Friday, December 26, 2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/26/2008

Gates of Vienna News Feed 12/26/2008There is mounting evidence that the earth is cooling, not warming, and more and more climate scientists are publicly criticizing the “science” behind the global warming hysteria. But this just makes the supporters of climate orthodoxy clamp down all the harder on dissenters and skeptics. See the “Culture Wars” section in the articles below.

Thanks to Abu Elvis, JD, RRW, Tuan Jim, VH, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Festivus Pole Goes Up in the Illinois Capitol, and the Gripes Begin
Homeland Security Forecasts 5-Year Threat Picture
Intel Report: Hezbollah to Strike in U.S.?
Rezko Attorney ‘Owns’ Obama Mansion
Surgeon Uses Human Fat to Run His Cars
U.S. Economy: Home Prices Fall Near Depression Pace
Europe and the EU
Bombs Found in France
Finland: Mosquito Blood ‘Identifies Thief’
Finnish Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis
Germany: Journalists Worry ‘Big Brother Law’ Will Kill Press Freedom
Not All Russians to Receive Czech Pension
Sweden: Violent Fire Destroys Umeå Student Housing
UK: Brown’s U-Turn as 2,000 Foreign Prisoners Granted Early Release… With a £168 Gift From Taxpayer
UK: Cheer Up — There Are Blue Skies Round the Corner
UK: Mother Forced to Give Birth on Hospital Floor After Two-Hour Wait for Midwives to Find Her a Bed
UK: Secret Nuclear Sell-Off Storm
UK: Teachers Banned From Using ‘Confrontational’ Red Ink in Case it Upsets Children
Israel and the Palestinians
Abbas: ‘Hebron is Ours, Settlers Have to Leave’
Bethlehem Christians Flee Religious Persecution by Muslims;
Gaza Group: We’ll Abduct Female Soldier
Negev Residents Outraged Over Aid Delivery to Strip
UK: Indulgence of Islam is Harming Society
Middle East
Lebanese Troops Dismantle Rockets Aimed at Israel
On Christmas, Iraq Christians Eye Uncertain Future
Report Says Ahmadinejad Squandered $140 Billion
UK: We Must Refight the Battles of the 1970s
Yemen to Build Ghetto for Jews
Another ‘Unrecognized Republic’ is Born — This Time in Ukraine
Russia Starts Arms Delivery
Ukrainian Apartment Blast Kills 22
Georgia President Saakashvili ‘Punched’ Prime Minister in the Face
Russia Kills 12 Militants
South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side
South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side Part 2
South Asia
India Sets Dec 26 Deadline for Pakistan
New Ploy: Pak Blames Indians for Blast
Pak Warns of Stern Response, Intensifies Troop Movement
‘What Fuels Global Terror & the Palestinian Conflict? Islamic Intolerance, Supremacism, & Imperialism,’ Claims Muslim-Reformist.
Far East
China: US Should Return 17 Chinese Terror Suspects if Guantanamo Closed
Japan Auto Production Marks Worst Drop Since 1967
Sub-Saharan Africa
China Sends Navy to Fight Somali Pirates
UK: Secret Gag Orders Undermine Core Western Values
Culture Wars
Children’s Books Use Christmas to Push Global Warming Agenda
It’s Cold Outside, But Global Warming Industry Still Hard at Work
Princeton Physicist Calls Global Warming Science “Mistaken”
Secret of the Lusitania: Arms Find Challenges Allied Claims it Was Solely a Passenger Ship


Festivus Pole Goes Up in the Illinois Capitol, and the Gripes Begin

SPRINGFIELD — In the world of the TV sitcom “Seinfeld,” Festivus is a goofy, high-tension Christmas substitute dreamt up by George Costanza’s angry dad. Revelers gathered around an aluminum pole and couldn’t leave until someone pinned the head of the household to the floor.

Festivus is still good for a laugh among “Seinfeld” loyalists, even 11 years after the episode was first broadcast.

Funny, but nobody’s laughing much about the Festivus pole that popped up under the dome of the Illinois Capitol this week.

Not the people who set up the nearby nativity scene.

“I think it’s a mockery,” said Dan Zanoza, chairman of the Springfield Nativity Scene Committee.

Not the atheists who set up their own Capitol display.

“If the state’s going to create a forum for religion at this time of year, which we do not approve of, this is what’s going to happen,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Even the 18-year-old who created the pole isn’t laughing much. State workers, he gripes, set it up too far out of the way for anyone to see.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Homeland Security Forecasts 5-Year Threat Picture

WASHINGTON (AP) — The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political “turmoil,” the assessment said.

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains “the highest priority at the federal level.” Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. “The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things,” he said.

Marked “for official use only,” the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.

Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems.

There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers’ illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax.

“The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremist ideologies has not abated,” Chertoff said in his year-end address on Dec. 18. “This threat has not evaporated, and we can’t turn the page on it.”

These high-consequence threats are not the only kind of challenges that will confront the U.S. over the next five years…

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Intel Report: Hezbollah to Strike in U.S.?

The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the US but those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaeda and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Rezko Attorney ‘Owns’ Obama Mansion

Lawyer at firm where Democrat worked receives tax bill

An attorney for convicted fundraiser Tony Rezko is listed as the owner and taxpayer for Barack Obama’s Chicago mansion, according to records obtained by WND.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Surgeon Uses Human Fat to Run His Cars

Health department raids liposuction clinic as doctor leaves for South America

A leading Beverly Hills plastic surgeon claims to have found an environmentally friendly way to combine two of America’s great obsessions — after converting his 4x4 to run on fat removed from clients during liposuction operations.

Alan Bittner, who founded a high-profile clinic on Rodeo Drive, the Bond Street of Los Angeles, claims to be able to power both his Ford Explorer and his girlfriend’s Lincoln Navigator on biofuel converted from excess flesh from human tums, bums and thighs. “The vast majority of my patients request that I use their fat for fuel — and I have more fat than I can use,” he says. “Not only do they get to lose their love handles or chubby belly, but they get to take part in saving the Earth.”

Dr Bittner made his claim in a posting on the internet site, adding that he has performed roughly 7,000 liposuction operations, and that a gallon of human fat will produce roughly the same quantity of biofuel.

Scientists say there is no reason why human fat cannot be turned into biofuel, since it contains triglycerides which are no different from those found in waste animal fats that are already being used for the same purpose. However the discovery left medical regulators unimpressed. Using human medical waste to power vehicles (or indeed for any other commercial purpose) is largely illegal, and Dr Bittner’s clinic has been raided by California Health Department officials. The magazine Forbes says that Dr Bittner’s ability to create what he calls “lipodiesel” first came to light in lawsuits filed by several former patients, who recently accused him of allowing his girlfriend and assistant, who were both unlicensed, to carry out intricate operations.

A gallon of “lipodiesel” will give motorists roughly the same mileage as they would get from regular diesel, the magazine added. At present, most biofuel is made from a mixture of specially grown corn, and left-over beef or pork products.

Sadly, Dr Bittner is no longer around to bask in his new-found fame. His practice in Beverly Hills suddenly closed shortly after last month’s raid, and he is believed to have moved to South America.

Lawyers representing several former patients are currently attempting to track him down. One of them, Andrew Besser, claims Dr Bittner’s unlicensed girlfriend removed too much fat from his three clients, leaving them horribly disfigured. Dozens of other patients have complained to the State Medical Board, he added.

Dr Bittner’s lawyer is yet to comment. A notice on his website claims that the doctor is currently living in Colombia.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]

U.S. Economy: Home Prices Fall Near Depression Pace

Sales of single-family houses in the U.S. dropped in November by the most in two decades and resale prices collapsed at a pace reminiscent of the Great Depression, dashing speculation the market was close to a bottom.

Purchases of both new and existing houses dropped 7.6 percent from the prior month, the biggest decline since January 1989, to an annual rate of 4.43 million, government and industry figures showed today. A 13 percent drop in the median resale price from a year earlier was the most since records began in 1968 and was likely the largest since the 1930s, the National Association of Realtors said.

“Housing is still in a freefall,” said Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The figures were worse than economists had forecast and signal that the battered housing market that led the economy into a recession may be taking another lurch down. Sliding property values mean more Americans will be under water on their mortgages, destroying household wealth and undermining consumers’ purchasing power.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Bombs Found in France

[Comment from Tuan Jim: From the location and description — at least one of these may be more likely to be Basque-related than islamic.]

PARIS — POLICE defused an explosive device found at an athletic centre in south-western France on Thursday, but another device exploded at a real estate agency in a neighbouring region, a police official said.

The first device, a container of flammable liquid connected to a live detonator, was found in the town of Capbreton around midday, the official said. No one had claimed responsibility.

He said the anti-terrorism division of the Paris prosecutors office had opened an investigation.

Graffiti at the site of the device that exploded, in the French Basque country where separatists occasionally attack real estate agencies but rarely injure anyone, read: ‘The Basque Country is not for sale.’

Police from the city of Bayonne were investigating that incident, the official said. No one was hurt in the explosion. — REUTERS

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Mosquito Blood ‘Identifies Thief’

Police in Finland believe they have caught a car thief from a DNA sample taken from a mosquito they noticed inside an abandoned vehicle.

Finding the car in Seinaejoki, north of Helsinki, police saw that the mosquito had recently sucked blood and decided to send the insect for analysis.

The DNA found from laboratory tests matched a man on the police register.

The suspect denies stealing the car and says he was just hitch-hiking a lift with a man.

The car was stolen in June in the town of Lapua, some 380km (235 miles) north of the Finnish capital, the AFP news agency reports.

It was recovered several weeks later in Seinaejoki, about 25km from where it disappeared.

Sakari Palomaeki, the police inspector in charge of the case, said it was the first time Finnish police had used an insect to solve a crime.

“It is not usual to use mosquitoes. In training we were not told to keep an eye on mosquitoes at crime scenes,” he said.

