Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/17/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 2/17/2009It looks like Pakistan has given up and cut a deal with the Taliban, allowing the introduction of Sharia law in the Swat Valley. The Obama administration is unhappy about this, and the President — if he is to keep his campaign promises — will now have to go to war with Pakistan.

There are three news stories on this topic below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Flyboy, heroyalwhyness, Holger Danske, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Jewish Odysseus, RRW, ScottSA, TB, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
“Worst is Yet to Come: “ Americans’ Standard of Living Permanently Changed
Bank Nationalisation Gains Ground With Republicans
Chrysler and GM Gear Up to Ask for Bigger Bailout
Europe, Environmentalism and the Current Economic Crisis: a Contrarian View
Kansas Suspends Income Tax Refunds, May Miss Payroll
Loan Set to Ease Dubai Default Fears
More $1 Trillion Deals in Works for States?
Our Government Has Spit in Our Face
Stock Market Pukes in Obama’s Face
The Madoff Bill
Buffalo News: Muslim Influence Speculated in Slaying
CAIR: Fla. Muslims Ask Synagogue to Balance Presentation on Islam
Co-Conspirator on Campus
Keyes: President ‘Has Something to Hide’ About Eligibility
Masterpiece Jew Haters
Nothing Fair About Fairness Doctrine
Obama and the Great Game
Rehab for Jihadists
Shelbyville, TN: Islamic Subversion Alleged by Speaker
The New York Times and ‘Book Banning’
Arabic Group Loses Federal Funding Over Hatred
National Post Editorial Board: Britain Re-Visits Appeasement
Europe and the EU
After Two-Day Car-Jacking Spree, Escaped French Robbers Captured in Hail of Bullets
Anti-Cross Judge Cleared
Archbishop of Canterbury: Society is Coming Round to My Views on Sharia
Atheist Bus Off to False Start
Berlusconi’s Lawyer Convicted
Doubt Over ‘Shaken Baby’ Theory That Has Sent Dozens of Parents to Prison
Europe Accused of Stealing Jobs With Bribes
Irish May Get Earlier Lisbon Vote
Irish Recovery Plan Provokes Harsh Criticism From Brussels
Italy: Hunt for Rome Rapists — “Dark Hair and Boxer’s Nose”
Italy to Push on Obama Copter
Libraries Put Bible on Top Shelf in a Sop to Muslims
Ministers ‘Using Fear of Terror’
Regions: Rome to Host Inter-Mediterranean Commission
Sanremo Fest to Open Amid Protests
Secret Papers on Iraq War Stolen From Eversheds Lawyer on Train
Spain: ABC, Aviation Industry ‘Pays’ for G-20 Seat
Study: Dutch Social Problems Bigger Than Economic Ones
UK: England, That Great Colonising Land, Has Itself Become a Colony
UK: Spy Chief: We Risk a Police State
Albania: Court Suspends Law on Incompatibility of Office
Banks: Croatian Gross Profits Grew by 13.8% in 2008
Serb Leaders Reject Kosovo’s Independence
Serbia: Tax Paradise for the Rich, 10-15% of the Income
Mediterranean Union
EU-Egypt: Brussels Announces Eur 149ml Assistance Package
North Africa
Work: Algeria, Siemens Also Abandons “Islamic Weekend”
Israel and the Palestinians
Explosives Haul Missing in Gaza
Former CIA Director Says US Need to Engage With Hamas in Gaza
Gaza: Palestinian Man Killed by Accident, Not Gunfire
Israel: Tzipi Livni: Give Up Half of Land of Israel
Obama Promises Palestinians He’ll Protect ‘Biblical Heartland’
Palestinian Factions Move Closer to Unity Deal
Middle East
“Iran is Unknown and Misunderstood”
Clerics Urge New Jihad Over Gaza
‘Israel Assassinating Iranian Officials’
Lebanon: Elections, 4 Million Euro for EU for Reforms
Lebanon: Press, Alleged Israeli Spy Arrested in South
On Al-Jazeera, Kuwaiti Professor Suggests a Biological Attack on White House
Saudi King Makes Overtures to Syria
UAE: Tennis Tournament May be Cancelled Over Israel Visa Row
South Asia
Afghanistan: Taliban Commander Killed in Airstrike
Indonesia: Unwanted Teenage Pregnancy on the Rise Says Report
Islamist Spokesman: “Obama Continues to Oppress Muslims”
Pakistan: Marginalization, Threats, and Misery for Families Charged With Blasphemy
Pakistan: Sharia Imposed on Northwest Pakistan in Deal With Taleban
Plot to ‘Blow Up Transatlantic Planes With Liquid Bombs Was Directed From Pakistan’
Secretary Clinton’s Asia Trip: Indonesia’s Role in the Spotlight
Far East
China is Right to Have Doubts About Who Will Buy All America’s Debt
‘Killing Fields’ Trial Begins in Cambodia
Australia — Pacific
Brendan Sokaluk, Gippsland Arson Accused, Fails to Appear in Court
Sub-Saharan Africa
Human Rights: Sos Enclaves, Still Slavery in Mauritania
Foreign Workers Double to 3.8m Under Labour — and Majority Are From Outside the EU
Hamas for the Homeland
Ismu Map of Migrants Province by Province
Italy and Nigeria Join Forces
Rome to Dismantle Illegal Camps
Spain: Police Set Quota on Minimum Arrests
Sweden: Moderates Want Tougher Immigration Rules
Tragedy in the Canaries, Shipwreck, 21 Dead
Culture Wars
12-Year-Old Steals Day With Pro-Life Speech
Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu: Christians Are Regarded as ‘Mad’ by Society
Losing Our Heads Over Multiculturalism
Winning the Cultural War
Charles Darwin ‘Had Autism’
Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation
Johann Hari: Despite These Riots, I Stand by What I Wrote
Obama and Islam
Obama Naïveté at the U.N.
‘Toxic’ Fumes Found on Passenger Planes
We Need Ideas, Not Just Tactics, Against Islamism

Financial Crisis

“Worst is Yet to Come: “ Americans’ Standard of Living Permanently Changed

There’s no question the American consumer is hurting in the face of a burst housing bubble, financial market meltdown and rising unemployment.

But “the worst is yet to come,” according to Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, who believes American’s standard of living is undergoing a “permanent change” — and not for the better as a result of:

* An $8 trillion negative wealth effect from declining home values. * A $10 trillion negative wealth effect from weakened capital markets. * A $14 trillion consumer debt load amid “exploding unemployment”, leading to “exploding bankruptcies.”

“The average American used to be able to borrow to buy a home, send their kids to a good school [and] buy a car,” Davidowitz says. “A lot of that is gone.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bank Nationalisation Gains Ground With Republicans

By Edward Luce and Krishna Guha

Published: February 17 2009

Long regarded in the US as a folly of Europeans, nationalisation is gaining rapid acceptance among Washington opinion-formers — and not just with Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman. Perhaps stranger still, many of those talking about nationalising banks are Republicans.

Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina, says that many of his colleagues, including John McCain, the defeated presidential candidate, agree with his view that nationalisation of some banks should be “on the table”.

Mr Graham says that people across the US accept his argument that it is untenable to keep throwing good money after bad into institutions such as Citigroup and Bank of America, which now have a lower net value than the amount of public funds they have received.

“You should not get caught up on a word [nationalisation],” he told the Financial Times in an interview. “I would argue that we cannot be ideologically a little bit pregnant. It doesn’t matter what you call it, but we can’t keep on funding these zombie banks [without gaining public control]. That’s what the Japanese did.”

Barack Obama, the president, who has tried to avoid panicking lawmakers and markets by entertaining the idea, has moved more towards what he calls the “Swedish model” — an approach backed strongly by Mr Graham. In the early 1990s Sweden nationalised its banking sector then auctioned banks having cleaned up balance sheets. “In limited circumstances the Swedish model makes sense for the US,” says Mr Graham.

Mr Obama last weekend made clear he was leaning more towards the Swedish model than to the piecemeal approach taken in Japan, which many would argue is the direction US public policy appears to be heading.

“They [the Japanese] sort of papered things over,” Mr Obama said. “They never really bit the bullet…and so you never got credit flowing the way it should have, and the bad assets in their system just corroded the economy for a long period of time.”

Administration officials acknowledge that the rescue plan unveiled by Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, last week could result in the temporary nationalisation of some weak banks.

The plan sets out a framework for revealing the extent of the likely credit losses facing banks. Most private sector analysts believe the exercise will reveal that some banks have large capital shortfalls.

Policymakers acknowledge that if this is indeed the case, it will be difficult for those with the largest shortfalls to raise the required equity from the markets, in which case the government would probably have to take temporary control. Moreover, while nationalisation remains taboo in some political circles it is increasingly openly discussed among past and present economic policymakers of all leanings.

“In this country nationalisation of some banks — not the whole banking sector — should be a last resort, but it should definitely now be on the table,” said David Walker, head of the pro-free market Peterson Institute and a former senior official in the George W. Bush administration.

The time for biting the bullet may also be fast approaching.

In early April, big institutions will publish their first-quarter results. If the intervening Treasury stress tests have not by then revealed the true state of their balance sheets, then their first-quarter results may do so.

“The first week in April — that’s when the children’s party is over,” says Chris Whalen, co-founder of Institutional Risk Analytics. “That is when the obvious will become apparent.”

The Obama administration remains opposed to federal control. Mr Geithner last week said: “Governments are terrible managers of bad assets.”

Others say he may eventually face no choice. “The danger we face is a Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae scenario where government gives the banking sector guarantees and then socialises the losses,” says Adam Posen, an economist. “That’s the worst thing we could do.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Chrysler and GM Gear Up to Ask for Bigger Bailout

General Motors and Chrysler are expected to tell the US Government today that they need a bigger bailout than the $17.4 billion (£12.1 billion) the ailing car companies were promised last December. The companies must submit updated restructuring plans to the Government today as part of their December 2 rescue agreement.

GM is expected to say that it will sell or restructure some of its eight motor brands, particularly Saab, Hummer and Saturn. The carmaker, which was granted $13.4 billion in taxpayer aid, is also likely to announce plans to accelerate its programme of factory closures and dealership reductions. The company said last week that it would slash 3,400 of its 29,000 salaried jobs world-wide and has offered early retirement to almost all of its 62,000 workers on hourly rates. It had originally asked for $18 billion of government aid, indicating that the $13.4 billion is unlikely to be enough to turn GM round.

Chrysler, which was granted $4 billion, will press the Government today for an extra $3 billion that it has already indicated it needs to stay in business. The company will say that it will cut fixed costs by $3.8 billion, $700 million more than promised and drop annual production by 1.3 million vehicles, 100,000 more than targeted.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe, Environmentalism and the Current Economic Crisis: a Contrarian View

by Václav Klaus


The main aspects of Europeism, as I see them, can be summarized in the following way:

- the belief in social market economy, and the demonization of free markets;

- the reliance on civil society, on NGOs, on social partnership, on corporatism, instead of classical parliamentary democracy;

- the aiming at social constructivism as a result of the disbelief in spontaneous evolution of human society;

- indifference towards the nation state and blind faith in internationalism;

- the promotion of the supranationalist model of European integration, not its intergovernmental model.

Everyone who follows the French political, philosophical, economic, or sociological discourse knows that my position (which means my strong disagreement with this doctrine) goes directly against the politically correct stances in France and, what is probably even more serious, against the deeply rooted and centuries old views of the French intelligencia. With all my affection for France, this country is for me more Colbert than Bastiat, more Fourier and Saint-Simon than Say and Turgot, more Sartre than Aron. There is, therefore, no surprise that I am not regularly invited to speak here.

The issue of Europe and of its future has stayed with me since the fall of communism in spite of other topical issues. It is not surprising. The undergoing weakening of democracy and of free markets on the European continent, connected with the European unification process, is a threatening phenomenon especially for someone who spent most of his life in a very authoritative and oppressive communist regime. I consider, therefore, the marching towards an ever-closer Europe (which is one of the crucial tenets of Europeism) a mistaken project. This ambition was the main building block of the European Constitution and it remains without substantial change in its new version, in the Lisbon Treaty.

The gradual shift from liberalizing and removing all kinds of barriers towards a massive introduction of regulation and harmonization from above, the ever-expanding, overgenerous welfare system, the innovative, and more sophisticated forms of protectionism, the continuously growing legal and regulatory burdens on business, the markets undermining quasicompetition policies, the Single Currency arrangements, are all very real. They weaken and restrain freedom, democracy and democratic accountability, not to speak about economic efficiency, entrepreneurship and competitiveness.

The Czech EU Presidency slogan “Europe without barriers” attempts to bring the original ambitions of European integration — the liberalization, the opening-up, the getting rid of barriers and of protectionism — back to our agenda. And rightly so, because this is more than needed.

