will give way. (A German Christian Democrat politician once said to me, “The single currency will work because we will make it work.”) Those facts now include not only Greek debt but the democratic wishes of electorates who have a sentimental belief in their right to hold their own governments to account. This is where we are: up against the unavoidable contradiction of the European federal project. The complaint that the EU is lacking in strong political leadership is misconceived: it has had altogether too much “leadership” — which is to say, domination from political and bureaucratic authorities determined to lead with as little interference from real people as possible.

“Consensus” has become coercion. The imperatives of federalism and ever closer union have come bang up against the basic principle of democracy: that elected governments should be answerable to their own electorates, particularly on matters that affect the lives of ordinary citizens, such as taxation and public spending. Federalism cannot allow democracy to disrupt its objectives, and democracy will not permit federalism to ignore its anger and frustration. Angela Merkel cannot do what her critics are insisting that she must do — as George Osborne put it, show that she recognises “the gravity of the situation” and is “dealing with it” — because her electorate will not wear it. She cannot commit herself to endless bail-outs and the under-writing of infinite Mediterranean debt, just as the Greek government cannot deliver the EU’s austerity measures — because the people of both these countries do not wish it. The irresistible force has met the immovable object.

So the choice is between abandoning the democratic principle which holds that the legitimacy of government derives from the consent of the governed, or backing down on the commitment to the euro and all the strictures that go with it. We know which side of this argument our Government has chosen. Mr Osborne reiterated last Friday his insistence that the EU needs “fast-track” fiscal integration — and never mind the democratic scruples.

I suspect that the US Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, who is drumming his fingers on the table with exasperation at EU dithering, wants the same. Since the consequences of this European folie de grandeur now threaten the American and British economic recoveries, it is scarcely surprising that Mr Osborne and Mr Geithner are pushing for a resolution to the central contradiction: are you separate countries or are you one unified economic entity? Settle the damn thing once and for all. Your paralysis is putting us all in peril.

Are the British and American governments prepared for what may follow if they get what they wish for? We were always told that the choice was between European solidarity and war. The EU was created to eradicate the sins of nationalism and, specifically, to tie Germany into a federation which would prevent its historical bellicosity from rising again — which makes it peculiarly ironic that one “solution” being currently mooted is the withdrawal of Germany from the euro. But in fact, discord and hostility are now being provoked by the very constraints and pressures of EU enforcement.

Civil unrest and non-cooperation with government demands are exacerbated by the resentment of what are still perceived as “foreign” agencies. (And, indeed, they are foreign in that individual populations have no hold over them. Greek trade unionists cannot vote Mrs Merkel, let alone the EU Commission, out of power.) Whoever it was who said that this was at least as much a political problem as an economic one was stating the obvious. The rage and anxiety over this loss of national self-determination are already taking sinister forms in the rise of aggressively nationalist parties and neo-fascist movements in the most unlikely “liberal” countries. Add to that the fears of those recent EU member states — the former Warsaw Pact countries — which still look anxiously to the East toward a rampant Russia. Here is a recipe for real conflict both within and between the countries of Europe. Is it beyond the bounds of imagination that we might see the Muslim minorities become the Jews of the 21st century?

EU ministers are not, as is sometimes claimed, “in denial”. They fully appreciate what Mr Osborne calls “the gravity of the situation”. They are paralysed because they see clearly the full force of their dilemma. So they vacillate between the impulse to ram through “fiscal integration”, and the fear of electoral consequences: between the totalitarian impulse and the democratic principle. By the end of the year, we will know which one they chose.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Astronomers Break Ranks Over Space Telescope Costs

The beleaguered James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) got a reprieve last week when a Senate subcommittee offered to guarantee the money needed to finish the observatory in time to launch in 2018. But the astronomy community as a whole isn’t sure this is good news. Some now fear that the behemoth telescope, which is 7 years late and vastly over budget, will end up devouring money allocated to other planetary science and solar physics projects.

When JWST, the heir apparent to the Hubble Space Telescope, was named a top priority for NASA astrophysics in 2001, it was supposed to cost $1 billion and launch by the end of this year. It is now expected to cost at least $8.7 billion for launch and operations and to launch no earlier than 2018, a dramatic overrun that prompted Congress to propose axing the telescope.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Marries English Historian

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the anti-Islam campaigner and former Dutch MP, has married English historian Niall Ferguson at a quiet ceremony in Boston in the US.

The couple are having a baby later this year.

Ferguson left his wife of 17 years and three children for Ali, 41, after they met at a party in 2009.

Hirsi Ali now works for a right-wing think-tank in the US.

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

Food Preparation Standards in Muslim Community Up for Interpretation

In a small industrial space in Upper Darby, Sultan Bhuiyan watches as one of his workers slides a live chicken upside down into a metal bracket. With only the chicken’s head exposed, the man quietly utters the phrase “in the name of God,” and following the ritual of Islamic law, brandishes a knife, running it quickly across the chicken’s neck. He will do this over and over, tenderly stroking the chicken’s feathers as he takes it from its cage to the bloodstained killing room. “People come from all over. Some of them will come and watch the animal be killed. Some want to do it themselves,” Bhuiyan said. “The supermarkets sell halal food, but it is not what I consider halal.”

The word halal, which means “allowed” in Arabic, refers to that which is permissible under Islamic law. Like the word kosher in Judaism, it is most commonly associated with food products sanctioned by the religious leadership. Within the U.S. Muslim community, suspicion has grown in recent years about meat sold under the halal label as the number of suppliers expands and standards of animal slaughter get new, modern interpretation by a growing network of certifying agencies.

Generally speaking, after a short prayer, animals are to be killed with a sharp blade drawn across the throat. That allows the blood considered unhealthy to the Muslim diet to drain. In a standard slaughterhouse, a cow, for example, would be killed with a bolt gun and then bled. But with the growth in the U.S. Muslim population in recent decades, halal foods have become a $20 billion-a-year industry, according to an estimate from the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America in Chicago. As more meat is turned out by larger, more efficient operations, the traditional method of a man and a knife is no longer considered an absolute necessity by many Muslims.

“The slaughtering of the animal is a pretty simple practice,” said Zain Abdullah, an associate professor of religion at Temple University. “But there is a cadre of scholars that Muslims will follow. They interpret the religion for the community, but there are usually multiple interpretations.” In some large-scale slaughterhouses, recordings of prayers are played over loudspeakers. In others, the only rule is to have a Muslim in the room when the animal is killed, said Maria Omar, spokeswoman for the Chicago council, which acts as a certifying agency for suppliers and as a consumer-education group. “It’s no different from the organic market or gluten-free market,” she said. “When there’s no fixed standards, a lot of people are taken for a ride. A lot of people don’t even think to ask, what do you mean by halal?”

A range of Muslim certification agencies has sprung up to sign off on modern assembly lines where Muslim workers pray as animals are killed at a quick pace by mechanical blades.

Their argument is primarily economic. As they see it, if every animal were hand-slaughtered, many Muslims would not be able to afford to eat halal at all. “Our community is trying to figure out not only what the standard should be, but what is practical,” Omar said.

As the debate rages on, consumer-protection laws have passed in at least seven states, including New Jersey. There, halal retailers and slaughterhouses are required to fill out a detailed questionnaire regarding everything from the food’s alcohol content to whether the animal was stunned before slaughter. The survey results must be posted for public view.

But there is virtually no enforcement for those who run afoul of the laws, Omar said. The question of what is and isn’t halal extends to many aspects of Muslim life — from whether women should keep their faces covered to whether Muslims in Dubai can sell liquor to expatriates. And for many, machine-slaughtered meat is simply part of living in the modern world.

Ahmad Shadid, a Muslim travel agent in Jersey City, N.J., who books pilgrimages to Mecca, said he found the idea of questioning the halal label unsavory. “Everybody has their own understanding of the religion. This is not going to change. It’s like, when is the beginning of Ramadan and the end of Ramadan?” he said. “I have a busy job. I don’t have time to slaughter my own meat. If the guy says it’s halal, I accept that.” But some Muslims have rejected eating meat slaughtered by machine. That is especially true for new immigrants from North Africa and South Asia, where households commonly slaughter their own animals, Abdullah said. “African Muslims in Harlem, they felt compelled to set up their own African butcher shops,” he said. “For immigrant communities, it’s religious, but much more it’s a matter of tradition.”

Oftentimes, consumers are left in the dark as to how exactly the animal they’re eating was killed. The Brown chain of ShopRites, which has 10 stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, began expanding their halal offerings in 2005 and are installing isolated halal butchering rooms and meat cases in their new stores. Asked how their meat was slaughtered, co-owner Sandy Brown said she was not sure because ShopRite buys from a wholesaler and not directly from a slaughterhouse.I’m 99 percent sure it’s hand-slaughtered,” she said. “There’s a couple of mosques we work with, and whenever we do something new, we check with them.”

The lack of a unified industry standard is driving suspicion, said Amr Scott, owner of Quetta Halal Meat Market near Rittenhouse Square and a strict proponent of hand-slaughtered meat. “People see a halal label, and they think a Muslim signed off on it, so it’s OK,” he said. “But everyone has a different standard. It’s utterly ridiculous.” For the generations of Muslims who came to the United States in the 1950s and ‘60s, detailed questions about what food was halal were not an issue, because there were almost no halal shops. They traveled hours to trusted vendors or killed their own. “I remember my dad would drive to a farm down in Virginia to slaughter his own chickens,” Scott said.

But now, with so many halal suppliers to choose from, those tasked with determining the rules by which Muslims eat find themselves answering questions that never would have arisen centuries ago. At a conference in India earlier this year, Islamic scholars argued over the validity of chicken plants installing buttons on their assembly lines so each chicken could be killed by an act of man and not automation. Ra’id Abdul-Malik, a teacher at the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects mosque in West Philadelphia, consults centuries-old writings to answer questions such as, “Could a Muslim eat an animal hit by a car?” The answer is yes, as long as the animal is not killed in the accident but by a knife across the throat after the fact. “It doesn’t have to be something based on logic,” Abdul-Malik said. “Humans do not always know what is acceptable.”

[JP note: It doesn’t have to be something based on logic — indeed not, that would take all the fun out of the intepretation.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

I Accuse President Barack Obama of Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, And Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy

By Barry Rubin

Think of how outrageous my headline is:

“Destroying Western Interests in the Middle East, Helping Destabilize the Region, and Putting Millions of Lives in Jeopardy”

Do you think that’s extremist, crazy, can’t be true because you’re not seeing that stuff in the New York Times? You must be a right-wing Republican, you say?

No, just a serious Middle East analyst…

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Michelle Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood

With the news that “Infiltration of the federal government by members of the radical Muslim Brotherhood is worse than some have warned,” it should come as no surprise that while Obama has been courting Muslim Brotherhood operatives, his wife has also gotten into the act. According to the toolkit site,

“[t]he Let’s Move! initiative, started by First Lady Michelle Obama, has an ambitious national goal of addressing the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation, so that children born today reach a healthy adulthood. Let’s Move! engages every sector impacting the health of children and provides schools, families, and communities with simple tools to help kids be more active, eat better, and get healthy.”


“[f]aith-based and neighborhood organizations have a unique and critical role to play in ending childhood obesity and addressing related issues of hunger. Your organizations are trusted leaders in your community, which makes you well-positioned to take action. Children learn many lessons about healthy living and well-being in faith- and community-based settings that set the foundation for their lifestyles as adults. Let’s Move Faith and Communities is designed to help faith-based and neighborhood organizations transform neighborhoods, engage communities, and promote healthy choices.”

Consequently, towards the end of July 2011, IRUSA or Islamic Relief USA, “a faith-based disaster relief and development organization, celebrated the inauguration of its Summer Food Service Program … at the An Nur School in Lanham, Maryland.” The White House announced that IRUSA “ha[d] a collaborative partnership with the USDA’s Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and that IRUSA ha[d] pledged to host 50 sites as part of a Michelle Obama initiative.”

So while an FBI “agent confirmed that at least three operatives of the Egypt-based Brotherhood — whose credo is ‘Jihad is our way and death in the cause of Allah is our dream’ — have penetrated the Obama administration,” the First Lady is now dealing with an organization that boasts of such people as Yaser Haddara who is a member of the IRUSA board since 2006 and its chairman until May 2011.

According to the IRUSA’s own site, “Dr. Haddara was one of the developers and lead trainers for the Student Leadership Training Program that was jointly sponsored by the Muslim American Society and the Muslim Association of Canada. Dr. Haddara has been actively involved in several community organizations including the Islamic Society at Stanford University, the Muslim Community Association of the Bay Area, the Islamic Society of North America (Western Region), the Muslim American Society, and the Muslim Association of Canada.”

One of the main front organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Society of North America’s “leadership does not accept Islamic practices that fall outside the version of Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Furthermore, in addition to terrorism, … the Muslim Brotherhood [spreads] political Islam, which weds religion and politics into a potent force that clashes with pluralistic democracies.”

According to the 2007 report entitled Extremism and the Islamic Society of North America, “ISNA is clearly connected to Islamic radicals and terrorist organizations, but it is not simply guilty by association — its own ideology is marked by extreme social, political, and religious views.” Hence, “ISNA’s ideology is its leaders’ views of Islam within the context of religion and politics, where they believe in Islamic supremacy” as exemplified in the following statement: “[i]n considering the earth as an arena for Islam, Allah has promised its inheritance to His righteous people, and He has promised that Islam Will prevail over other religions.”

So how does one reconcile this with IRUSA’s CEO Abed Ayoub who claims that “IRUSA’s mission is to alleviate suffering, hunger, illiteracy, and disease regardless of color, race, gender, or creed”? Also troubling is the point that “[a]ccording to the most influential Islamic authorities, zakat (alms in Arabic) can be given only to Muslims.” So how does this figure in Michelle Obama’s outreach program?

Moreover, in January of 2011, Daniel Pipes described how “Islamic ‘charities’ squander money.” He explained how the Islamic Society of North America’s Canada branch had engaged in “gross mismanagement” whereby less than one-quarter of monies collected went to the Muslim recipients. Pipes further explained that “ISNA’s management refused to give the auditor all the necessary documents” and thus it was not possible to follow “the trail of funds transferred from ISNA to other organizations[.]” Pipes ends his article by stating that “Islamic ‘charities’ already have a notorious reputation because of their ties to terrorism; this case shows that they must be watched for more venal problems as well.”