“It is not easy to find a small mosquito in a car, this just shows how thorough the crime scene investigation was,” he added.

A prosecutor must now decide if the sample is strong enough for charges to be pressed.

[Return to headlines]

Finnish Court Moves to Deport Two Somalis

Chairman of the Finnish Somali League Cries Foul

YLE: The Supreme Administrative Court has upheld a decision to deport Somali youths who were earlier found guilty of committing a series of crimes in Finland.

The court also considered deporting a third Somali youth for similar offences. However, the court found his deportation would be inappropriate as he came to Finland at the age of ten and has lived here for sixteen years.

All of the men had been found guilty of a series of crimes as and had received terms of imprisonment or fines. They had appealed a decision first made in 2005 for their expulsion.

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

Germany: Journalists Worry ‘Big Brother Law’ Will Kill Press Freedom

A new law working its way toward passage in Germany has journalists worried. Certain provisions, they say, could eliminate the ability for reporters to protect their sources. Still, the measure is likely to go into effect early next year.

It has been called the “Big Brother” law in the German media due to its provisions allowing online and telephone surveillance. The Interior Ministry in Berlin describes it as a necessary step to protect the country from the dangers of international terrorism.

But journalists in Germany see the bill — currently in the parliament’s arbitration committee after having failed to get through the country’s upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, in November — in a different light. They are concerned the law would make it much easier for investigators to spy on reporters without their knowledge, giving the state access to both their computer files and their sources. That, they say, represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of the press in Germany. Publishers, journalists and media lawyers are up in arms.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Not All Russians to Receive Czech Pension

Prague — Russians who permanently live in the Czech Republic and who have not paid pension insurance in the country will no longer receive Czech pension automatically as the agreement on the basis of which pensions were paid to Russians will expire at the end of this year.

Czech parliament abrogated the Czech-Russian bilateral social insurance agreement that had been in force for over 50 years this year. The validity of the document will end with the end of 2008.

As of new year, only Russians who have reached 65 and who have paid pension insurance in the Czech Republic for at least 15 years will be entitled to receive Czech pension.

Some Russians will not meet the condition because they only moved to the Czech Republic a couple of years ago.

The agreement was signed in 1959 by the former Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Under it, it was enough for Russians to stay in the Czech Republic permanently to receive Czech pension. They did not have to pay pension insurance in the Czech Republic and the amount of their pension was calculated on the basis of their current income.

Czechs who permanently stayed in Russia received Russian pension on the same conditions.

The deputies described the agreement as outdated. They argued that its abrogation could entice Russia to quickly start negotiations on the new agreement.

The Czech Republic tried to amend the document many times in the past and it made the first attempt in 1989.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia as its successor state recognised the validity of the document and wanted the practice to continue.

Another attempt to change the document was made by Czech diplomats after the appearance of the independent Czech Republic in 1993.

In 1994 talks on the new agreement began. The text was prepared in 2001 and the Czech government approved it.

However, the Russian side did not sign it due to the reform of the Russian pension system. The talks were resumed in 2003. The text of the new agreement was to be signed during Czech President Vaclav Klaus’s visit to Moscow last year but the signing did not take place.

The agreement is not valid in other post-Soviet republics. So far, the Czech Republic has only signed a new agreement on pension insurance with Ukraine. The EU rules are valid for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia who are members of the European Union.

Last year, the Czech Labour and Social Affairs Ministry asked the Foreign Ministry to address the remaining former Soviet republics but only Moldova has shown interest in a new agreement.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Violent Fire Destroys Umeå Student Housing

A huge fire destroyed student housing in Umeå in northern Sweden on Christmas Eve. Fire services had a busy night as a wave of arson attacks were reported across the country.

The head of the fire services in Umeå, Lars Tapani, reported that the fire broke out in the attic of the building and spread to the apartments below. The building is described as three-story, with several stairwells and organised in a u-shape.

“It is also burning violently on the roof and you can smell the smoke over half of Umeå,” he said to news agency TT early on Christmas Day.

Tapani was speaking from a primary school in the vicinity that had been taken over to provide temporary accommodation to people evacuated from some 90 apartments in the student housing area of Ålidhem.

Many others that had been affected by the fire during the night had been able to sort out alternative accommodation, Tapani said.

The fire still raged at 8am on Christmas morning in the house which is made of concrete and has a brick facade. 20 firefighters from Umeå, Sävar and Holmsund were involved in fighting the fire.

Kenneth Jonsson of the fire services reasoned that the house would not be inhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Jonsson told TT that embers from a fire in one of the apartments, extinguished on Christmas Eve, could have spread via the ventilation system into the attic of the building.

No one is reported to have been physically injured in the fire.

“But many were at home and are suffering from shock,” Jonsson said.

Several fires broke out across Sweden on Christmas Eve and fire services had a busy night.

On Järntorget in Eskilstuna, west of Stockholm, a fire began in a video store at around 2am. Police suspect that the fire, which was quickly put out, was a case of arson.

At a school in Bandhagen in southern Stockholm a further fire broke out in a classroom in the early hours. A guard at the school was able to extinguish the fire before it caused any considerable damage.

Shortly before 5am a fire broke out in a restaurant in Helsingborg in southern Sweden. Police suspect that the fire was deliberate.

There are similar suspicions over a fire in a two-storey building in Alvesta in central Sweden which destroyed the building on Christmas morning. The building was empty at the time but has previously housed a pizzeria.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Brown’s U-Turn as 2,000 Foreign Prisoners Granted Early Release… With a £168 Gift From Taxpayer

Almost 2,200 foreign prisoners have been released from jail early with up to £168 each of taxpayers’ cash to compensate them for the loss of bed and board.

The criminals were released back on to the streets despite a promise by Gordon Brown that they would all be deported.

The total cost of funding the handouts for the foreign inmates could be as much as £370,000.

The revelations will overshadow today’s announcement by the Home Office that it removed a record 5,000 foreign criminals last year.

Ministers said they were fulfilling a commitment by the Prime Minister, made in July 2007, to take tougher action in the wake of the foreign prisoners scandal.

Those removed last year included 50 killers and attempted killers, more than 200 sex offenders and more than 1,500 drug offenders.

But the Tories pointed out that Mr Brown had said all overseas criminals would be removed when he declared: ‘If you commit a crime you will be deported. You play by the rules or you face the consequences.’

Research by the Tories discovered that not only did 2,196 foreign criminals escape removal, but they were allowed to leave jail 18 days before their sentence reached even the halfway point to ease overcrowding.

To compensate them for the loss of accommodation and food they would have received in prison during this 18-day period, they were given up to £7 a day from public funds, up to a maximum of £168.24 each.

In a dossier released last night, the Tories revealed that an estimated 3,000 foreign criminals were released without being deported last year, including those who were set free 18 days early.


Many of them cannot be deported because of a combination of EU law and the Human Rights Act.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Cheer Up — There Are Blue Skies Round the Corner

The economic forecasts point to a stormy year of bankruptcies and rising unemployment. But there is a little light amid the gloom — the weather in the coming year is likely to be a happy contrast to the dreary, sodden summer of 2008 and the bitterly cold start to this winter.

Trying to predict the weather a day ahead is tricky enough — and everyone loves to bash the Met Office when its forecast is hopelessly wrong — so it is a brave forecaster who hazards a guess at a year of weather. But there are tantalising signs that the outlook for the weather will be brighter in 2009.

My first punt is that winter will finish on a warm note. The omens may not be good — it snowed in London in October for the first time in more than 70 years; ski slopes in Scotland opened a month early; and it was the coldest start to December for more than 30 years. But the Met Office is predicting that by February winter will have melted away, possibly heralding a bumper spring.

Why think this? The answer lies a few thousand miles away. For the past two years the tropical warm waters of the Pacific have turned unusually cool — this phenomenon is called La Niña, Spanish for Little Girl. Usually La Niña pops up once every few years and makes her present felt for only a year.

Not this time. By sticking around for two years the little minx has stirred up a lot of trouble — spurring on hurricanes in the US and Caribbean, tornados in the US, severe monsoons in India, Indonesia and northern Australia and savage winters in China. Britain was not immune from all this anarchy: La Niña helped to unleash the abysmal summers of 2007 and 2008, the biggest washout in years and the dullest August on record.

La Niña achieved this by shunting the high-altitude jet stream winds off course as they flowed around the globe — delivering buckets of wet and windy weather to Britain. Globalisation existed in the weather long before an economist coined the word. By springtime La Niña should finally be dead and buried, paving the way for a much calmer and much improved summer.

The US Climate Prediction Centre dares to look way ahead to next August and it sees a return to warmer, drier times for the UK and much of Europe.. With the soaring cost of foreign holidays, and a violent hurricane season forecast for the US and Caribbean, this could be the perfect time to take a seaside holiday in Britain.

And more good news. There should be no shortage of water next year as reservoirs are brimming and underground aquifers filled to bursting, after two sensational years of rain. So what imaginative excuses will the water companies dream up for hosepipe bans in 2009?

The Gulf Stream has also perked up. As this warm ocean current races up the Atlantic from the Gulf of Mexico, it gives us the best winter fuel allowance in the world, the equivalent of a million power stations’ worth of free heat each year.

For the past few years scientists have feared that it was running out of steam and was even in terminal decline. This nightmare prospect was chillingly illustrated in the sci-fi film The Day After Tomorrow — when the Gulf Stream suddenly stops working half the northern hemisphere freezes over.

But the Gulf Stream has recovered its poise, which means no frozen apocalypse. Or at least the nightmare is delayed for the time being.

An unorthodox branch of meteorology also points to a warmer year for Britain. In 1801 The astronomer Sir William Herschel observed a link between the number of spots on the face of sun and the price of wheat — the more spots, the lower the price of wheat, because he reckoned that the weather was more temperate and crop yields greater. His claim met with much ridicule.