I consistently speak about it because I do care about Europe. For me, and my country, the EU membership has never had any alternative, but saying that does not imply that we are willing to accept the dogma that the forms and the methods of the EU institutional arrangements don’t have alternatives. To take one as sacrosanct, as the only permitted and politically correct one, is unacceptable. The right of the people to say “yes” or “no” to the European Constitution or to the Lisbon Treaty or to any other similar document should be considered sacred. This right represents the genuine substance (and meaning) of Europe. The attacks on those who dare say “no” to the attempts to accelerate the deepening of the EU, which is the essence and aim of the Lisbon Treaty, are attacks against the true nature of Europe.

Having said that, let me turn to two other issues I consider significant. I see another big problem in environmentalism and in its currently most aggressive form — global warming alarmism. This ideology has gradually turned into the most efficient vehicle for advocating extensive government intervention into all fields of life and for suppressing human freedom and economic prosperity.

I am frustrated that this ideology has not been sufficiently challenged both inside and outside of climatology. We keep hearing one-sided propaganda, but do not hear serious counter-arguments. It is also evident that the debate should go beyond climatology. We should not accept dividing human beings into climatologists and the uninformed, and rather naive rest of us. The global warming debate is a complex issue and climatology is only a part of it.

There is in this debate a special role for the economic profession, because we have developed a scientific sub-discipline called "the economics of global warming”. The economists should come up with their arguments about the inexhaustibility of resources, including energy resources, on condition they are rationally used, which means with the help of undistorted prices and well-defined property rights. They should supply us with comprehensive studies about the costs and benefits of the currently proposed “green” measures and policies. They should prepare — even to non-specialists understandable — arguments about the very complicated relationship between different time horizons (discussed in the economic theory by means of discounting). They should return to the elementary economic argumentation about the rational risk aversion (which would help to undermine the fuzzy and fundamentalist precautionary principle, used by the environmentalists), and they should bring back the discussions about the positive role of markets, prices, property rights and about the tragic consequences of the unavoidable government failure connected with ambitions to do such things as controlling global climate.

The third issue, I would like to mention here today, is the current financial and economic crisis. I recently spent three full days discussing this topic at the World Economic Forum in Davos and my feeling is that the rationality and the economic science have been suppressed or forgotten. The very unpleasant, day by day deeper economic crisis should be accepted as a standard economic phenomenon, as an unavoidable consequence and hence a “just” price we have to pay for the long-term playing with the market by the politicians. Their attempts to blame the market, instead of themselves, are unacceptable and should be resolutely rejected. Their activities, aiming at “reforming” the economic system, are all very doubtful and I as said in Davos: I am getting more afraid of these reforms than of the crisis itself.

Looking for ways out, we should — to use an analogy — strictly differentiate between fighting the fire and drafting fire protection legislation. We have to concentrate on the first task now; the second one can be done gradually, without haste and panic. A large increase in the scope of financial regulation, as is being proposed these days, will only prolong the recession.

Aggregate demand needs strengthening. One traditional way to do this is to increase government spending, mostly on public infrastructure projects, on condition these are available. It would be much more helpful, however, to initiate a radical reduction of all kinds of restrictions on private initiatives introduced in the last half a century during the era of the brave new world of the “social and ecological market economy”. The best thing to do right now would be to temporarily weaken, if not permanently repeal, various labour, environmental, social, health and other “standards”, because they block human activity more than anything else.

In the moment of the fall of communism, almost 20 years ago, I did not expect to experience such a degree of government intervention into my own life as I face now. I am, therefore, convinced that fighting for freedom and free markets remains the task of the day. We may be, some of us, oversensitive in this respect but I am sure it is — in principle — not about our personal oversensitivity. It is about the real dangers we see around us. I tried to talk about some of them this morning.

Václav Klaus, Foreign Policy Lecture Series, Foreign Policy France, Ledoyen Restaurant, Paris, 11 February 2009

           — Hat tip: Jewish Odysseus[Return to headlines]

Kansas Suspends Income Tax Refunds, May Miss Payroll

Income tax refunds and state employee paychecks could be late after Republican leaders and the Democratic governor clashed Monday over how to solve a cash-flow problem.

Payments to Medicaid providers and schools also could be delayed.

“We are out of cash, in essence,” state budget director Duane Goossen said.

The move places state taxpayers, workers and schoolchildren in the middle of a political battle over budget cuts.

Republicans, who hold majorities in both chambers, blocked Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ proposal to borrow $225 million from healthy state funds to cover shortages in accounts used to meet the state’s payroll and issue tax refunds.

GOP leaders said they won’t approve the IOUs until Sebelius either cuts the current budget herself or signs the bill they passed last week slashing $326 million — including $32 million for education — to balance the budget.

Republican leaders said they had no choice, that by law the state can’t borrow any more money from itself.

Sebelius and Democrats disagree and accuse the GOP of playing politics with people’s paychecks.

“Through their refusal to act today, the Republican legislative leadership is jeopardizing our citizens’ pocketbooks for no other reason than to play political games — games in which the only ones set to lose are Kansas families, workers and schools,” Sebelius said in a written statement.

Replied House Speaker Mike O’Neal: “While we all can agree that these are trying times for Kansas families, seniors and business owners, the Kansas House of Representatives respectfully disagrees with breaking the law in order to gain political capital.”

The Senate approved the budget-cutting bill Thursday, but the governor has yet to receive it. It is being proofread and could reach Sebelius as early as Tuesday.

Her spokeswoman has said she will carefully consider it. She could sign it, veto it or veto portions of it.

Lower tax revenues

Kansas’ cash-flow problem stems in part from the worsening recession and lower-than-expected tax revenue.

As a result, the state had only $10æmillion in its checking account Monday morning.

Most immediately, that means the state does not have $24 million to cover payroll for the state’s 42,000 employees and about $20 million for payments to Medicaid providers such as doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, Goossen said…

[Return to headlines]

Loan Set to Ease Dubai Default Fears

By Simeon Kerr in Dubai

Published: February 17 2009

Borse Dubai, a government-owned exchanges group, is expected to finalise a $2.5bn loan on Tuesday, a vote of support for the emirate amid concerns the commercial hub of the Gulf could default.

The company, which controls Dubai’s two equity markets and has stakes in the London Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, needs to pay off a $3.4bn (€2.7bn, £2.4bn) loan next week, the first big test in 2009 of Dubai’s ability to refinance the $20bn in loans that mature this year. The fact that Dubai has met the challenge of opening clogged credit markets should go some way to assuaging investor concerns about its risk of default.

Dubai’s globalised economy has been hit hard by the credit crunch.

Job losses are mounting across the economy as the property bubble bursts, triggering concerns about the government’s $80bn debt pile.

Bankers said HSBC, which has arranged the $2.5bn loan, had been struggling until a few days ago to raise the full loan. It is to be used to help retire the $3.4bn loan, due next week. Reports have said the UAE federal government has stepped in to make up the shortfall. A Borse Dubai official said he was not aware of a federal cash injection.

He said Borse Dubai’s main shareholder, the Investment Corporation of Dubai, had pledged to support the group as it sought to reschedule the debt.

Beyond the $2.5bn loan, Borse Dubai’s government-linked shareholders had pledged the remaining $800m-$900m to repay the debt, which was used last year to buy exchanges group OMX. Other officials said that ICD, which controls the Dubai government’s commercial assets, might have helped to persuade local banks to lend to the group.

ICD last year borrowed $6bn for corporate purposes and deposited it in the local banking system.

Dubai officials have said for months that the emirate will be able to meet its own debt obligations but they have also privately conceded that if the economic situation deteriorates further, federal support may be necessary.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

More $1 Trillion Deals in Works for States?

Billion-dollar budget deficits exploding across country

[Comment from JD: Take a look at the map.]

The total funding for the states provided in the Obama economic stimulus package will not be enough to get many through this year’s crisis, and next year might be even worse, Jerome Corsi’s Red Alert reports.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Our Government Has Spit in Our Face

What does government think of us? Not much. They’re laughing in our faces — no, I correct myself … they’re spitting in our faces, stealing our present and depriving our children and grandchildren of any reasonable right to the life that we, as children, dreamed of and our Founding Fathers intended.

Do you really think they were thinking of us as they preened and high-fived one another after passing the so-called stimulus bill? Not a chance — they were thinking of themselves and their elite group of benefactors. And if you believe anything else, you have drunk a more poisonous cocktail than Jim Jones and company toasted with, as they committed mass suicide.

They lied, falsified and shoved an $800 billion dollar check on our future with insufficient funds to cover it. This bill isn’t intended to stimulate anything — it is a sham and a charade. To that point, they made certain we didn’t get to read it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Stock Market Pukes in Obama’s Face

The Fed has given a massive adrenalin injection to the stock market, specifically, monetary reserves equal to a good 30% of the US money supply. The market was very modestly priced when President Obama assumed office. The uncertainty of the election was over. Inflationist Democrats are in office, which means lots of goodies for Wall Street at the expense of the poor, minorities and working class who think that the Democrats represent them.

True, the Republicans transferred a considerable amount of potential wealth from the public to investors via the bailout and Bernanke monetary expansion. True the Democrats went along with it. Because of these wealth transfers, the market will go up.

But there seems to be another problem that is causing further investor nausea: Democratic Party corruption. The near-300 point drop in the Dow today is in spite of Amerikan Mediazvestia’s supporting the crooked, pork laden Democratic Party “stimulus”. Investors are no longer merely reflecting Mediazvestia’s lies. Instead, investors are puking into the Democratic Party’s Congressional pork vomitorium.

[Return to headlines]

The Madoff Bill

I write this column without any illusion that it will reverse America’s current movement toward socialism. Rather I am writing it primarily so that future generations will not be able to say that the radical and destructive nature of the Obama/Democratic Party’s so-called stimulus plan was unknown at the time. I am writing this so that my children will know that their father vigorously opposed it and why.

How radical — in fact, revolutionary — is the $789 billion stimulus plan? It is, in the words of House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., “the largest change in domestic policy since the 1930s.”

It is, as Robert Rector, identified by the Times of London as “one of the architects of Clinton’s 1996 reform bill,” “a welfare spendathon that would amount to the largest one-year increase in government handouts in American history.”

It is the reason the Obama-supporting Newsweek headlined on its cover page, “We are all socialists now.”

It is why, in the words of the Times of London, “Republicans are not alone in fearing that Obama’s hastily concocted package is the first step towards the creation of a quasi-socialist welfare state.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Buffalo News: Muslim Influence Speculated in Slaying

By Doug Hagmann


Individually and collectively, investigators and researchers of the Northeast Intelligence Network have held most members of the “mainstream media” accountable for their political correctness over their lack of intellectual honesty in reporting on matters involving the tenets of Islam. “Honor killings” and mistreatment of women and wives in general under Sharia is one such topic that is routinely absent from media reports. The media, therefore, bears a certain amount of responsibility and in some cases is actually complicit in obfuscating the truth about Islam’s most fundamental teachings. The lack of accurate reporting, deliberate omissions and even purposeful misrepresentations perpetuate the public’s confusion about Islam and consequently, add to the peril faced by the West by its enemies.

Therefore, when a major media news source admits even a possible link between a belief system inherent in Islam to a hideously abhorrent criminal act, it is only fair that we acknowledge that source for reporting that nexus, no matter how tenuous the link is portrayed. Reporting such a nexus within the corporate media, even when essentially compelled to do so by the components of the story behind the report, is unfortunately rare. The fallout, however, is not.

It is unfortunate when the reporting of a story by the media actually rises to the level of importance, in a purely societal sense, as the crime being reported. I am referring to the article published in today’s edition of the Buffalo News staff by staff reporter Fred O. Williams regarding the murder of Aasiya Zubair by her husband, Muslim TV network owner Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan. The Northeast Intelligence Network reported on this horrendous story last week, portraying the murder as an “honor killing” having its roots deep within the tenets of Islamic culture and law. Obviously, we received numerous condemnations for making such an absurd association despite about 1400 years of historical evidence that suggests otherwise.

The murder of Aasiya Zubair caught the attention of Marcia Pappas, New York State president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). About the murder, Ms. Pappas stated that “[t]his was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men,” Williams wrote. Indeed.

It is unclear to me how many more murders, stonings, and other violent acts against women it will take for the media to continue to acknowledge the fundamental teachings inherent in Islam, which is far more than a religion. What is clear to me, however, is the rarity of such public acknowledgements, and the certainty of the condemnation and criticism that will follow. I can sadly assure you that the coming outrage over publishing that the motive for this murder was influenced by Islam will be equal to, if not more than the condemnation of the act itself. The outcry will be deafening.

Mark my words.

Doug can be reached at: director@homelandsecurityus.com

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

CAIR: Fla. Muslims Ask Synagogue to Balance Presentation on Islam

Controversial speaker says hijab related to ‘growth of terrorism’

TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 17 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Tampa) today called on a local synagogue to invite a representative of the Muslim community who can offer a balancing perspective to a controversial speaker who claims wearing an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, is related to the “growth of terrorism.”

CAIR-Tampa said that “inflammatory” claim about hijab could endanger the tens of thousands of Florida Muslim women who wear Islamic head scarves every day.