Further nefarious associations go to the Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW). IRW has had directors who are linked to the U.K. and European Muslim Brotherhood. One director was a former minister of religious affairs in the Sudan and also held numerous positions associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood. In 2006 the Israeli government announced “the arrest of an IRW worker for activities related to supporting Hamas.” Moreover, “Islamic Relief was one of the founding members of the Union of Good.” According to Steven Merley of the Hudson Institute, “[t]he Union of Good is a coalition of Islamic charities that provides financial support to both the Hamas ‘social’ infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. It is headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, and most of the trustees and member organizations are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood. The Union of Good was banned by Israel in 2002 and was recently designated a terrorist entity by the United States[.]”

As far back as 2004, Daniel Pipes described the Muslim American Society (MAS) and explained “how it seeks to replace the Constitution with the Koran.” Though the MAS “goes about its work quietly; it is none the less dangerous — and perhaps more so — for that.”

In August 2010, the Muslim Brotherhood-associated “Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations” (CCMO) brought Muslim leaders to attend a special workshop presented by the White House and U.S. government agencies (including Homeland Security) to “provide the groups ‘funding, government assistance and resources.” According to a post by Christine Brim at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace, “the workshop [would] apparently provide special access for these Muslim Brotherhood organizations: the organizers pledge[d] to provide ‘direct access’ and ‘cut through red tape.’ And after the workshop an Iftar dinner (breaking the fast of Ramadan) commenced. The event was announced by the ISNA, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism finance trial.”

Notwithstanding the concern about the Muslim Brotherhood connections, Meghan Clyne, editor of National Affairs at the Weekly Standard, asserts that while “[m]uch of what the [Michelle Obama] toolkit recommends is innocuous — encouraging churches to host kids’ intramural sports leagues, for instance. … several sections illustrate the Obamas’ strange understanding of the role of religious communities in America and suggest how, under this president, faith-based offices at the White House and in the agencies have changed their mission and purview.”

For Clyne “[m]ost worrisome, … are the administration’s efforts to have congregations place themselves in the service of government as recruiters for the welfare state” … and “[t]his approach is a marked departure from the original purpose of the White House faith-based initiative. Launched at the outset of President George W. Bush’s first term, the initiative was largely intended to allow religious entities to compete on an equal footing with secular ones for grants to deliver social services. When it came to treating addicts, rehabilitating prisoners, mentoring children, sheltering the homeless, and, yes, feeding the hungry, the Bush administration argued that faith-based organizations often had better records of efficiency and compassion than government programs. But rather than reducing the public’s dependence on government-run programs by empowering faith-based organizations, [the Obama] White House seems to view churches, synagogues, and so on as tools to increase reliance on programs designed in Washington.”

“They’re turning this on its head,” said Rev. Richard Land, who handles public policy for the Southern Baptist Convention. The wisdom of the original faith-based initiative — about which he was initially skeptical, Land explains — was “to have people who live in a zip code making the decisions about what are the best ways to alleviate the problem in that zip code,” rather than being pushed to follow some federal initiative. Under the Obama administration, Land said, “the White House says what your priorities should be.”

It appears that political strategists in the White House are mindful of the demographics which “serve the President’s electoral interests” in this faith-based program. Moreover, is it ever a good “idea for churches to provide platforms for politicians — or First Ladies” no matter which political party? And, most troubling, “increased dependence on government [ultimately] services the interests of the party that represents big government,” leading us farther down the road to less independence and decision-making.

So here’s the mix: greater government interference coupled with possible Muslim Brotherhood influence even though the Muslim Brotherhood “is one of the most dangerous Islamic groups in the world today.” Is this a recipe for disaster?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

NASA’s Future on Space Station Hinges on Private Spaceships

NASA vitally needs new private spaceships, vehicles capable of carrying U.S. astronauts and from the International Space Station (ISS), in order to maintain the future health of the massive orbiting laboratory. And they need them soon, agency officials said Friday (Sept. 16) in an industry forum. “Every year we do not have a commercial crew capability, the ISS is at risk,” Philip McAlister, acting director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA Headquarters in Washington, stressed before an audience of private spaceflight industry representatives. The retirement of NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program has left a temporary gap in U.S. human spaceflight capabilities. Efforts are already well underway on commercial vehicles to take over the responsibility of ferrying cargo and supplies to the space station and other destinations in low-Earth orbit.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and the Tea Party Aren’t Anti-Intellectual. They Just Don’t Agree With the Disastrous Policies of Ivy League Professors

The Republican race has convinced many journalists that the Tea Party is congenitally stupid. “Bachmann and Perry frequently take policy positions that fly in the face of science,” writes one self-described “science advocate” in the Huffington Post. He goes on to list statements they have made about sex education, evolution, global warming and the death penalty to argue that they are in a “race to unreason”. Maureen Dowd in The New York Times provides circumstantial evidence that Rick Perry is a cretin: “Studying to be a veterinarian, he stumbled on chemistry and made a D one semester and an F in another… He even got a C in gym.” You read that right: according to Dowd the poor fellow can’t even master a skipping rope. The liberal press has concluded that the only alternative to this confederacy of dunces is Jon Huntsman. He’s “The Presidential Candidate the Media Hates the Least”, according to one headline, although that’s probably because no one in the newsroom has ever heard of him.

The theory that conservatives are imbeciles has been around a long time. Back in the 1950s they were written off by social historians as “paranoid” bumpkins. More recently, the Tea Party has been dismissed as the product of a profound misunderstanding about history and economics. In her book The Whites of their Eyes, Professor Jill Lepore made the case that the Tea Party’s approach to modern politics was built on a child’s reading of the American Revolution — that the application of 18th-century slogans to an era as complex as our own is irrational. According to Dowd and Lepore, the Right-wing is as vacuous as it is dangerous.

But the broad charge of “anti-intellectualism” is totally untrue. Religious and fiscal conservatives read books — lots of them. That’s why the best-seller lists for the New York Times are so eclectic. In between Jonathan Franzen and Christopher Hitchens, you’ll find conservative polemicist Ann Coulter and evangelical preacher Joel Osteen. recently offered a list of 25 books every conservative should read. There were some predictable entries (economists Hayek and Friedman), but also a surprising appreciation for Mark Twain. Economically, the American Right boasts schools of thought that have dramatically reshaped the world. Britain and Chile took their lead from theories propounded at the University of Chicago. The neoconservatives (out of fashion now, but once the most powerful philosophical force in the Western World) can claim a remarkable intellectual lineage running from Leo Strauss to Bill Kristol. Social traditionalism provides a wonderful vein of literature (Russell Kirk, Clyde Wilson), as does the contemporary Catholic Right (John Dilulio). Two years ago, the star speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference dinner was the historian Eugene Genovese. The liberal professors who still use his textbooks on the history of slavery are presumably unaware of quite how cantankerously Right-wing Genovese really is.

Republican Presidents enjoy a healthy intellectual life. Richard Nixon read avidly and annotated everything. Reagan had a boyish but healthy taste in literature. He once told a magazine that his favourite books were “Turnabout, by Thorne Smith, Babbitt, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and the works of Pearl Buck, HG Wells, Damon Runyon and Erich Remarque.” The average liberal college graduate probably couldn’t spell Remarque. George W Bush took time out from remaking the world to attend private lectures by historian Andrew Roberts. Incidentally, Bush had slightly higher college scores than environmentalist Al Gore.

As to the Tea Party’s anti-intellectualism, it is hard to think of a contemporary Right-wing movement so interested in intellectual ideas or political history. Tea Party fanatics obsess about the motivations of the Founding Fathers, and they’ve even made a TV series about life in colonial America. Glenn Beck — an very literate idiot — regularly recommends heavyweight reading on his show. Here you can watch him pushing the book American Progressivism: a Reader by RJ Perlitto, something normally reserved for (probably empty) college seminars. Beck’s serious effort to chart the relationship between early 20th-century progressivism and Obama’s social democratic policies is simplistic but compelling — and it has started a big debate in scholarly circles.

The Right isn’t anti-intellectual, but it is critical of the power of intellectual cabals to reshape American life without the consent of voters. Rightly so. Intellectuals often presume that their cleverness qualifies them to run things. George Bernard Shaw noted that what attracted so many academics to Marxism was its ability to turn their ideas into government policy: it flattered them. But what works on paper doesn’t necessarily work in real life, and the reshaping of humanity to suit an abstract philosophy either requires ignoring the facts or a brutal re-engineering of them. America’s government was never more dominated by intellectuals than in the 1960s — when Ivy League bureaucrats poured millions of dollars into disastrous anti-poverty programs and dropped thousands of bombs on Vietnam. Today, an “intellectual” President has presided over perhaps the most idiotic economic programme in recent history — motivated by an abstract Keynesian conviction that “the more you spend, the faster you’ll grow”.

At the heart of the Tea Party is an experiment in democracy and self-rule. Its members refuse to be told what to do or what to believe. In this sense, they are the antithesis of the intellectual elitism that permeates Ivy League academia. Some might call them wilfully stupid. History will say they were wise beyond their years.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Doors of Perception Are Closed

by Diana West

My title today conjures up all the wrong imagery because “the doors of perception,” which comes to us from William Blake, was taken by Aldous Huxley as the title of his book of reflections on mescaline, which was taken by Jim Morrison as the name of his band. My concern with “the doors” is not at all psychodelic, although I suddenly find that this is likely the one opportune moment I will ever have to drop the fact that in the mid-1950s, Aldous Huxley invited my late father, Elliot West, a Hollywood writer and novelist, to take mescaline with him.

Dad declined, although he did do what he could to help Huxley in his surprising quest to get a television writing job — surprising as in: The great Aldous Huxley, author of the genius “Brave New World” and crackling novels such as “Point Counter Point,” essays, poetry, and even co-credit on the excellent 1940 screenplay of “Pride and Prejudice,” can’t get a lousy TV job just by clearing his throat? Apparently not, and my mother still recalls how Huxley broached the subject while examining the cover of an LP (record, kids) of the musical “Kismet” at such close range that it was half an inch from his eyeballs. Huxley was very nearly blind; hence, his desire for mescaline, a drug said to intensify color and landscape.


The doors of perception are closed. From the New York Times:

“Tumult of Arab Spring prompts worries in Washington”

WASHINGTON — While the popular uprisings of the Arab Spring created new opportunities for American diplomacy, the tumult has also presented the United States with challenges — and worst-case scenarios — that would have once been almost unimaginable.

Almost unimaginable?

That this clear, obvious, and vociferously-stated-by-its-actors progression of the Islamic jihad is deemed “almost unimaginable” tells us that the sensory, mental and imaginative powers of our society, circa 2011, are in total and complete blackout…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Brussels Wants Say in Any Return of EU Internal Borders

The European Commission launched a bid Friday to oversee any return of border checks in Europe’s passport-free travel area, drawing the ire of nations refusing to hand Brussels such powers.

The plans unveiled by the European Commission propose new rules on conducting border controls in the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone to address mounting concern in parts of Europe over illegal immigration, notably from North Africa.

The European Commission unveiled draft legislation that would give it a big say in decisions to deploy border guards, a proposal that has France, Germany and Spain have already rejected. “With these proposals we are safeguarding the future of Schengen,” said EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem. “By reinforcing its European dimension we are protecting one of the most cherished achievements of the EU: the free movement of our citizens,” she said.

At the moment, governments are allowed to temporarily deploy border guards during terror threats or major events such as football games or summits, but countries are seeking more leeway to restore controls.

Under commission proposal, border controls could also be reintroduced to deal with unexpected migration flows or if a Schengen country fails to police its frontiers with non-EU nations. This clause carries the threat of temporarily excluding from Schengen a nation unable to control its borders. While it does not name any country, Greece has been under fire over its porous border with Turkey.

The commission’s proposal would still allow governments to unilaterally reinstate patrols in urgent situations, but only for a five-day period. For longer periods, countries would need a green light from the EU’s executive arm, something some governments reject. “It’s unacceptable. An urgent situation, by definition, lasts more than five days,” said a European diplomat.

French, German and Spanish interior ministers complained this week that the proposal goes too far, arguing that a decision to restore border controls is the remit of national governments. In a joint statement, the three ministers said “we believe that respecting the core area of national sovereignty is very important to the member states”. “We therefore do not share the European Commission’s views on assuming responsibility for making decisions on operational measures in the security field,” they said…

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

Desecration of Muslim Graves in France

Thirty Muslim graves in a cemetery of Carcassonne, in south-western France, were covered with racist and Nazi graffiti said Sunday a judicial source.

The graves, those of Muslims killed during the First World War, are in the military section of the cemetery of St. Michel in the city, said the prosecutor of Carcassonne Antoine Leroy.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Dutch Tulips Blocked at Romanian Border in Schengen Dispute

Citing health concerns, Romanian authorities blocked flower imports from the Netherlands over the weekend, just one day after the Dutch government announced it would veto the country’s entry to the border-free Schengen area at an upcoming home affairs ministers’ meeting. Six truckloads of Dutch flowers, seeds and bulbs were halted on Saturday and Sunday (17-18 September) at the Romanian-Hungarian border. They were suspected of being contaminated with ‘dangerous bacteria’, Romanian customs authorities said.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

EU Issues Warning After Turkey, Cyprus Energy Exploration Row Escalates

Turkey’s energy minister has threatened to launch a gas and oil exploration in the eastern Mediterranean if Cyprus doesn’t abandon off-shore drilling plans. The EU has called on both countries to resolve the dispute.

On Monday, Turkey threatened to initiate a retaliatory gas and oil exploration if the Greek Cypriot government did not abandon the off-shore energy search. Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz warned that Turkish naval ships would be ordered to escort energy exploration ships in the eastern Mediterranean unless Greek Cyprus immediately halted drilling plans. “If Greek Cyprus sticks to the timetable it announced previously, we will start drilling activity next week,” Yildiz told reporters. “This work will be carried out together with the (navy) escort,” he added. “There will be no turning back on this issue.”

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

France: Lack of Doctors, Banlieue Schools Appeal to UN

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, SEPTEMBER 19 — There are not enough doctors willing to work in the schools of Paris’s banlieues, and therefore teachers and parents have launched an appeal to the UN for humanitarian aid to be sent. Once again at the centre of the matter is Seine-Saint-Denis, an outlying area in the north-eastern part of Paris, in which the conditions are the most dire. After a few months ago when Sevran’s mayor requested help from UN troops to restore security in the department, often the scene of clashes between young people and police officers, it is now the schools’ turn to request help from the UN. As reported by the France Info radio station, parents and teachers from the FCPE union intend to denounce in this way the chronic lack of school doctors in this department, which has one doctor for every 9,600 students and one nurse for every 1,300. In Seine-Saint-Denis schools 40% of positions for doctors are vacant.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Inflatable Steel Could Revolutionize Industrial Design

The Swiss, Polish architects behind the idea say their technique can reduce construction costs. They hope to expand what began as an artistic project into more practical applications.