Nonetheless, others also drew links between sunspot activity and all manners of things, from the height of the Nile’s waters to the lengths of womens’ skirts. The effects of sunspots remain controversial, but there is increasing evidence that strong solar activity over decades and centuries can match the severe droughts that helped to bring down ancient civilisations such as the Maya and Romans.

Every so often the Sun has rashes of spots — they look like freckles but are actually huge storms on its surface. The Sun goes through a cycle that lasts about 11 years — it starts with none, gets spottier and spottier, and then finally it calms down again.

For the past year the Sun has been unnervingly spotless, its quietest sunspot episode for more than 50 years. But it has now woken up again and a new sunspot cycle spluttered into life. Some believe that this upsurge in solar activity will herald warmer and possibly drier weather.

Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, is reputed to take a keen interest in weather forecasting techniques. If the economic forecasts brighten up in the same way as the meteorological ones look like doing, then 2009 will be a better year on many fronts.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Gordon Brown Redistributes Wealth From Taxpayers to City Bankers in Bonuses

Christmas is a time for giving — but there should be limits. It has emerged that four major banking firms in London — Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and Dresdner Kleinwort — are handing out bonuses to traders totalling £6.4 billion. In view of the bailout gifted by Gordon Brown, Saviour of the World, to the banks, this means that these pots of gold come straight from the pockets of taxpayers.

What kind of cynical, amoral madness is this? Do these people even know the meaning of the term “bonus”? It is supposed to be a reward for performance above and beyond the call of duty. What kind of performance have traders put in at Goldman Sachs, whose earnings fell by 47 per cent this year? Yet its bonus handouts total £1.73 billion. Morgan Stanley is handing out £2 billion, Merrill Lynch £2.33 billion.

Even so stalwart a member of the banking establishment as Stephen Green, chairman of HSBC, admitted three months ago that bonuses had contributed to the financial crisis. Any normal people, standing amid the ruins of the banking system they had brought down, would have recognised the fat days were over, that they were lucky to be bailed out by the taxpayer and to retain their jobs — in some instances, as Vince Cable has pointed out, to avoid going to jail.

Yet here they are, with undimmed arrogance, doling out public money to cronies. That money came from hardworking people who have never earned anything like the fortunes paid to bankers and many of whom now stand to lose their jobs in a recession provoked by the banking industry.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Mother Forced to Give Birth on Hospital Floor After Two-Hour Wait for Midwives to Find Her a Bed

An expectant mother gave birth on a hospital assessment room floor because busy staff failed to put her in a maternity unit bed.

Lynne Neilson had been waiting for two-and-a-half hours when she went into labour standing up, clutching the side of a trolley.

A midwife who arrived just as her daughter Orla’s head appeared put down a disposable mat, caught the baby and unwound the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck.

Even then, Mrs Neilson had to wait a further hour before being transferred to the labour ward.


They said they had learned the labour ward was not full when they arrived and the room they were placed in had been empty all along.

Mrs Neilson added: ‘The service we received and the treatment we got were virtually non-existent.

‘The cord was around her neck when she was born, so had someone not arrived to help, it could have been pretty bad news.

‘The whole thing was just unbelievable. I just want them to change the process.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Secret Nuclear Sell-Off Storm

Britain no longer has any stake in the production of its nuclear warheads after the Government secretly sold off its shares in the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston.

Ministers agreed to sell the remaining one-third ownership to a Californian engineering company. The announcement, which means that Americans will now produce and maintain Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, was slipped out on the eve of the parliamentary Christmas holiday. Officials refused to say how much the deal raised.

Opposition MPs last night expressed concern that the stake may have been sold off below market value to raise much-needed money for the Treasury. They accused the Government of trying to conceal the sale of the stake in AWE Management Limited by failing to make an announcement in Parliament.

There was also anger that Britain would no longer directly control the site where Britain’s nuclear warheads are produced and maintained. What’s for sale next?


The Treasury is considering privatising other state assets in what critics have called a recession “fire sale”. These include:

  • Ordnance Survey
  • The Met Office
  • The Forestry Commission
  • The Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster
  • The Covent Garden Market Authority
  • The Royal Mint
  • The Tote
  • Buildings owned by British Waterways
  • British Nuclear Fuel’s stake in uranium enrichment company Urenco
  • The Oil & Pipeline Agency, which manages the UK’s underground network of fuel distribution pipelines.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Teachers Banned From Using ‘Confrontational’ Red Ink in Case it Upsets Children

Hundreds of schools have barred teachers from marking in red in case it upsets the children.

They are scrapping the traditional method of correcting work because they consider it “confrontational” and “threatening”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Tattooed? Overweight? Criminal Record? Your Country Needs You…

Desperate Army chiefs want to accept more criminals, the overweight and applicants with visible tattoos in a bid to solve a recruitment crisis.

The startling plans are part of a drive to boost Army numbers in 2009 after years of worsening shortages.

Top commanders are anxious to attract more recruits during the current dire economic conditions which in the past have provided a boost to recruitment as civilian jobs become scarce.


Critics of the idea accuse the Defence Ministry of ‘missing the point’, saying the real problem is the exodus of seasoned soldiers who have become disillusioned with their treatment by the Government.

One commenter said:

This has been happening in the states for some time. Many believe politicians want an army with no scruples, filled with criminals — such an army would present a grave threat to the democratic rights of people of the UK. — R McAuley, Antrim UK, 26/12/2008 09:50

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Victim of the ‘Can’t Touch’ Culture: Teacher Throttled by Pupil as Colleagues Looked on

A teacher who won £250,000 compensation after a pupil tried to strangle him has criticised a ‘can’t touch’ culture in schools after other staff initially refused to intervene.

Colin Adams, 50, was attacked by a 12-year-old boy, who knocked him to the floor before punching and kicking him, and grabbing his neck. But despite other teachers yelling at the boy to stop, no one stepped in to help.

Mr Adams’s ordeal ended only after another teacher eventually came to his aid by forcing the boy’s thumbs back to release his hold. Later, the unnamed teacher admitted to Mr Adams that he was afraid the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, would accuse him of assault.

It later emerged the boy had a history of violence, having previously attacked pupils and a security guard at a library opposite Kingsford Community School in East London.

However, he was not properly disciplined over the assaults and staff were not warned about his past.

Mr Adams yesterday criticised Government-backed ‘inclusion’ policies, which he claimed had led to pupils with severe behavioural problems being taught in schools where staff are not trained to cope with them.

His comments come only days after figures released under the Freedom of Information Act revealed police were called to schools 10,000 times last year to deal with violent incidents.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Abbas: ‘Hebron is Ours, Settlers Have to Leave’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday visited Hebron for the first time since he took office in 2005 and demanded that the settlers get out. “Hebron is ours, and they have to leave if they want peace,” he said.

Abbas also called on Israel to accept a 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers peace between Israel and the Arab world in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights. “Come to the ocean of peace that starts from Mauritania and ends in Indonesia,” Abbas said.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Bethlehem Christians Flee Religious Persecution by Muslims;

Journalists blame Israel, mollify world to reality, defending against Jihad

Muslim mafia’s intimidating and usurping of Christians’ lives, homes, businesses responsible for Christian emigration. Journalists wrongly laying blame on Zionism distract world from appropriate reaction, response.. Even the New York Times had to admit that business is strong in Bethlehem.. So who is making life so harsh for many Christians that they are forced to flee?

Correspondent Aaron Klein in WorldNetDaily writes “Media’s ‘cold deceit’ descends upon Bethlehem”

…the mainstream media, which, like clockwork, file misleading reports from this important Christian city every year. They completely ignore Muslim intimidation of Christians while blaming Israel for ruining Christmas and for the drastic decline of Christianity in one of the holiest cities for that religion.

The reality of Muslim on Christian crime was addressed by CBN News several weeks ago: [video]

Some Christian leaders said one of the most significant problems facing Christians in Bethlehem is the rampant confiscation of land by Muslim gangs. “There are many cases where Christians have their land stolen by the [Muslim] mafia,” said Samir Qumsiyeh, a Bethlehem Christian leader and owner of the Beit Sahour-based private Al-Mahd (Nativity) TV station.

“It is a regular phenomenon in Bethlehem. They go to a poor Christian person with a forged power of attorney document, and then they say we have papers proving you’re living on our land. If you confront them, many times the Christian is beaten. You can’t do anything about it. The Christian loses, and he runs away,” Qumsiyeh told WND, speaking from his hilltop television station during a recent interview.

Qumsiyeh himself said he was targeted by Islamic gangs. He said his home was firebombed after he returned from a trip abroad during which he gave public speeches outlining the plight of Bethlehem’s Christian population.

One Christian Bethlehem resident told WND last year her friend recently fled Bethlehem after being accused by Muslims of selling property to Jews, a crime punishable by death in some Palestinian cities. The resident said a good deal of the intimidation comes from gunmen associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.

A February Jerusalem Post article cited the case of Faud and Georgette Lama, Christian residents of Bethlehem who said their land was stolen by local Muslims and when they tried to do something about it, Faud was beaten by gunmen.

One religious novelty store owner I met recently told me Muslim gangs regularly deface Christian property. “We are harassed, but you wouldn’t know the truth. No one says anything publicly about the Muslims. This is why Christians are running away.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Gaza Group: We’ll Abduct Female Soldier

Popular Resistance Committees spokesman says group plans to kidnap female soldier should IDF enter Gaza, so that ‘Gilad Shalit will be able to start family’; Gaza groups have more than 10,000 rockets, ‘can drop martyrs from sky into Tel Aviv,’ he says

Specifically, the group would aim to kidnap a female soldier, the PRC’s Abu Abir told the Nazareth-based Arb al-Dahel. “The resistance movement is talking about the abduction of a female soldier, and we’re certain we’ll succeed,” he said. “Then, Gilad Shalit will be able to start a family, and the negotiations will be for the release of the Shalit family.”


