Sunday, January 12, 2003

News Feed 20120304

Financial Crisis
»Egypt Risks Default Within a Few Weeks, Gilles Kepel
»Greece: Watchdog Slams “Endemic” Corruption, Survey
»Italy: Bond Spread Back Down to Same Level as Spain’s
»Spain: Sport Stars and Artists Targeted by Evasion Battle
»Spain: Treasury 4.5 Bln Auction Good, Low Interest Rates
»Third Rescue Plan for Greece Likely in 2015: Spiegel
»Minnesota Republican Says People Who Use Food Stamps Are Wild Animals
»‘You Get What You Deserve, White Boy’: Boy: 13, Doused in Gasoline and Set Alight in Racially-Motivated Attack
Europe and the EU
»Greece: Bakoyannis Settles Million Euro Transfer Mystery
»Hungary Gives in and Recognises Mohammedanism as a Religion
»Italy: Police Smash Chinese Gangs
»UK: How Taxpayers Are Still Funding the Extremists
»UK: In Your Country, People Who Work Hard Pay for People Who Don’t Want To… We Don’t Understand, Say Parents of Malaysian ‘Bad Samaritan’ Riot Victim
»UK: Serial Prostitute Rapist From Smethwick Appeals Against Conviction
»‘We Should Never Have Liberated France’: David Starkey Courts Yet More Controversy by Claiming Nations Should be Left to Free Themselves From Oppression
North Africa
»Algeria: Terrorist Who Racketeered Farmers Killed
»Desecrated: The Shocking Video of Churchill’s Desert Rats’ Graves Being Smashed to Rubble… By the Libyans We Helped Liberate Headstones Torn Down and Crucifixes Smashed With Hammers by Extremists
»Islam Doesn’t Mean ‘Religious State’, Muslim Oppose Muslim
»Libya Apologises for Desecration of British War Graves
Israel and the Palestinians
»Rabbis in Jerusalem Against Snowmen
Middle East
»Hardliners Trounce Ahmadinejad in Iran Election
»Iran Issue Heats Up US-Israeli Relations
»Minority Groups Shy Away From Iranian Election
»Saudi Arabia May be Tied to 9/11, 2 Ex-Senators Say
»Tragedy Averted as Kuwait-Bound Flight Lands in Saudi
»Putin Claims Victory in Russian Polls
South Asia
»Germany and India Work to Minimize Risks of Biological Warfare
Far East
»New Double-Digit Defense Spending in China
Sub-Saharan Africa
»AfriForum Condemns Constitution Proposals
»German ‘Frogmen’ To Fight Horn of Africa Pirates
»South Africa: Kids Found With a Few Cigarettes Were ‘Dealt With…’ — SAPS Says
Culture Wars
»‘Holy Alliance’ In Italy Protests Against Working on Sundays

Financial Crisis

Egypt Risks Default Within a Few Weeks, Gilles Kepel

Only Gulf nations able to pay, Islamists must bring results

(ANSAmed) DOHA, MARCH 1 — Gulf countries are the only ones able to save Egypt from bankruptcy if the country does not achieve concrete economic and social results. This was said by Gilles Kepel, French political expert on Islam and the Arab world and professor of the Institut d’Etudes politiques de Paris. Egypt will go into default over the next few weeks if Islamists do not bring in economic results, and the country will not be able to pay its debts.

The only ones to provide economic support to Egypt are Gulf countries, and especially Saudi Arabia, Kepel said during the conference “The Arab uprisings, political Islam and democratic transitions’ organized by Brookings Doha center in the Qatari capital. The French political expert put forth the theory of a geographical division of the Arab Spring, in which Egypt is part of Zone A alongside Tunisia and Libya, countries in which the revolutionary phenomenon began and in which change was not seen as a threat. Zone B instead includes Bahrain and Yemen, where change was seen as dangerous and foreign policy — not only domestic issues — played a role. In Yemen, especially, there was the dissolution of the State, according to Kepel. Syria is part of Zone C, being a case unto itself, with sharp internal divisions and external pressures.

The Arab Spring has entered its second year with a fragile democratic transition seemingly led by Islamist political parties, whose success is due to greater organization, rhetoric accessible to all and — in Kepel’s eyes — also by their strong roots within the society. At the outset of the Arab uprisings, Islamists did not have any role, but have now won in many North African countries and must bring in results in economic and social terms, concluded Kepel.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Watchdog Slams “Endemic” Corruption, Survey

Transparency Int’l, it threatens Greek hopes for recovery

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS — The anti-graft watchdog Transparency International says corruption in Greece remains widespread and poses a serious threat to the country’s hopes of financial recovery, as daily Athens News writes. In a report released on Wednesday, the Greek branch of the organisation said little improvement has been made despite plans to reform the country’s public sector. “Greek people live in a state of ‘corrupt legality’ meaning that the law often condones or even fosters corrupt practices,” it said. “Corruption is endemic: not limited to any party or social class, nor to the public sector.” The report said Greece had many laws in place to fight corruption but they were not being enforced. On the other hand, laws that allow buildings built illegally to be approved later, and allow “special” accounts at ministries where transparency rules do not apply effectively condoned corruption, it said. The report urged Greece to improve rules on disclosing the accounts of political parties, put in place stronger rules to make private companies more transparent and merge existing anti-corruption agencies into a single body. “The report finds that overall the Greek anti-corruption system has a number of fundamental flaws, the most significant of which is a crisis of values, typified by broad scale acceptance of and participation in corruption, even though it is condemned,” the report said.