For the past few years, a two-man team from Poland and Switzerland have come up with a new system of making steel cheaper and lighter, but no less sturdy — by filling it with air. Oskar Zieta and Phillipp Dohmen have pioneered what they’re calling “Free Inner Pressure Deformation,” a new engineering technique that allows them to make furniture — which they’ve been selling since 2009. Zieta Prozessdesign sells inflated steel furniture, including ladders, chairs and stools, for 200 to 300 euros ($275 — $415). However, more recently, they have been expanding this technique that may eventually have an impact on everything from wind turbines to highway guard rails.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Italy: Silvio Berlusconi Wiretaps Reveal Boast of Spending Night With Eight Women

Conversations show that Italian PM resented meetings with the Pope and world leaders interfering with his partying

Magistrates investigating an alleged prostitution ring in Italy have published wiretaps in which Silvio Berlusconi boasts of spending the night with eight women and complains that meetings with Gordon Brown and the Pope are interfering with his partying.

The wiretaps were released at the conclusion of an investigation into entrepreneur Gianpaolo Tarantini, who is accused of paying women to sleep with Berlusconi, 74, at his homes in 2008 and 2009. The Italian prime minister is not under investigation, although the wiretaps throw doubt on Berlusconi’s claims that he has never paid for sex.

“They are all well provided for,” Berlusconi tells Tarantini of the girls passing through his Rome residence in one of the thousands of recorded conversations released, which filled Italian newspapers on Saturday.

In another conversation, a woman named Vanessa Di Meglio sends a text from Berlusconi’s residence to Tarantini at 5.52am asking “Who pays? Do we ask him or you?”

Tarantini first made the headlines through the revelations of prostitute Patrizia D’Addario, who claimed Tarantini recruited her to have sex with Berlusconi. A second scandal has erupted over Berlusconi’s parties at his villa near Milan, with the prime minister on trial accused of paying underage Moroccan dancer Karima El Mahroug for sex.

The newly published wiretaps give startling insight into Berlusconi’s sexual appetites. “Last night I had a queue outside the door of the bedroom… There were 11 … I only did eight because I could not do it anymore,” Berlusconi told Tarantini in 2009. “Listen, all the beds are full here … this lot won’t go home, even at gunpoint.”

Berlusconi, who boasted to one TV showgirl that he was only “prime minister in my spare time”, told Tarantini in September 2008 that he needed to reduce the flow of women since he had a “terrible week” ahead seeing Pope Benedict, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown. Berlusconi has long insisted that his private parties are informal but elegant affairs, that extend only as far as joke telling and songs, but is revealed on the tapes as putting pressure on Tarantini and his associates to conjure up beautiful female guests.

One associate is heard complaining he will need a caravan to pick up all the girls, while in another conversation Tarantini says to a colleague: “Find a whore, please.”

Tarantini, an entrepreneur from Bari who sold prosthetic limbs before meeting Berlusconi in 2008, quickly became a confidant of the prime minister. “Listen Gianpaolo, now we need at most two each,” said Berlusconi in one call. “Because now I want that you have yours, otherwise I will always feel I am in your debt. Then we can trade. After all, the pussy needs to go around.”

Berlusconi also sought to impress his female guests by inviting senior managers from his cinema production company and from state TV network RAI.

“These are people who can get jobs for whoever they want,” he told Tarantini. “Therefore the girls will get the idea that they are in front of men who can decide their destiny.”

Tarantini is suspected of procuring women for other top officials, including a magistrate and a manager at state controlled defence group Finmeccanica. In a separate probe, he has also been arrested on suspicion of seeking to blackmail Berlusconi through an intermediary in return for keeping the lid on details of his procurement of women. Berlusconi has claimed the money he paid out, believed to be more than €500,000, was merely financial assistance.

In a letter published in the newspaper Il Foglio, Berlusconi hit back at the latest wiretaps, claiming: “My private life is not a crime, my lifestyle may or may not please, it is personal, reserved and irreproachable.”

Opposition leaders meanwhile demanded an inquiry into suggestions in the wiretaps that Berlusconi used government aircraft to ferry prostitutes to his parties. “Italy, with its grave problems cannot allow itself an executive which governs in its spare time. The time for words is over, Berlusconi must go to the Italian president and resign,” said Davide Zoggia, an official for the opposition Democratic Party.

Already in trouble in the polls after pushing through a painful austerity budget, Berlusconi’s political support took another blow over the weekend as his crucial partner Umberto Bossi, head of the Northern League party, warned that the administration would not make it to the end of its mandate in 2013.

Encouraging support, however, came from Russia, where Vladimir Putin said: “They criticise [Berlusconi] because they are jealous.”

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

Italy: Naples Has ‘Twin Miracles’ In Blood and Soccer

Naples, 19 Sept. (AKI) — Long-suffering Naples seemed to have enjoyed twin “miracles” when the dried blood of its third-century patron saint liquified and its soccer team defeated the defending Italian champion.

Fans filled the streets of the southern city late Sunday after Napoli trounced defending Serie A champion AC Milan 3-1 at home.

Napoli also tied 1-1 Manchester City on Wednesday in the Champions League, and last week opened their Serie A season with a 3-1 win over Cesena, nothing short of a miracle for many in religious and superstitious Naples.

Also filling the streets for a more sombre ritual than football were thousands of Catholic faithful who didn’t manage to find a place in the packed 14th century Saint Januarius Cathedral where believers say blood belonging to Naples patron saint Januarius melts twice a year.

According to tradition, failure to liquify could beckon in disaster for the city at the base of volcano Mt. Vesuvius which buried Pompeii and many of its residents under ash around 2,000 years ago.

In modern times, the city has been buried under mounds of trash, which lately have been cleared from the street — a sign of a miracle, according to some of Naples residents.

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

Italy: Bossi Calls for Referendum on Separate State

‘We cannot be forced to pay for Italy’, says Bossi

(ANSA) — Rome, September 19 — Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s powerful coalition partner, Umberto Bossi, has called for a referendum on his proposal to create a separate state in northern Italy.

Bossi, who heads the conservative Northern League, on Sunday revived earlier proposals for a breakaway state that his party calls Padania which covers the Po Valley and surrounding regions.

“We have to find a democratic way, perhaps referendums, because an important and hard-working people like ours cannot be forced to pay for Italy,” he said.

Bossi, who was speaking at a political conference called “The Padania people’s party” was greeted with enthusiastic cries of “secession, secession” from the crowd.

“We from the League escaped the (changes) to pensions,” Bossi said, in a reference to recent pressure he imposed on Berlusconi to restrict the impact of changes to pensions in the government’s 54-billion-euro budget package.

Bossi’s statement provoked a strong reaction from the opposition Democratic Party and other political opponents.

Pier Luigi Bersani, head of the Democratic Party, said he was “dreaming” and would continue to stay with Berlusconi.

“I believe that people cannot eat with fairytales, now we have serious problems and the League should take its responsibilities seriously,” Bersani said. On Monday Bossi gained support from Eva Klotz, founder of the German-speaking minority party Sud-Tiroler Freiheita in the Alto Adige region on the Austrian border, who said it would help her region gain secession.

“Bossi is finally tackling secession seriously and Alto Adige should be prepared since we should not be limited to choose between Italy and Padania”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Nuclear Phaseout to Cost Germany €250 Billion

Germany’s decision to switch from nuclear to renewable sources of energy will require investment of €250 billion ($340 billion) over the next decade, a new study found Monday. According to the study by the state-owned investment bank KfW, the planned realignment of Germany’s power supply from nuclear to renewables will require “additional investment needs of around €250 billion by 2020.”

KfW describes itself as one of the leading sources of finance in the energy sector, estimating that it financed 80 percent of new wind turbines installed in Germany last year, plus 40 percent of solar panels. The bank also financed the insulation of buildings. In the wake of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan, the German government has decided to shut down all of its nuclear reactors by the end of 2022.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Response to Fukushima: Siemens to Exit Nuclear Energy Business

Siemens plans to pull out of the nuclear energy business, CEO Peter Löscher told SPIEGEL. After the Fukushima nuclear disaster “the chapter is closed,” he said. The company will expand its renewable energy activities instead.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Sperm Bank Turns Down Redheads

The world’s largest sperm bank has started turning down redheaded donors because there is too little demand for their sperm.

Ole Schou, Cryos’s director, said that there had been a surge in donations in recent years, allowing the facility to become much more picky about its donors.

“There are too many redheads in relation to demand,” he told told Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet. “I do not think you chose a redhead, unless the partner — for example, the sterile male — has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that’s perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case.” Mr Schou said the only reliable demand for sperm from redheaded donors from Ireland, where he said it sold “like hot cakes”.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Telegraph Says Two Women Flown From UK for Berlusconi

(AGI) London — Apparently, some women were “flown from London” for Silvio Berlusconi’s sex parties. Gianpaolo Tarantini allegedly paid 70,000 pounds to fly two women from the UK to Berlusconi’s villas in Rome, Milan and Sardinia. The Telegraph reveals so, claiming that the expense included 1000 euros for having sexual intercourses and accommodation at luxury hotels.

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

The Islamization of the Danish Passport

According to the Danish police, you are not allowed to wear a hat or a cap on passport pictures. But you are allowed to wear an Islamic veil that covers both your hair, your ears and the general contour of your head.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

UK: EU Ruling to Mean 9 Bins for Every Home

MILLIONS of Britons face bin chaos and higher taxes after a High Court ruling on a controversial EU directive, experts warned yesterday.

Householders could be forced to separate all their rubbish for recycling, meaning up to nine bins outside people’s homes.

And this could lead to costlier collections, which would force up council tax or even lead to services being culled.

The news comes on top of the doubling of council taxes under Labour — a period when half of all councils axed weekly waste collections.

The Campaign for Real Recycling won the right to a judicial review of the Government’s compliance with a revised EU Waste Framework Directive.

The CRR says the WFD enshrines the principle of separating recyclable materials at source.

This can lead to households having bins and bags for materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, cans and food waste so bin-men can put them into compartments on lorries.

The CRR says keeping materials separate boosts their value and improves recycling by reducing contamination.

If its court bid is successful the ruling will affect all councils in England and Wales.

But waste management firm Biffa claimed the WFD allows for “commingling” where “dry” recyclables, such as glass, cans, plastic, paper and cardboard, are put in the same container. The materials are then sorted later by the waste firm.

Biffa insists commingling allows “fewer vehicle movements, fewer collections rounds and containers, and a safer working environment for collection crews as well as achieving higher recycling rates”.

It says about half of all local authorities use a form of commingling and this doesn’t affect the value of recyclables even when they are commingled.

Biffa’s development director, Pete Dickson, said: “The judicial review could set back British recycling years, confuse householders and undermine the very real recycling achievements made by many Councils.

“If the court rules in CRR’s favour, scores of councils may be faced with scrapping their commingled recycling schemes and spending an unnecessary fortune on implementing kerbside-separated collections, as well as dealing with increased disposal costs. This could mean an increase in council tax or a cut in services.” Doretta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said: “I am very pro recycling but it should be as easy as possible. If you present residents with different containers, it can put them off recycling.”

The CRR said commingled recyclables — especially if compacted in the back of a bin lorry — are often so badly contaminated that they can only find a market in Asia where they may be sorted by poorly-paid workers including children.

It claimed that separating recyclables could be done with as few as two containers.

CRR chairman Mal Williams said: “It remains our contention that the UK will ultimately benefit much from embracing not just the letter of this directive, but the spirit of it as well.”

The Daily Express is campaigning for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. Earlier this year 373,000 readers backed a petition calling for the UK to quit the EU.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

UK: Muslim Cleric’s Peace Declaration Demands an End to Terrorism

One of the world’s leading Muslim clerics will issue a global declaration against terrorism at a speech in London on Saturday. Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri will make the declaration at the ‘Peace for Humanity Conference 2011’ at Wembley Arena. The peace declaration, which will call for an end to terrorism and for the protection of human rights in new Arab regimes, is expected to be signed by major religious and political leaders, including David Cameron and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Tariq Jahan, whose son was killed in the Birmngham riots, is also expected to attend.

The Pakistani scholar who lives in Canada is the founder of Minhaj-ul-Qaran International, a Sufi-based organisation that promotes moderate Islam. He issued a fatwa against terrorism last year and has since received death threats from many groups, including al-Qi’ada. A $10m bounty has reportedly been placed on his head. The Muslim scholar has been running de-radicalisation youth camps across the UK, America and Europe for several years. He believes the declaration is urgently needed because he sees a growing number of young Muslims who could easily be swayed to extremism.

He said: “We want to give the message to the whole of the Muslim world and the youths who have been brainwashed that this is Islam and what it stands for: peace, harmony, tolerance, moderation and love and compassion for humanity. This message will go out all over the world, from coast to coast.” He said the “historic document” was needed a decade after 9/11 to combat extremism and ensure the Arab Spring became an opportunity not just for democracy but also the upholding of human rights.

Outlining the content of the declaration he said: “Number one will be the absolute condemnation of terrorism; number two the protection of complete human rights, as it is seen in the Western world and endorsed by the United Nations”. It will also call for “support for the concept of humanity and fraternity between all cultures, religions and human beings”; “democracy and good governance in the Muslim world” and “total ecological and environmental responsibility”. “We want to emphasise education to bring an end to extremism, violence, hatred and racism,” he said, “To educate the Muslim people and youth and at the same time educate the West so that the hatreds are removed. We will be condemning every kind of racism and xenophobia and we will support all Muslims living in Western countries to have integration and citizenship and we will condemn isolation.”

The day will include what the group claim is the first collective cross-religious peace prayer instigated by a Muslim. The last collective peace prayer was called by the late Pope John Paul in Assisi a decade ago. “Mankind is burning now in a fire of hatred and fanaticism and aggression and terrorism,” said Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri. “The peace prayer is another way to show that all religions can come together to pray for global peace.” Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri believes it is essential to rebuild the boundaries between Islam, terrorism and politics. “I look around me and I see people are confused”, he said. “Extremists and terrorists have created a very big misunderstanding in the minds of generations. They have mixed up religion with international and political issues. By talking of the Palestine issue, the Israel issue, the Afghanistan issue and the occupation of Iraq, they have mixed up these political issues with the issue of Islam. They have connected their terroristic and criminal activities with the political issues of the Muslim world, making many young people confused. My struggle is to differentiate between the issues — to take the political issues as a totally separate agenda that has no link with suicide bombing and these crazy activities,” he said.