           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Negev Residents Outraged Over Aid Delivery to Strip

Heads of Gaza-vicinity communities slam defense minister’s decision to allow transfer of aid into Gaza despite ongoing Qassam, mortar attacks. ‘Why are humanitarian concerns always one-sided?’ they ask

Heads of the Gaza vicinity communities were outraged Friday by Israel’s decision to allow 40 trucks carrying humanitarian aid to enter the Gaza Strip, despite the incessant rocket and mortar fire at the western Negev. Dozens of mortar shells and one Qassam were fired at the area from the northern Gaza Strip in a number of barrages Thursday night. No injuries or damages were reported in any of the attacks.

Head of the Eshkol Regional Council Haim Yelin said that after such a night he had hoped that the border crossings would remain closed. “I must say that I fail to understand the reasons behind continuing to deliver aid to those Palestinians for ‘humanitarian ground’,” he stated.. “Why is the humanitarian need always one-sided? Why are there no humanitarian concerns towards us and a stop to the rocket fire?”

Ashkelon Deputy-Mayor Shimon Cohen said he was shocked to learn about the decision to open the crossings. “This is a failure on the national level. The government’ treatment of us is simply humiliating,” he stated.


Meanwhile, MK Arieh Eldad (Hatikva) requested Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Friday to prosecute Defense Minister Ehud Barak for aiding the enemy at a time of war, following the defense minister’s instructions to open the crossings. Eldad noted that the aid was delivered while rockets continued to rain on western Negev communities from the Gaza Strip and said, “There is no other definition for the term ‘aiding the enemy at a time of war’ and anyone who does so must be prosecuted.”

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

UK: Indulgence of Islam is Harming Society

Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Britain: the number of Muslims has grown from 1.6 million to two million since 2000. Moreover, every major public institution has changed its policies to accommodate the demands of Islamic “community leaders”. The Government, the Opposition, the police, schools, the Church of England, the BBC and now Channel 4 are all helping Muslims construct a parallel Islamic state.

Early next year, the think tank Civitas will publish a survey of 100 British Muslim schools. Entitled When Worlds Collide, it will argue that some of them are pushing pupils into ghettos. Young women, in particular, are forbidden to pursue career opportunities. “Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim young women are lost to the wider world,” says the report. One school website links to al-Qaeda; another directs pupils to a scholar who advocates the murder of Jews.

Until recently, these radical mullahs were blamed for turning disaffected youths into bombers. But, in August, a leaked MI5 report revealed that Islamist terrorists tend not to be obvious religious extremists. The Muslim community usually knows nothing about them.

For years, the Government has offered Muslim leaders self-governance in return for information about “dangerous” elements. But if terrorists cannot be accurately identified, this is a waste of time. Unelected community leaders extend control over Muslims, yet society is no safer.

Self-censorship is crucial to this growing separatism. The BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, says that Muslims should be treated more sensitively than Christians.

In America, Random House cancelled publication of Sherry Jones’s novel The Jewel of Medina, about Mohammed’s six-year-old bride Ayisha. But Martin Ryna of Gibson Square in London did agree to publish. Three men were subsequently charged with conspiring to damage his home. Islamic groups have threatened Borders bookshops with violence if they sell the novel.

Although most Muslims do not condone such attacks, many support the proposal that Islam should enjoy privileged status. After the 7/7 terrorist murders, the Home Office commissioned reports from Muslim working parties. Their recommendations included “Muslim teacher accreditation” to ensure special treatment for Muslim children; Muslim oversight of policing methods; and a new verbal etiquette in which Islamist terrorism should be referred to as “criminal” rather than religiously inspired. There were also hints that British Muslims should be allowed an unofficial veto over foreign policy.

In the event, the Government backed away from the more extreme demands. Others have been quietly met. A National Association of Muslim Police was set up in 2007 and is regularly consulted by senior officers.

Government ministers rarely put the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence. Conservative front benchers follow the same practice, except when addressing the Conservative Friends of Israel. “I have been told off by three members of the shadow cabinet for using the phrase ‘Islamist terrorism’ when I have appeared with them,” says Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.

The major development, however, has been the encroachment of Sharia law into public life. Last February, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, declared that British Sharia was “inevitable.” In fact, instruments for expanding it already exist. A network of Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MATs) has been set up with Home Office support. In theory, these bodies are just a form of “alternative dispute resolution”. They are “unable to deal with criminal offences”, says the MAT website. Yet it also confirms that they can “assist” the police with domestic violence, sometimes “with a view to reconsidering criminal charges”.

MATs also deal with wills, where Sharia discriminates against females. The Government is also anxious to attract Muslim investment by regulating British Islamic banking; the only way to do that is to grant legal recognition to Sharia.

According to Murray, “what we are seeing is the state deferring to a seventh-century Arabian tradesman as a source for secular law”. He was speaking on Christmas Eve. The next day, Ahmadinejad spoke to the nation. Yesterday it was reported that Baroness Butler-Sloss, one of Britain’s most senior legal figures, wants Sharia divorces to be enshrined in law. For the first time in decades, religion is moulding public life in this country; but that religion is not Christianity.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Lebanese Troops Dismantle Rockets Aimed at Israel

Lebanese troops on Thursday found and dismantled eight rockets set up for launch at northern Israel, Lebanese security sources said, Reuters reported. They said the Grad and Katyusha rockets were found near the village of Teir Harfa just north of the border with Israel.

It was not immediately clear who set up the projectiles in the area controlled by a U.N. peacekeeping force and the Lebanese army.

The area was a hotbed for Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas until the 2006 war with Israel led to the deployment of the Lebanese troops and expanded the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers. Hezbollah had no comment on the incident.

There had been at least two incidents of rockets fired into Israel from south Lebanon since the 2006 war, but both were blamed on Palestinian militants. The rockets were found as tensions rose in the Gaza Strip after the end of a truce between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants there.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

On Christmas, Iraq Christians Eye Uncertain Future

Baghdad. Rushing to Christmas mass, Iraqis in their Sunday best hurried into Baghdad’s Sacred Heart church, pausing just long enough so a uniformed security guard could pat them down for suicide vests or dangerous weapons, Reuters reported.

The juxtaposition of faith and fear is one that resonates across Iraq, where as violence drops people are cautiously venturing out from homes bunkered by blast walls and sand bags and taking up activities abandoned during years of bloodshed.

Christians, who with Yazidis, Shabaks and others make up Iraq’s fragile minorities, marked perhaps their safest Christmas since 2003 on Thursday, but many still talk of a precarious future in a nation at risk of backsliding into civil war.

Iraqi Christians, believed to number around 750,000, have been targeted like others in Iraq’s 28-million, mainly Muslim population by the horrific violence since the 2003 invasion. Their plight often gains heightened attention in the West.

Reliable figures are hard to find on how many Christians are among the millions who have fled the country, but some Christian leaders warn of a threat to the existence for their community.

A series of high-profile attacks against Christians in the northern city of Mosul this fall prompted the flight of thousands of families and fueled a fear of being singled out. “Christians have no political ambitions and they don’t have militias to defend themselves. They are peaceful people,” Thaier al-Sheikh, the pastor of the Sacred Heart church, said as he sipped tea in his rectory.

“Christians have been here longer than Muslims, 600 years longer. We are the roots of Iraq,” he said.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Report Says Ahmadinejad Squandered $140 Billion

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s financial policies came under attack recently, as those opposing him within the Islamic Republic claimed that he has singlehandedly driven the country into financial ruin.

Several weeks ago, Ahmadinejad appeared before his parliament in order to defend his policies and announced that his government will allot the failing Iranian market a bailout plan, which will allow it, and the weaker socioeconomic classes, to get back on their feet.

The Iranian president’s promises, however, proved empty. Earlier in the week, the reformist Iranian daily Saramiya reported that Ahmadinejad has depleted the Iranian reserve fund meant to aid the country’s poor — somewhat of a problem when you consider the fact that Ahmadinejad won his presidency based on campaign promises pledging to improve the low social echelons’ status.

According to the report, Ahmadinejad has managed to “irresponsibly and illegally” squander $140 billion. The blame, added the repot, lies with the continuous funding of projects is various Iranian provinces, which — according to his criticizers — is devoid of any financial logic, and demonstrates mainly fiscal foolery.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: We Must Refight the Battles of the 1970s

Boxing Day is for eating leftovers. Today, Britain tucks into cold turkey. And we’d better get used to a spot of austerity. We are facing a crisis as bad, if not worse, than that of the 1970s. The lights might not be going out and our dead are being buried, but don’t be fooled. Our economy and most public institutions are, in Whitehall-speak, not fit for purpose. Unless Britain has a radical change of direction, prepare yourself for an era of decline.

For evidence, I present Exhibit A — the state. The public sector is sucking the private sector dry. It presents a structural problem just as corrosive as trade union domination or nationalised industries in the 1970s. Two facts: the public sector is roughly the same size as Scotland’s population; and taxpayers will have to fill a £1 trillion black hole in public sector pensions — while private sector pensions have been trashed.

Exhibit B: our dependency culture, another aspect of the client state — 3·5 million working-age people (three times Birmingham’s population) are on out-of-work benefits that place little or no work expectations on them, even though many could do some work. Labour calls this “social justice”. Enough said.

Exhibit C: the conquest of cultural and social organisations by “progressives” — those who subvert our institutions to instill a socialist, “all must have prizes”, centralised ethos. In our schools, the concept that education should focus on the transmission of a body of knowledge; the belief that children learn through structured teaching, not play; the concept that a good exam is not one that everyone passes — all these ideas have been junked.

You may know this already. You might also have also thrown your radio across the room while listening to another “quangocrat” on the Today programme whingeing on about the need for “more resources”. But consider Exhibit D.