Greece was ranked 80th out of 183 countries in the group’s 2011 corruption perceptions index, below countries like China, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Cuba. Only Bulgaria ranked lower in the European Union and Western Europe section.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bond Spread Back Down to Same Level as Spain’s

First time since August, difference stood at 195 points in Dec’

(ANSA) — Rome, March 2 — Rome received another signal that it is starting to emerge from the debt crisis on Friday, when Italy’s 10-year bonds closed the gap on their Spanish equivalents.

The yield on Treasury BTP bonds briefly dropped below that for the Spanish Bonos for the first time since August before closing the day level.

The 10-year BTP and the Bonos both closed with a spread of 310.7 points with respect to the benchmark German bund and a yield of 4.91%.

On December 30 the spread between 10-year Italian and Spanish bonds reached a record high of 195 points, with yields of 7.06% and 5.11% respectively.

The bond spread is considered an important indicator of the financial markets’ confidence in Italy’s ability to withstand the eurozone crisis.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Sport Stars and Artists Targeted by Evasion Battle

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 1 — The Spanish Inland Revenue agency is targeting sport champions and artists. In order to deal with the current economic recession and the country’s deficit that reached 8.5% of GDP in 2011, the government will step up its fight against tax evasion, according to today’s Official State Bulletin. “The professional activities of artists and sportsmen and women” will be more closely monitored “to discover non-declared income and fictitious expenses,” but also to verify “the coherence and proportionality” of signs of wealth with the declared expenses.

Inland Revenue has lately had a close look at sport stars like tennis champion Rafael Nadal, who was forced to change the tax domicile of his enterprises, moving them to the Basque Country to enjoy a more favourable tax climate. But also artists like singer Alejandro Sanz or dancer Joaquin Cortes have been subjected to tax inspections. The agency will also check “large tax transactions”, following the guidelines published in the Bulletin and in the 2012 annual tax inspection plan. Inland Revenue also focuses on imports from Asia and China.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Treasury 4.5 Bln Auction Good, Low Interest Rates

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, 1 MARCH- Today’s Spanish Treasury bond auction went well: 4.501 bln 3 and 5-year bonos were placed, with interest rates at their lowest since mid 2010. The demand was strong (EUR 11.475 mln totally) and the public authority assigned 3-year bonos worth EUR 1.061 bln, with an interest rate totalling 2.213% (last issuing it was at 3.633%); further 1.909 bln 3-year securities with a return of 2.748% (previously 2.989%) and 1.530 bln 5-year bonos with an interest rate 3.478%(3.557% in the previous auction) were placed.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Third Rescue Plan for Greece Likely in 2015: Spiegel

Greece might need a third international rescue package worth 50 billion euros ($66 billion) in 2015, the German weekly magazine Spiegel said on Sunday. The troika of creditors — the European Union, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund — is said to have expressed strong doubt in a preliminary report that Greece would be able to return to the international money markets to borrow in 2015.

By then Athens is likely to require 50 billion euros to repay international loans. Spiegel claimed Germany requested that this part of the report be edited out. While a large majority of the German parliament last month voted in favour of a second aid package for Greece, there has been increasing criticism of the bailout plan in a country which has borne the brunt of its financing.

Spiegel also said that the ECB was expecting implementation of a so-called collective action clause to force private creditors to agree to the restructuring of the Greek debt. The clause can be invoked if at least 66 percent of banks agree to it. This so-called super-majority then forces all creditors to go along with the deal.

Restructuring the Greek debt is due on March 12, and should allow the country to wipe off the slate 107 of the 200 billion euros it owes private banks. This restructuring is one of the conditions for payment of a 130 billion euro rescue package agreed on Thursday in Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Minnesota Republican Says People Who Use Food Stamps Are Wild Animals

YouTube is a wonderful place to share videos and ideas. But if you’re a Republican like state Rep. Mary Franson of Minnesota, it’s a place where your true feelings about the poor are broadcast to the world.

While recording a message to the people of Minnesota, District 11A Rep. Mary Franson sat in her chair, and speaking with a Sarah Palinesque voice, delivered some good news about the Minnesota budget and spun it to make it sound as if Republicans were solely responsible for it. But then she said some things that should end her career as a public servant. Franson compared people who rely on food stamps to wild animals. And she thought it was funny.

“Last week, we worked on some welfare reform bills. And here, it’s kind of ironic, I’ll read you this little funny clip that we got from a friend. It says, ‘Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever. Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves. Our reform bills are meant to bring people up out of the clutches of poverty. We want to provide a safety net, no longer a safety hammock. In one of the bills Representative Kurt Daudt authored would reduce the amount of time that you could stay on welfare from five years to three years. In three years I believe that we can get Minnesota’s poorest of the poor back up on their feet and moving more toward a prosperous future.”