The speaker, Tawfik Hamid, will lecture Wednesday at Temple Beth Sholom in Sarasota, Fla. Part of Hamid’s lecture will outline the alleged role hijab plays in the “proliferation of radical Islam.” In 2007, the Detroit Free Press quoted Hamid saying that there is a “correlation between the increase in the use of the hijab, an Islamic headscarf, and the growth of terrorism.” (3/14/07) Wednesday’s event is sponsored by West Coast Florida Chapter of the American Jewish Committee.

“Any inflammatory claim that Islamic attire is related to terrorism should be balanced with accurate information about Islam and Muslims,” said CAIR-Tampa Executive Director Ramzy Kiliç. “We respectfully request that Temple Beth Sholom invite a representative of the mainstream Florida Muslim community to offer a balancing perspective.”

Kiliç contacted Temple Beth Sholom last week about adding a balancing perspective to the controversial speaker, but the synagogue has not responded.

CAIR, America’s largest Islamic civil liberties group, has 35 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Co-Conspirator on Campus

By Joe Kaufman

It’s Islam Awareness Month once again at the University of Florida (UF) Gainesville, and once again “unindicted co-conspirator” of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Siraj Wahhaj, has been invited to participate. Given the inappropriate nature of the event, can anyone question the radical nature of the group who is sponsoring his appearance?

UF, like most other major universities, has on its premises a chapter of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), the Muslim Brotherhood faction that began in the early Sixties. The MSA stationed at UF has the title Islam On Campus (IOC). Not unlike its big Brother overseas, the rhetoric from IOC and its staff is considerably extreme.

In the April 2008 issue of The IOC Chronicles, in an article about an online Scrabble-type word game, the following quotes are found: “Then on the very next turn, it crosses Mosque with JEW. I was so pissed. I could just picture some programmer with a yarmulke laughing at me. Punk.” He continued his slur: “That’s exactly what these friggin Yahood want. I won’t give them the satisfaction of winning.” The IOC excused the piece as “satire.”

From 2002 to 2007, UF student Jason Fieldhouse held various leadership positions within IOC, including Student Government Liaison, Islamic Political Action (IPAC) Chair, and IOC Representative to the MSA Florida Council. During this time, Fieldhouse was also involved in another UF group, Nakba ‘48, whose stated goal according to its website is “working to end Zionism and the state of Israel.”

As well, during this time, Fieldhouse was a contributing writer for the radical Islamic website, Captive Minds, a site which refers to the U.S. as “the rogue nation.” In his March 2003 article entitled “Tribute to the Mujahideen,” he states, “[R]ight now, as I write there are brave brothers who have decided to finish themselves for the reward of Allah…When a Mujahideen leaves for martyrdom they should be cheered, their courage exemplified…We cannot allow the fear of the U.S. government, rejection from the American society, or passive intellectual theory [to] discourage us from giving the Mujahideen the respect, honor, and support they deserve.”

IOC sponsors a number of events on campus, many of which feature well known extremists. For Ramadan Awareness Week, in November 2003, the group brought Zulfiqar Ali Shah to UF, describing him as a “renowned scholar.” Shah is the former National President (Ameer) of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the American affiliate of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) a.k.a. Muslim Brotherhood of Pakistan. Shah is also the former South Asia Director of KindHearts, a Hamas charity that was shut down by the U.S. government in February 2006.

Every year, IOC holds its Islam Awareness Month, which according to the group’s website is “aimed at enlightening the public about Islam and its rich legacy in America.” On February 20, 2003, the speaker for the event was supposed to be former University of South Florida (USF) professor, Sami al-Arian. However, that same day, the FBI arrested al-Arian, charging him with being the North American leader of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), responsible at least in part for over 100 murders.

This year, one of the featured speakers for the event is Siraj Wahhaj, a man infamous for having been named as an “unindicted co-conspirator” for a federal trial dealing with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC). He was a speaker for last year’s Islam Awareness Month, as well.

In January 1995, a federal trial began, which charged a number of defendants with conspiracy to commit violence by blowing up various New York City landmarks, including the 1993 WTC attack. For the trial, a list of those believed to be associated with the bomb plots (“unindicted persons who may be alleged as co-conspirators”) was created by U.S. prosecutor Mary Jo White.

Found on the list were the names of 172 individuals. Some of the names have since become well recognized within and beyond counter-terrorism circles. They included Osama bin Laden; bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam; and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) operative and the incorporator of the U.S. al-Qaeda headquarters, Fawaz Damra.

Other names placed on the list were that of prominent North American Muslim leaders. They included Canadian Bilal Philips and the imam of the At-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, Siraj Wahhaj. With regard to the ‘93 bombing, Wahhaj had been linked to both bomb-maker Clement Rodney Hampton-El and the spiritual leader of the attack, the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, for whom Wahhaj served as a character witness during the trial.


Having the “unindicted co-conspirator” label hasn’t hindered Wahhaj from speaking at Muslim functions. In fact, he is amongst the most popular lecturers on the American Islamic circuit and gets invited to all of the largest conferences and conventions. IOC is only one of many who are willing to accept the controversy and sponsor his appearance. However, while IOC has had a long history of extremist behavior, the organization adamantly disputes the label.

In November 2007, five campus groups co-hosted a showing of the film Obsession — Radical Islam’s War Against the West. The groups announced the event via e-mails and flyers posted around campus declaring “Radical Islam Wants You Dead.” IOC protested the content of the announcements, which included discussions of radical Muslims being at UF itself, calling them “slanderous” against IOC. “We do not take accusations of promoting terrorism…lightly,” the organization stated.

But while IOC does not take the accusations lightly, the group and those involved in it have indeed exhibited extremist rhetoric and have indeed supported individuals directly connected to terrorism.

Tonight, February 17, 2009, Siraj Wahhaj will be lecturing the campus about Islam. The speech is titled, “Islam: Moving from Image to Reality.” If Siraj Wahhaj is the image that IOC wishes to promote as an authority on the religion, IOC has forfeited any right to complain about others calling it “radical.”

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Keyes: President ‘Has Something to Hide’ About Eligibility

Says Dem ‘asked to be chosen, therefore must answer’

Alan Keyes, a 2008 presidential candidate who now is a plaintiff in one of the many lawsuits seeking to verify whether Barack Obama qualifies under the U.S. Constitution’s requirements to occupy the Oval Office, says the tactics adopted by lawyers for the president confirm there is an issue for the courts to investigate.

“It confirms the common sense suspicion that he won’t act forthrightly in this matter because he has something to hide,” Keyes wrote on his blog after WND reported the warning about “sanctions” was raised by Obama’s defense lawyers.

The onetime U.S. ambassador explained on his posting that those raising questions over Obama’s elibigility — so far — have simply been ignored by courts.

“In effect, the courts are refusing the admit plaintiffs on this matter into the courtroom, thereby denying them justice,” he wrote. “Madison wrote, ‘Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It will be pursued either until it be obtained or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.’“

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Masterpiece Jew Haters

by Robert J. Avrech

I must have missed a few subtle literary points in college when I was taking a Charles Dickens seminar.

I missed the spot where Fagin, in Oliver Twist, is wearing a gigoondo yarmulke.

Also, blasting right by yours truly—alas, never the best of students—is the part where Fagin abstains from eating pork chops because they’re not kosher.

Who knew that Fagin was an observant Jew?

And I must have skipped the part where Fagin—going all bi-polar—talks to himself in fractured Hebrew and intones: “Never trust the goyim.”

Timothy Spall as Fagin: “Never trust

the goyim.” Gotta check the Cliff notes.

Fagin’s thick as lard accent—whoops, forgot Fagin is religious, let’s make that syrup—eastern European accent pegs him as an immigrant street rat, a dirty foreigner seducing and corrupting young British manhood.

Last night I was flipping through my 150 channels—you can get obese watching all the cooking shows—when I stumbled on this new adaptation of Oliver Twist.

What a surprise, I didn’t know I had access to Al Jazeera. It was kind of scary, I mean, I know the Arab world is a sewer of Jew-hatred, but this Fagin is pretty darn close to the image of the evil Jew pushed by the Nazi propaganda machine.

He’s not just the Jew, he’s the devil.

This Fagin is such a leering, salivating monster that I wouldn’t be surprised if, in next week’s exciting installment, he molests a few doe-eyed kids then slaughters them so he can use their blood to bake matzo.

The Blood Libel is alive and well in the Arab Muslim world and making headway, once again, in oh-so-civilized Europe.

Imagine my surprise when the station ID popped up and I discovered that this was not Al Jazeera, but PBS.

Okay, I really wasn’t surprised.

Just as I wasn’t surprised that this grotesquely anti-Semitic Oliver Twist is a British production. Most sane people recognize that Britain, in about 25 years, will be ruled by Sharia and cheerily Judenrein.

Say hello to the happy-go-lucky 7th century..

In truth, early editions of Oliver Twist were tainted by Jew hatred. But Dickens bravely confronted this bigotry and eliminated anti-Semitism from all subsequent editions. He knew it was wrong. He knew it was poison.

Not so for this BBC productions. They have departed from the standard text and and defaulted to the Jew-hatred that Dickens rejected.

Next PBS Jane Austen adaptation, be prepared for the slick, bad boy Jew who steals fortunes from unsuspecting fine ladies and seduces and abandons Christian virgins.

My fainting couch is positioned right in front of the TV.

European Jew-hatred is so common, so darn fashionable that Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist is now part of the arsenal to make Jew-hatred acceptable.

Director Coky Giedroyc and writer Sarah Phelps are the chief criminals in this vile exercise in sophisticated Jew-hatred. They will, no doubt, argue that they are restoring a fresh perspective to Fagin’s Jewishness. This is the corrupt academic language of deconstruction, where “texts” have no real meaning, where all interpretations are equally valid.

Naturally, it’s a one-way deconstructionist street.

You can bet your bottom dollar that no Muslim would ever appear in such a dark light in a BBC production. Because the Islamists would issue a fatwa and Giedroyc and Phelps would be living under 24/7 protection.

No doubt, this dynamic Jew-hating duo would hunker down with The Koran and deconstruct it in order to prove that beheading is not terribly sporting.

Lotsa luck.

But it’s open season on Jews because, well, what are we going to do but protest in print, be dismissed as right wing nut jobs, or y’know, pushy Jooz.

Question: why does PBS exist?

Oh right, desperately needed government support for people—and by people, I mean losers—who can’t make a living in the business.

Your tax dollars at work.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Nothing Fair About Fairness Doctrine

Americans are about to learn that when it comes to protecting their civil liberties, they can’t relax no matter which party is in power in Washington.

After spending eight years wailing about President George W. Bush’s relentless disregard for the Bill of Rights, Democrats are preparing to launch an assault on the most precious individual freedom of all — free speech.

They are trying to shut down conservative talk radio, the primary source of criticism of their programs and policies.

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow was reportedly leading the effort, though she now says “that’s not my issue.” Good thing, since it would have been an obvious conflict of interest. Her husband, Tom Athans, is a co-founder of Air America, the left-wing network that’s never caught fire with radio listeners.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama and the Great Game


The day before Richard Holbrooke arrived in Kabul, eight suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Justice and Education ministries, killing 26 and wounding 57.

Kabul was paralyzed, as the Taliban displayed an ability to wreak havoc within a hundred yards of the presidential palace.

The assault came as President Obama is both conducting a strategic review and deciding how many additional U.S. troops to send.

Earlier, there was talk of 30,000, bringing the U.S. total to 63,000. Now, there are reports Obama may commit no more than three brigades promised in 2008, and only one brigade now.

Clearly, the United States is checking its hole card. Can we draw to a winning hand? Or is this hand an inevitable loser — and we must cut our losses and cede the pot? No longer, anywhere, is there talk of “victory.”

Nor is the diplomatic news good.

Kyrgyzstan has given us six months to vacate Manas, the air base used to resupply U.S. forces. A week before, guerrillas blew up a bridge in the Khyber, cutting the 1,000-mile supply line from Karachi to Kabul. Before that, guerrillas bombed U.S. truck parks in Pakistan.

While in Pakistan, Holbrooke was told by all to whom he spoke that, while U.S. Predator strikes may be killing Taliban and al Qaeda, the deaths among tribal peoples are turning Pakistan against us.

What would winning Afghanistan for democracy profit us, if the price were losing a nuclear-armed Pakistan to Islamism?

The expulsion from Manas, after Kyrgyzstan received a reported $2 billion in aid from Moscow, raises a question.

Is Russia restarting “The Great Game” she played against Victoria’s Empire in Central Asia, which ended in 1907 with a British-Russian entente, dividing Iran into spheres of influence, with both sides agreeing to keep hands off Afghanistan?

As Russia has as great an interest in preventing an Islamist Kabul, and has assisted NATO’s resupply of its forces, why would Moscow seek to expel us from a base vital to the war effort?

For if Manas is closed and the Karachi-Khyber-Kabul supply line is compromised or cut, Obama would seem to have but three options.

First would be to go back, hat-in-hand, to Islam Karimov, the Uzbek ruler charged with grave human rights violations, and ask him to reopen the Karshi-Khanabad (K2) air base, from which we were expelled in 2005. Second is the Russia option. If Moscow now holds the whip hand in the old Soviet republics, what is Moscow’s price to let us remain in Manas or use other Soviet bases over which it wields veto power?