[JP note: Islam is one long, rollercoaster ride of crazy activities from start to finish, no differentiation required.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Seven Arrested in Anti-Terrorism Operation

Birmingham, 19 Sept. (AKI) — Seven people in the English city of Birmingham were arrested overnight as part of an anti-terrorism operation.

Police said six men and one woman were arrested late Sunday and early Monday. All suspects range in age fro 22 to 32.

The investigation, which has involved security service MI5, relates to suspected Islamist extremism, the BBC reported.

Assistant police chief Marcus Beale said in a statement that the men were arrested in or near their homes by unarmed police officers as part of a “large, pre-planned, intelligence-led counter terrorism operation.”

Police were searching six homes and one commercial property in Birmingham, he said.

“I believe it was necessary to take action at this time in order to ensure public safety,” Beale said.

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

UK: Tory MPs Demand Referendum on Europe

David Cameron must call a referendum on Europe or face a rebellion from his own party and a backlash from voters, a leading back-bench Tory warns today.

Mark Pritchard, the secretary of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, is the most senior Tory yet to demand a vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union following the eurozone crisis. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Pritchard says that the EU has become an “occupying force” which is eroding British sovereignty and that the “unquestioning support” of backbenchers is no longer guaranteed. He says the Government should hold a referendum next year on whether Britain should have a “trade only” relationship with the EU, rather than the political union which has evolved “by stealth”. He warns that the Conservatives will see constituents “kick back” if taxpayers are forced to foot the bill for the failure of “unreformed and lazy” eurozone countries to introduce fully-fledged austerity measures.

George Eustice, a backbench MP and former close aide to Mr Cameron, is also demanding a “new relationship” with the EU. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, recently threw his weight behind the Eurosceptics by saying that Britain might prosper by loosening its ties with Europe. Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Treasury minister, yesterday attacked Eurosceptics as being “enemies of growth”.

In a clear warning to Mr Cameron, Mr Pritchard says Tory MPs have become tired of tolerating the “Europhile views” of Liberal Democrat ministers. He writes: “Conservative backbenches can no longer be taken for granted. “Conservative MPs will not continue to write blank cheques for workers in Lisbon while people in London and Leicester are joining the dole queue. For many Britons, the EU has already become a kind of occupying force, setting unfamiliar rules, demanding levies, curbing freedoms, subverting our culture, and imposing alien taxes. ‘In less than four decades, and without a single shot being fired, Britain has become enslaved to Europe — servitude that intrudes and impinges on millions of British lives every day. Brussels has become a burdensome yoke, disfiguring Britain’s independence and diluting her sovereignty.”

Mr Pritchard accuses Mr Cameron of failing to honour a “guarantee” to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. He says: “The Coalition should agree to a referendum on Europe asking whether Britain should be part of a political union or of the trade-only relationship we thought we had signed up to. This is a moderate proposition that would attract voters from across the political spectrum, unite many on the Left and Right within Parliament and galvanise the support of most in the media.” Mr Cameron recently ruled out a referendum on the EU asking whether Britain should opt in or out. Mr Pritchard believes his “stepping stone” approach will provide a compromise. He says that if Britain votes for a trade-only relationship with the EU, there should then be a referendum about membership on the date of the next general election. Mr Pritchard writes: “The British have grown weary of Europe. The Coalition government should end decades of political appeasement by successive governments and champion freedom and democracy for Britain — and agree a referendum.”

Mr Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor, know that the unfolding crisis in the eurozone will give the Conservative party’s Eurosceptic MPs a chance to argue more powerfully for a realignment of Britain’s position in the EU. The 2010 intake of new Tory MPs is regarded as the most Eurosceptic in a generation and large numbers of government ministers remain privately anti-Brussels. Some hope that Mr Osborne, the Conservative election strategist, will advance a series of policies that can address the concerns of his party before the next election and in the process tap into the worries of voters. But Mr Osborne’s Liberal Democrat deputy at the Treasury, Mr Alexander, yesterday criticised those who want to take Britain away from the EU. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told Liberal Democrat activists: “Sadly, Eurosceptics on left and right fail to understand Winston Churchill’s central insight that sharing sovereignty strengthens influence and isolation weakens us. Scottish Nationalists make the same mistake. We will never let the anti-Europeans or nationalists frustrate our national interest. They are enemies of growth.”

Backbencher Mr Eustice is spearheading the challenge to the Prime Minister over the EU. Eurosceptic Tory backbenchers want the party leadership to act more decisively on Europe and return some powers to Westminster. Mr Pritchard’s intervention will further increase tensions within the Coalition. Mr Pritchard is a leading figure in a group of 120 Conservative MPs who are pushing the Prime Minister to set out a “clear plan” for pulling back from Europe.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: We’re Fed Up With Europe, So Give Us a Vote

by Mark Pritchard

Britain has become a slave to the EU, writing blank cheques to prop up its lazy economies, says Mark Pritchard.

Over the first year of the Coalition, the Conservative Parliamentary Party has restrained itself over European issues. In part this is because it has recognised the need to focus on tackling the huge public deficit left behind by Gordon Brown and his protégé, Ed Balls. This break-out of impassiveness has also been helped, although to a lesser extent, by the Government’s EU Bill, which has made the Conservative Party look and sound far more Eurosceptic. Many colleagues have also reluctantly accepted that, with the Europhile Liberal Democrats as the Coalition’s bedfellows, banging the Eurosceptic drum would be unhelpful and could be destabilising. But, with Europe’s ever increasing bail-outs and international loans — many drawn on the backs of struggling British taxpayers — it is no longer tenable to separate the economics of Europe from British domestic politics.

Whatever the economic justification for past European bail-outs — such as with the Republic of Ireland — any future “back-door” interventions through multi-billion-dollar loans distributed via the IMF are a clear and present danger to the Coalition’s period of European serenity. Moreover, recent Europhile comments by senior Liberal Democrat ministers have not helped matters. Bail-out fatigue was always going to be a danger for the Treasury; but, mixed with the heady cocktail of falling living standards at home and the self-inflicted Mediterranean origins of Europe’s financial crisis, unquestioning political support from the Conservative backbenches can no longer be taken for granted. Conservative MPs will not continue to write blank cheques for workers in Lisbon while people in London and Leicester are joining the dole queue.

The Government tells us that Britain’s bail-out commitments are limited, shared with other countries and will end in 2013. This is all true, but, unless eurozone countries accept similar austerity measures to those expected of British taxpayers, then MPs can expect their constituents to kick back. As Britons lose their jobs, struggle to pay utility bills, forgo annual holidays and are made to pay more into their pensions, future bail-outs of Europe’s mostly unreformed and lazy economies will not attract Conservative parliamentary support.

When Britain voted to stay in the European Economic Community in 1975 the country was promised it would be a common market. Yet over time, mostly by stealth and within every new treaty, we have been drawn relentlessly into an “ever closer union” with the Continent. For many Britons, the EU has already become a kind of occupying force, setting unfamiliar rules, demanding levies, curbing freedoms, subverting our culture and imposing alien taxes. In less than four decades, Britain has become enslaved to Europe — servitude that intrudes and impinges on millions of British lives every day. Brussels has become a burdensome yoke, disfiguring Britain’s independence and diluting her sovereignty.

Those who suggest the Lisbon Treaty should be ripped up and replaced with a new EU constitution, or that the eurozone’s move towards “fiscal union” provides a major opportunity for Britain to re-negotiate her relationship with Europe, are well-meaning; but these measures would only change things at the margins and do little to arrest the EU’s democratic illegitimacy. The majority of Britons living today have never had a say on Europe. After nearly four decades of subjugation to Europe, it is time for the British people to choose their own destiny and to be set free. The 1975 mandate is neither immutable nor eternal.

That is why the Coalition should agree to a referendum on Europe asking whether Britain should be part of a political union or of the trade-only relationship we thought we had signed up to. This is a moderate proposition that would attract voters from across the political spectrum, unite many on the Left and Right within Parliament and galvanise the support of most in the media. Even the Liberal Democrats, given their commitment to a Euro-referendum in their last election manifesto and their so-called “freedom agenda”, would be hard-pressed to veto it. The referendum should be held next year, and a successful “No to political union” result would immediately strengthen the Prime Minister’s negotiating hand in Brussels to commence serious and meaningful negotiations with our partners on Britain’s new relationship. The process of returning political sovereignty to Westminster would then take place over the proceeding two years.

But, if Brussels refused to repatriate specified powers within a designated 24-month period, then a second referendum — this time an “in or out” vote — would be triggered in 2015 and held on the day of the next general election. This stepping-stone approach would give voters, the British Government and Brussels Eurocrats an action list and a timetable. Having been served notice by the British people, Brussels would need to act. If specified powers were not returned within the defined timetable, Brussels would have only themselves to blame if Britons voted to leave the EU. The British have grown weary of Europe. The Coalition government should end decades of political appeasement by successive governments and champion freedom and democracy for Britain — and agree to a referendum.

Mark Pritchard is the Conservative MP for The Wrekin and is the secretary of the 1922 committee

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Libya: Mustard Gas Depot Found in Rogfa

(ANSAmed) — ROME, SEPTEMBER 19 — The Libyan rebels have taken control of a depot of mustard gas of the Gaddafi regime. The gas is located in the chemical plant in the city of Rogfa, 600 km east of Tripoli. The news is reported by the German newspaper Der Spiegel, which adds that the factory has been secured and that it is guarded by security forces, without specifying the nationality of these forces. The chemical site of Rogfa, the newspaper underlines, is under constant air surveillance by NATO forces, while the Libyan rebels control the site from the ground. The discovery of the chemical site, the German newspaper adds, has spread fear in the United States, Europe and Israel.

These countries are concerned about the possibility of the gas ending up in the hands of Islamic extremists or forces loyal to the old Libyan regime. The mustard gas that was found on the site is in a solid state, so that it cannot be used in bombs against the rebels, as was feared earlier by the National Transitional Council. No confirmed data are available on the amount of toxic gases stockpiled by the regime of Gaddafi, Der Spiegel concludes.

After signing agreements with the West, the old Libyan regime announced in 1994 that it had 23 tonnes of mustard gas, half of which is still in Libyan territory.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya: New Confirmation, Gaddafi Eliminated Moussa Sadr

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, SEPTEMBER 19 — Moussa Sadr, the founder of the Lebanese Islamic movement Amal who disappeared in the summer of 1978 on the eve of a trip to Italy, was allegedly killed by a number of Libyan officials on the orders of Colonel Gaddafi, since a number of national and international contacts were in his appointment book which could have caused problems for the regime. This is the explanation to the mystery surrounding the death of the imam given by the former military prosecutor of Gaddafi’s regime and now NTC representative Mohammed Bachir el-Khoudar.

El-Khoudar claims that Gaddafi had decided to do away with Sadr after a talk in which the religious figure accused him of being a non-believer and said that for this reason his end was near.

Sadr disappeared on August 31 1978 when he was on his way to Paris (where his children were) after a stopover in Rome’s Fiumicino airport. For this reason, the Italian judiciary also dealt with his disappearance but ended up dismissing the case due to uncertainty over whether the man had ever actually reached Rome.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Morocco: Instant Drug Tests to Help Families

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, SEPTEMBER 19 — The use of drugs has become a global phenomenon and has been for some time now. Each country tries to fight it using often different strategies and methods, though the problem is the same everywhere. The problem has reached Morocco as well, young people in particular, among whom drug abuse has reached worrying proportions. The Moroccan government has been working for years with all its structures — medical, social and judicial — to try and keep the phenomenon from spreading, especially under pressure from families that feel powerless to intervene when they suspect their children have already started taking drugs.

Now a test has been introduced in Morocco in an attempt to help these families (but also police and gendarmerie, in the forefront in the fight against drugs). This test determines within a few minutes whether the tested urine or saliva contains traces of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, morphine, amphetamine, benzodiazepine or barbiturates, the substances that are most popular among the youngest generations who often don’t know anything about their long-term effects.

The test is called ‘Narcochek’ and, newspaper Aujord’hui le Maroc reports today, is already distributed across Morocco. At the moment only public institutions have received the tests, but at the start of next year it can also be obtained at chemist’s shops. Why this choice for distribution to chemist’s shops as well? The answer is simple: the test is thought to be an effective instrument in the hands of families who have doubts on their children and need to have certainty, without the State knowing anything about it. In fact, information about a test carried out by healthcare institutions would automatically be passed on to State institutions. The test is reportedly very reliable, a 99.6% precision level has been verified before it was put on the market. Another aspect that could turn out to be very positive is the fact that saliva tests can check for the presence of five substances at the same time (cannabis, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and amphetamine). Often this kind of test is strongly opposed by anti-drug associations despite being licensed. But that is not the case with Narcochek, which has been welcomed by the Moroccan association against smoking and drugs, which announced that it “is a real step forward in the fight against drug abuse.”

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Michael Gove Urges West to Support Israel, Not Terror

In today’s Sunday Telegraph Tim Montgomerie examines whether Britain will back the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood at the United Nations. Michael Gove, how Education Secretary, is unable to make public comment on the issue but this piece in The Times from 2001 offers many relevant thoughts.

Land for peace is an ancient principle. There is a special place in history for all those who have given an extra mile of territory to avoid further conflict. That place is called Munich.

That we in the West have failed to heed our own history is apparent in the approach we take to the Middle East. Observing the escalation of violence in Israel, with seven dead in the latest suicide bombings, the instinctive prayer is for peace. As it was in the Thirties. And hope therefore fixes on the prospect of “talks”. As it did in the Thirties.

So determined are we to see “talks” as the solution, that they are held as the one inviolable good in a wilderness of tears. The prevailing media narrative therefore has “renewed violence threatening the talks”, as though they were mutually exclusive antagonists, violence the indivisible evil and talks the quintessential good of this drama. But the truth about “talks” is that they are the product of violence, not its solvent. Munich was a reward for terror. Indeed the more “successful” talks are, the greater the legitimation for further violence. Once Sudetenland fell, who stood up for Prague?

The talks which the West demands that Israel continues to hold with the Palestinian Authority will only confer further legitimacy on a terrorist state. It is not just that Arafat’s territory harbours terrorists. It is terrorist. Militarily, culturally, spiritually. Just as much as any totalitarian regime from our dark continent’s 20th century.