Here’s the video: []

For years, Republicans have consistently and ferociously attacked the poor, who through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs and have been unable to find new ones because of the economic collapse caused by GOP policies in 2008. This lack of jobs means lack of money, which means lack of food. That means, without food stamps, poverty stricken people would be left to starve to death. I don’t know what they put in the water in Minnesota, but Franson isn’t the first heartless politician in the state to say evil things about poor people on food stamps. Not too long ago, Republican Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann came under fire for saying that people who are unemployed should starve. People don’t want to have to rely on food stamps and usually stop using them when their financial situation improves. But in order for the financial situation of the poor to improve, narrow minded Republicans like Franson need to get off their asses and start focusing on actually doing things that help the poor instead of pushing policies that only help the wealthy, who can actually afford to buy their own food to stuff themselves with. Stupidly comparing the poor to wild animals does nothing to solve the problem. Such rhetoric only reveals how hateful and divisive Republicans are.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

‘You Get What You Deserve, White Boy’: Boy: 13, Doused in Gasoline and Set Alight in Racially-Motivated Attack

Police are investigating a possible race hate attack after a 13-year-old boy was doused in gasoline and set on fire.

The teenager, who suffered first degree burns to his face and hands, is white and his two attackers black.

His mother Melissa Coon said the attackers told her son ‘This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy’.

Police in Kansas City said they are investigating the alleged assault as a possible hate crime.

Investigators said the assault took place as the teen walked home from East High School.

He noticed two older boys following him and as he arrived at his home the pair threw gas on him.

‘They rushed him on the porch as he tried to get the door open,’ Mrs Coon told KMBC-TV.

‘[One of them] poured the gasoline, then flicked the Bic, and said, ‘This is what you deserve. You get what you deserve, white boy’.

Mrs Coon said her son was able to beat the flames out with his hands and shirt and was able to call 911 and his father.

Police said the boy had been engulfed in a ‘large fireball’.

He has lost his eye lashes, eyebrows and some skin on his face.

Kansas City Police Department Detective Stacey Taylor said detectives were concerned about damage to the boy’s eyes and lungs.

He said this was a particularly heinous crime.

‘It was pretty bad stuff,’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Greece: Bakoyannis Settles Million Euro Transfer Mystery

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, FEBRUARY 29 — Former New Democracy foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis on Tuesday identified her businessman husband, Isidoros Kouvelos, as the mystery man behind a 1 million euro transfer abroad, putting an end to days of speculation on a transaction held up as an example of political hypocrisy. The row, as daily Athens News reports today, broke out after the head of an independent watchdog to combat money laundering, Panayiotis Nikoloudis, claimed a member of parliament had exported 1 million euros last year to a Swiss bank. Days of frenzied chatter in the media over the identity of the MP followed, with politicians taking turns to decry the transfer and urging the culprit to come forward. The guessing game finally came to end on Tuesday when Dora Bakoyannis, head of the small Democratic Alliance party, said a parliamentary committee had called to tell her the person in question was her husband. An outraged Bakoyannis, who said her husband had transferred the sum abroad to buy a ship, demanded to know how a legal business transaction by a non-politician could have been built up into a scandal. Bakoyannis called the claims were “slanderous” and “farcical” — insisting that her husband, a businessman, had transferred money to London after selling shares in the United States. “We are all convinced that this has to do with a lawmaker and finally it has to do with the business dealings of a person who has been doing that job forever,” Bakoyannis said in parliament. “It is ethical to allow Greek shipping activity to continue. It is ethical to be married to a Greek businessman. And this has nothing to do with one’s political activity, identity or being.” Greeks have withdrawn some 65 billion euros in bank savings since the debt crisis picked up steam in 2009, stashing most of it at home or in safety deposit boxes in fear the country might have to return to the drachma.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hungary Gives in and Recognises Mohammedanism as a Religion

Hungary has caved to EU pressure and recognised Mohammedanism as a religion.

Hungary’s coalition government has expanded the number of officially recognized churches from 14 to 32 amid complaints about restrictions on religious freedom.

Among the newly recognized religious communities are five Buddhist groups, Methodists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and two Islamic communities.

Opposition parties boycotted the vote Monday in Parliament, but the center-right Fidesz party and its ally, the Christian Democrats, mustered the required two-thirds majority. Requests from 66 other religious groups were rejected, including all those backed by opposition parties.

Formal recognition gives churches tax-free status, qualifies them for government support and allows them to collect donations during services and do pastoral work in jails and hospitals…

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Police Smash Chinese Gangs

‘Rising’ turf war in Milan, they say

(ANSA) — Milan, March 2 — Italian police on Friday smashed Chinese gangs across Italy suspected of preying on their communities, drug pushing and running prostitution and gambling rackets.

More than 30 young Chinese were arrested in the operation which focused on Milan, where police said the gangs had converged in a “rising” turf war, and also covered the cities of Turin, Genoa, Cremona, Teramo and Frosinone. The operation came after a string of recent attacks in Milan in which gang members were wounded.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: How Taxpayers Are Still Funding the Extremists

Millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money is still being paid to groups linked to Islamist extremism, more than a year after David Cameron vowed to outlaw the practice.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: In Your Country, People Who Work Hard Pay for People Who Don’t Want To… We Don’t Understand, Say Parents of Malaysian ‘Bad Samaritan’ Riot Victim

The parents of the student robbed by thugs posing as ‘good Samaritans’ during last summer’s London riots have accused Britain’s welfare state of encouraging people to be lazy.