The answer is obvious. Neither Georgia nor Ukraine is to be brought into NATO. The independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, won in the August war with Georgia, is not to be challenged. The U.S anti-missile missiles planned for Poland are not to be deployed.

In turn, Russia will cancel any missile deployment in Kaliningrad, recommits to the terms of all conventional forces agreements in Europe and assist in the effort in Afghanistan. Russia rejoins the West, and the West stays off Russia’s front porch.

And the third option? It is Iran.

Before 9-11, Iran was more hostile to the anti-Shiite Taliban than we, and it has no desire to see them return. Indeed, Tehran was a supporter of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as both were ruled by mortal enemies.

Price of an entente? An end to the 30-year U.S.-Iranian cold war and a strategic bargain whereby Iran is allowed to develop peaceful nuclear power, under supervision, the United States lifts its embargo, and regime change is left to the Iranian people.

A complication. How would “Bibi” Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman regard a U.S.-Iran rapprochement — to prevent a Taliban triumph in Kabul?

Yet, if the Taliban’s enemies in Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia will not assist us, this war cannot end well. And if they will not help, Obama should cut America’s losses, come home and let their neighbors deal with a triumphant Taliban.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Rehab for Jihadists

By Stephen F. Hayes and Thomas Joscelyn

[From The Weekly Standard, Feb 17th 2009]

During the final months of the Bush administration, top U.S. counterterrorism officials engaged in an intense debate about the fate of the Yemenis detained at Guantánamo Bay. There are a lot of them there—nearly 100 out of the total population of 248—and most can be directly tied to al Qaeda’s global terror network. Barack Obama’s Gitmo problem is, in many respects, a Yemen problem. And it just got worse.

In an interview with a Saudi newspaper last week, Yemen’s foreign minister Abu Bakr al Qirbi was asked about the jihadist rehabilitation program his government is setting up to facilitate the return of Yemeni detainees. Saudi Arabia has made a comprehensive attempt to deprogram jihadists and to secure their promise to end their terrorist ways. U.S. counterterrorism officials like to point to the Saudi program as a model of what should be done with captured jihadists, though 11 former Guantánamo detainees who passed through the Saudi program just showed up on the kingdom’s list of “most wanted” terrorists.

Yemen’s new program, judging from al Qirbi’s description, has a different purpose altogether.

The center Yemen prepares aims at receiving returners from Guantánamo Bay and rehabilitating them to be reintegrated into their society. We have to understand that these young men underwent several types of sufferings as a result of investigations, torture, and non-humanitarian treatments. Of course, they have affected their psychological and physical conditions.

It is necessary to provide them help and physical and material support. They have to be rehabilitated in order to return to their normal life, and we have to provide them work opportunities and train them if this is needed.

The problem, according to al Qirbi, isn’t that the detainees are committed jihadists who might well commit further acts of violence. It’s that the United States treated them so harshly that they might have trouble adjusting to life back in Yemen.

Juan Zarate, who was the top counterterrorism official in the Bush White House, is not surprised by the comments. “The Yemeni government has to contend with their political reality in which the Gitmo detainees are seen as either victims or heroes,” he says. “In addition, there is not yet a real rehabilitation program in Yemen—as we understand it with the Saudis and other governments. These dynamics, along with the existing security risks in Yemen, should give us pause as we think about repatriating Yemeni detainees.”

Other Yemeni officials, including President Abdullah Ali Saleh, have said that the new program will include an effort to get these jihadists to “shun extremism and fanaticism.” Yet, rehabilitating the Yemenis detained at Guantánamo will be no easy task. Yemen is home to a vast terrorist recruiting network comprising Islamic sheikhs and veteran mujahedeen. They regularly call upon eager new recruits to take up arms against Islam’s supposed enemies around the world. As we reported recently (see “Anywhere but Yemen,” February 9, 2009), most of the Yemenis currently held at Guantánamo were recruited by this network. They have been indoctrinated into the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s cause and see America and the West as infidels worthy of slaughter.

The U.S. government’s unclassified files are replete with references to the Yemeni detainees’ extremist worldview. Consider three examples.

Abdul Rahman Umir al Qyati answered the call for jihad in Afghanistan. He trained at al Qaeda’s infamous al Farouq camp and then became a guard at the Kandahar airport in 2001. At that time, the airport was a stronghold for Osama bin Laden, and only the most trustworthy recruits were given guard duties there. Al Qyati “holds the United States in disdain” and admits “that if another call for jihad were issued he would comply even if it meant killing Americans and destroying U.S. interests.”

Majid Abdu Ahmed also answered a Yemeni cleric’s call for jihad in Afghanistan. During his time in U.S. detention, Ahmed referred to his interviewing agents as “infidels” and explained “that all Americans are infidels, and they will go to hell.” Ahmed told his interviewers that the September 11 attacks “were very small in scale and he wishes for greater destruction and torture to fall upon Americans.”

Adil Said al Haj Obeid al Busayss is an admitted Taliban member who attended a training camp in late 2000 and then fought on the front lines in Afghanistan. Busayss sees the entire world as a battlefield for jihadist forces to conquer. When a non-Islamic country falls, its inhabitants will have three choices: pay a tax for their infidel beliefs, leave the country, or convert to radical Islam. Anyone who refuses to submit will be killed.

In their views, these three detainees are typical of the Yemeni population at Guantánamo…

Transferring al Qyati, Ahmed, and Busayss to their homeland poses serious risks. Al Qaeda is an increasingly powerful force inside Yemen. And as al Qaeda’s attack on the American embassy in Sana’a just five months ago reminds us, Westerners are the organization’s preferred targets there. Al Qaeda is always looking for willing hit men to carry out its operations. The Obama administration should be mindful that Busayss allegedly “stated he would support a fatwa advocating attacks against infidels within his country.”

In addition to two high-value Yemeni detainees who worked directly for bin Laden, at least 27 -others are alleged to have ties to him. This includes 14 detainees who were his bodyguards, another who traveled with bin Laden on recruiting missions, and another who was part of bin Laden’s entourage during the escape from Tora Bora. At least 15 more Yemenis, including three who also have direct ties to bin Laden, were captured in the 2002 raids in Pakistan that netted top al Qaeda operatives Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, the Yemeni point man for the September 11 operation.

A majority of the Yemeni detainees in Guantánamo were trained for fighting and directly supported the terror network’s operations. Yemen is not a country that can be reasonably expected to house and rehabilitate these detainees. And yet this appears to be the policy of the Obama administration.

The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Stephen Seche, said recently that he hoped a “majority” of the nearly 100 Yemeni detainees held at Guantánamo Bay would be returned to their native land so that they might “integrate themselves back into their own society with their families and make a future for themselves here.” A State Department spokesman told THE WEEKLY STANDARD that Seche’s comments reflect the views of the Obama administration.

On February 12, the new director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, presented the U.S. intelligence community’s annual threat assessment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Throughout the Arab world, al Qaeda is under pressure. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been greatly weakened by the Awakening movement and the dogged efforts of Coalition forces. And, beginning in 2003, Saudi Arabia’s “aggressive counterterrorism efforts” have made the kingdom “a harsh operating environment.”

But, there is trouble brewing. Saudi Arabia faces “threats from al Qaeda elements in the region, particularly from Yemen,” Blair read aloud from the assessment:

Yemen is reemerging as a jihadist battleground and potential regional base of operations for al Qaeda to plan internal and external attacks, train terrorists, and facilitate the movement of operatives. Al Qaeda leaders could use al Qaeda in Yemen and the growing presence of foreign jihadists there to supplement its external operations agenda, promote turmoil in Saudi Arabia, and weaken the Saleh regime.

To this end, Blair continued reading, al Qaeda in Yemen has “conducted 20 attacks against U.S., Western, and Yemeni targets” as of September 2008.

It is clear that the U.S. intelligence community sees the growing threat coming out of Yemen. Does the Obama administration?

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Shelbyville, TN: Islamic Subversion Alleged by Speaker

A former FBI special agent told law enforcement and Homeland Security personnel that a network of Islamic organizations are working to incrementally implement Islamic law in the United States.

During a presentation at the Bedford County Emergency Management Agency, former FBI agent John Guandolo briefed members about groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which he claims is working with other Islamic groups to slowly implement Shariah, also known as Islamic law, which encompasses all areas of life.

Guandolo worked in the FBI since 1996, including nine years as a member of its SWAT team. After 9/11, he worked in the Bureau’s Washington Field Office’s Counterterrorism Division, developing expertise concerning Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood organizations and the Islamic movement in the U.S.

He now works with Stephen Coughlin, former Islamic Expert for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to advise leaders at the federal level and also brief local law enforcement about the Islamic threat at home.

Coughlin was fired from his position with the Joint Chiefs following a report revealing opposition to his work by officials within the office of Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, according to a Washington Times report dated Jan. 4, 2008.

Coughlin had run afoul of a key aide to England, Hasham Islam, who accused him of being a Christian zealot or extremist “with a pen,” according to defense officials, the report states.

Muslim Brotherhood

Every major Muslim organization is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, the former FBI agent said, which he said was formed to overthrow America and establish Islamic law.

“They’re having great success of implementing Shariah law, I could give you a thousand examples,” Guandolo said.

He said small concessions like installing foot baths, and colleges forced to have separate swimming times for Islamic men and women so not to offend Muslims, are other parts of the strategy.

But Guandolo said that federal leadership is reluctant to act against these Islamic organizations due to political correctness and the threats of lawsuits.

He said that Muslim groups will demand concessions on matters by saying, “You have to do this; you have to do this or I will be offended.”

“The solution to this is you,” Guandolo said. “If you are looking to DHS, the FBI and Congress to solve this … you’re going to be woefully disappointed.”

He said that FBI agents in the field “are working good cases,” but that the FBI leadership “is unwilling to do what the agents are asking them to do, which is to pony up and use some courage and start stepping on these people.”

“This is political subversion, this is an insurgency in the United States,” he said of the Islamic movement. “Insurgency is thwarted at the local level and the tip of the spear is local police.”

Guandolo also said that the group CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, is actually a front for the terror group Hamas.

He also said that he was threatened with his job no less than three times by superiors in the FBI “that told me we were creating waves in the Muslim community.”

Guandolo also said to watch what is happening in Great Britain, where Islamic radicalism has taken root. He noted that a member of the Danish Parliament was recently denied entry into the United Kingdom for fear that it would offend Muslims.

“They denied him access while at the same time, Islamic law is being instituted on the streets of Great Britain,” he said.

           — Hat tip: RRW[Return to headlines]

The New York Times and ‘Book Banning’

[Comment from JD: Fontova exposes how leftists and NYTimes attack school that seeks to ban Cuban propaganda book.]

Most of America, for instance, applauds “parental involvement” in their children’s education. But a recent New York Times editorial decries it. “Banning Books in Miami,” blares their editorial headline from February 10th. “The Miami-Dade School Board’s decision is not only unconstitutional, it is counterproductive. If the ( local school) board wants to oppose the totalitarianism of the Castro regime, banning books is an odd way to go about it.”

The New York Times definition of “book banning” has an excruciatingly selective application. To wit: back in 2006 a children’s’ books titled Let’s Go to Cuba that depicts Stalinist Cuba as a combination Emerald City and Willi Wonka’s Chocolate Factory was stocked in Miami-Dade public school libraries. Some American parents of Cuban heritage in Miami, many of them former Castro political prisoners with the scars to prove it, saw that these books were crammed with the usual academic lies about Cuba, but in BigBird-speak for 9-year-olds. So they filed a complaint with the Miami-Dade school board who voted to remove the books.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Arabic Group Loses Federal Funding Over Hatred

OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is poised to slash federal funding to Canada’s largest Arabic group after its president called him a “professional whore” for supporting Israel.

In an exclusive interview with Sun Media from London, England, where he is to speak today at an international conference on anti-Semitism, Kenney said groups are free within legal bounds to say what they like. But groups whose leaders say intolerant or hateful things shouldn’t get taxpayer funding.

“We should not be rewarding those who express views that are contrary to Canada’s best liberal values of tolerance and mutual respect.”

One of those groups, said Kenney, is the Canadian Arab Federation whose president Khaled Mouammar called him a “professional whore” after Kenney criticized the presence of Hezbollah and Hamas flags at anti-Israel rallies in Toronto.

Kenney said the same group criticized Liberal MP Bob Rae because of his wife’s involvement in Canada’s Jewish community.

The federation received a $447,297 contribution from Kenney’s department to operate a settlement program in Toronto for two years, teaching new immigrants language and job searching skills.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

National Post Editorial Board: Britain Re-Visits Appeasement

Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP deported from Britain last week, may be as much a spotlight hog as he is a freedom fighter. He is never happier than when he is at the eye of a storm over his controversial views on Islam; and where no storm exists, he is only too happy to stir one up.

Nonetheless, the British government was wrong to deny him entry based on his political opinions, particularly when it frequently admits Muslim clerics with far more violent views than Mr. Wilders’. By its disproportionate actions, the Home Office seems more concerned about sparing radical Muslims offence than defending Britain’s centuries-old traditions of free speech.