Militarily terrorist? Arafat’s own presidential guard, Force 17, and its allied forces engage in regular sniping against Jewish targets, on both sides of the 1967 green line. Force 17 has combined with Hamas to attack Israeli communities in northern Jerusalem, liaised with Hezbollah in attacks from Gaza, and engaged in its own mortar bombings of Israeli settlements in Gaza as well as kibbutzim in the neighboroughing Negev. The Palestinian Authority’s summer camps train children to handle weapons with the aim, in the words of one 14-year-old, “to chase out the settlers”. In the words of the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Edward Walker, “Arafat has embraced violence as his prime negotiating tactic”.

Culturally terrorist? Arafat’s newspapers produce a stream of anti-Jewish invective, its cartoons depicting Jews as worms, Nazis and hook-nosed dwarves labelled “the disease of the century”. Those same media have accused the Jews of implementing “the protocols of the Elders of Zion”, spreading “mad cow” disease by smuggling contaminated chocolate into the Palestianian Authority, infecting Arab children with HIV and engaging in an “organised conspiracy to harm male virility” through poisoned food.

Arafat’s official school textbooks also practise the same subtlety. A set text for 13-year-old Palestinian children runs “Draw your sword, let us gather for war with red blood and blazing fire. Death shall call and the sword shall be crazed from much slaughter.” Lest any child wonder against whom the crazed sword should be unleashed a prose exercise for eight-year-olds makes all clear: “Complete the following blank exercise with the appropriate word: ‘The Zionist enemy (blank) civilians with its aircraft’.” No gold stars I suspect for any pupil who writes in “salutes”.

And spiritually terrorist? How about the sermon of Sheikh Sabri broadcast on the official Palestinian radio in which he declared: “Allah shall take revenge on behalf of his prophets against the colonialist settlers who are sons of monkeys and pigs.” Should anyone doubt what fate awaits the children of “monkeys and pigs” another sermon from the same sheikh clarifies doubts: “Muslims, I am sure that Israel will eventually be destroyed and that the settlements will be your spoils.” And it’s Israel that the UN thinks is racist?

Anyone tempted to condemn Israel for its recent actions should just ask themselves, what would any other state do when, having granted land for peace, it finds that land is being used as a bridgehead for war? Perhaps even more pertinently, what do other Middle Eastern states do when they face any opposition activity on their own soil? If you want the answer consider what the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad did to dissidents in Hama and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq to the Kurds of Halabja. If you can find witnesses alive. And yet we expect talks with these people to be productive?

In contrast to the practice of every other Middle Eastern state, democratic Israel is exercising restraint in the face of provocation. It responds to indiscriminate terror with limited, targeted, military strikes against the instigators of terror. Because, unlike every other Middle Eastern state, Israel is a democracy. And therein lies the inescapable, unspoken, obstacle to peace in the Middle East.

Arab nations, such as Arafat’s, Assad’s and Saddam’s, are tyrannies which need an external enemy to blame for the woes of an oppressed people. Israel is that enemy, as the Jews were for Hitler. It does not matter how much land Israel cedes, or how many settlements are removed to make the West Bank satisfactorily Judenfrei for Chairman Arafat, these tyrannies will still need their enemy. And so the campaign of terror against Israel will continue as long as their tyranny does. The only way to bring lasting peace to the Middle East is to bring democracy to its peoples. And yet that is a course from which the West is steering away. It is no longer UK policy to back the opposition to Saddam, we place no sanction on Syria for its recent turn back to darkness, and we impose no penalty on Arafat for his reign of terror. All we do is beat up on the victim. When will we learn? Ask Neville Chamberlain.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Dilemma of Palestine and the United Nations

Where do Britain, Israel, the United States stand on Palestine’s bid for statehood?

What are the Palestinians trying to achieve at the UN this week?

In the next few days Palestinian leaders are set to apply for full membership of the United Nations. Just two nights ago, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, used a televised address to supporters to describe full UN statehood as “our right”. Hillary Clinton and the US diplomatic service have been working overtime to discourage the application. Although America has the power to veto full membership, it doesn’t possess enough allies to stop Palestine achieving observer status.

Why does America object?

Washington fears that granting statehood will endanger the already slim prospects for a resumption of face-to-face talks with Israel.Israel has a justifiable suspicion of the United Nations. The UN’s human rights body was, until recently, chaired by Gadaffi-run Libya and has repeatedly censured Israel while remaining silent on the crimes of regimes such as Syria. Hillary Clinton fears that a Palestinian delegation will harness the UN’s anti-Israel sentiment to pursue relentless acts of “lawfare”. Even observer status could give Palestine the right to attempt multiple, vexatious prosecutions of Israel through the International Criminal Court.

What’s Britain’s position?

Although British Conservatives have traditionally been closer to the American world view, there is something of a shift taking place as Anglo-French relations become warmer and deeper. In Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday this shift was evident as David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy stood before an ecstatic, mainly Muslim crowd, championing the most exciting manifestation of the Arab Spring so far. Foreign Office advisers have warned William Hague that Britain’s improved status in the Middle East could be compromised if Britain takes Israel’s side at the UN. Consequently, the UK has been leaning towards a compromise position drafted by Paris that would give Palestine observer status. The thinking behind this position was summed up by Alistair Burt, the foreign office minister. “It would be a disaster,” he said, if after the UN process “one side proclaimed triumph and the other reacted to a disaster”.

Will Israel accept a compromise?

No. Israel is feeling even more vulnerable than usual at the moment. Last week’s attacks on its embassy in Cairo were bad enough. Worse was the new Egyptian regime’s failure

to even answer Israel’s increasingly desperate calls when the rioting was at its worst. Relations with Turkey have become very hostile and the international community seems unable to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons — weapons that Tehran has promised to aim at Tel Aviv. Israel points out that the Palestinian authority has recently brokered a deal with the terrorist-sponsoring Hamas. It notes that Abbas has said that he’ll exclude every Jew from any Palestinian state. Israel believes that it would be wrong for the international community to reward this kind of extremism.

What’s the view of Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs?

At the top of the Government, Iain Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, Michael Gove and George Osborne are steadfast supporters of Israel and they are joined by many Conservative backbenchers. There are, however, a handful of increasingly vocal Tory critics of Israel. Their hand has been strengthened by the sometimes bellicose rhetoric of Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and also by the yellow half of the Coalition. Nearly all Liberal Democrat MPs support full statehood for Palestine. Chris Huhne has said he is “entirely sympathetic” with Abbas’s objective, and Ming Campbell has described Alistair Burt’s middle-of-the-road position as profoundly disappointing. Nick Clegg himself is thought to be under pressure from his wife, who has previously advised the Palestinian Authority.

What does Cameron do?

The Prime Minister probably won’t veto Palestinian statehood for fear of causing a dangerous rift with the Liberal Democrats. He’ll also have noted threats from Saudi Arabia to reduce co-operation with the West if Palestinian hopes are dashed. On the deep blue sea side of his devilish dilemma, he knows he risks his government’s relationship with Israel. Cameron has been skating on thin ice for some time with friends of the region’s pre-eminent democracy. Neither he nor William Hague are seen as reliable allies. The Prime Minister caused upset last year when he likened Gaza to a “prison camp”. More recently he caused offence when he resigned as a patron of the Jewish National Fund. With all key parties gathering in New York this week, the PM’s hope is that a showdown vote can somehow be avoided. He hopes that the whole drama will force all sides back to the negotiating table. That seems unlikely without some major concession from Israel on, for example, the building of settlements. And without major concessions, Abbas is unlikely to spare Cameron or Barack Obama from having to make some very awkward choices.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cyprus: Tension Over Oil, Turkey Threatens Warships

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA — Turkish warships may keep guard over the underwater oil prospecting possibly to be conducted by Turkey on the basis of an agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This was reported by the Turkish agency Anadolu, which quoted Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz. In reiterating the appeals made over the past few days by the foreign ministry, Yildzi urged the Greek-Cypriot government to immediately halt preparatory works for imminent oil and gas surveying through a platform of the US company Nobel, since it is seen as a “provocation”. The drilling around Cyprus are a cause of friction undermining Turkey’s relations with the EU. “The platform may even be accompanied by a Navy fleet,” said the Turkish minister. “If the administration of Southern Cyprus implements the schedule for prospecting in the Mediterranean, TPAO may also begin its surveying,” added Yildiz in reference to the Turkish state oil company, saying that the agreement with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC, recognised only by Turkey) to conduct prospecting in the part of the sea between Turkey and the northern part of the island is “ready”.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Greece to Stand by Cyprus in Case of Turkey’s Attack, Minister

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, SEPTEMBER 19 — Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Stavros Lambrinides assured on Sunday that Greece would stand by Cyprus in case Turkey decided to attack, due to the launching of explorations for hydrocarbons in Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone. Lambrinides noted that the Eastern Mediterranean does not need a “gendarme”, especially one who, instead of implementing international law, is the first to violate it, the minister said speking with Greek media.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Iraq: Mgr Sako: Middle East Christians, Between State Islam and Fundamentalism

The Arab springtime and changes in the Middle East are feeding fundamentalism and threatening to destroy those countries’ millenary cultural pluralism. For Mgr Sako, Christians in the near East must dialogue with courage and sincerity with fundamentalists, Muslim Brothers, Salafi and Sunni and Shia authorities. It is important to clarify “our fears and our hopes”.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) — The changes in Middle East countries in recent years threaten to foment fundamentalism. Mgr. Louis Sako, Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Kirkuk, says the Christian minority there, accustomed to living under state Islam, should dialogue with its Muslim fellow citizens and explain that it is possible to live side by side with reciprocal respect and dignity. With regard to the Arab springtime and attempts on the part of the West to export its own model of democracy, the Archbishop affirms: such attempts are ineffective, it is better to focus on educating youth.

For years the political geography of the Middle East— in Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya… — has initiated and suffered changes. These changes are a source of acute concern for religious and ethnic minority groups, mainly Christians. A Middle East divided in different ethnic nations, so often proposed, would destroy a mosaic of millenary pluralism without bringing a solution.

In actual fact, our Middle East Christians have discovered a way of life, more or less positive, under state Islam. For 14 centuries we have lived in peaceful, although conditioned, co-existence. We, Christians of the near East, are aware of our future in these Muslim majority countries. Without either over-simplifying or exaggerating, we know that for Islam State and religion walk hand in hand and cannot be separated. Even in countries, so-called, secularised, there has never been a separation of the two powers, as in the case of the West.

However today the situation has changed completely. Fundamentalist Islam is growing and becoming an increasingly concerning phenomenon. Extremists want Islamic law, (Shari’a) to be the basic law of the State, to protect their religious and ethnic identity (umma, community of true believers) from the “atheist corrupt” West. The Koran teaches Muslims that Islam, the religion taught by Mahommet the greatest of all prophets, is the only true and complete religion. This is why they preach the necessity of holy war (Jihad) to protect and to propagate their religion. But this could become extremely dangerous.

The Arab springtime has brought with it a powerful demand for democracy and recognition of the human rights of the individual. But, putting aside international propaganda, this idea, unfortunately, is something formal, belonging to theoretic principles rather than concrete reality. For the time being Europe’s democratic model cannot work in the Middle East: it will take a long time for it to be applicable and it will demand a new culture and the formation of youth.

If we, the Christian minorities which have always lived in these countries, are to obtain a better future we have to rely only on ourselves, knowing that the West is led only by financial and political interests, all connected with oil. We must make it clear to our Muslim fellow citizens, frankly and without ambiguity, that we are an integral part of the population. We are native to these parts: we contributed greatly to the formation of Muslim culture, during the Caliphate of the Umayyads and the Abbasids; we were chief players in the renaissance of the Arab nation in the 18th century; today, we intend to maintain our role side by side. We must tell them: we respect you and we love you because God who is love, loves us all . For our part, we ask you to respect us as we are and to respect our religion. Only in this way will we trust one another and strengthen our relations.

Therefore it is necessary to discuss together the reasons for our fears and for our hopes. With courage and sincerity, we must discuss our common destiny with fundamentalists, Muslim Brothers, Salafis, Sunni and Shiite authorities. We must show them our sincerity, our commitment and our determination to live side by side with respect and with dignity.

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

‘Pure Islam Root of Region’s Awakening’

The final statement of the first International Conference on Islamic Awakening in Tehran highlights the role of pure Islam and popular involvement in political and social fields.

According to the statement issued on Sunday, “Unity of the entire Muslim Ummah (Nation) is necessary for returning to national and Islamic dignity and independence of Muslim nations from the political, economic and ideological dominance of oppressive powers.” The statement pointed out the unique role of people, especially women and youths, in the popular revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa. The “glorious resistance” of Palestine and Lebanon against Israel was described as the most significant subject in the Muslim world. The conference also expressed solidarity with the people of Somalia who face a dreadful famine. Five special committees were set up during the two-day event to discuss different aspects of the Islamic Awakening, including the history and basic tenets of the revival movement as well as figures that have played a role in the popular uprisings, and the challenges ahead. The conference, attended by scholars and popular figures from over 80 countries at the IRIB international conference center, also agreed on the establishment of a permanent secretariat based in Tehran.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Qatar Airways to Operate 4 New Milan Malpensa-Doha Flights

(AGI) Milan — Qatar Airways decided to operate four new weekly fights from Milan to Doha. The new services will starts from the 1st of January 2012 and tickets are already on sale. These services will be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Thursdays so that two flights will be available for these days.

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

Turkey: Planes and Torpedo Boats Over Gas Fields, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, SEPTEMBER 19 — The European part of Cyprus has commenced the exploration of an underwater gas field in its disputed territorial waters and immediately — expressly as a retaliatory measure — Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan replied that Turkey would be doing the same off the northern half of the island split in two. The tension created in the area for at least the past two weeks due to the Turkish-Israeli diplomatic crisis rose after Ankara announced it would be sending warships and planes despite the EU’s calls for calm and talks. Cypriot sources have said that the gas exploration operations in the waters south of the island began yesterday evening, with an acceleration compared with the presidential announcement yesterday that they would be beginning “over the next few days”, at least as concerns the true “drilling” in the Block 12 (also known as Aphrodite) field in the Republic of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone. In action is the Homer Ferrington oil drilling rig of the Texan company Noble Energy which — after conducting surveys in Israeli territorial waters — has today been positioned on the perpendicular of the field. Faithful to the threats expressed over the past few days, Erdogan — on his departure for the UN General Assembly — announced that Turkish underwater exploration for gas off the northern coast of Cyprus may begin “this week” in “our exclusive economic zone”, and that it will be monitored by planes, frigates and torpedo boats — rapidly-moving but small, the latter launch torpedoes against larger ships. Cypriot radio has already reported the presence, in international waters but close to the Homer Ferrington rig, Turkish ships that for the moment have not shown any aggressive intentions. On the other hand, a Turkish newspaper noted yesterday two F-16 fighterplanes streaking through the air with trajectories worthy of an appeal to the UN, and Greece has promised strong support to its neighbouring islanders should an attack take place. The prospect of war, previously conjured up by Erdogan in speaking at the beginning of the month on naval escorts to flotillas carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, spurred EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to urge Turkey to “abstain from any sort of threat” which could result in even higher tension levels with Cyprus, the island divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974 between one part internationally recognised (the Greek-Cypriot one) and another accredited only by Ankara.