With calm dignity, Ashraf Rossli’s Malaysian mother and father told of the trauma their 21-year-old son still suffers and the tough lessons the attack has taught them about this country.

‘The system in Britain makes people lazy. In Malaysia, if you want to earn money, you have to work. And if you want to earn more money, you have to study hard.

‘In Britain, people who work pay tax and it goes to people who do no work. I don’t understand that.’

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

UK: Serial Prostitute Rapist From Smethwick Appeals Against Conviction

A SERIAL rapist jailed for raping three prostitutes on the backstreets of Birmingham is demanding that his conviction is overturned — because police warned vice girls about his reign of terror.

Dahir Ibrahim, of Smethwick, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for three counts of rape at the city’s crown court in 2006.

The judge recommended that the 26 year-old, originally from Somalia and seeking asylum in Britain at the time, should be deported back to his homeland on his release, which is imminent.

Before he was jailed, West Midlands Police described him as a “truly evil” sexual predator, and issued his picture to prostitutes around Edgbaston’s red light area as part of an appeal for his victims to come forward.

Officers also enlisted the help of charities working with prostitutes and drug addicts to trace women he attacked.

And in an unprecedented move Birmingham City Council went to court to seek an ASBO against him. A 12-month public nuisance injunction was imposed, barring Ibrahim from several streets where prostitutes operated. Now his barrister Danielle Cooper has told the Court of Appeal that Ibrahim’s convictions should be overturned because the evidence of a prostitute used at his trial was unreliable and may have been “contaminated” by the warning put out by police.

“There is clearly a concern that the witness had heard talk and descriptions of the person who was said to be responsible for the rapes,” she said. “This is important because, where there is evidence of collusion and contamination like that, the evidence is undermined.”

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

‘We Should Never Have Liberated France’: David Starkey Courts Yet More Controversy by Claiming Nations Should be Left to Free Themselves From Oppression

In his appearance on Question Time this week, Dr Starkey, 67, said the West should not intervene in Syria because nations should free themselves from oppression.

He said: ‘Humanitarian intervention is almost always disastrous. Let me give you an example, it’s called France.

‘You will remember Britain and America liberated France. What thanks did we get from them? The French have spent the last 40 years trying to obliterate the shame by doing everything they can to damage Britain and America.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Terrorist Who Racketeered Farmers Killed

In army ambush, other fundamentalist injured and on the run

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, MARCH 2 — A terrorist has been killed and another injured in an ambush by the Algerian army in the Kadiria hills, west of the city of Bouira. The injured terrorist later managed to break military ranks and escape.

The operation was carried out by the army after a number of farmers in the area complained of being racketeered by members of a fundamentalist “katibat” (crew), who threatened to kill the farmers in order to obtain part of their olive harvest.

The area is considered one of the terrorist strongholds of the Bouira region. Last year, two soldiers were killed and nine others injured in a bomb attack.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Desecrated: The Shocking Video of Churchill’s Desert Rats’ Graves Being Smashed to Rubble… By the Libyans We Helped Liberate Headstones Torn Down and Crucifixes Smashed With Hammers by Extremists

A year ago they begged for Britain’s help when Colonel Gaddafi’s tanks encircled their city, threatening annihilation.

Now former Libyan rebels in Benghazi — liberated with the aid of the RAF last March — have systematically desecrated the graves of more than 150 British servicemen killed in North Africa 70 years ago.

Headstones at the Benghazi War Cemetery have been torn down and crucifixes smashed with hammers by a mob of extremists, some carrying guns and dressed in combat fatigues.

More than 1,000 soldiers and airmen who lost their lives in the desert wars of Montgomery and Rommel are buried at the site in Eastern Libya.

Many were members of the famed 7th Armoured Division, known as the Desert Rats, who played a crucial role in the see-saw battle for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.

Graves of RAF pilots were among those shattered by the thugs. It was their job to fly bombing raids — just as the RAF did last year — to assist Lieutenant General Montgomery’s Eighth Army and support commandos clearing routes for tanks.

Sickeningly, the attack, which was carried out over two days last week and appeared highly organised, was filmed by one of the men involved and posted on the internet.

As they rampage among the graves, members of the mob are heard to repeatedly say of the dead servicemen: ‘They are dogs, they are dogs.’

The violence was thought to be retaliation, in part, for the burning of the Koran by US soldiers in Afghanistan last month.

Footage shows the mob methodically kicking down grave after grave. Some are then smashed with hammers. ‘Destroy that cross, they are dogs,’ cries one hooded rebel.

Another voice is heard saying: ‘We begin with this one then we’ll take care of that other one. We won’t leave any left.’

A few seconds later another extremist says: ‘This tomb has a cross on it — a disbeliever.’

As they discover a Jewish grave bearing the Star of David, one of the men says: ‘Look at what it says on it. There is even Israeli writing .?.?. in Hebrew.’

And in one of the most disturbing sequences, one protester attaches a ladder to the Cross of Remembrance next to the cemetery. He climbs up it and begins hacking at the memorial with a hammer. Then he shouts: ‘Watch out young people. It’s going to fall.’ The cross is then smashed off.