To be sure, Mr. Wilders’ views are often hard to defend. He claims Islam is irredeemably evil, that it “is not another leaf on the tree of religion,” but rather a totalitarian political ideology of “a retarded culture.” He has likened the Koran to Hitler’s Mein Kampf, called Dutch Christian Democrat Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende a “coward” and accused the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix of spouting “multicultural rubbish.”

His film Fitna — Arabic for a disagreement among peoples —is not so much documentary as it is sensationalist polemic. Without citing any evidence, it blames Islamic texts for inciting the 9/11 attacks, the Madrid rail bombings in 2004 and the London transit attacks in 2005. While such a case could be made using the perpetrators’ own words, Mr. Wilders does not make it. Instead, he merely incites fear in viewers by interposing pages from the Koran with gruesome images of radical Muslim’s three most deadly recent attacks on Western targets.

Nor is the leader of the Dutch Freedom Party a staunch defender of free speech for anyone but himself. While rightly claiming to be the victim of politically correct censorship (in addition to his expulsion from Britain, he is being prosecuted for hate crimes in Holland), he has called for an end to the “Islamicization” of Europe through the curtailment of the public reading of the Koran. “I want the fascist Koran banned … That means no more mosques, no more Islamic schools, no more imams.”

Still, radical Muslims in Britain routinely spew far worse without any consequences. It is common at public protests in major British cities — protests against Israel’s incursion into Gaza or against the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, for example — to see placards or hear chants proclaiming, “Behead those who insult Islam” or “Jews: Your children will pay with their lives” or “Butcher those who mock Islam.”

Geert Wilders may deliberately confuse Islam’s diseased branches with the state of mind of the entire tree, but he does not advocate violence against Muslims, not even indirectly. His greatest crime is fear mongering, not incitement to violence.

Still, in her letter barring Mr. Wilders from entering Britain — he was interdicted at Heathrow Airport last Thursday and put on the first plane back to Amsterdam — British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith explained that she had made her decision because his presence in Britain endangered public safety.

Even though the Dutch lawmaker had been invited to Britain by members of the House of Lords to show his 17-minute movie — which has become an Internet sensation since failing to find a conventional distributor last spring— Ms. Smith concluded his visit, had it gone ahead, would have posed “a genuine, present and sufficient threat to the fundamental interests of society,” and added that his views “about Muslims and their beliefs … would threaten community harmony and therefore public security in the U. K.”

But since Mr. Wilders does not advocate violence against Muslims, just how could he be a threat to public security? The answer, of course, is that his movie and visit would inflame radical Muslims, of whom there are now hundreds of thousands in Britain, and they might launch riots and other attacks. In other words, Britain is essentially granting a free-speech veto to Muslim extremists — a strategy that Britons old enough to remember the 1930s should instantly recognize as appeasement.

Ms. Smith’s office has given visitors visas to several radical Muslim clerics who espouse violence against the West, call for suicide bombing martyrdom and advocate the beating of “disobedient” wives as the path to marital bliss. But because their visits do not threaten to set off violence by Islamists, Home Office bureaucrats do not see these visits as threats to British society, even though they clearly are.

Britain’s Labour government has become hostage to militant Muslims, bending to the will of those who would commit violence. They are vainly and naively hoping that by punishing the innocent, they will not insight the guilty.

Geert Wilders may be a self-serving Muslim baiter. But the true test of one’s commitment to free speech is the willingness to defend the indefensible.

           — Hat tip: Flyboy[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

After Two-Day Car-Jacking Spree, Escaped French Robbers Captured in Hail of Bullets

Charles Bremner in Paris

A spectacular cross-country pursuit of two escaped robbers ended in a hail of bullets yesterday when French police cornered them with the help of a lorry driver on a suburban Paris motorway.

The 5am gunfight, which seriously wounded one of the pair, came after they blasted their way out of a high-security prison in central France on Sunday and made their escape by hijacking cars and taking hostages.

Christophe Khider, 37, who is serving a life sentence for murder and armed robbery, and Omar Top El Hadj, 30, who is serving ten years for armed robbery. were in a stolen car in a moving gunfight with two police cars when a lorry driver blocked them by pulling his vehicle across the road in an underpass. Khider got out, firing until he was shot, police said. His accomplice had been knocked out.

Khider, who shot dead a hostage in 1999 and had already attempted a failed helicopter escape, was in intensive care after two shots to his chest.

His wife and El Hadj’s sister were being held by police on suspicion of smuggling explosives and a gun to the pair in prison, who broke out using explosives just after a visit.

The men took two prison guards hostage and hijacked a car before starting on a circuitous journey across northern France. They released the guards in the southern Paris suburbs, then kidnapped a driver and his grandson in the northern town of Amiens and forced them to take them to near-by Arras, closer to the Belgian border, where they released them unharmed.

With the Belgian police on alert, they doubled back towards Paris. In the city in the early hours they rammed a car and forced its driver to withdraw cash.. Heading back out towards the suburbs, they abandoned their hostage, who alerted police.

Fascination with the Khider escape was fed by a running commentary to the media from Claude Charles-Catherine, his mother, a colourful former convict who has been campaigning for prison reform.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Anti-Cross Judge Cleared

Luigi Tosti vows to continue battle

(ANSA) — L’Aquila, February 17 — An Italian judge campaigning against the presence of crosses in public buildings on Tuesday got a jail conviction quashed for refusing to enter courtrooms unless crucifixes were removed.

Italy’s supreme court overturned judge Luigi Tosti’s May 2007 seven-month sentence for refusing to carry out his official duties.

Tosti called the sentence ‘‘an important one’’ and vowed to carry on his battle.

‘‘It’s either me in the courtroom, or crosses’’.

The court prosecutor had argued for leniency, saying that since Tosti was replaced by another judge, he should get a new trial on the minor charge of disrupting judicial activity.

But the Cassation Court judges went further and issued a full acquittal, saying that ‘‘no crime was committed’’. Tuesday’s hearing took place with no crosses in the room.

Tosti, 60, has already had one ban and is currently serving another for refusing to sit in a courtroom in the Marche town of Camerino.

He has repeatedly refused to take part in proceedings unless the cross in the courtroom was taken down and ‘‘the secular nature of the assembly restored’’.

The Italian judiciary’s self-governing body, the Supreme Council of Magistrates, removed Tosti from his post in February 2006 and cut off his pay because of his ‘‘unjustifiable behaviour’’.

The decision, which reignited debate on crucifixes in public buildings, came after Tosti was convicted by a criminal court a month before.


Crucifixes are not mandatory but customary in Italy’s public buildings.

Catholicism is not Italy’s state religion and the separation of Church and State is set down by the postwar Constitution and mandated by a 1984 Concordat that ended most of the Catholic Church’s privileges.

In practice, with Catholicism being such a part of Italy’s cultural identity, local bodies decide whether they want crosses in the courthouse.

Similar arrangements are in place in other public buildings — most notably schools, where there have been a raft of polemics.

Judge Tosti first made headlines in April 2004 when he threatened to place symbols of his own Jewish faith, like the menorah candle-holder, in his Camerino court.

He later changed his mind after the Union of Italian Muslims (UMI) went to Camerino to demonstrate their support for his initiative.

The UMI is headed by Adel Smith who for some time has been in the public spotlight for his campaign to have crosses removed from schools and hospitals.

In 2003 Smith won a court order for the removal of crosses at the school his children attended. The order was later reversed after a nationwide protest.

Judge Tosti insists that defendants have the constitutional right to refuse to be tried under the symbol of the cross.

The Constitution, he says, establishes the separation of Church and State and gives equal status to all religions.

This means that judges and lawyers can refuse to perform their duties under the symbol of the cross which would violate a defendant’s right to a fair trial and counsel, he argues.

However, the Constitutional Court ruled in December 2004 that crosses should stay in courts and classrooms.

The Court did not give a juridical explanation for its ruling, and many felt it had washed its hands of a political hot potato.

If it had upheld the separation of Church and State, the high court would have sparked outraged reactions from conservatives who were already incensed when some schools dropped Christmas plays and creches to avoid hurting the feelings of Muslim children.

The row even prompted a reaction from Pope John Paul II, who stressed that Christmas cribs were a part of Italy’s Catholic heritage.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Archbishop of Canterbury: Society is Coming Round to My Views on Sharia

On the anniversary of the interview in which Dr Rowan Williams said it “seems inevitable” that some parts of sharia would be enshrined in this country’s legal code, he claimed “a number of fairly senior people” now take the same view.

He added that there is a “drift of understanding” towards what he was saying, and that the public sees the difference between letting Muslim courts decide divorces and wills, and allowing them to rule on criminal cases and impose harsh punishments.

However critics insist that family disputes must be dealt with by civil law rather than according to religious principles, and claim the Archbishop’s comments have only helped the case of extremists while making Muslim women worse off, because they do not have equal rights under Islamic law.

The Archbishop, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, faced calls to resign last February when he said it was likely that elements of the religious principles based on the Koran, concerning marriage, finance and conflict resolution, would be enshrined in British legislation one day.


           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Atheist Bus Off to False Start

Campaign delayed by ‘curious’ gremlin

(ANSA) — Genoa, February 16 — Italy’s first ‘atheist bus’ got moving Monday but had to head straight back to the depot because of a power fault.

After repairs the bus started out on its route again and is set to spread its message around the northwestern Italian city for the next month.

‘‘By pure chance,’’ a member of the Italian atheists association said wryly, ‘‘the vehicle left the depot bright and early but had to go straight back because of a ‘curious’ problem with the batteries’’.

The Italian Union of Atheists, Agnostics and Rationalists (UAAR) saw their first bus ad rejected after religious protests but succeeded in getting an OK for a toned-down No God message.

The original message, canned after protests from Catholics and Muslims, was The Bad News Is God Doesn’t Exist, The Good News Is You Don’t Need Him.

The new message is: The Good News Is There Are Millions of Atheists In Italy; The Excellent News Is They Believe In Freedom Of Expression.

UAAR Treasurer Isabella Cazzoli said the association was ‘‘optimistic’’ about getting the original message out in other Italian cities. ‘‘We’re at an advanced state of negotiation with other cities but after what happened in Genoa we don’t want to say which,’’ she said.

A Facebook group in favour of the UAAR’s drive has drawn thousands of supporters.

The Italian campaign follows similar ads in London, Barcelona and Washington where the slogan was: ‘‘There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life’’.

The UAAR, which has 4,000 members across Italy, was out in force in Genoa’s main square, Piazza De Ferrari, on Monday to explain the purpose of the initiative.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Berlusconi’s Lawyer Convicted

David Mills ‘disappointed’ by prison sentence in bribe case

(Updates previous coverage).

(ANSA) — London, February 17 — British corporate lawyer David Mills said he was ‘‘very disappointed’’ after a Milan court sentenced him to a four-and-a-half-year prison term for taking a bribe to hush up incriminating evidence in trials involving Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

‘‘I am naturally very disappointed by this verdict,’’ Mills said in a statement.

‘‘I am innocent, but this is a highly political case. I am hopeful that the verdict and sentence will be set aside on appeal, and am told that I will have excellent grounds,’’ said Mills, who had insisted the $600,000 sum came from a Neapolitan businessman.

Under Italian law Mills is entitled to two appeals and the sentence does not become effective until these have been exhausted.

Mills said he had been advised not to make further public comments until the appeals process was completed.

‘‘Meanwhile I am getting on with my professional life,’’ he said.

Mills’ estranged wife, British Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell, described the verdict as ‘‘a terrible blow for David’’.

‘‘Even though we are separated, I have never doubted his innocence,’’ she said.

The pair’s marriage broke down in the wake of media pressure after the story came out.

Mills’ lawyer, Federico Cecconi, said the sentence was ‘‘illogical’’.

Judge Nicoletta Gandus will present reasons for the verdict in a written document at a later date.

Mills exercised his right not to appear in person at the trial.

Berlusconi was previously a co-defendant with Mills in the trial but was struck out of proceedings after an immunity law passed in July by his government suspended his involvement in the case while in office.

The prosecutor in the case has challenged the immunity law in the Constitutional Court.


News of Mills’ conviction in parliament brought calls from opposition politicians for Berlusconi to explain himself.

‘‘In a normal country the premier would already have resigned,’’ said Italy of Values (IDV) leader Antonio Di Pietro.

‘‘If Mills has been condemned as corrupt, that means someone was corrupted, but someone else did the corrupting,’’ said the former graft-busting prosecutor.

Alessandro Pignatiello of the Italian Communists’ Party echoed calls for the premier to ‘‘pack his bags’’.

‘‘Mills hasn’t been found guilty of stealing sweets from a stranger. Why should he be condemned and his corruptor get off free?’’ she said.

A former lawyer for Berlusconi and now an MP in his People of Freedom party, Gaetano Pecorella said the Mills verdict was ‘‘only to be expected’’.

‘‘The court’s judge is very clearly against Silvio Berlusconi in her political orientations,’’ he said.