This is the battle cry of the Left. Across Europe, socialists claim that the economic crisis was caused by free markets — and we need more socialism, not less, to dig us out of the hole. Listen to the new leader of France’s opposition Socialist Party: “Liberal global governance and financial liberalism have suffered a social, moral and economic failure.” This was echoed by Sweden’s Social Democrat leader: “Conservatives have perhaps suffered a policy for sunny days, but now it is rainy and cold. This crisis is an opportunity for social democrats.” Back home, there is the leader of the civil servants’ PCS union: “The arguments for more free markets, less regulation and more privatisation have now been found wanting and hollow.”

As to their solution, socialists are calling for — in the words of the European Trade Union Confederation — “a complete change in the way the financial world works”. More public spending, more regulation and more workers’ rights: “Strong collective bargaining practice, independent of and not subordinated to law courts and judges.”

Has this spirited you back to the 1970s? If not, try this from another Labour paymaster, Derek Simpson, joint general secretary of Unite. Welcoming the Government’s spending bonanza that will push us into a black hole of debt, he said: “This is a welcome warm up exercise after 30 years of inaction and neo-liberal economics.” If this is the warm-up act, heaven help us when the star turn gets going.

The Left sees capitalism gasping for breath, and hopes a well-aimed blow could do mortal damage. Invigorated by the market’s collapse, socialists are on the march. No more talk about a third way. No more twaddle like the Blairite “what matters is what works”. Pulsating with core belief and conviction, the Left are preaching “the state can save us”.

Belief and conviction. Where does this leave the Conservatives? Having worked with David Cameron, I can vouch for his strong Conservative beliefs, as well as his cool head in a crisis. The task that befalls him and his team is to spell out those convictions, loud and clear, and to join battle with the Left. Britain needs a clarion cry for a just cause, a noble object, something appeals not just to the head, but also the heart and makes people understand that, unless we have a change of government and direction, we will all go the way of Woolies.

What is that noble object? Not a policy, but a call to arms. “We want to work with the grain of human nature, helping people to help themselves — and others. This is the way to restore that self-reliance and self-confidence which are the basis of personal responsibility and national success. Attempting to do too much, politicians have failed to do those things that should be done. This has damaged the country and the authority of government. The balance of our society has been increasingly tilted in favour of the state at the expense of individual freedom. This election may be the last chance we have to reverse that process, to restore the balance of power in favour of the people. It is therefore the most crucial election since the war.”

I lifted those sentences from the 1979 Conservative Party manifesto. They may be 30 years old, they may not convey the hope of a Barack Obama speech or pack the punch of a Saatchi advert, but they make a point. We are at one of history’s turning points. Just as in 1979, a battle of belief is upon us, and it will be won by conviction.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Yemen to Build Ghetto for Jews

President Ali Abdullah Saleh announces plan to build secured residential compound for Jews in capital of San’a

Two weeks after the murder of Moshe Yaish Nahari, the brother of Yemen’s Jewish community’s head, the country’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh pledged to build a secured Jewish ghetto in the outskirts of the capital San’a.

The new neighborhood will house the 300 Jews of the Umran province where the murder took place.

Yemen’s president has informed human rights organizations and the heads of the Jewish community in the country of his decision to allocate an area in Sana’s northern suburb for the construction of a residential neighborhood for Jews on the state’s expense.

Any family who decides to move there from Umran will receive $10,000 in compensation.

According to President Saleh, the Jewish neighborhood will be guarded by security forces at all hours.

Since Nahari’s murder dozens of Jews in Umran have reported receiving death threats and falling victim to violent harassment in the streets of the Umran province.

A Yemeni judge on Monday ordered the man accused of murdering Nahari to go for a medical checkup to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

At the opening of the trial, lawyers for defendant Abdel Aziz Yehia Hamoud al-Abdi appealed to the judge that he was mentally unfit to stand trial and asked for a medical examination.

“Every one who knows him, knows he is insane,” lawyer Khaled al-Shalali told the court, describing the defendant as a retired pilot in the Yemeni army.

           — Hat tip: Abu Elvis[Return to headlines]


Another ‘Unrecognized Republic’ is Born — This Time in Ukraine

Vienna, December 24 — The Transcarpathian Rusins (Ruthenians), who are estimated to number more than a million, are calling on Moscow to recognize the independence of Subcarpathian Rus because Kyiv has ignored their demands for autonomy within Ukraine, an appeal that could create yet another “unrecognized” republic in the former Soviet space.

That appeal, which was given prominence two days ago when Petr Getsko, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the self-proclaimed republic, gave an interview to the Russian government newspaper, “Rossiiskaya gazeta, in fact has deeper roots.

On the one hand, there has been a resurgence of Ruthenian activism across eastern Europe, with most countries in the region providing some support to what is the fourth largest East Slavic group in the world. And on the other, Kyiv has infuriated many Rusins by refusing to acknowledge them as a separate nation, anger that Moscow has clearly sought to tap into.

The current Ruthenian campaign for greater rights began at the end of October when the Second European Congress of Ruthenians met in Mukachevo and formally demanded that Kyiv grant them the status of an autonomous republic before December 1. If that did not happen, the participants said, they would see national self-determination outside of Ukraine.

December 1 came and went, but on December 19, an international scientific practical conference on “Genocide and Cultural Ethnocide of the Rusins of Carpathian Rus (the end of the 19th Century to the Beginning of the 21st Century) assembled in Rostov-na-Donu and adopted a resolution on the Ruthenian cause.

Among the resolution’s key points was an insistence that alongside the Armenians, the Ruthenians were the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century, one carried out by the Austro-Hungarians. Today, the resolution continued, Kyiv is extending this through “a policy of cultural ethnocide.”

In addition, the resolution insisted that the Ruthenians are recognized as a unique people in all countries of the region except Ukraine and that they enjoy the support of international organizations like the UN whose committee on the liquidation of racial discrimination in August 2006 criticized Kyiv for not supporting them.

And the resolution specified that the status of the Transcarpathian Ruthenians has not yet been defined — Kyiv has not yet recognized the 1946 treaty which incorporated them into the Soviet Union — and that the Ukrainian government continues to ignore the December 1991 referendum in which Ruthenians voted for autonomy as well as for Ukrainian independence.

Eduard Popov, a Russian expert on Ukraine, subsequently argued that “Subcarpathian Rus has experience as an independent government and an autonomous republic” and thus has the historical basis for demanding recognition either from Kyiv or the international community.

And because of both that history and the higher status Ruthenians have received elsewhere, Popov continued, the refusal of the Ukrainian government to recognize them as a separate nationality and to offer courses in their distinctive language are increasingly offensive — all the more so since the ethnonym “Rusin” is much older than the one for Ukrainian.

At least some observers in Moscow dismiss the current Ruthenian cause as nothing more than the babblings of a few underemployed academics and any Russian government interest in them as a foolish policy that will infuriate the Ukrainian government and do little or nothing to advance Moscow’s interest in the region.

But however that may be, the Rusins of Ukraine are pressing ahead, and at least those who have taken part in these recent meetings believe that they have both a good case as a nationality whose interests have been ignored and a geographic advantage that makes them an even better candidate for Russian support than other “unrecognized” states have.

“Prime Minister” Getsko told “Rossiiskaya gazeta” that “we have sought autonomy for a long time and have appealed to the authorities of the country almost every month during recent years. But nothing came of this, and now we will seek independence” and international recognition.

Moreover, he pointedly told the paper in the kind of language the Russian government and business elite are certain to understand, “the lion’s share” of Russian gas on its way to European markets flows through Subcarpathian Rus, “twice more than through the Baltic states and twice more than through other neighboring countries.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia Unveils List of Strategic Enterprises

MOSCOW, Dec 26 — Russia has unveiled a list of strategic enterprises entitled to preferential government support in the economic crisis but said the list was not complete and did not guarantee the receipt of the financial help.

The cabinet published the list made of 295 companies from various industries and compiled by a government commission for increasing sustainability of the economic development on its Web site late on Thursday.

Moscow has pledged over $200 billion to stave off the crisis, which has already seen companies cut jobs, salaries and investment plans, forced consolidation in Russia’s 1,000-plus banking sector and prompted a rise in corporate debt defaults. “The inclusion of a company in the list does not guarantee the receipt of the financial support,” the government said in a statement on its web site

“The main objective…is supporting their stability using not only credit instruments but other measures,” it said adding the measures included restructuring tax arrears, altering tariff policy and granting government orders.

“Besides, if it is needed, the government will (act to) minimise negative social and economic consequences of the closure of these enterprises,” the government said.

Among others, the list includes oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, Russian Railways, flag carrier Aeroflot, gas export monopoly Gazprom, the largest oil producer Rosneft, No.2 mobile operator Vimpelcom, Norilsk Nickel, the world’s biggest producer of nickel and palladium, and others.

However, the list lacks some major companies key for their industries, such as Russia’s largest silver miner Polymetal or oilfield services firm Integra, while some companies are mentioned twice. “The list…is not complete and may be modified by resolution of the commission,” the government said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia Starts Arms Delivery

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Please note that these are NOT the S-300 missiles that Russia “supposedly” is in the process of selling to Iran]

MOSCOW — RUSSIA has begun to fulfil a US$250 million (S$361 million) contract to deliver surface-to-air missiles to seven countries including Libya, Syria and Venezuela, the Vedomosti business daily reported Friday.

Russia will also deliver the S-125 Pechora-2M missile batteries to Egypt, Myanmar, Vietnam and Turkmenistan under the contract, the newspaper said, citing a source in the state-owned Russian Technologies corporation.

Contacted by AFP, a spokesman for the company declined to comment.

Russian Technologies includes arms exporter Rosoboronexport among its holdings.

The paper did not say which parties had signed the contract.

The Pechora-2M — known as the SA-3A Goa in Nato parlance — is an upgraded version of a surface-to-air missile originally developed in the 1960s that was widely shared with the Soviet Union’s allies around the world.

Under the contract, 200 missiles are to be delivered including 70 for Egypt, an unnamed manager at a Russian defence-industry factory told Vedomosti.