Relatives of those buried at the cemetery, which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, last night reacted with disgust. The desecration was also condemned by Montgomery’s grandson Henry Montgomery, who called it ‘very sad’.

Among the heroes buried at Benghazi is Geoffrey Keyes, who was the youngest lieutenant colonel in the British Army when he was killed at the age of 24 during Operation Flipper, a daring mission 250 miles behind enemy lines.

He was shot in a raid on what was believed to be Rommel’s headquarters in Sidi Rafa, Libya, in November 1941 and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘magnificent leadership and outstanding gallantry .?.?. and supreme self-sacrifice’.

It was not clear last night if his headstone was among those destroyed.

But one of the smashed headstones records the death of the Reverend Geoffrey Bond, Chaplain to the Forces, who was 30 when he was killed on March 21, 1941, near Benghazi. His nephew, Geoffrey Bell, said last night: ‘This is terrible news. Damn those bloody Libyans.’

Former diplomat Edward Chaplin, who heads the War Graves Commission, said: ‘Clearly it’s a terrible thing to have happened.

‘It’s shocking that attacks of this nature should be carried out against a cemetery. We take very seriously the preservation of these memorials to those who have given their lives in wars.’

Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of state in Libya’s caretaker government, condemned the attacks as ‘unethical, irresponsible and criminal’.

He said the Libyan government ‘severely denounces such shameful acts and vows to find and prosecute the perpetrators’.

There are 1,214 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at the Benghazi War Cemetery.

Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are British. It also contains graves of Australian, New Zealand, South African and Indian servicemen…

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Islam Doesn’t Mean ‘Religious State’, Muslim Oppose Muslim

Lebanese Sunni to radical, our target is justice, not power

(ANSAmed) — ROME — The electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and of the Ennhadha Party in Tunisia has revived an ever-open debate in the Muslim world on the relations between Islam and the religious state. The Sunni Lebanese theologian Mohammed Sammak, the advisor of Lebanon’s Grand Mufti, reminds to all those who fantasise about Islamic political models that there actually is no notion of religious state in Islam. At the beginning of the XX century, Sammak explained during an international congress organised by the Sant’Egidio Catholic Community, the imam of Al Azhar stated that Islam had actually distanced religious men from power. The five pillars of Islam (testimony, prayer, charity, the trip to Mecca and fasting) can be practiced outside the Mosque and, Sammak stressed, “they are alien to the role of politics”. Making reference to the works of a Middle Age theologian, the Lebanese theologian stressed that “Allah does not allow an oppressive state to triumph, even if it is an Islamic state”. On the contrary, “Allah lets a fair and just State to triumph, even if it is not an Islamic state”. In Sammak’s opinion, the most important challenge for the new Islamic majorities in power is governing their state based on a principle of justice. As for some radicals’ intention to extend Sharia (the Islamic legislative system) to the non-Muslim is concerned, the Lebanese expert stressed that this would be contrary to the Sharia itself. A contradiction in terms. Indeed, Sammak continued, the Quran calls to apply to the people of the Gospel and of the Torah “the principles that their God gave to them through their holy books”. The Lebanese theologian concluded with a veiled reproach to all those who think they are speaking on behalf of God himself in the Muslim world, “the Quran comes from Allah and is a divine book, but it is interpreted by human beings and, as everything human, is subject to mistakes”. Therefore, all those who justify their actions making reference to the Quran should think twice before they act. Sammak makes an appeal to re-think all forms of extremism and radicalism.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libya Apologises for Desecration of British War Graves

Officials condemn destruction of second world war graves in Benghazi filmed in militia video

The Libyan government has been extremely apologetic about the appalling desecration of British second world war graves in the eastern city of Benghazi, a Foreign Office minister said on Sunday.

The statement of regret came after video footage emerged showing graves in a British military cemetery in the city being destroyed by what appears to be an Islamist militia.

The video, shot by the militia themselves, shows more than 30 armed men kicking down the gravestones of British servicemen while others use sledgehammers to break the cenotaph.

“Break the cross of the dogs,” one man can be heard shouting as another soldier perches on a ladder to smash the cenotaph cross with a mallet.

The Foreign Office said more than 200 headstones and the Cross of Remembrance in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Benghazi were deliberately damaged on 24 and 26 February. About a quarter of the headstones in Benghazi military cemetery were also damaged. The Foreign Office has raised the matter with the Libyan government and local police.

More than 1,200 Commonwealth soldiers and airmen are buried in Benghazi. Of the 1,051 identified graves, 851 are British. Many were members of the 7th Armoured Division — the Desert Rats — which played a key role in fighting for control of Libya and Egypt between 1941 and 1943.

Foreign Office minister Jeremy Browne said people would be understandably upset by images of damaged graves. But he said the attacks appeared to be part of a wider desecration and were not confined to British or Christian graves. Nor did they represent a response to last year’s military action when British aircraft took part in a campaign that helped topple Colonel Gaddafi, he added.

“There is an appalling story and people will be shocked by the photos,” he told the Murnaghan programme on Sky News . “My grandfather’s generation were truly heroic in that part of Africa in the second world war and I think people will be shocked by what they see.

“It is worth saying the Libyan authorities themselves are shocked too. We have had direct dealings with them. They have been extremely apologetic and made a very strong commitment they will get to the bottom of this happening. They will try and do everything they can to resolve it.”