‘‘Issuing this verdict was perhaps one way of condemning Berlusconi morally when it wasn’t possible to do so physically,’’ he said.

Last year Berlusconi’s legal team attempted to have Gandus removed from the trial on the grounds that she was biased against him and had repeatedly expressed thoughts that revealed ‘‘serious enmity’’ towards the premier.

Italy’s supreme court rejected the case last month, saying that Gandus’s professional conduct both inside and outside the courtroom had been ‘‘correct’’.


Prosecutors said Mills had received a $600,000 bribe to hush up incriminating evidence in corruption trials against the premier in 1997 and 1998. In a letter he sent to his accountant in 2004, Mills said the payment was a ‘‘gift’’ and that he had saved Berlusconi ‘‘from a great deal of trouble’’. ‘‘I told no lies but I turned some very tricky corners,’’ the letter said. Mills claims the $600,000 came from another former client, Neapolitan businessman Diego Attanasio.

In a statement presented to the court last month in which Mills denied wrongdoing, he said that both Berlusconi and Attanasio, ‘‘have been victims of my mistakes, although this was not my intention’’. ‘‘I have conducted my business badly and I have caused a lot of annoyance to people who did not deserve such problems in any way. But I have never been bribed by anyone,’’ he said.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Doubt Over ‘Shaken Baby’ Theory That Has Sent Dozens of Parents to Prison

A medical theory that has led to dozens of women being jailed for shaking their babies has been called into question by new scientific research.

Two British pathologists have found that a combination of injuries used to diagnose abuse, known as the “triad”, can happen naturally.

Dr Irene Scheimberg, from London’s Bart’s Hospital, and Dr Marta Cohen, from Sheffield Children’s Hospital, warn that bleeding on the brain and retinas, swelling of the brain and oxygen deficiency do not only occur through vigorous shaking.

Their discoveries could have a dramatic effect on future child abuse trials and child protection hearings.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe Accused of Stealing Jobs With Bribes

By Nikki Tait in Brussels and Daniel Schaefer in Frankfurt

Published: February 17 2009

European leaders were accused on Tuesday of “bribing multinationals” and stealing jobs from neighbouring countries as they use taxpayers’ money to support businesses battered by the economic turmoil.

Neelie Kroes, Europe’s senior antitrust regulator, told an audience in Paris: “Of course no politician will admit to protectionist policies — it will be presented under better colours, using national money to protect national jobs.”

But the EU competition commissioner added: “That is rhetoric, not reality. We have to protect people by creating for them real jobs with real futures.

“That takes leadership. Leadership is not bribing multinationals and stealing jobs from one’s neighbours — jobs based on bribes do not have real futures.”

Ms Kroes did not accuse any politicians by name. But her tough line was delivered just hours before the deadline for France to give the European Commission more details of the country’s €6.5bn ($8.2bn, £5.7bn) plan to aid its car industry.

EU officials fear that the scheme — which involves a package of loans for Renault and Peugeot-Citroen — could breach Europe’s single market principles or state-aid rules. The plan has angered other EU carmaking states such as Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Francois Fillon, France’s prime minister, acknowledged last week that manufacturers were asked not to close French factories during the term of any loan but insisted that the plan was not protectionist.

Spain has since unveiled a €4bn car aid plan. Ministers have suggested that government support could depend on manufacturers’ ability to guarantee jobs. Commission officials said on Tuesday this scheme would also be scrutinized carefully. They wrote to the Spanish authorities on Tuesday asking for more information.

In Germany, a car industry executive warned of a domino effect across Europe. Dieter Zetsche, chief executive at Daimler, told a press conference: “What happens in the US, France and partly in Span has significant weight and has elements of competitive distortion.” He added that Berlin had done well not to implement similar measures but said this stance could not continue in the long run if “unilateral” benefits persisted.

Ms Kroes, speaking to a committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, warned that, while emergency bail-outs were justified, they had, at least in the eyes of the Commission, to pave the way for more fundamental adjustments.

“Guarantees, recapitalisation, and the treatment of impaired assets are necessary but they are not sufficient,” she said, speaking in the context of the financial services sector.

“Tough decisions on restructuring or possible managed liquidation need to be made and they need to be made very fast. We cannot afford delay”.

She said the Commission could co-ordinate and enforce fairness but needed support from member states.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Irish May Get Earlier Lisbon Vote

The Irish government is considering whether it would be logistically possible to bring forward the date for a second Lisbon Treaty referendum.

“All options are being considered,” an Irish government spokesman told the BBC News website on Monday.

Republic of Ireland voters rejected the EU reform treaty in a referendum last June. October 2009 had been given as the likely month for a new referendum.

The EU has given Ireland sovereignty “guarantees” to reassure voters.

An Irish Times/TNS mrbi opinion poll published on Monday suggests that 51% of voters in the Republic of Ireland would back the controversial treaty now, with 33% saying they would vote “No”. It put the number of undecided voters at 16%.

The poll was conducted last Monday and Tuesday among a sample of 1,000 voters across the country.

Correspondents say the economic crisis has boosted support for the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.

The treaty, aimed at strengthening EU institutions, has to be ratified by all 27 member states to take effect. Ireland was the only country to hold a referendum on it.

The Czech Republic and Poland have not yet ratified the treaty either. And in Germany, a legal challenge has sent the treaty to the constitutional court.

Opponents say the treaty is part of a federalist EU agenda that threatens national sovereignty. The also say it differs little from the ill-fated EU constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Legal discussions

The Irish government spokesman, who declined to be named, said it was “considering whether it is logistically possible” to bring forward the referendum date from October.

He did not rule out that the referendum re-run could coincide with the European Parliament election. The date for that in Ireland is 5 June.

He said the EU “guarantees” for Ireland “are still being worked on”, and that “it depends whether they can be signed off in March” by EU leaders.

“We want to make sure the wording of the guarantees is robust, so that they can stand up to legal challenge,” he added.

The EU has pledged not to impose rules on Ireland concerning taxation, “family” issues — such as abortion, euthanasia and gay marriage — and the traditional Irish state neutrality.

In last June’s referendum on the reform treaty, 53.4% voted “No” to Lisbon, and 46.6% “Yes”.

The spokesman said the government would have to give the Irish referendum commission enough time to inform voters about the treaty.

There were widespread complaints in the run-up to last June’s referendum that many voters had a poor understanding of the treaty.

“It would be wrong to foist it on people, if the referendum cannot be scheduled to give people sufficient time to debate it,” the spokesman told the BBC.

Supporters of Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s Fianna Fail party and the main opposition Fine Gael mostly back the treaty. The nationalist opposition Sinn Fein opposes it.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Irish Recovery Plan Provokes Harsh Criticism From Brussels

THE EUROPEAN Commission has questioned the Government’s ability to implement its recovery plan and criticised the plan’s lack of clarity.

The comments are made in two reports which will be released today when Brussels will formally initiate an excessive deficit procedure against Ireland for the first time.

The report criticises the lack of clarity in the Government’s updated recovery strategy, which proposes to bring the deficit below the legal limit set by the EU within five years.

The commission pinpoints weaknesses in the Government’s plan as “unclear” and “underdeveloped”. The commission report criticises the Government plan as seeking a “sizeable cumulative fiscal consolidation objective which is neither allocated to the revenue or expenditure side nor supported by measures”.

The reports say Irish policymakers failed to maintain “a prudent fiscal course” during the boom, particularly in relation to maintaining spending targets. This tendency to change targets “might limit their ability to credibly commit to a consolidation strategy in difficult times”, conclude the reports.

It also warns that the Government’s â‚440 billion bank guarantee scheme could have a “potential negative impact on the long-term sustainability of public finances”, although in the absence of precise information it is not included in the commission’s deficit forecast.

Ireland is one of six EU states that the commission will today recommend should face an excessive deficit procedure, which is a process that allows the EU executive and other EU partners to recommend policies that would restore an errant state’s finances to order. France, Greece and Spain are also to be named.

“This is not about punishing Ireland. It is about applying peer pressure to help the Government get its house in order on the deficit,” said a commission official, who added that EU finance ministers had to approve the reports before the excessive deficit procedure formally opened.


           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Italy: Hunt for Rome Rapists — “Dark Hair and Boxer’s Nose”

Victims create identikit. Bishops’ conference warns against generalising about immigrants.

ROME — “One of them had a squashed nose, like a boxer’s, a dark face and long, black hair”. Despite his trauma, the fresh-faced 16-year-old in the baseball cap was able to describe at least one of the men who raped his 15-year-old girlfriend in the Caffarella park. Slowly, an identikit began to take shape at the police headquarters. Yesterday, the two youngsters spent several hours in the flying squad’s protected room on the second floor. With them were investigating officers, the couple’s parents and two counsellors who are helping them to deal with this nightmare. Police chief Giuseppe Caruso said: “We are doing everything humanly possible. We will not give up until we have arrested the men. We owe it above all to the girl and her family. The first 48 hours are crucial for the investigation”.

The teenagers are collaborating. The memory of their tragic Valentine’s Day is vivid and detailed: the rapists’ approach — “Two foreigners from the east who spoke bad Italian, they could have been Romanians” — the threat to use the gun one claimed to have in his pocket, the attack and the sexual violence. Investigators are believed to have found biological traces left by the attackers about half a kilometre away from the well-lit street, in the heavily overgrown hollow where they raped the 15-year-old. There are other clues. The rapists fleeing with the teenagers’ mobile phones lost, or discarded, a bag and the victims’ wallets. Investigators, coordinated by public prosecutor Vincenzo Barba, are seeking to isolate the wanted men while homing in on them with the aid of technology. As we said, the rapists are thought to have left several clues. Yesterday, police officers inspected a number of travellers’ camps and sites where Romanians and Slavs live. Several people were interrogated, particularly individuals with a criminal record.

Rome’s mayor, Gianni Alemanno, announced “strong signals” against crime. He said: “The first moves will include installing more CCTV cameras — there are 45,000 in London and only 5,000 in Rome — and the immediate clearing of illegal travellers’ camps, which should start today with Ostia, seeing that so much time was wasted on the census. But no to DIY justice or vigilante patrols”. The wave of violence and the reaction from residents is worrying Italian bishops. “There must be a strong sense of political responsibility when these incidents are being discussed or acted upon. Generalisation and pointing the finger at immigrants must be avoided”, observed Gianromano Gnesotto, director of the pastoral office for immigrants and refugees of the Migrantes foundation of the Italian bishops’ conference (CEI). Nazzareno Guarnieri, president of the Roma and Sinti federation wrote to Gianni Alemanno: “But are we always to be your whipping boys?”

As Roberto Calderoli, the minister for legislative simplification, was dusting off proposals for the chemical castration of rapists, public administration minister Renato Brunetta wondered whether “so many police forces with their own structures, often uncoordinated with each other, are actually necessary”. Defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, was adamant: “Army foot patrols would be effective against rapes, as well as other crimes”. For the Democratic Party, the issue of sexual violence should be tackled “by eradicating pockets of social exclusion”, as Anna Paola Concia, a member of the justice committee in the Chamber of Deputies, requested and, according to the shadow minister for equal opportunities, Vittoria Franco, “with the restoration of the 20 million euros for the anti-violence plan trimmed from the 2009 Budget”. Christian Democrat UDC leader Pier Ferdinando Casini attacked the executive: “The measures taken by the government are a failure”.

English translation by Giles Watson


           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy to Push on Obama Copter

Contract for new Marine One ‘must be respected’

(ANSA) — London, February 17 — Italy will push to have the US government respect a contract to buy presidential helicopters from an Italian-controlled company, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday.

‘‘The contract has already been finalised. Now it’s a question of fulfilling it and we’re working to have it implemented,’’ Frattini said on a visit to London.

‘‘Delaying it is possible but I don’t think we can give it up,’’ Frattini said of the contract, whose spiralling costs have pushed delivery back from 2008 to 2010.

In the current climate of austerity, President Barack Obama is reportedly thinking of cancelling the contract for the new ‘Marine One’ copter, commissioned from British-Italian AugustaWestland and US partner Lockheed Martin, because of the delays and cost overruns.

The New York Times on Tuesday reported that the five-year contract costs had doubled from some $6.1 billion to $11.2 billion.

It also noted that one of the companies that lost out to Augusta Westland and Lockheed in 2005 was the Pentagon’s supplier since the Eisenhower era, Sikorsky Aircraft, a firm with historic links to Obama’s Democratic Party.

The contract originally called for delivery of the Italian-designed VH-71 helicopter last year.

The VH-71 is faster, safer and more powerful than the current generation, but costs as much as Air Force One.

The 2005 decision by the Pentagon, which is responsible for transporting the president, came at the end of an intense lobbying battle between the two groups.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi went to bat for the American-European consortium, in meetings with US President George Bush.

The new copter is a modified version of a helicopter already in use by the British Royal Navy and other European armed forces.

AugustaWestland is a division of the Italian corporation Finmeccanica.

Other partners in the American-European consortium include Bell Helicopter and Northrop Grumman Corp.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Libraries Put Bible on Top Shelf in a Sop to Muslims

Librarians are being told to move the Bible to the top shelf to avoid giving offence to followers of Islam.