Brussels has appealed to Turkey and Cyprus “to find a comprehensive solution as soon as possible” on the status of Northern Cyprus, which is at the centre talks under UN aegis. The atmosphere is, however, not of one of constructive talks — seeing as a Turkish minister has today reiterated a threat formulated yesterday by the deputy prime minister: if Cyprus gets the scheduled EU rotating presidency in the second half of next year without previously having solved the issue of the divided island, Turkey will freeze relations with the EU.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Drunk Navigator Contributed to Russian Plane Crash

A drunk navigator was a contributing factor in June’s air disaster that killed 47 people in northwest Russia, according to a new report. The investigation has also placed blame for the crash with the other crew members.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Moscow Muslims Mourn Demolished Mosque

MOSCOW // For more than a century, Moscow’s Muslims have found affirmation in their Cathedral Mosque, painted in a minty pastel evocative of the city’s cherished old buildings, with a golden crescent high above, proclaiming their identity. This week, the mosque, built by Tatar Muslims, who have lived in Russia for a thousand years, was a pile of splintered wood, shattered brick and billowing plaster.

The mosque was demolished last weekend, the official reason being that the 1904 building was badly deteriorated and heavy rains had made it so dangerous that it had to be destroyed before it collapsed and killed someone. But longtime Muscovites, Muslim and not, were unconvinced, saying it was a historic monument that should have been preserved at all costs. Ravil Gainutdin, the chief mufti, who works out of offices next door, shed no tears. Mr Gainutdin heads the government-backed Spiritual Board of Muslims of the European Part of Russia. Recently he had been complaining that the mosque was not properly aligned with Mecca and that it had no historic value.

Farid Asadullin, the chairman of the scientific and public department of the Council of Muftis, said houses of worship are destroyed all the time, pointing out that Moscow’s Orthodox Christ the Saviour Cathedral, dating from 1883, was torn down in 1931 (by Stalin, who replaced it with a swimming pool) and then built anew in the 1990s. “Renewal of a mosque is a natural process,” he said. Little was heard outside the official religious structure until Thursday, when several Moscow Muslims and preservationists organised a news conference to mourn their loss. They had a hard time finding space but finally ended up in the attic of a marginalised political party, Yabloko, with mostly religious and ethnic media members in attendance.

“I am not such a believer,” said Adil Belayev, an elderly man with pure white hair who said some of his kin had helped build the mosque. “I don’t pray every day. But that was a holy place, and I felt it.” The mosque was built despite Tsarist disapproval, and it withstood revolution and repression, said Mukhammyat Minachev, who is Muslim. “And now someone has demolished our memories,” he said. Gayar Iskandyarov, an engineer and leader of the Foundation for the Development of the Muslim People, said the mosque had been a cultural centre for Tatars, keeping their language and traditions alive even though they were a minority in Orthodox Russia.

A new mosque is being built next to the destroyed one. The cornerstone was laid in 2005, but it is still far from finished, and no work has been done in a few years. Now, officials said, the permits are in hand and work can proceed. Around the edges of the room, journalists whispered that a Muslim from the Caucasus had donated a great deal of money to finish construction of the new mosque and that tearing down the old one represented a shift in power. Once Tatars defined the Muslim community; now they are outnumbered by Muslims from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The Muslims at the news conference, Tatars who grew up in Moscow, said they should have been told that the mosque needed repairs. They could have come up with alternatives. The old one could have been incorporated into the new one. “That would have been too expensive,” interrupted Farit Farisov, chairman of the board of trustees of the Council of Muftis, who attended the event. “Where would we get the money?” Of course people had been told, he said later. “Maybe we didn’t use the word ‘demolish’, but we talked about reconstruction,” he said. “I’m a lawyer. I cannot define demolish or reconstruct. Talk to an architect.” He said that the new mosque will be finished within a year or so and that the old one will be restored as part of it. Frescoes were saved, he said. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Everything will be fine.” As he spoke, a large yellow steam shovel was biting into the rubble of the mosque, dropping it into a red dump truck.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Russian Minority Party Wins Latvian Elections

Russian minority party Harmony Centre won Latvian elections over weekend with 29.5% of the vote, reports Reuters. It is the first time the party — positioned as centre-left — has come out top in the Baltic nation where around a third of the 2.2 million population are Russian speakers.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Russian Company Plans to Set Up a Hotel in Space

Orbital Technologies plans to set up a hotel in space by 2016 and offer space tours to Mars by 2030. Experts say it’s technically feasible, but will be very expensive.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India: Exclusive Mobile for Muslims

i786 comes with one year warranty with three months replacement comes at a price tag of Rs 2,999.

I-Tel, an unknown player in the mobile handset space, has launched India’s first multimedia customised mobile phone for Muslims. Known as i-Tel i786, it comes integrated with special software for Muslims like Azan Alarms, Prayer Timings, Wallpapers, Ring Tones, Higri and Greogeon Calender, and Zakat calculator. Talking to The Mobile Indian, a spokesperson of the company said, “We have started the customised mobile phone for Muslims having customised Muslim calendar, prayer timing schedule and Qibla directions and Muslim wallpapers.’

He added: “We have taken permission from the biggest mosque and leading Islamic scholars to sell this customised Muslim handsets to Muslims all over the world after intensive research.” The spokesperson further said that the company will give 2.5 per cent Zakat (a kind of donation given by Muslims for social welfare) on every sale of the handset to needy and poor Muslim children, and NGOs for educational purposes. Besides, i-Tel has also taken special permission to put the model i786 as this number is highly auspicious for Muslims as it means “we start in the name of Allah”

The i786 is a dual SIM phone which has integrated MP3, MP4 player and supports Bluetooth. It has a camera of 1.3 megapixel resolution as well. It supports English, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Persian, Turkish, Bengali, Burmese, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai language. This phone comes with one year warranty with three months replacement comes at a price tag of Rs 2,999.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Muslim Miss Universe

CAIRO — A beauty pageant for hijab-clad Muslim women who can recite the holy Qur’an in Arabic and participate in the welfare of their society has been held in West Jakarta to choose Muslims’ ‘Miss Universe’. “It’s the first online Islamic beauty contest in the world,” Eka Shanty, executive director of the nonprofit Indonesia Islamic Fashion Consortium, which organized the event, told The Jakarta Globe. “In the Miss Universe contests, the candidates parade their bodies in revealing dresses,” Eka added. “But in this contest, they’re all covered. Not an inch of skin shows, except for their faces and hands.”

Coming to Puri Agung Grand Ballroom in West Jakarta last Week, 10 young women wearing colorful hijabs and dresses sat on the floor to recite the verses of the holy Qur’an.

These young women were all finalists of Muslimah Beauty 2011, a beauty pageant held for young Muslim women in Indonesia which aims to recognize the beauty and potential of young women who wear hijabs. Coming through a long way, the contest began by online registration on social media Web site The contest required Muslim Indonesian women between the ages of 18 and 24, over 165 centimeters in height, who don hijab, could recite Qur’an in Arabic and was fluent in another foreign language.

“The registration method was very effective,” said Arifin Asydhad, the Web site’s deputy editor in chief. “We received 1,170 registrations from almost every part of Indonesia.”

Candidates from different areas in Indonesia were first shortlisted to 50 based on their physical appearance, achievements and educational background.

Ten finalists were selected on Sept. 9 and placed under “quarantine” at Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel in Central Jakarta on Sept. 11-12. “We call the quarantine period Manasik Kecantikan Hati [rituals for inner beauty],” Eka said. “During this period, all candidates performed sholat tahajud [early morning prayer] at 3 am and studied the Qur’an together.”

Inner Beauty

Trotting in their colorful hijab, contestants’ beauty was more than just a pretty face. “In my opinion, true beauty comes from the inside,” Dika Restiyani, the winner of the beauty pageant, said. “A truly beautiful woman is someone who benefits and inspires other people.” Restiyani studies at the Nanyang Technological University. She also manages, along with a group of friends, Pelangi Anak Negeri (Children of the Nation’s Rainbow), an organization that provides education for street children in South Jakarta. Another finalist, Kholifah Nuzulia Firdausy, works as an architect in Malang, East Java. She also runs a library for disadvantaged children in the area. Most of the finalists said they have been wearing the hijab since they were young.

“I feel comfortable in a hijab,” said finalist Shayma Faisal Abri, who started donning hijab when she was 6. “It protects me from exposure to matahari [sunlight] and mata laki-laki [men’s eyes],” the 18-year-old added with a smile. Reaching the final stage, the finalists represented role models for Indonesian women who observe their religion. “They’re the heroines of Indonesian Muslim women,” said Edy Putra Irawady, the deputy minister for trade and industry. “They’re all very young, yet they possess great talents and huge potential. They should be the role models and benchmarks for Indonesian Muslim women.” Eka, the executive director of the nonprofit Indonesia Islamic Fashion Consortium, agrees. “The winners will be the fashion and beauty icons of young Muslim women in Indonesia,” Eka said. “They’ll also represent Indonesian Muslim women to the world at large.

The event is also expected to draw the attention of all Muslim world, being held in the country with the largest Muslim population. “Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world,” Eka explained. “That’s why it should also be the Mecca for Muslim beauty and fashion in the world.”

[JP note: Muslims miss universe and arrive in heaven?]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Jakarta Governor Comes Under Fire by Women’s Rights Groups

Jakarta, 19 Sept. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — Indonesian women’s rights activists condemned Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo for his statement that shifted the blame for a spike in rape cases onto women wearing tight and revealing outfits.

Fauzi said on Friday that women should not wear miniskirts when riding public transportation vehicles to avoid “any unwanted consequences”.

“I urge women in Jakarta and other cities to avoid wearing miniskirts when they ride on these minivans, because this could arouse male drivers and passengers,” Fauzi said responding to questions on what the city government would do to reduce the number of rape cases in the city. Activists were outraged by the statement, saying that it was a shameful statement from a public official.

“Fauzi should just resign. The governor of Jakarta should not make such statements as it does not reflect good governance principles,” said director of Jurnal Perempuan Foundation Mariana Amiruddin.

Mariana said that rape should be considered as a crime, no matter what triggered the act.

“By attributing rape to how women dress Fauzi is blaming the victims. This is like saying that if Fauzi drove the minivan, he would think that it would be all right for him to rape female passengers in mini skirts,” she said.

Chairperson of the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) Yuniyanti Chuzaifah said that Fauzi’s statement was a classic statement of authority putting the blame on victims.

“His statement suggests that it is women who should be responsible [when a rape occurs],” she said.

Yuniyanti said Fauzi had done a lousy job in gender education for Jakarta residents.

“As the highest-ranking official in the city, Fauzi should be aware that people follow his example. If he’s saying things like this, people will think that he’s right,” she said.

This is not the first time government officials have made statements that shifted the blame for rape onto women.

In 2009, West Aceh regent Ramli Mansur made national headlines for suggesting that it was all right to rape a woman who wore tight pants.

Responding to a recent spike in rape cases in the city, a number of experts have also made statements that could be deemed as discriminatory against women.

Sociologist Musni Umar of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) said earlier this week that YouTube videos with suggestive dangdut moves could be responsible for the spike in the number of sexual assault cases.

“Sexual assaults are very likely the result of YouTube. Those videos could easily arouse men,” he said as quoted by

Meanwhile, police in South Jakarta handling the case of R.S., who was gang-raped inside a public transportation minivan on Sept. 1, said they found new evidence that could prove that the victim may have personally known one of the rapists, identified as A.

In a statement that could further victimize R.S., South Jakarta Police Detective Chief Sr. Comr. Budi Irawan said that R.S. had contacted A to meet her at a rendezvous point the night of the incident.

“R.S. was rather shocked finding three other men inside the minivan. But since she knew one of her assailants, she decided to get on board,” Budi said.

R.S., 27, was gang-raped by four men inside an M24 minivan plying the Srengseng-Kebon Jeruk route, on Sept. 1. The rapists also stole her cell phones before dumping her on a quiet street.

No response was given by the police when the woman reported the incident to police. Two weeks later on Tuesday evening, she spotted one of the rapists, the minivan driver, and had him arrested with the help of two traffic police officers.

Three suspects in the case are still at large.

This latest gang-rape case is similar to an incident involving a Bina Nusantara University student, Livia Pavita Soelistio, earlier last month.

According to criminal code article 285 on rape, a convicted rapist faces a maximum jail term of 12 years.

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

Maldivian Government Endorses Deobandi Islam, The Religion of the Taliban

The Religious Unity Regulations have provided the clearest indication yet of the official direction religion in the Maldives is taking: towards Deobandi Islam, the religion of the Taliban.

Among 36 institutions of Islamic learning approved by the regulations is the ultra-orthodox Jamia Darul Uloom in Deoband, India and at least six affiliated madrassas. Established in 1867 to bring together Muslims who were hostile to British rule, the Deoband madrassa, created the so-called ‘Deobandi Tradition’ committed to a literal and austere interpretation of Islam. For the last 200 years, the Deobandi Tradition has argued that the reason Islamic societies have fallen behind the West on all spheres of endeavour is because they have been seduced by the amoral West, and have deviated from the original teachings of Prophet Mohammed.

It is the fundamentalist Deobad Da-ul-Uloom brand of Islam that inspired the Taliban movement. Many of the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan and in Pakistan are graduates of the Deobandi-influenced seminaries in Pakistan. Mullah Omar, for example, attended the Deobandi Darul Uloom Haqqania madrassa in Peshawar. The Kabul Centre for Strategic Studies has reported that so many of the Taliban leaders were educated at the school that its head cleric, Maulana Sami ul-Haq is regarded the father of the Taliban. The Deobandi Tradition is highly critical of Islam as practised in modern societies, feeling that the established religious order had made too many compromises with its foreign environment.

The mission of the Deoband is to cleanse Islam of all Western influences, and to propagate their teachings with missionary zeal. Increasingly, the Deobandi movement has been funded by the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, leading to the former being co-opted by the latter. Without a clear indication — such as ‘Darul Uloom’ appearing in the name of the institution — it cannot be said with certainty how many of the total of 10 listed Pakistani institutions in the regulations are categorically Deobandi.