He added: “I would not want people to think this is somehow an ingratitude by the government of Libya. That’s not the case.”

In a statement on its website, the National Transitional Council expressed deep regret at the desecration which it “strongly condemned”.

A Commonwealth War Graves Commission spokesman said headstones had been broken and disfigured in both the Benghazi war cemetery and the Benghazi British military cemetery.

“Both cemeteries will be restored to a standard befitting the sacrifice of those commemorated at Benghazi, but this could take some time because we will need to source replacement stones,” he said. “We will also need to be sure that it’s safe for the detailed work to be carried out, but in the meantime we will ensure that temporary markers are erected over the graves.”

No militia has claimed responsibility for the desecration, but Libyan sources say the dress and comments of those filmed suggest a jihadist brigade.

“We don’t support this action,” said Farouk Ben Ahmeda, a militiaman in Misrata. “This is a sin. These guys are messing up the revolution.”

One of the most prominent of the handful of Islamist militias in Libya, the Omar Mukghtar Brigade, condemned the attack. “Whoever did this attack was wrong,” said spokesman Abdul Jawad Albaree. “Whoever did it wants to destroy whatever relations Libya has with Britain.”

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Rabbis in Jerusalem Against Snowmen

Human shapes a form of idolatry

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — Today’s abundant snowfall in Jerusalem and many high altitude areas of the West Bank and Galilee has — for the first time in years — forced rabbis to go back to studying the prohibitions required by the case, to help practicing Jews avoid involuntarily breaking the rules of Orthodoxy. Above all else, these rabbis have reminded the population, on the basis of the teachings of the medieval philosopher Maimonides, that Jews are prohibited from making snowmen as they are not allowed to create anything in the likeness of man in order to avoid slipping into idolatry. A difficulty has arisen today in that the snowfall has occurred on a Friday, therefore shortly before the Jewish day of rest in which Jews are prohibited from any activity other than prayer.

Starting at sundown and for the entire day of Saturday, practicing Jews will therefore not be allowed to make snowballs.

Whether throwing snowballs tomorrow made today is permitted is the object of discussion among rabbis, who hold different approaches to the matter. Tomorrow, in observance of the sabbatical day of rest, Orthodox Jews will have to abstain from shaking off their coats on which snow has accumulated. The instructions given are to let it melt by itself. As concerns the removal of snow piled up in front of houses, Orthodox rabbis have shown themselves to be more open, since — they say — it would be unreasonable to oblige people to stay out of their homes until the mantle of snow melts.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Hardliners Trounce Ahmadinejad in Iran Election

A nearly complete count of votes in Iran’s parliamentary election puts conservative rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad well in the lead, with the religious hardliners winning more than 75 percent of the seats. Candidates loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have grabbed a significant lead as ballot-counting neared completion in Iran’s parliamentary elections, state media reported.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Iran Issue Heats Up US-Israeli Relations

US-Israeli relations have turned increasingly sour over how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program. But that’s not the sole bone of contention, and contrary to the widespread assumption it’s not a new phenomenon. Right from the start it didn’t click between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shortly after becoming president, Obama urged Netanyahu to stop building new settlements in the West Bank.

The prime minister didn’t heed the new president’s demand and things certainly didn’t get better after that first kerfuffle. By now stories about the duo’s icy relationship are legend. Perhaps the most telling one involves a widely reported incident last year when French President Nicolas Sarkozy told his American counterpart, not knowing that microphones were on, that he couldn’t stand Netanyahu and that “he’s a liar.” To which Obama replied, “You are fed up with him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”

“I think there is a high degree of mistrust between the two leaders,” says James Davis, professor of international relations at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, about the pair. But the lack in personal chemistry between Obama and Netanyahu comes coupled with deep divisions about policy.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Minority Groups Shy Away From Iranian Election

The government sought a high voter turnout in Iran’s recent parliamentary vote, and polling stations closed four hours late. Preliminary results suggest that reform and minority groups stayed away from the polls.

Iran’s religious divisions often diverge from the lines separating ethnic groups. Iranian Kurds, Arabs and the Baloch are primarily Sunnis, in contrast to the Azerbaijanis, who are predominantly Shiites. Sunnis — around eight percent of the population — form a minority in the predominantly Shiite country and struggle to find their place in society. They have tried without success for years to be able to build their own mosque in Tehran. Though presidential candidates must be Shiite in order to run, that requirement does not exist for parliamentary candidates. But followers of non-Islamic religions in Iran, such as Baha’i practitioners, are socially disadvantaged or persecuted and play no role in politics.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Saudi Arabia May be Tied to 9/11, 2 Ex-Senators Say

For more than a decade, questions have lingered about the possible role of the Saudi government in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even as the royal kingdom has made itself a crucial counterterrorism partner in the eyes of American diplomats.

Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.

“I am convinced that there was a direct line between at least some of the terrorists who carried out the September 11th attacks and the government of Saudi Arabia,” former Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, said in an affidavit filed as part of a lawsuit brought against the Saudi government and dozens of institutions in the country by families of Sept. 11 victims and others. Mr. Graham led a joint 2002 Congressional inquiry into the attacks.