He added that most would be built at the Obukhov factory in Saint Petersburg.

‘It is a simple but effective system, like the Kalashnikov assault rifle,’ he said of the Pechora. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ukrainian Apartment Blast Kills 22

At least 22 people were killed after a massive explosion ripped through a five-storey apartment block in a Ukrainian Black Sea resort town, local officials say.


Ukraine’s Emergency Situations Minister Volodymyr Shandra, reported earlier that the “catastrophe had happened because of an oxygen or carbide explosion.”

“All the repair and maintenance crews are storing their oxygen in basements. This is the practice all over Yevpatoria,” a witness said in comments broadcast by Russian television.

Yevpatoria residents said they had not smelled gas but heard a explosion. “There was no smell of gas,” said local resident Svetlana Sergiichuk.

Another resident, Lidia Kovalenko, said: “I saw a blue flame and smoke and…. a horrible explosion.”

“It felt like an earthquake but it must have been something else,” said another resident.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Georgia President Saakashvili ‘Punched’ Prime Minister in the Face

[Comment from Tuan Jim: No idea how reputable this source is…entertaining though]

Russian media widely picked up the report by Georgia’s Alia tabloid newspaper, which cited an unnamed source as saying Mr Saakashvili attacked Prime Minister Grigol Mgaloblishvili, without providing a reason why.

Mr Saakashvili is known for his hot temper, and at times strange antics. BBC footage of the Georgian president chewing his tie while speaking on the telephone during the country’s war with Russia this August was widely circulated.

Mr Mgaloblishvili, appointed in November in a Cabinet shake-up that followed the war, handed in his resignation after the incident, but Saakashvili refused to accept it, according to Alia.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Russia Kills 12 Militants

Russia — POLICE and security forces have killed 12 suspected militants during a sweep in a volatile province in southern Russia, officials said on Thursday.

The two-day security sweep which ended on Thursday targeted a group of militants hiding in the forested mountains of Ingushetia province, according to the regional branch of the Russian Interior Ministry.

Police and security agents found a large number of weapons and ammunition that belonged to the militants, the ministry branch said.

Ingushetia sits to the west of Chechnya, where large-scale battles between Russian troops and separatists ended years ago.

Militants based in Chechnya continue, however, to stage regular attacks against authorities, and the violence often has spilled to neighboring North Caucasus provinces.

Unidentified gunmen ambushed police vehicles in Ingushetia’s town of Malgobek, killing an officer and wounding two passers-by in two separate attacks on Wednesday, the ministry branch said.

It said an unknown assailant also threw a hand grenade on Thursday into a house belonging to a prosecutor in Ingushetia’s village of Ekazhevo. No one was hurt. — AP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side

South Ossetia has been a de facto Russian protectorate since Moscow’s victory in the five-day war in Georgia. But the breakaway republic is becoming an embarrassment for the Kremlin, with a corrupt president, disappearing aid money and brewing social unrest.

Thick clouds hang over the roofs of Tskhinvali, as if fog had enveloped the houses there. But they are clouds of smoke coming from the wood-burning ovens in the homes of the city’s 27,000 inhabitants. There is no central gas supply in the South Ossetian capital, where gas pipes are not expected to be installed until next year.

Snow and cold temperatures have descended on this small town in the Caucasus, forcing Valentina Tadtayeva and her family to move once again. “It’s already the third time since the war,” says Tadtayeva, a thin, gray-haired woman. In the night before Aug. 8, when Georgian forces launched a surprise attack on South Ossetia, a breakaway province northwest of the capital Tbilisi, three artillery shells tore off the roof and one wall of her house. Valentina, 59, and her husband Pavel, 62, had fled to the basement, together with their two sons Alan, 27, and Oleg, 26, as well as their daughter-in-law Asa, 21. “We feared for our lives,” says Valentina.

The war lasted three days for the Tadtayevs. When the Russians liberated Tskhinvali, the family moved to the apartment of the youngest son’s mother-in-law, where 14 people lived in two small rooms. Four weeks later, the soldiers set up an army-green tent in the courtyard, and the city administration promised to repair the damaged house within a few weeks. “Nothing has happened yet,” Valentina complains. Instead, the family is now forced to move in with relatives once again. “They forgot about us,” says Valentina. “Now the peace is becoming a burden.”

It has been four months since Russia and Georgia went to war over the tiny state, only slightly larger than Luxembourg and with about 70,000 inhabitants, triggering a geopolitical earthquake. Moscow came to the aid of the South Ossetians. With their concentrated military might, the Russians repelled the Georgian troops from Tskhinvali and made it clear to the world that Georgia is part of their sphere of influence. What had seemed like a struggle between Georgia and Russia had turned into a conflict between Russia and the West.

But what did this victory do for South Ossetia, a mountainous strip of land that declared its independence after the hostilities ended? The state whose fate was allegedly the Kremlin’s greatest concern at the time? And for which Moscow continues to collect donations through its embassies abroad — funds intended for the “victims of the humanitarian disaster in South Ossetia?”

Besides Russia, so far only Nicaragua has recognized the separatist republic. Foreign journalists are only permitted to travel in the tiny country when accompanied by officials from the foreign ministry in Moscow. Even the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union, which brokered the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia, are being denied entry by the South Ossetians and their protective power, Russia. For this reason, very little reliable information makes it out of the region.

Russian Criticism Mounting

This makes what recently appeared in Russian newspapers all the more surprising: that the republic is on the brink of social unrest, just as winter is beginning, because the government has allegedly embezzled Russian reconstruction aid funds, as the former South Ossetian defense minister and head of the security council, a Russian lieutenant general, explained; or that South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity fled spinelessly during the war; and that millions of rubles deposited in the safes at the national bank in Tskhinvali had gone missing and that Russian businesspeople are refusing to invest in South Ossetia while its brawny separatist leader remains in power.

Kokoity, a former freestyle wrestler who now sits in the “Office of the President,” a six-story concrete building from the Soviet era, calls the criticism in Russian newspapers “arranged.” Certain pro-Georgian forces in Russia, he says, are attempting to “discredit South Ossetia and its leadership in the eyes of the Russians.” Yes, says Kokoity, it is cold now in Tskhinvali, but “we are occasionally warmed by the joy of victory and independence,” he tells his freezing fellow South Ossetians — while his own office has thermopane windows from Turkey, installed after the war.

In the city, 10 schools, kindergartens and the hospital have been rebuilt. But in many houses there are now plastic tarps and blankets where windows used to be. “We brought enough glass to Tskhinvali to provide it with three times as many windows as it needs,” Russian Disaster Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu said angrily.

No one knows exactly what happened to all the glass and other building materials. The same appears to apply to much of the €350 million ($490 million) in Russian reconstruction aid. To be on the safe side, Moscow did send two of its own people to Tskhinvali to serve as prime minister and finance minister. But President Kokoity has declared the budget, filled almost exclusively with Russian funds after the war, a state secret. A former security advisor accuses Kokoity of having surrounded himself with confidants from the Russian regions of Samara and Ulyanovsk and of conducting money-laundering operations with dubious companies.

Yuri Morosov, the former prime minister who resigned after the war — supposedly of his own free will — voices similar complaints. According to Morosov, 100 million rubles or about €2.7 million ($3.8 million) in salary payments for public servants were embezzled shortly before the conflict. Most of the money was intended for South Ossetia’s armed militias.

It’s a difficult situation for Russia. While war refugees in the rest of Georgia will receive new houses, thanks to €3.4 billion ($4.8 billion) in aid money, mainly from the EU and the United States, the reconstruction of South Ossetia could prove to be an embarrassment for Moscow. If so, Russia’s efforts to present itself as an protective power to the people of the Caucasus and the world will suffer.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Ossetia Becomes Thorn in Russia’s Side Part 2

Part 2: Potential Embarrassment for Moscow

There is at least one location in Tskhinvali that looks how Moscow wants it to look. At Stalin Street 27, across from the seat of Kokoity’s government, Russian mobile phone provider Yevrozet has opened a shop. Fashionably dressed saleswomen use computers as cash registers — as long as there is no power outage. It is warm in the shop, where Nokia mobile phones and Canon cameras glitter in glass cases. The shop is an island of modernity in a city in which the scars of the war are in full view on every street corner.

The shop sees about 1,000 visitors a day, which would even be considered a success for a retail business in downtown Moscow. The trouble is, hardly anyone is buying mobile phones and cameras. “People come here because they want to see normal life,” says Irma Alborova, a saleswoman.

Normal life? South Ossetia, which the Russians seem so keen on controlling, has had a bad reputation since the early 1990s. Today it is considered a hub of crime and smuggling. It rebelled against the Georgian central government in a bloody war in the early 1990s, and after the war South Ossetia became impoverished and isolated. Many residents earned a living dealing in vodka on the black market.

Kokoity made a name for himself as the region’s “trade representative” in Moscow, and then, with Kremlin support, he managed to catapult himself to the presidency of the rebel republic. But now there are growing doubts, even in Moscow, over whether Kokoity is the right man for the job.

Russian Control of Caucasus at Stake

If South Ossetia plunges in chaos, Russia could lose control over the entire unstable and majority Muslim Caucasus region. In the Russian autonomous republics of Dagestan and Inguchetia, government forces wage battles with underground fighters almost daily. Even in Christian North Ossetia, a pillar of Russian imperialism until now, religious warriors are now trying to stir up resistance within the Muslim minority against the “Russian occupiers.”

Kokoity governs his territory like a mafia boss. Critics are threatened with deportation by his security staff, while family members are awarded positions in the administration. Kokoity made his brother Robert, a feared gangster in Tskhinvali, ambassador in sunny Abkhazia on the Black Sea.

The Ossetians certainly have Russia to thank for stopping the invasion of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in August, thereby preventing reintegration of the province into Georgia. But they are increasingly skeptical about Kokoity’s regime.