Muslims have complained of finding the Koran on lower shelves, saying it should be put above commonplace things.

So officials have responded with guidance, backed by ministers, that all holy books should be treated equally and go on the top shelf together.

This means that Christian works, which also have immense historical and literary value, will be kept out of the reach and sight of many readers.

The guidance was published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, a quango answering to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham.

It said Muslims in Leicester had moved copies of the Koran to the top shelves of libraries, in keeping with the belief that the Koran is the all-important word of God.

The report said the city’s librarians consulted the Federation of Muslim Organisations and were advised that all religious texts should be kept on the top shelf.

‘This meant that no offence is caused, as the scriptures of all the major faiths are given respect in this way, but none is higher than any other,’ the guidance added.

Critics said such a move implied religious works should be treated as objects of veneration rather than as books to be read. Robert Whelan of the Civitas think-tank said:

‘Libraries and museums are not places of worship. They should not be run in accordance with particular religious beliefs.

‘This is violating the principles of librarianship and it is part of an insidious trend.’

He said the principle that books should be available to everyone was established in Europe in the Middle Ages.

‘One of the central planks of the Protestant Reformation was that everybody should have access to the Bible,’ he added.

Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute said: ‘It is disappointing if the policy of libraries is dictated by the practices of one group.

‘It is particularly disappointing if this is done to put the scriptures beyond reach.

‘I hope there will be a rethink. I understand that Muslims revere their own text, but in public libraries there should not be a policy of putting religious texts out of reach.’

Inayat Bunglawala, of the Engage think tank, which encourages Muslims to play a greater role in public life, said: ‘If Muslims wish to see the Koran placed on a higher shelf, and library rules say it should be there, then that is a welcome and considerate gesture.

‘But one size does not fit all. If Christians do not want to see the Bible treated in the same way, I do not see why it has to be dealt with the same.’

Canon Chris Sugden, of the Anglican Mainstream movement, said: ‘This does appear to be a reversion to medieval times, when the Bible could be read only by priests in Latin and was not to be defiled by ordinary people reading it.

‘The principle to be challenged is that there is a certain way in which one must treat all holy books.

‘The Bible is readily available, and it would not be difficult to have more than one copy, with some on display within the reach of children.’

The guidelines warned against another decision made in Leicester, in which Islamic material had been bought from local suppliers.

Libraries then found they had put into stock Islamic books that were condoning violence against non- Muslims, the report said.

The new guidelines make it clear that pornography can be offered by libraries.

They said that some have stocked the Black Lace series of erotic stories aimed at women, and that others bought and lent Madonna’s Sex.

Librarians faced a ‘difficult balance’ but should try to ‘reflect changing fashion and opinion’, the guidance said.

Culture Minister Barbara Follett said: ‘We have to give staff the tools to enable them to make decisions about what materials they can and should stock while, at the same time, promoting learning, education and cultural inspiration for all.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ministers ‘Using Fear of Terror’

Stella Rimington, former head of MI5 has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism and trying to bring in laws that restrict civil liberties.

In an interview in a Spanish newspaper, published in the Daily Telegraph, Dame Stella Rimington, 73, also accuses the US of “tortures”.

The Home Office said it was vital to strike a right balance between privacy, protection and sharing personal data.

It said any policies which impact on privacy must be “proportionate”.

Dame Stella, who stood down as the director general of the security service in 1996, has previously been critical of the government’s policies, including its attempts to extend pre-charge detention for terror suspects to 42 days and the controversial plan to introduce ID cards.

“It would be better that the government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism — that we live in fear and under a police state,” she told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia.

She said the British security services were “no angels,” but they did not kill people.

“The US has gone too far with Guantanamo and the tortures,” she said.

“MI5 does not do that. Furthermore it has achieved the opposite effect — there are more and more suicide terrorists finding a greater justification.”

‘Take stock’

Dame Stella’s comments come as a study is published by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) that accuses the US and the UK of undermining the framework of international law.

Former Irish president Mary Robinson, the president of the ICJ said: “Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years.

“Human rights and international humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats.”

The BBC’s security correspondent Frank Gardner said the ICJ report would probably have more of an impact than Dame Stella’s remarks because it was a wide-ranging, three-year study carried out by an eminent group of practising legal experts.

Dame Stella appeared to be more restrained in her comments than the ICJ, he added.

She was keen to stress the risk of civil liberties being curtailed, while the jurists insisted that international law had already been “actively undermined”.

Shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said the Conservatives were “committed to ensuring that security measures are proportionate and adhere to the rule of law”.

The Tories said the government’s push to extend the detention time limit for terror suspects was the kind of measure condemned by the report.

Human rights campaign group Liberty pointed to a number of other recent developments it said represented “a creeping encroachment on our fundamental rights”:

  • Government plans for a giant database to record the times, dates and recipients of all emails and text messages sent and phone calls made in the UK
  • The growth of Britain’s DNA database — it is now the world’s largest, per head of population, with samples from some 4m people
  • The use by councils of laws designed to track criminals and terrorists to spy on ordinary citizens. In one case a family was watched to see if they were really living in a school catchment area
  • The spread of CCTV cameras. Britain now reportedly has some 4m, the highest density in western Europe
  • Proposals for “secret inquests,” excluding relatives, juries and the media, which the government says would prevent intelligence details leaking out

Isabella Sankey, director of policy at Liberty, said she was “enormously heartened” by what Dame Stella had said.

“Over the last seven years, we’ve seen a number of measures passed, some of which affect very few of us in a horrible and terrible way, whether that’s house arrest under control orders or rendition and torture in foreign states,” she said.

“We’ve also seen many, many measures that affect all of us just a little bit and, most of all, which seriously impact our rights to privacy.

“We have very broad police powers which sweep the innocent up with the guilty.”

‘Effective safeguards’

A Home Office spokesman said: “The government has been clear that where surveillance or data collection will impact on privacy they should only be used where it is necessary and proportionate.”

“This provides law enforcement agencies with the tools to protect the public as well as ensuring government has the ability to provide effective public services while ensuring there are effective safeguards and a solid legal framework that protects civil liberties.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said: “This is damning testament to just how much liberty has been ineffectually sacrificed in the ‘war on terror’.”

Dame Stella became the first female head of MI5 in 1992.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Regions: Rome to Host Inter-Mediterranean Commission

(ANSAmed) — ROME, FEBRUARY 16 — Rome has been chosen to host the Inter-Mediterranean Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CRPM). The decision was taken by the political office of the commission, which is led by Michel Vauzelle, current President of the Provence Alpes et Cote d’Azur Region. Rome’s candidacy, which was supported by the President of the Lazio Region, Piero Marrazzo, fought off competition from the Spanish city of Murcia. The commission will be based in Villa Piccolomini, where the Casa delle Regioni del Mediterraneo (House of Mediterranean Regions) is already sited. “Hosting the Inter-Mediterranean Commission is an important result for Italy, the Lazio and the city of Rome”, said Marrazzo, ‘in order to assert and strengthen the role of this Region for the future of European policies. We are committed to the policies of territorial cohesion, as a driving force of development and social, cultural and economic development in the territories’’. The Inter-Mediterranean, which has been without a base since 2006, is the CRPM body which studies local problems and enacts Mediterranean inter-regional cooperation deals, aiming at economic, scientific and cultural development. It decides common programmes, guarantees exchanges of experience in the context of interventions by structural funds. The CRPM now links 160 member regions, belonging to 28 countries and representing more than 190 million people living in the Mediterranean basin. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sanremo Fest to Open Amid Protests

Gay and consumer rights groups slam music event of the year

(ANSA) — Sanremo, February 16 — The curtain is about to go up on Italy’s biggest musical event of the year, the Sanremo songfest, amid furious polemics from gay rights groups and consumer associations.

Broadcast by state network RAI and watched avidly by millions in Italy and the rest of the world, the 59th edition of the glitzy festival begins on Tuesday and ends five evenings later after more than 15 hours of live TV.

As always, organisers have recruited a handful of big names to boost the show’s international glamour.

Jim Carrey, Kevin Spacey, Annie Lennox, Burt Bacharach and Hugh Heffner are due to appear around the main event, which this year sees 15 famous names and eight lesser-known artists compete for the title of best song.

One of the more famous artists, 36-year-old Milan singer-songwriter Povia, has caused uproar among gay groups with his entry, Luca Was Gay, a song apparently about ‘converting’ gays to heterosexuality.

Povia has previously come under fire over a magazine interview in which he declared that ‘‘people aren’t gay, they become gay on the basis of who they spend time with’’.

‘‘This song represents a wound for all gay people who are fighting against homophobia and ignorance in Italy,’’ Arcigay President Aurelio Mancuso reiterated Monday .

‘‘You don’t change sexual orientation like a pair of shoes, it’s rooted in our nature,’’ he said, adding that five major gay right’s groups will stage a protest in the city on Saturday.

This year’s artistic director and presenter Paolo Bonolis defended the song, saying that it did not ‘‘take sides’’ but simply ‘‘told a story’’.

Povia meanwhile denied being homophobic and said he didn’t ‘‘give a damn’’ about the gay rights groups’ protest.

Other observers such as politician Luca Volonte’ of the Catholic UDC party have called Arcigay’s efforts to pull the song discriminatory, pointing out that last year Italian pop singer Anna Tatangelo competed with a song entitled My Friend, written for a gay friend about the difficulty he faces in Italy because of his sexuality.

Meanwhile another row is raging over Bonolis’ pay packet for the festival, said to be in the range of a million euros, as well as that of another guest, Oscar-winning film maker and comic-actor Roberto Benigni.

Consumer rights association Codacons has asked San Remo public prosecutors to seize the two artists’ contracts, saying it had a duty to ascertain whether licence payers’ money was being used ‘‘inappropriately’’.


The salary row has been fuelled by the fact that the festival, which in the past has ‘made’ songs and launched careers, has been hit in recent years by a steady decline in ratings.

RAI chiefs will be watching viewing figures closely to see whether its big investment is actually paying dividends. RAI Uno director Fabrizio Del Noce said this year’s festival was costing half a million euros less than last year but admitted that it was crunch time for the event’s future on the network.

‘‘It’s a question of life or death. Either there are results, or it’s curtains,’’ he said.

In an effort to boost audience figures for Tuesday’s curtain raiser, organisers have secured reclusive Italian singing legend Mina to open the show.

Bonolis said the famously retiring star had agreed to ‘‘help’’ the festival, although she will not appear live.

Instead, she will appear in a video singing a special arrangement of the Nessun Dorma aria from Puccini’s Turandot.

Mina, 68, is reckoned by many the finest female pop singer Italy has produced and Louis Armstrong once called her ‘‘the greatest white singer in the world’’.

She last appeared on TV in 1974 and in public in 1978.

A charity founded by the U2 vocalist Bono is set to inject an extra dose of Hollywood glamour into the festival. Celebrities including Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Claudia Schiffer, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz will appear in short video appeals on behalf of One, a campaign and advocacy organisation that fights poverty worldwide.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Secret Papers on Iraq War Stolen From Eversheds Lawyer on Train

Patrick Foster

Highly sensitive documents relating to the Iraq War have been stolen after being left unguarded on a train by a lawyer working for the Government, The Times has learnt.

The lawyer, who was working for the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, which provides legal services to central government offices, lost a suitcase containing Ministry of Defence papers on Monday morning while travelling on the Leeds to London train.

It is understood that the solicitor from Eversheds, a leading British law firm, could not fit the case into the overhead storage space and had instead stowed it in a baggage rack at the end of the carriage.

The lawyer noticed that the case was missing after the train’s arrival at King’s Cross station and called police. It is not yet known whether it was a targeted theft or the work of an opportunist thief.

Police were last night focusing their investigations on Doncaster station, where it is thought the papers were stolen. A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “The passenger reported the suitcase as missing after they had travelled on the 9.05am train from Leeds to London King’s Cross. CCTV is being viewed and the investigations are continuing.”

It is not yet known exactly what aspect of the Iraq War the documents relate to. Eversheds has carried out public-private partnership work for the Ministry of Defence in the past, including advising on the Combined Aerial Target Service project, which awarded a £300 million contract to provide targeting services for the military.

The firm has also been instructed by the MoD for an inquiry into the death of Baha Mousa, the Iraqi civilian in the custody of British soldiers in 2003.

Gary Pellow, a partner at Eversheds based at the firm’s Leeds office, recently wrote on the company website that he has “been appointed to act for the MoD in the forthcoming Baha Mousa Inquiry”.

The inquiry, which was first announced in May last year by Des Browne, Defence Secretary at that time, is set to hear opening statements on July 13.

The Government has already admitted “substantial breaches” of the European Convention of Human Rights in the treatment of Mr Mousa.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said: “Legal papers in the possession of a lawyer for a firm of private solicitors working for the Treasury Solicitor’s Department were taken from a train on February 16. The possible theft is under investigation by British Transport Police. Action is under way in an attempt to recover the papers.”