His former Senate colleague, Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a Democrat who served on the separate 9/11 Commission, said in a sworn affidavit of his own in the case that “significant questions remain unanswered” about the role of Saudi institutions. “Evidence relating to the plausible involvement of possible Saudi government agents in the September 11th attacks has never been fully pursued,” Mr. Kerrey said.

Their affidavits, which were filed on Friday and have not previously been disclosed, are part of a multibillion-dollar lawsuit that has wound its way through federal courts since 2002. An appellate court, reversing an earlier decision, said in November that foreign nations were not immune to lawsuits under certain terrorism claims, clearing the way for parts of the Saudi case to be reheard in United States District Court in Manhattan.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Tragedy Averted as Kuwait-Bound Flight Lands in Saudi

KUWAIT: The Kuwait Airport came to a standstill for some hours yesterday after the airport’s navigation systems stopped working due the sandstorm that hit Kuwait in early hours. It was a chaotic scene at the airport as passengers scrambled for information about their flights. Some flights were cancelled while many were rescheduled. Flights were also diverted to nearby countries due to the problem. According to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), six flights were cancelled and ten others were rescheduled. Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), German Lufthansa, Jazeera Airways, Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways and Pakistan International Airlines Corporation flights were affected.

Lufthansa Kuwait-bound flight from Frankfurt was diverted to Al-Dammam airport in Saudi Arabia. There was a commotion in the plane when the aircraft failed to land at the Kuwait airport. The environment was tensed as passengers scrambled for information. “There was a landing system problem at the Kuwait airport. The visibility is very low and the lights were not working. We cannot continue to hover around in the air. Kuwaiti authorities said it may take few hours to fix the problem. We will be diverting to Saudi Arabia for now as we wait for more information from the Kuwait airport authorities,” the Lufthansa pilot said in a radio announcement. He urged everyone not to panic and called for calm.

The problem became multifaceted at the Dammam airport in Saudi Arabia as the passengers waited for hours. The second announcement came, “the aircraft developed an engine problem due to the sudden jerking movements. One of the engines has developed some problems, and our engineers are trying to fix the problems. Also, we ran out of fuel and needed to refuel urgently,” he added. When asked why the passengers are being kept on the tarmac for hours, he said that the Saudi authorities refused to allow anyone inside the airport.

There was an uneasy calm in the aircraft as passengers tried to digest the information they received. “Actually I thought the plane has been hijacked and diverted. I was so scared. It was a horrible experience,” Imma one the passengers in the business class said. “It was a complicated situation. From low visibility to landing system problem and then to engine problem, this was a fright of my life. I think God just saved us from a mishap. The problem was not only navigation system failure, our aircraft had problems in the engine too,” Stan, one of the passengers said.

           — Hat tip: RR[Return to headlines]


Putin Claims Victory in Russian Polls

Vladimir Putin has claimed victory in presidential elections after appearing before tens of thousands of chanting supporters in the capital, Moscow. Election monitors say the polls were tainted by widespread violations. Polling group VTsIOM reported shortly after polling stations closed that Putin had garnered some 58 percent support, with his closest rival, Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, receiving 17 percent.

Over 100,000 supporters of Putin rallied outside the Kremlin to celebrate the former KGB agent’s expected victory. “We have won an open and honest battle,” Putin told cheering crowds outside the Kremlin walls. “I promised you we would win, and we won. Glory to Russia!”

Nationalist candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky was scoring 8.0 percent, whilst tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov was sitting on 7.6 percent, the early results showed. The figures were taken from Russia’s far east and Siberia, where polling booths closed hours before they closed in the European west of the country.

Putin previously served as president from 2000-2008, stepping aside due to term limits. His protégé, Dmitry Medvedev, then assumed the presidency and Putin became premier. Medvedev is expected to be named prime minister if Putin succeeds in regaining the presidency.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Germany and India Work to Minimize Risks of Biological Warfare

Germany and India are collaborating on various projects to prevent infectious diseases. The two countries are also aiming at finding ways to cope with and reduce the risks of biological warfare. Germany is India’s second largest partner in scientific research after the United States.

With an aim to further strengthen the cooperation between Germany and India in scientific research, last year German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in fields related to biomedicine during Merkel’s visit to India. Germany and India are working to minimize the risks of germ warfare, which many security experts believe has the potential to be more devastating than a nuclear war.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Far East

New Double-Digit Defense Spending in China

China on Sunday announced a double-digit hike in defense expenditures for 2012 in a move that could fuel regional anxieties about Beijing’s rapid military build-up. A statement issued by China’s National People’s Congress spokesman, Li Zhaoxing, said Beijing plans to boost spending by 11.2 percent this year, the latest hefty increase in nearly 20 years of major increases to defense spending. Li said China’s defense spending would increase to 670.2 billion yuan (80.6 billion euros; $106.4 billion) in 2012, or about 67 billion more than 2011.

China’s official defense spending is the highest in the world after the United States, but actual outlays, according to foreign defense experts, may even be 50 percent larger because China excludes expenditures for its nuclear missile force and other programs. Last year’s spending amounted to 1.28 percent of China’s gross domestic product, compared to World Bank figures for the United States of 4.8 percent in 2010. China’s leaders have repeatedly said that they are unhappy with recent moves by the Obama administration to increase the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region, but only twice since the early 1990s has China’s increase in military spending been less than double digits.