The Ossetian leader, who publicly drained a tankard containing three liters of wine to celebrate the Russian victory, now intends to give his regime a civilized makeover and curry favor in Moscow. Stalin Street, the only street with this name in a state capital, is to be renamed Medvedev Street..

But even Russian President Dmitry Medvedev knows that “by far not everything is going well” in South Ossetia, as he admitted in public recently.

But to avoid completely isolating itself internationally, Russia has stopped short of formally annexing the captured mountain province. This has its downsides. For example, the Kremlin cannot simply dismiss Kokoity like any other governor. Instead, it must court him as if he were a foreign head of state — even though Kokoity’s militias were apparently involved in gun battles with Russian troops recently. Many in Moscow are realizing that Russia went to war over a region that is not only insignificant, but also has a leadership every bit as unpredictable as Saakashvili.

In Tskhinvali, Valentina Tadtayeva and her sons packed together their few remaining belongings: blankets, a tea kettle, silverware and family photos. They will also take a basket of apples along to their relatives. The apples are from Kechvi, one of the Georgian villages on South Ossetian soil that were “flattened,” as Kokoity says, and burned to the ground in the war. “We picked the apples after the war, otherwise we wouldn’t have much,” Valentina explains.

She remembers the days when Georgians sold their fruit at the market in Tskhinvali. “Somehow it seems long ago now,” she says. “Even the market is now bombed out.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Asia

India Sets Dec 26 Deadline for Pakistan

NEW DELHI: India has given a deadline of December 26 to Pakistan for crackdown on people involved in Mumbai terror plot, said a report.

Stratfor, the publisher of geopolitical intelligence on Tuesday, in its report says after Mumbai attacks, India relayed a message to Pakistan via the US that they would be given “30 days to carry out significant actions in cracking down on militant groups operating on Pakistani soil”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India Tells Its Citizens: Pakistan is Not Safe, Avoid it

New Delhi, Dec 26 (PTI) Fearing trouble for its nationals in Pakistan, India today advised them to avoid being in the neighbouring country even as it rubbished as “hogwash” the reports that some Indians were involved in terrorism there.

In the first such advisory since the 1971 war, the Ministry of External Affairs cautioned that travel to and presence in Pakistan was not safe for Indians in the wake of media reports there that some Indians have been held on the charge of terrorism.

New Delhi said the reported “arrests” in Lahore and Multan were suspected to have been made by elements who work outside of civilian control as top police officers there were ignorant about any such development.

Media reports in Pakistan have claimed that “Indian nationals” identified as Satish Anand Shukla, Ram Kumar, Ram Chandar and Prakash were arrested for a bomb blast in Lahore two days back.

“It is hogwash and meant to confuse people,” Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma told reporters when asked to comment on reports on the arrests.

External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said “there have been reports in the Pakistani media that several Indian nationals have been arrested over the last two days in Lahore and Multan and are being accused of being terrorists.” He said “since it has also been reported in the Pakistani media yesterday that the senior police officer in Lahore was unaware of the arrest in his city, it seems that this is the work of other agencies in Pakistan that operate outside the law and civilian control.” “Indian citizens are, therefore, advised that it would be unsafe for them to travel or be in Pakistan,” Prakash said.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

New Ploy: Pak Blames Indians for Blast

NEW DELHI: Even as India persists with its protests against Pakistan’s refusal to take action against the perpetrators of 26/11, Islamabad’s diversionary tactics have touched a new low.

On Thursday, Pakistan pulled another rabbit out of its hat. That the car bomb blast in Lahore on Wednesday, which left a woman dead and 3 others injured, was triggered by four Indians.

Pakistan media, quoting anonymous sources, identified one of the bombers as one Satish Anand Shukla, allegedly a resident of Kolkata.

The stunt, clearly fabricated to justify inaction against Lashkar leaders by drawing a parity between the jihadis who attacked Mumbai and fictional Indian agents, left Indian officials seething with anger.

Senior Indian officials were quick to rubbish the reports in Pakistan media, saying this had not been conveyed to any Indian agency by Islamabad. The Indian High Commission in Islamabad too denied having received any information from the Pakistanis.

“Nothing has been conveyed officially and we suspect this is yet another ploy to divert attention from the real issue, which is to bring the guilty in Mumbai attacks to justice. We don’t believe these reports are true and if they are, we would like Pakistan to inform us officially,’’ said a highly placed source, adding that it was mischievous on the part of Pakistan authorities not to have confirmed or denied it.

Aghast at the crude ploy, officials also said that India would not have chosen this moment to trigger off a blast in Pakistan, knowing that the bellicose neighbour would leap upon even a small excuse to justify its refusal to cooperate with the Mumbai probe…

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Pak Warns of Stern Response, Intensifies Troop Movement

Lahore, Dec 25: Sabre-rattling from Pakistan reached a new level on Thursday as its Foreign Minister warned India of “stern response” to any surgical strikes and Pakistani armed forces marched towards Jhelum.

Pakistan did not want war but is ready to defend its frontiers, Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in his hometown of Multan. If India made the “mistake of carrying out a surgical strike”, Pakistan will deal sternly with such an eventuality. Pakistan has purportedly moved its tenth brigade to Lahore and ordered its third Armed Brigade to march towards Jhelum.

It has also reportedly put its 10th and 11th divisions on high alert. Unconfirmed reports have said militants have also been stationed along with the Army at the said locations.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan Moves Troops Toward Indian Border

Pakistan began moving thousands of troops away from the Afghan border toward India on Friday amid tensions following the Mumbai attacks, intelligence officials said.

The move represents a sharp escalation in the stand off between the nuclear-armed neighbors and stands to weaken Pakistan’s U.S.-backed campaign against al-Qaida and Taliban close to Afghanistan.

Two intelligence officials said the army’s 14th Division was being redeployed to Kasur and Sialkot, close to the Indian border. They said some 20,000 troops were on the move. Earlier Friday, a security official said that all troop leave had been canceled.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

‘What Fuels Global Terror & the Palestinian Conflict? Islamic Intolerance, Supremacism, & Imperialism,’ Claims Muslim-Reformist.

Sikh clergyman calls for public pressure to reform ‘Holy War’ from Isalmic practice

Brought together by empathy for the victims of the pious, Jewish victims of Kashmiri ‘unholy’ warriors, Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Sikh leader and Muslim-reformist call for a global reform of Islamic supremacy and imperialism. They feel that the world and Muslims must acknowledge and address this problem candidly.

Nirinjan Singh Khalsa, Executive Director of the California Sikh Council, says, “Any community of good and light has to stand together against this darkness and evil (Jihad). Evil flourishes when good people do nothing. It’s important that all communities together join to stop this insanity of terrorism.” Kashmir’s population which is 97% Muslim is less than 1% Sikh.

Egyptian born, Muslim-raised author Nonie Darwish explains, “Islamic cultural violence and political terror is a plague upon all peoples who must join to eradicate it from Islam.

The issue is not the land over Palestine- that’s the lie. It is not a land dispute. This is a religious, Holy War against any nation that rules itself, but not under Islamic leadership. And what is the closest autonomous, non-Muslim nation to the heart of the Middle East? It is Israel. And that is the truth. And until Muslims face that truth and admit it to the world instead of playing games and killing all these innocent people… We must face our internal problems — we (Muslims) must look within.”

Ms. Nonie Darwish just released her second book “Cruel and Usual Punishment: The terrifying global effects of Sharia law.” Amazon’s product description reads:

Nonie Darwish presents an insider’s look at Sharia and examines how radical Muslim laws are destroying the Western world from within. Cruel and Usual Punishment is an insider’s look at how Muslims sacrifice their basic human rights to obey the archaic and brutal laws handed down to their prophet centuries ago. Heed this warning: Sharia Law is attempting to infiltrate Western culture and destroy democracy.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: US Should Return 17 Chinese Terror Suspects if Guantanamo Closed

Beijing announced on Tuesday it will demand the return of 17 muslim terror national suspects if President-elect Barack Obama decided to close the US military prison of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obama has promised to close the prison because it now represents aggressive detention and torture.

“The 17 terror suspects imprisoned in the U.S. military base of Guantanamo Bay are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which has been listed as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations,” said Qin Gang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman. “For these terror suspects, the Chinese government has always requested they be sent back to China and firmly opposes any country accepting them,” he added. However, Washington detain them at Guantanamo because if it send them back to China, they are likely to face oppression.

           — Hat tip: VH[Return to headlines]

Japan Auto Production Marks Worst Drop Since 1967

Vehicle production in Japan, home to Toyota Motor Corp. and other major automakers, plunged 20.4 percent in November compared to the same month a year ago to 854,171 vehicles, the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association said.

That marked the second straight month of on-year declines and the percentage slide was the biggest since the group began compiling such data in 1967, it said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

China Sends Navy to Fight Somali Pirates

Three Chinese navy ships, armed with special forces, helicopters and missiles, are on their way to join the international anti-piracy task force patrolling the waters off Somalia.

The three vessels — two destroyers and a supply ship — will sail from the southern island province of Hainan later today. China announced it was joining the anti-piracy mission on Tuesday after the UN Security Council authorized nations to conduct land and air attacks on pirate bases.

It marks a break in tradition for the modern Chinese navy, which usually confines itself to patrolling coastal waters.

It has been spurred into wider action by the escalation of pirate attacks on merchant ships, including Chinese vessels, plying the shipping route linking Asia and Europe.

The three vessels — the missile-armed destroyers DDG-171 Haikou and DDG-169 Wuhan and the Weishanhu supply ship — are among the most sophisticated in the Chinese navy, all entering service this decade, the Xinhua news agency said.

China’s willingness to send ships so far from home is the latest example of the growing power and confidence of the country’s navy.

In recent years, the military has been stocking up on warships, planes, missiles and other weapons — a beef-up that has worried its neighbors.

The US and Australia have both expressed concern about China’s military build-up and its lack of transparency. Kevin Rudd, Australia’s Prime Minister, warned recently that Asia was in the grip of an arms race.