Available facts suggest, however, that more than just the two Darul Ulooms listed in the Regulations are Deobandi. It is the Deobandi that has the largest number of religious seminaries in Pakistan — of 20,000 registered seminaries in Pakistan, 12,000 are run by Deobandi scholars; and 6,000 by the Barlevi, with whom the Deobandi have many disputes.

Among the 10 Pakistani institutions approved by the regulations is also Jamia Salafia, a seminary whose alumni include several leaders in Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the organisation behind the Mumbai terror attacks in which a Maldivian is alleged to have participated. It is also the leading supplier of Salafi neo-conservatism in the Maldives.

Even when the approved list of institutions in the regulations’ list goes beyond South Asian borders, it gravitates towards the Deobandi movement. The list includes, for example, the Dhaarul Uloom Zakariya in South Africa. The only institute in Britain the regulations approve of is the Islamic Da’wa Academy, a place which produces the Muslim equivalent of a missionary. Why is there such an acute need to proselytise in a country where the population already believes in Islam except to propagate a particular view? The Deoband HQ has recently sought to distance itself from violent extremism. For the powers that be in the War on Terror, what matters is the graduation from extremism to violence. But, for societies such as the Maldives, and for the people who have to live under its precincts, what matters more is the oppression that extremism imposes on daily life. This is the reality that a Maldivian people living under the Religious Unity Regulations will have to face.

The application of the Deobandi school of thought on Maldivian women is a frightening prospect that is not too far in the distant future. The Taliban’s stance on women is a clear indication of the scale of the potential problem. An example of the Deobandi’s take on women is the 24 April 2010 Fatwa by the seminary in Deoband that declared it ‘haraam’ and illegal according to Sharia for a family to accept a women’s earnings. ‘It is unlawful for Muslim women to do job in government or private institutions where men and women work together and women have to talk with men frankly and without veil.’ Embarrassed by the angry reaction in the Indian media and among women’s groups, the Deoband madrassa denied it banned women from the work place and only insisted that working women be ‘properly covered’. As analysts have pointed out, however, what the Fatwa suggests is that women can only work in such places where they can fully veil themselves and where they cannot ‘frankly’ talk to men, whatever that means. The Fatwa effectively banned Muslim women from the workplace in India.

The Religious Unity Regulations stipulate that no one should propagate their particular ideology of Islam as the ‘right Islam’. This stipulation looks good in writing, and is perhaps what has allowed the government to spin the document as ‘a crack-down on extremism’. It is true the regulations prohibit the promotion of a particular ideology of Islam as the ‘true Islam’. But by regulating what truth about Islam would be considered as legitimate in the first place, a pre-selected knowledge of the ‘right Islam’ — what looks like Deobandi Islam — is being imposed on the people that pre-empts the regulations themselves. It is clear from the staggering changes that have occurred in Maldivian faith in the last decade that the Deobandi movement has been a resounding success in the country. Now it has the chance to flourish further, with no conflicting opinions to be allowed in.

Clamping down on other forms of Islam is, in fact, a defining characteristic of the Deobandi Tradition. Although from a global perspective the Deobandis are only one of many religious expressions of Islam, from the Deobandi point of view, theirs is the only true Islam. The Deobandi regard all other forms of Islam as heretical, leading to continued tension and long-term violence between the Deobandi and other Muslims. In Pakistan, where the Deobandi is known to have played a crucial role in establishing an Islamic state, the Deobandi Taliban have carried out many acts of violence against followers of the Berlevi tradition, which many Pakistan’s Muslims follow.

The Religious Unity Regulations have already created tensions among those who have claimed the mantle of ‘religious scholar’ in the Maldives. The Islamic Foundation of the Maldives is arguing against the Regulations on the basis that the requirement of a first degree as a prerequisite for the Preachers License is unconstitutional. It is also fighting for the religious right to describe Jews as ‘evil people and liars’.

The Adhaalath Party, meanwhile, has objected to the regulations because the President and his advisors apparently watered down the purity of their contributions to the draft Regulations by contaminating it with “provisions from English law…not suited to a 100 percent Muslim country”, echoing the founding principles of the Deobandi Tradition.

‘Compared to the first draft’, President’s advisor on the Regulations, Ibrahim ‘Ibra’ Ismail, said, “the regulations do not impinge on freedom of expression”. What matters is not whether, comparatively speaking, the first draft is a veritable Magna Carta. What matters is the final draft that has been gazetted. And it severely restricts the freedom of the Maldivian people in the name of the ‘right Islam’ — Deobandi Islam. To spin the document as something that “will allow liberal-minded thinkers to convince people of the middle ground” is deliberately misleading if not an outright lie. This document does the exact opposite.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Acid Attacks: 7 Women Burned in Two Days

FAISALABAD: A total of seven women suffered acid attacks in the past two days in Faisalabad in separate incidents.

First year student Tayyiba was on her way back home from a local tuition academy when students Ali Raza and Hamza allegedly chased her and threatened her life.

“Both boys go to the same college as me and they were heckling me for not wearing a dupatta on my head. They tried to grab me and when I yelled at them they attacked me with acid,” Tayyiba told police officials before being admitted to the hospital. “She said that both men had said she ‘deserved for her face to be ruined because she had not covered her head’

In another incident, a man and his two friends allegedly threw acid at his wife and five other women from her family. According to police officials, Chak 132 GB Dijkot resident Umar Hayat attacked his wife Nabila and five women of her family after she refused to leave with him.

“He told her he would never hit her again if she left with him and when she refused he threw acid on her and all the other women”…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: With ‘Enforced Disappearances’, the Communist Party Becomes a Bunch of Common Criminals

On 30 August, the government legalised ‘detention under surveillance’, a practice that is absolutely illegal that allows the authorities to make people disappear without motive or rights. It is a throwback to the dark days of the Cultural Revolution, but today people are less patient than at that time. Here is an analysis by the great dissident.

Washington (AsiaNews) — The U.S. State Department spokesperson issued a statement to a question taken at the August 30, 2011 daily press briefing regarding the Chinese Government’s effort to modify its Criminal Procedure Law to legalize enforced disappearance, which is neither consistent with international human rights law, nor consistent with other provisions in Chinese law. The United States urged the Chinese government to respect Chinese citizens’ rights when it makes legal revisions.

Many friends ask: What is enforced disappearance? From an academic perspective, it is of course is a non-voluntary and forced disappearance. From an international perspective, the United Nations has a special Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. Its role is to monitor and criticize those illegal governments and cliques that engage in forced disappearance, in an effort to protect ordinary people against persecution by the rich and powerful.

In other words, the Special Working Group tries to force those officials or powerful groups to comply with the law, and to be reasonable. If a person is forcefully detained somewhere such that even the family and community do not know his whereabouts, who could tell if the authority or group which holds the person is law-abiding? Who could interfere with it? It could reach the degree that nobody knows if or when the person disappeared forever. Thus, it contributes to lawlessness and encourages treating people as non-human. Regardless whether a person is good or bad, a civilized society should treat anyone as a person. This is human rights.

Human rights are not a vague and general theory, but something closely related to the presence of each of us. To say it bluntly, human rights is about people being counted as animals or not, which is not a trivial thing. Human rights are like the air; usually you do not feel it is important until you lose it. Then you can appreciate its vital importance. This time, the Chinese Communist regime is changing the law actually in open violation of its own laws, by legalizing the illegal detention and enforced disappearance. This is a huge setback of the Chinese legal system in the past three decades.

It is a bit like what happened before the Cultural Revolution in China. First, the law was openly violated, and then gradually society entered the famous “complete lawlessness” state as claimed by Jiang Qing, Mao Zedong’s wife. Not only common people, even various governmental and party officials found it hard to escape this persecution of “complete lawlessness”. There was no place for one to make a rational argument, or even use the sophistry of the Chinese Communist Party. That was because you simply did not exist. You had disappeared.

An example back in the Cultural Revolution was Liu Shaoqi. As the President of China, Liu Shaoqi was also forced to disappear. No one knew where he was. No one knew how he was. Even no one knew when he died. Only 10 years later when he was “redressed”, did we learn that he had been persecuted to death long ago. Does not the President of a country have a lot of power? It was useless. As long as he was forced to disappear, he would not be able to reason with those guards who only care about discipline. He would be treated as an animal, to be dealt with in whatever way they like.

At least Liu Shaoqi was arrested. So at least people still knew that he was in the hands of the judiciary, knew that he was in prison. In 1994, the public security authority in China invented a so-called “residence under surveillance”, which is called “forced disappearance” today. I maybe the first person who was forced to disappear in the name of “residence under surveillance”. At that time, I was detained by the authorities. They really could not find a suitable accusation. The Procuratorate did not approve, not only the arrest, but even the detention. That was because the Communist authorities really failed to provide a legitimate reason, yet they were unwilling to let me go home. Even though I made repeated requests, they refused to inform my family. I threaten that I would sue them for illegal detention.

There was no need for ordinary police to bear such a serious charge. Their superiors had to find a legitimate reason in order to continue my detention without informing the outside world. The only capacity the Public Security Bureau authority had was the “residence under surveillance”. Thus they offered a piece of “residence under surveillance”, but would not let me return to my own residence. When I strongly protested against this blatant practice of lawlessness, they claimed that the condition of the detention place was no worse than my home. I strongly urged them to notify my family according to law. But they responded that since my case had not entered the judicial process, it was unnecessary to carry out the detention according to law. In short, with the approval of the highest authorities, they could be as unreasonable as bandits.

At that time, I was already under forced disappearance and incommunicado, thus I could do nothing anymore. Eighteen months later, when my case was sent to the courts, I asked the judge to at least count these eighteen months. The judge said: since the detention was not carried out according to law, they do not know how to calculate the sentence accordingly. Thus, my detention became simply a waste of my time. But, fortunately I was still alive and there were law enforcement agencies that did not agree with the lawlessness of the people who detained me. So it was not the worst.

The worst came when the Chinese authority published the amendments to the Criminal Procedure Law on August 30, 2011. Now, it is legal to engage in forced disappearance. Authorities can detain people in secret places without notifying the family and the outside world, to the degree that no one knows even when one is permanently disappeared. If you are as lucky as Liu Shaoqi, then at least people will know where you once were when your case is redressed 10 years later. But what if you can never enter the judicial process? Then you are disappeared forever. What kind of law is a law that makes it legal to evaporate a person?

This is kind of law that meets the concept of the Chinese Communist Party. The law of the Communist Party is used to persecute people and to combat the enemy, rather than to set boundaries defining people’s interactions and restrict the powerful against innocent civilians. The elite of the Communist Party who are rich and powerful often accuse people who are defending their rights as unruly people. In fact, this type of bandit-style legal concept of the Communist Party is the true logic of the unruly shyster and tyrant.

During the almost 20 years since I was forced to disappear, this gangster logic has been inherited and developed. While the level of the officials detained have not reached to the level of Liu Shaoqi, numerous high and low ranking officials have been illegally detained these years, under a name just like that “residence under surveillance”: “double designation”. The Communist Party can illegally detain countless of its members outside of the judicial system, as if one ceases to be a person with legal entity when one joins the Communist Party. This situation could be described by the now fashionable wording of the Communist Party: Do not take the law as a shield.

The average Chinese are even less than the Communist Party members. Recently, there is a surge of people under forced disappearance, especially many lawyers. Further, they are subjected to torture and serious threat. Not only is there no place to reason with authorities during the detention, one even does not dare to reason when one is released. There is already no law, but simply a group of kidnappers. Now, by legalizing this logic of the kidnappers, the regime has become outright bandits. They really achieved the ideal of Mao Zedong and Jiang Qing: complete lawlessness.

I think that if the Cultural Revolution repeated again, the people will not expect the Communist Party to correct its own wrongs anymore. The reason may be explained by the old Chinese saying: People will treat their oppressors the way they have been treated. History cannot simply make the motion of a circle and stay in the same place.

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

Thousands Protest Against Nuclear Energy in Japan

Tens of thousands of protesters who want to abolish all nuclear plants in Japan rallied in central Tokyo Monday, just over six months after the nation’s worst nuclear crisis since the war.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australian Muslims Have New Leader

Australia’s Muslim community has a new spiritual leader after the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) elected a Melbourne-based scholar as its Grand Mufti. Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, who was born in Egypt, has been appointed to the position after a unanimous vote from imams in Sydney over the weekend. Council spokesman Sheikh Mohamadu Saleem says imams Australia-wide voted for Dr Mohamed following the resignation of the previous grand mufti, Sheikh Fehmi, due to bad health. Sheikh Saleem says its an important position. “[He] is the figurehead, our spiritual head of the Muslims and also he enjoys the respect and the regard from the general Australian community. Dr Abu Mohamed attained a PhD in Islamic Studies from Al Azhar University in Cairo and has been in Australia for around 20 years.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ghana: Muslim Leaders in Suhum Want School Head Removed

The Suhum Council of Muslim Chiefs and the entire leadership of Suhum Muslim community have bared their teeth at the Acting headmistress of Islamic Girls Senior High School at Suhum, Madam Sharifatu Adama Haruna for mismanaging the school and not adhering to the principles on which the school was founded. According to the council, Madam Sharifatu Adama has over the years exhibited gross disrespect towards leaders and stakeholders of the school and the entire Muslim religion and all attempts to draw the attention of Ghana Education Service to her conducts for redress and subsequent actions, have proved futile.

To this end, the Muslim community in Suhum has given Ghana Education Service one week ultimatum to transfer Madam Sharifatu or they will give her an emergency exit from the school if she stepped foot in the school next academic year which begins next week. Secretary to the Muslim Community in Suhum, Haruna Abedi told Asempa fm’s Maxwell Kudekor in an interview that the Muslim community cannot sit unconcerned and allow things to fall apart at a school they fronted and nurtured for years.

He added that, it is not their intention to create discomfort to any teaching or non teaching staff of the school but rather asked for collaboration and respect from the headmistress to all stakeholders. Haruna noted that, the headmistress of the Islamic Girls Senior High School, Suhum, does not appreciate and recognize the school as a Muslim mission school and has deliberately refused to accept that the school has a mission to accomplish; a mission which should not contravene the rules and regulations of Ghana Education Service.

He said the madam has banned all Muslims and leaders of Suhum from worshiping at the school mosque which was built by the same leaders and has further sacked the Imam of the mosque who was nominated by the district chief imam. According to him, in an attempt to correct the headmistress from her wrong doing, she insulted the leaders of the area and called them illiterates who know nothing. “This development resulted in several petitions against the headmistress but none of them have yielded result from the Ghana Education Service,” said Haruna Abedi.