The rapid military build-up has set off alarm bells across Asia and in Washington, which announced a new Asian defense strategy in January as a counterweight to China’s rising power. Arthur Ding, a Taiwanese expert on China’s military, said the considerable growth in China’s military expenditures would “push regional countries to build closer ties with the United States.” “China has to explain and try to convince the regional countries why they need such a high growth rate,” Ding said. Countries, like Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, all have maritime disputes with Beijing over resource-rich islands in the South China Sea.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

AfriForum Condemns Constitution Proposals

AfriForum on Sunday condemned the ANC for reportedly considering changes to the Constitution.

“The ANC is a dishonest party, apparently prepared to break agreements reached during the erstwhile constitutional negotiations, without batting an eyelid,” it said in a statement.

It appeared as if the ANC regarded compromises made by the party during the constitutional negotiations to be mere temporary concessions that had to be made in order to obtain political power, said spokesman Kallie Kriel.

He said the ANC had misled other participants in the negotiation process by pretending that they wanted to reach a final agreement to the benefit of all in the country.

“The ANC’s breaking of negotiated agreements will lay the foundation for renewed polarisation in the country,” Kriel said.

City Press reported the ANC was considering dramatic changes to the Constitution, which included doing away with the “sunset clauses”, and adjusting the powers of the Reserve Bank and provinces.

Draft policy documents were set to be distributed to the party’s branches on Monday in preparation for the ANC’s policy conference in June, the newspaper reported.

In the documents, the ANC said the 1996 Constitution was appropriate for a “political transition” but had proven inadequate for social and economic transformation.

Other topics discussed included:

  • The public impression that the party was seen from the outside as a “neo-patrimonial political machine to distribute power and resources among ourselves.”
  • The “crisis of credibility” the party faced in terms of its capacity to deliver social and economic change
  • The principle of ubuntu being introduced into the school curriculum
  • HIV/Aids being made a notifiable disease
  • The introduction of compulsory community service for all university graduates

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

German ‘Frogmen’ To Fight Horn of Africa Pirates

German commando undersea divers, known as frogmen, will be deployed to aid in EU efforts to quell rampant piracy in waters off the Horn of Africa. The submarine specialists, who are equipped for long periods underwater, have already been posted to the taskforce supply ship, the Berlin, according to the German Defense Ministry. The team is to operate within the framework of the European Union mission off the coast of Somalia.

The elite Bundeswehr soldiers could be used for boarding hijacked vessels. The frogmen would be stealthily transported to the vicinity of hijacked ships via helicopter and would then approach the vessels unnoticed underwater using submarine scooters. They could also be used to disable the engines on ships seized by pirates.

Somalia’s 3,000-mile (4,800-kilometer) coastline has become a haven for pirates. It is considered to be the most dangerous stretch of the Indian Ocean.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

South Africa: Kids Found With a Few Cigarettes Were ‘Dealt With…’ — SAPS Says

The ANC-regime’s ongoing criminalisation of the Afrikaners continues. This time it was decided to carry out an armed police-raid against the Afrikaans-medium High School in the working-class town of Boksburg: and while the SAPS’only found some cigarettes’, they said they ‘dealt with’ these children… Representatives from the provinice’s ‘Community Safety Dept’ also were on hand while the personal belongings of 350 children were searched.

The policing-authorities claimed that ‘some injection needs were found in one of the bathrooms but there were no specific people around at the time of the discovery… ‘ The authorities did not apologise for the raid, claiming that ‘the children” (with the cigarettes) were “dealt with and their parents contacted by the school.’

South Africa is one of the most criminal countries in the world, where huge, heavily-armed crime gangs rule the streets and the cops increasingly join them — where tons of illegal narcotic drugs are traded each month, where armed gangs even kidnap children from the streets to turn them into sex-slaves and ship them to brothels.

Yet the SAPS found it absolutely necessary to raid a working-class Afrikaans high school at gunpoint, and undertake searches of 350 pupils’ belongings. And when they find a few schoolboys with harmless, ordinary, non-narcotic cigarettes, these children are treated as common criminals — for doing what schoolboys all over the world have been doing for the past two centuries: sneaking a few cigarettes…

           — Hat tip: Kitman[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

‘Holy Alliance’ In Italy Protests Against Working on Sundays

Trade unions held small protests across Italy and the Catholic Church voiced its support on Sunday as part of a Europe-wide campaign against allowing more businesses to stay open on Sundays. Susanna Camusso, the leader of Italy’s biggest trade union, CGIL, joined picketers outside a Rome shopping centre and there were similar demonstrations around the country including street parties in Florence, Milan and Pisa.

“Liberalising businesses by opening them seven days a week does not increase consumption but it has an impact on the material conditions of workers with ever harsher shifts and increased demands on flexibility,” Camusso said.

“A Priceless Day” read the headline of an editorial in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, which hailed the formation a new “holy alliance” between Catholic communities and trade unions on the issue.

“Workers are stressed out by unworkable shifts and the unimaginable difficulties of spending time with their families and taking Sundays not just as a day of rest but of personal reflection,” it said.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti introduced a reform as part of an austerity package passed in December last year that allows businesses to decide their own working hours, including the possibility of 24-hour opening.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]