Denny Roy, a senior fellow at the East-West Center in Hawaii, said while the move was a positive sign that China was willing to use its fire-power for constructive purposes, it raised unsettling questions over the country’s military buildup.

“The Chinese deployment gets at a question the US and other governments have been asking: ‘Why the big Chinese military buildup when no country threatens China?’ Or more bluntly, ‘Why do the Chinese need a blue-water navy when the US Navy already polices the world’s oceans?’ he asked.

China has said the mission’s purpose was to protect Chinese ships and crews that have come under attack from pirates.

The vessels would also be willing to share intelligence and conduct humanitarian rescue operations with other countries involved in the anti-piracy efforts, Senior Colonel. Huang Xueping, spokesman of the Ministry of National Defense, said.

The two Chinese destroyers — the Haikou and Wuhan — will carry special forces, two helicopters and traditional weapons such as missiles and cannons. Colonel Huang did not say how long the mission will last, but a Communist Party newspaper has said the ships would be away about three months.

Pirates have made an estimated $30 million hijacking ships for ransom this year, seizing more than 40 vessels off Somalia’s 1,880-mile coastline.

On Thursday, a German military helicopter rescued an Egyptian ship from pirates who shot and injured a crew member while trying to board the vessel off the Somali coast, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau’s piracy reporting center.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


UK: Secret Gag Orders Undermine Core Western Values

This month saw a secret UK court hearing, with secret participants, produce a secret order to secretly gag the population, the terms of which are secret and the revelation of which is punishable by upto 15 years of imprisonment. How many of these orders exist is unknowable—we glimpse at the severity of the problem only when the orders are violated.

Secret gag actions are usually associated with the likes of Saudi-Arabia, China or North Korea. Closed-door justice in the UK is not only detrimental to the state of British democracy, it permits repressive regimes across to point to the UK for validation.


In the last five years Britain has become the the world’s largest arms exporter, the preferred home of Russian and middle-eastern oligarchs, the world center for “libel tourism” and, as far as we can tell, the Western capital of secret gag orders.

Only a week ago, on December 17, the High Court of London gave the go ahead for a libel tourism action against the New York Times.

The same day the Hon. Denis MacShane (Labour) with two MPs from other parties, told Westminster that UK courts had become a “Soviet-style organ of censorship”.

The UK has recently introduced a national Internet censorship scheme, a national ID card and is about to spend 12 billion pounds pushing the British population’s web-searches, emails, sms messages and telephone callings records through a central database run by its spy agency, GCHQ.

This month also saw British police go into Parliament, without a warrant, and rifle through the files of a senior member of the opposition, the Hon. Damian Green MP, who was alleged to have leaked trivial details about immigration policy to the press.

What’s left? The Gulag?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Children’s Books Use Christmas to Push Global Warming Agenda

Global warming alarmists, picking up where the Grinch left off, are trying to steal Christmas, some critics say. From children’s books to school plays, the climate change crowd is dreaming of a green Christmas, angering opponents who say ‘tis NOT the season to be preachy.

The children’s book “Santa Goes Green” by Anne Margaret Lewis tells how a young boy named Finn gets Santa to leave the North Pole to help him track down Leopold, a polar bear he has adopted, because the sea ice is melting and Leopold’s home is in danger.

“You see, it’s like this Santa,” Finn tells Santa in the book. “I’ve adopted a polar bear named Leopold. He is in danger of losing his home. I’m sure you being in the North Pole you know about the melting glaciers. All I want this year Santa, is to save Leopold and his home.”

Santa is so inspired by his visit to the polar bear that he decides to re-use last year’s wrapping paper, recycle toys and start using wind to generate power for his toy shop.

The book ends with a note from Santa urging kids to send him notes on how to take care of the planet.

But the content has left some reviewers feeling bearish about the book. “The global climate change alarmists are now trying brainwash our kids by infusing their unproven and baseless climate change rhetoric into Santa books,” T. Wilkinson wrote on, giving “Santa Goes Green” a one-star review.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

It’s Cold Outside, But Global Warming Industry Still Hard at Work

[Comments from JD: Stripping of citizenship if global warming denied!? See last paragraph in excerpt below.]

The most expensive secret you’re not supposed to know is that George W. Bush leaves office with the planet cooler than when he entered. This dangerous trend threatens the multi-billion dollar “global warming” industry, adding new urgency to the ritual shriek of “we must act now!” in the scramble to impose a costly regime of mandates and energy taxes.

The global warming industry’s tactics already range from comical to reprehensible. As a result of a cooling atmosphere — which thanks to the “global cooling” panic we began measuring in 1979 — you are distracted with irrelevant surface temperatures. This is possibly because more than 90% of our surface thermometer network is in violation of rules for locating the instruments. For example, why are so many now on asphalt parking lots, black tar roofs, airport tarmacs, and even hanging directly above barbeque grills?

Such childishness is only the tip of the iceberg of outrages employed to advance an ideological agenda. Our schools torment those whom they are charged with protecting from abuse, with night terrors among the less egregious outcomes. Their brainwashing includes hate mail campaigns to skeptics, reporting on their parents? willingness to adopt an agenda, and even emotional breakdown requiring institutionalization.

High government officials around the world abuse their powers to expand government’s powers. The media moved from pushing catastrophism in order to sell copy, to expressly abandoning journalistic principles and declaring that, regarding global warming, “balance is bias.”

Last year, after Kevin Rudd was elected Australia’s Prime Minister, he addressed a gathering of that nation’s “best and brightest” pondering how to achieve their policy dreams. One idea floated was to strip Aussies of their citizenship if they expressed doubts about man-made climate catastrophe. So as to not be extremist, however, this allowed for the prospect of restoring one’s standing upon — you guessed it — reeducation.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Princeton Physicist Calls Global Warming Science “Mistaken”

Scientist fired by Al Gore was told, “science will not intrude on public policy”.

Noted energy expert and Princeton physicist Dr. Will Happer has sharply criticized global warming alarmism. Happer, author of over 200 scientific papers and a past director of energy research at the Department of Energy, called fears over global warming “mistaken”.

“I have spent a long research career studying physics that is closely related to the greenhouse effect”, said Happer. “Fears about man-made global warming are unwarranted and are not based on good science.”

Dr. Happer views climate change as a predominately natural process. “The earth’s climate is changing now, as it always has. There is no evidence that the changes differ in any qualitative way from those of the past.”

In 1991, Happer was appointed director of energy research for the US Department of Energy. In 1993, he testified before Congress that the scientific data didn’t support widespread fears about the dangers of the ozone hole and global warming, remarks that caused then-Vice President Al Gore to fire him. “I was told that science was not going to intrude on public policy”, he said. “I did not need the job that badly”.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Secret of the Lusitania: Arms Find Challenges Allied Claims it Was Solely a Passenger Ship

Her sinking with the loss of almost 1,200 lives caused such outrage that it propelled the U.S. into the First World War.

But now divers have revealed a dark secret about the cargo carried by the Lusitania on its final journey in May 1915.

Munitions they found in the hold suggest that the Germans had been right all along in claiming the ship was carrying war materials and was a legitimate military target.

The Cunard vessel, steaming from New York to Liverpool, was sunk eight miles off the Irish coast by a U-boat.

Maintaining that the Lusitania was solely a passenger vessel, the British quickly accused the ‘Pirate Hun’ of slaughtering civilians.

The disaster was used to whip up anti-German anger, especially in the U.S., where 128 of the 1,198 victims came from.

A hundred of the dead were children, many of them under two.

Robert Lansing, the U.S. secretary of state, later wrote that the sinking gave him the ‘conviction we would ultimately become the ally of Britain’.

Americans were even told, falsely, that German children were given a day off school to celebrate the sinking of the Lusitania.

The disaster inspired a multitude of recruitment posters demanding vengeance for the victims.


Gregg Bemis, an American businessman who owns the rights to the wreck and is funding its exploration, said: ‘Those four million rounds of .303s were not just some private hunter’s stash.

‘Now that we’ve found it, the British can’t deny any more that there was ammunition on board. That raises the question of what else was on board.

‘There were literally tons and tons of stuff stored in unrefrigerated cargo holds that were dubiously marked cheese, butter and oysters.

‘I’ve always felt there were some significant high explosives in the holds — shells, powder, gun cotton — that were set off by the torpedo and the inflow of water. That’s what sank the ship.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Tuan Jim said...

Frankly, I think that the Daily Mail article regarding tattoos and overweight soldiers is very misleading (as have been several in the US). As it clearly says:
"Under current regulations, candidates with tattoos which would be visible on parade - on their face, hands or neck - are barred. This rule is expected to be relaxed."

In the US it's been the same way - any tattoos, no matter how large are fine as long as you can't see them in the dress uniform - although depending which service you're in, they may make a case by case exception for the back of your neck or some other areas. The caption under the photo they use is completely misleading because it's only showing the arm (unless Brit army dress uniforms are short sleeved).

Interestingly the tattoo thing is a big deal in a country with mandatory conscription - S. Korea. Of course, there tattoos are explicitly identified with illegal yakuza-like gang activity - not normal body-art work. And as such, they're grounds not only for not letting you in the military, but if you get called up for conscription and show up with a tattoo, they can charge you with illegal activity and send you to jail (although some of that may have changed) - since folks were using tattoos as an excuse to get out of mandatory service.

I also have no issue with letting overweight folks sign up (I sure wasn't in shape when I joined up - although I think I was within 10 pounds of my required weight). 9 weeks of basic certainly got me in shape (and I don't think it's gotten any easier since I went through - even if it used to be tougher in some ways before I went in) - and it has gotten longer. If you can make weight - or more importantly in my opinion, pass your physical fitness test and pass the body mass index test (since muscle mass does weigh more than fat) - kudos to you.

The criminal thing is more of a debatable issue, but even then there are no general waivers.

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