The Islamic Girls Senior High School Suhum was established by the leadership of the suhum Muslim community in 1999 with the aim of providing education to the Muslim girl and to eradicate illiteracy in the Muslim community. The school since its inception was managed by the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar Muslim Community till the year 2006 when the GES drafted it into the SHS system and instituted a joint management with the Muslims and the Islamic Education Unit. Meanwhile the Suhum Kraboa Coaltar District Security Council has invited leaders of the Muslim community into a meeting to calm the situation whiles the Regional Director Of Education madam Adriana Kandilige has also been to the school to assess the situation.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Bachmann Claims Immigration Worked ‘Very Well’ Before 1960s Reforms, When Nonwhites Were Excluded

In her criticism of liberal immigration reform, Bachmann was presumably referring to the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, or Hart-Celler Act, which ended the de facto national origins quotas that had governed U.S. immigration policy since 1924.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Illegals Collecting Billions in Child Tax Credits

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, illegal aliens are bilking the federal government for billions because they are filing fraudulent returns, and the sum is much higher than even a top group opposed to illegal immigration has estimated.

The Treasury reported in July that the Internal Revenue Service coughed up $4.2 billion in child tax credits for illegal aliens in 2010.


The Treasury reported that illegals are fraudulently using the Additional Child Tax Credit, which was created to give more money to taxpayers who cannot claim a full tax credit for children.

The question is how illegals get away with gaming the system. Answer: Because all wages, even those earned illegally, are taxed, but since illegals cannot get valid Social Security numbers, the government needs a way to track their income and collect what is due. It does so using individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs), which, again, are for those taxpayers who cannot obtain a Social Security card.

These ITINs create the problem, and it’s a big one, according to the Treasury: The booty claimed by illegals using the ACTC has rocketed from $924 million in 2005 to $4.2 billion in 2010.

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

No Wonder Children Use ‘Gay’ To Mean ‘Rubbish’: Gay Culture is Shallow, Camp and Kitsch

by Brendan O’Neill

One thing that causes great consternation amongst schoolteachers, commentators and gay-rights activists is that young people use the word gay to mean “rubbish”. Last week it was reported that thousands of schoolchildren, some as young as four, have been reported to their local authorities for using racist or homophobic language, including using “gay” as a stand-in for “naff”. One boy was reprimanded for saying in class: “This work’s gay.” This follows other gay-as-rubbish controversies, including a tsunami of newspaper outrage when, in 2006, BBC Radio 1 presenter Chris Moyles described a mobile phone ringtone as “gay”, and even more outrage when the BBC inquiry into his remark ruled that the word gay is “often now used to mean ‘lame’ or ‘rubbish’. This is widespread current usage… among young people.”

But is it really such a mystery as to why the word gay has come to mean rubbish? It seems obvious to me. It is because gay culture is quite knowingly and resolutely lame. I don’t mean culture that happens to be produced by homosexuals, which includes some of the greatest art in history. No, I mean the stuff that passes for mainstream “gay culture”, foisted upon us by gay TV producers, filmmakers and magazine publishers, which is almost always shallow and camp and kitsch. That is, crap. If young people associate “gay” with “rubbish”, then they’re more perceptive than we give them credit for — they have twigged that, sadly, what is these days packaged up us as “gay culture” is almost always patronising pap.

The irony is that in turning gay into a codeword for rubbish, these allegedly uncouth schoolkids are only echoing observations made by some of the leading liberal thinkers of the past 50 years. In her famous essay “Notes on Camp”, published in 1964, Susan Sontag examined what she called the “improvised self-elected class, mainly homosexuals, who constitute themselves as aristocrats of taste” and who are fascinated with “camp” — that is, with viewing the world “not in terms of beauty, but in terms of the degree of artifice, of stylisation”. Camp culture is more interested in style than content, said Sontag; indeed, its emphasis on style is “to slight content, to introduce an attitude which is neutral with respect to content”. Sontag said the “ultimate camp statement” is “it’s good because it’s awful” — recognising nearly 50 years before today’s schoolkids that there’s something inherently rubbish about certain strands of gay culture.

Various thinkers have expanded on Sontag’s analysis of the celebrated awfulness of so-called gay culture. In his book, The Culture of Queers, Richard Dyer says a key part of mainstream gay culture and fashion is “the transformation of naff into style” (indeed, the word naff has its origins in polari, the gay slang of the 1950s and 60s). One glimpse at modern-day gay culture should make it clear that much of it remains “neutral with respect to content”. From shallow, pseudo-therapeutic nonsense like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and How to Look Good Naked to the Eurovision Song Contest and all those embarrassing GBFs (Gay Best Friends) that are now a staple of every soap and movie, all the stuff patronisingly referred to as “what gay people like” tends to be dross. When young people’s only exposure to “gay stuff” involves seeing camp things, naffness put on a pedestal, is it any wonder they have come to associate gay with rubbish? It seems a bit harsh to write off schoolkids as homophobes when they are only expressing, in cruder lingo, what serious thinkers have said for years: that some gay culture tends to wallow in the notion that the more awful something is, the better it is.

If we’re going to blame anyone for the association of gayness with rubbishness, how about those cultural bigwigs who produce so much tongue-in-cheek, knowingly naff gay culture? Sontag argued that camp, this attempt to “dethrone the serious”, was most vociferously promoted by “small urban cliques”. Today, it is often the same small urban clique that gives us rubbish “gay culture” which also goes mad when young people start to think that gay means rubbish. Their double standards are totally gay.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

The Gender-Free British Passport: UK Travellers May No Longer Have to Declare Their Sex, To Spare Feelings of ‘Transgender People’

Britain is preparing to rip up centuries-old rules by introducing passports which do not contain details of the holder’s sex.

The move, following pressure from the Lib Dems, is designed to spare transgender people and those who have both male and female sexual organs from having to tick ‘male’ or ‘female’ on their travel papers.

Currently, everybody must identify themselves as a man or woman, even when they are undergoing a sex-change operation or if they are considered ‘intersex’.

But with the Lib Dems promising to be ‘fierce champions of equality’, the Home Office has begun a consultation on changing the rules.

To satisfy international laws, the passport would still list a category titled ‘sex’, but would then contain a simple ‘X’ for everybody.

Supporters say it will solve the problem of embarrassing situations at border controls, where people whose sex appears to differ from that in their passport are grilled for long periods by guards.

But some Home Office officials are concerned the change could make life harder for the already stretched UK Border Agency by giving them one fewer piece of information to work from.

Last night, the Home Office said: ‘We are exploring with international partners and relevant stakeholders the security implications of gender not being displayed in the passport.’

Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone is under pressure to act from her fellow Lib Dem MPs.

One backbench MP, Julian Huppert, said: ‘There does not seem to be a need for identity documents of any kind to have gender information. It is not a very good biometric; it is roughly a 50:50 split.

Military ID, such as the MOD90, which obviously can have quite a high security clearance, contains no gender information. That might be what we should look at.’

Mrs Featherstone — who has just announced plans for gay weddings — has made a string of promises committing the Government to do more for transgender people.

“While on my travels as a champion for women’s rights, I am and will be a champion for gay rights too. Britain must not get complacent. We are a world leader for gay rights, but… there is still more that we must do.”

Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone

She said: ‘The UK Government is totally committed to creating a society that is fair for everyone.

‘We are committed to tackling prejudice and discrimination against transgender people at home and around the world. We need concerted government action to tear down barriers and help to build a fairer society for transgender people.’

And she said in a speech on Saturday: ‘While on my travels as a champion for women’s rights, I am and will be a champion for gay rights too. Britain must not get complacent. We are a world leader for gay rights, but… there is still more that we must do.’

Under existing rules, a ‘transgender’ person undergoing a sex-swap is free to change their identity to a new sex, once the procedure is complete and a gender recognition certificate has been issued.

While undergoing a sex change, a person can also nominate their intended new sex, and place that on their passport. They must produce a certificate from a doctor saying that is the gender under which they live their daily lives.

But people who are classed as intersex — a condition which people carry from birth, where they have male and female reproductive organs — are forced to make a choice.

Home Office officials say the review is wide-ranging and they are considering ‘all the gender options’.

The law in Britain could be changed in a matter of days. Passports come under the royal prerogative, so only a simple ministerial order would be required.

Last night, an Identity and Passport Service spokesman said: ‘IPS is considering the gender options available to customers in the British passport.

‘This is at the early discussion stage and no decisions have been taken. Any changes to the UK passport would need to satisfy our rigorous security requirements.’

On Saturday, Mrs Featherstone announced the coalition will push ahead with plans to introduce ‘gay marriage’ by 2015. At present, gays and lesbians are allowed to enter civil partnerships, which offer most of the legal protections of marriage. But the term ‘marriage’ is not used.

           — Hat tip: McR[Return to headlines]

UK Considering “X” For Transgenders on Passports

(AGI) London — The UK is considering introducing the third gender on passports, namely “X”, for transgenders, just like Australia. The current regulation envisages that transgenders must indicate one of the two sexes on ID documents. The new proposal is part of a security package being studied by the Interior Ministry, which states that the letter “X” can indicate a gender on new passports.

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


Dino-Killing Cosmic Impact Wiped Out Ancient Birds, Too

Although birds survived the mass extinction that claimed their brethren, the rest of the dinosaurs, birds did not emerge unscathed, scientists now find. Apparently many ancient lineages of birds died off at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs, researchers added. Nearly all the modern bird groups, from owls to penguins and so on, began to emerge within 15 million years after the rest of the dinosaurs went extinct. These birds are subtly but significantly different from many of the ancient lineages that existed before a cosmic impact at the end of the Cretaceous period about 65 million years ago wreaked havoc around the globe.

           — Hat tip: Rembrandt[Return to headlines]

Global Heat May Hide in Deep Oceans

REUTERS: New York — The mystery of Earth’s missing heat may have been solved: it could lurk deep in oceans, temporarily masking the climate-warming effects of greenhouse gas emissions, researchers reported on Sunday…

So where did the missing heat go?

Computer simulations suggest most of it was trapped in layers of oceans deeper than 305m during periods like the last decade when air temperatures failed to warm as much as they might have.

This could happen for years at a time, and it could happen periodically this century, even as the overall warming trend continues, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Kevin Trenberth, a co-author of the study, said in a statement. “The heat has not disappeared and so it cannot be ignored. It must have consequences.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

The New Faces of Islam

They’re proud Muslims, they’re top models, and they’re remaking the fashion world’s ideal of beauty.

When 20-year-old Hind Sahli, a brown-skinned young woman with dark shoulder-length hair, was growing up in Casablanca, she used to watch television shows like America’s Next Top Model and daydream about being on a fashion runway. Sahli was appropriately tall and thin, but in Morocco, the beauty ideal is a voluptuous figure. She was mercilessly teased for her spare frame and would soothe her hurt feelings by sashaying around her living room.

Sahli, who is both Arab and Muslim, was also growing up in a culture where modeling bumps up against significant cultural taboos. As a matter of religion and tradition, female modesty is expected-not the kind of provocative and exhibitionist behavior the mainstream fashion industry rewards. As Sahli strutted around the room, her mother-a deeply religious homemaker who wears the hijab-was amused by these preoccupations. Sahli’s father, a policeman, was not. Still, neither of them had much to say. It was just make-believe, after all. About that same time, in the tourist town of Nabeul, Tunisia, a young woman with the gamine features of Audrey Hepburn was having similarly fanciful thoughts. Hanaa Ben Abdesslem had always drawn lingering glances because of her soaring height and impossibly thin frame. The stares made her self-conscious and shy. But when she flipped through fashion magazines, she’d gaze at those “tall, thin, beautiful women, and I thought perhaps someday I could feel at ease.”

Five years ago, the Arab world was mostly disconnected from the global modeling network. In the absence of established agencies and international magazines, modeling wasn’t even a defined profession. Foreign travel was difficult both logistically and culturally. Then there were all manner of preconceived notions from around the globe about what it meant to be an Arab woman.

To accomplish their goals, Sahli and Ben Abdesslem would have to step outside the boundaries of tradition, leave the security of their families, and breach the confines of once unyielding cultures and prejudices-not just in the Arab world but beyond it. And that’s precisely what they have done. In the last year, especially, both Sahli and Ben Abdesslem have made significant headway-between them, they have walked in shows for labels such as Givenchy, Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, Jean Paul Gaultier, Vera Wang, and Phillip Lim. They have posed for Italian Vogue and French Vogue and shot advertisements for Top Shop and Lancôme.

Though they have crossed paths only a handful of times, the two women are now inexorably linked through timing, culture, the assumptions others make about them, and their desire to represent 21st-century Arab women to the world. The fashion industry tends to treat cultural differences as entertaining biography; ethnicity as little more than aesthetics. But the recent experiences of Sahli and Ben Abdesslem show them to be charting a new course on the global runway. For them, fashion is not about gossipy chatter and luxurious indulgences, or even primarily about commerce and entertainment. It is about empowerment, opportunity, and modernity. It is a chance for these young women to be seen, to be heard, and, quite simply, to be.

“It’s given me independence,” Ben Abdesslem says of her career. “It’s given me confidence in myself as a woman.” Paradoxically, women from the Arab world have long been among the most voracious consumers of fashion. Indeed, the economics of the French haute couture industry relies on Middle Eastern customers. But their consumption is mostly private. The industry adores places such as Marrakech as backdrops for an exotic fashion shoot. Yet while the runways have welcomed models from South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and the rest, Arab women have until now been largely absent.

The changes that made Sahli’s and Ben Abdesslem’s ascents possible began some two years ago, when the catwalks were notably homogenous. Blonde, pale, clonelike models from Eastern Europe dominated. Diversity became a cause célèbre, pushed by activist and former model Bethann Hardison and by Diane von Furstenberg, president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

“We have a responsibility in the fashion community to reflect global beauty, to reflect the new economies and reflect their financial strengths,” says Kyle Hagler, senior manager at IMG Models, who works with Ben Abdesslem. With prodding, agencies broadened their search for fresh faces. They turned to North Africa. “I think we all became socially aware,” Hagler says, adding, “We have a responsibility to make sure that it goes on.” The world, of course, also changed. The Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia, saw protests, revolts, and civil war sweep through North Africa and into the Middle East. The region convulsed with citizen demands for democracy, openness, and opportunity.


           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Feli said...

A fire caused by Tunisians destroys the Centre for immigrants in Lampedusa