The incident is the latest in a long line of embarrassing losses of government information. In October a senior Whitehall official who left highly classified intelligence documents about al-Qaeda and the Iraqi security forces on a train was fined £2,500 after admitting negligence.

In January last year a laptop with the details of 600,000 people on it was taken from a Royal Navy officer’s car in Birmingham, and in November 2007 two CDs with details of 25 million Britons were lost after being posted from a Revenue and Customs office in Tyne and Wear.

Eversheds is one of the largest law firms in the world and has more than 3,500 staff in 42 offices across in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The company, which operates in 26 countries, has offices in Leeds and London but it is not known where the lawyer in question is based. The law firm refused to make any comment last night.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Spain: ABC, Aviation Industry ‘Pays’ for G-20 Seat

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 16 — Spain has to “hand over” its aviation industry connected to Eads to France, as compensation for the aid the country received in order to participate in the latest G-20 meeting on the international financial crisis, wrote the conservative daily ABC today. According to the daily, the possible dismantlement of Eads’s aviation plant in Spain is a consequence of the “debt” Premier José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero “has to his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped Spain to be present at the summit in November”. “If the socialist government doesn’t do anything in the coming weeks, Spain’s aviation industry could lose its technological edge and play a marginal role in future, with an incalculable loss of jobs” writes ABC. The daily reminds that on April 1 the European consortium Eads will complete the integration of its military transport aircraft division (Mtad) which is controlled by Eads and the French Airbus, the biggest constructor of aircrafts with its headquarters in Toulouse. Spain has a 5.5% share in Eads through Sepi. The decision to incorporate Mtad, according to the daily, “means the loss of control over the only Eads division headed in Spain, a product of the technology developed over the years by the Italian company Costruzioni Aeronautiche”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Study: Dutch Social Problems Bigger Than Economic Ones

THE HAGUE, 17/02/09 — The Dutch had more confidence in the banks than in their government in the fourth quarter, despite the credit crisis. They also considered ‘living together’ to be a bigger problem than the economy, a report published yesterday by the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) reveals.

In the quarterly Citizens’ Views Continuous Survey, banks score a rating of 5.8 on the degree to which citizens trust institutions. Large companies score 5.9. The government only scores 5.4, though this is an improvement from 4.9 in the third quarter — when confidence in banks was not yet being measured.

The Lower House scores 5.5. The unions and the newspapers have the highest score (6.1 for both), followed by television (6.0).

SCP started its press release yesterday with the conclusion that “confidence in the government has increased substantially in the latest quarter” but only revealed in the report itself that it still remains the institute most mistrusted.

The survey, upon closer inspection, also shows that the Netherlands’ social problems are considered much greater than its economic problems. SCP asked respondents to name up to five themes which worry them the most, and divided the answers into 15 categories.

‘Living together’ along with ‘income and the economy’ had the highest scores, both being named by 19 percent as a problem. ‘Crime and security’ got 12 percent and ‘integration and immigration,’ 11 percent. After this came ‘politics and administration’ (9), ‘healthcare’ (7) and ‘traffic’ (6). ‘Crime and security’ and ‘youth and family’ are the themes about which concern has risen most strongly recently, followed by the economy.

Apparently paradoxical in light of the worries about ‘living together’ is the high proportion of the Dutch compared with other Europeans who say they have much ‘social confidence.’ Only in the Scandinavian countries and Finland is the level higher.

Asked whether things are in general ‘going the right way with the Netherlands,’ only 2 percent gave an unqualified ‘yes.’ Thirteen percent said ‘no.’ Over half (52 percent, the highest figure ever recorded) see the country going ‘more the wrong than the right way’ and 23 percent, more the right than the wrong way (the lowest figure ever recorded). Ten percent were undecided.

TV programme Goedemorgen Nederland published a similar survey with similar results yesterday. In this National Crisis Meter, carried out for the first time by research bureau Intomart GfK, 38 percent say they are most concerned about crime and security. This is followed by ‘social standards and values’ (30 percent) and ‘employment and the economy’ (28 percent).

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

UK: England, That Great Colonising Land, Has Itself Become a Colony

Only one of the UK’s four nations is deprived of its own assembly. You need not love the place to call for it to have a parliament

One of the peculiarities of UK politics is that issues supported by hardly anyone receive majority assent in parliament. In the current system, no popular support is required. University top-up fees, for example, were rejected by the Scottish and Welsh assemblies, but Scottish and Welsh MPs were frogmarched through the lobbies to impose them on England (the government won by five votes). Foundation hospitals were voted down in both Wales and Scotland, and foisted on the English by the representatives of those nations. Had Heathrow’s third runway been debated only by English MPs, the proposal would have been resoundingly defeated; it was approved by 19 votes, after 67 MPs from the other nations were induced to support the government. They can support such measures without any electoral risk, as their constituents are not directly affected. Devolution, which has had such beneficial consequences here in Wales and across the other borders, has left the English high and dry.

So why does no one who is even vaguely on the left — with the honourable exception of a tiny band of thinkers such as Paul Kingsnorth and Gareth Young — want to discuss it? Perhaps it is because two quite different issues have been muddled up: democracy and nationalism. English nationalism takes many forms, but the image that comes to most minds is of skinheads waving the flag of St George. These are, or should be, separate concerns. You don’t have to be a nationalist, or English, to accept the case for an English parliament.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Spy Chief: We Risk a Police State

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.

Dame Stella accused ministers of interfering with people’s privacy and playing straight into the hands of terrorists.

“Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people’s privacy,” Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

“It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Albania: Court Suspends Law on Incompatibility of Office

(ANSAmed) — TIRANA, FEBRUARY 16 — The Albanian Constitutional Court has decided to suspend the application of a recently passed law preventing those who had important roles during the Communist regime from having access to public office. The suspension will last until a definitive pronouncement by the court, which says that the law “could have a negative effect on the normal functioning of the State and could threaten the basic rights and liberties of people”. The law, which was passed by only the votes of the right-wing majority party led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, was the subject of a fierce political debate and has been criticised several times by the international community (European Union, United States, OSCE and the Council of Europe). At the international level “concerns over problematic aspects in the content and procedure” were expressed. The government obstinately defended the law, however. Berisha attacked the Court today, saying that the decision “is an extremely serious act”. At least five out of nine members of the Court could be affected by the law and therefore, according to the Prime Minister “they have acted in violation of the ethic and standards on conflict of interest, with the sole aim of protecting their own chairs”. The Constitutional Court has decided to ask for the advice of the Venice Commission, a consultative body of the Council of Europe made up of internationally-renowned independent experts. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Banks: Croatian Gross Profits Grew by 13.8% in 2008

(ANSAmed) — ZAGREB, FEBRUARY 16 — The National Bank of Croatia (HNB) has released data showing that turnover of Croatian banks rose last year, as reported by the Italian Foreign Trade Commission (Ice) office in Zagreb. In 2008 the 29 banks operating in the country saw gross profits at 5.8 billion kuna (about 790 million euro), 13.8% more than the same period in 2007. In first place, with gross profits totaling 1.74 billion kuna, was Zagrebacka Banka (Unicredit group), followed by Privredna Banka (Intesa SanPaolo group) with 1.32 million (about 0.18 million euros) in profits. The two institutes alone hold over 50% of the overall gross profits in the sector. Four banks, on the other hand, ended the year with a loss. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Serb Leaders Reject Kosovo’s Independence

By Neil MacDonald in Belgrade

Published: February 17 2009

Serb representatives recognised only by Belgrade turned their backs on Kosovo’s independence on Tuesday as the new Balkan state celebrated its first anniversary.

“This parliament rejects as non-existent and without any legal validity…the institutions of Kosovo as a quasi-state,” proclaimed the union of municipalities at a session in Zvecan in the ethnic Serb-dominated north.

The lack of acceptance by the largest ethnic minority, who consider Kosovo part of Serbia, has confounded western plans for stabilising the fragile Western Balkans.

But the government in Belgrade, often blamed for stirring up Kosovo Serb grievances, has also lost much of its influence over the largely lawless northern municipalities since elections last year.

The Serb assembly rejected the European Union’s stepped-up role in Kosovo, even though Belgrade agreed to the new EU-led police and justice deployment under United Nations auspices.

Members of Serbia’s nationalist parliamentary opposition parties — those which mostly put the claim over Kosovo ahead of EU integration — also came in two busloads from Belgrade for the session.

Serb nationalist extremists are financed by organised crime and smuggling, said Paul Acda, the EU official overseeing the Kosovo customs service. Mr Acda included the Democratic Party of Serbia led by the former Serbian prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, whose defection over the EU and Kosovo brought down the last government in Belgrade.

Serbia’s current pro-EU ruling coalition hopes the largest ex-Yugoslav republic can move closer to membership in the bloc without having to formally accept the loss of Kosovo, from which Nato warplanes pushed Belgrade’s forces out in 1999.

Goran Bogdanovic, minister for Kosovo affairs, tried to assure the rogue assembly that Serbia would never renounce its historic province, regardless of the “illegal” ethnic Albanian secession a year ago.

Kosovo’s 90 per cent ethnic Albanian majority declared independence with western backing after nine years of United Nations rule. With Russia taking Serbia’s side, the UN Security Council failed to endorse independence.

About 60,000 Serbs live north of the Ibar River, closely tied to Serbia, but at least as many remain in scattered enclaves, unable to ignore their nearly 2m Kosovo Albanian neighbours. Belgrade has allocated about €500m from the state budget to Kosovo communities this year, despite trimming some payments because of the economic downturn, Mr Bogdanovic said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Serbia: Tax Paradise for the Rich, 10-15% of the Income

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE, FEBRUARY 16 — Serbia is a tax paradise for the rich, with income tax rates ranging from 10 to 15 percent, reports Blic daily. Blic reminds that this is in stark contrast to many other countries where these rates reach 70%. The government failed to live up to its promise made in July that taxes for those who earn the most will go up to 20%-40%. But, since the budget income remains low, a VAT hike has been hinted at — something that would additionally burden the poor. Those who report earning of up to RSD3.3 million (about EUR35.500) will pay 10% of that sum to the state in taxes; those who make more, look at a 15% tax rate. Some experts are suggesting that Serbia should introduce the “synthetic progressive” system, that would include taxes for all types of income instead of just for salaries, at a single rate that is calculated according to the taxpayer’s ability. Those earning the least would thus pay no taxes, while the richest would have to pay from 40% to 50% of their income.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

EU-Egypt: Brussels Announces Eur 149ml Assistance Package

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, FEBRUARY 16 — Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, announces assistance of EUR 149 million to Egypt for education, transport and public services and civil society programmes. The European Commission is now making available a package worth EUR 149 million to Egypt within the 2008 Annual Action Programme under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. The focus of the programmes financed under this package will be on education, reforms in the transport sector, improvement of the water and waste water services and support for civil society. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner underlined: “This financial package clearly underscores the Commission’s strong support for Egypt’s social, political and economic reform agenda. We are now preparing a new programme for 2009, including EUR 110 million to support the Government’s primary health care reforms”. Under the announced package of assistance, the Commission will provide EUR 80 million to support reforms in the Transport Sector covering administrative, regulatory and legal issues in the land, rail and inland waterway sectors. The overall aim of the reforms is to improve access and quality of transport. In addition, EUR 20 million will be provided to reinforce the EC’s ongoing EUR 120 million Education Sector support programme. Education reform is a key element of the Egyptian Government’s reform agenda which is supported by several donors. The overall aim is to improve the quality and access to education, particularly to disadvantaged children. Furthermore, the 2008 package includes EUR 29 million to Improve Water and Waste Water Services. These funds will be combined with other European donors (KfW, EIB and AFD) and those of the Egyptian government for a total project value of euro295 million. The project will improve water quality and output as well as wastewater services in several governorates, directly benefitting over 4 million people. Finally, EUR 17 million will be focused on civil and political rights, women and child rights and environmental rights, supporting both Government of Egypt institutions and civil society organizations. EUR 3 million is also provided to support the Egyptian government’s efforts to improve good governance in public administration. In addition to the EUR 149 million, EUR 15 million has been made available under the Neighbourhood Investment Facility to support multi-donor projects in the solar energy and water sectors. Concerning EC support to the health sector a third programme is currently being prepared. It will build upon an earlier programme implemented in five governorates. The previous programme ran until 2007 and provided training, equipment, x-ray machines, laboratory equipment and construction of health facilities in rural areas. In complement an ongoing programme worth EUR 88 million is supporting the rolling-out of an Integrated Health System, centred on the Family Health Model.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Work: Algeria, Siemens Also Abandons “Islamic Weekend”

(ANSAmed) — ALGIERS, FEBRUARY 16 — After Indian iron and steel giant Arcelor Mittal, and Algerian NCA (Nouvelle Conserverie Algerienne), Siemens has also decided to abandon the traditional Islamic weekend’ of Thursday and Friday, and has adopted a new mixed Friday-Saturday weekend for its Algerian branch. Siemens management has already given the order to its workers and an advertisement published by the group about its new weekend policy has appeared in various Algerian newspapers. Abandoned by Algeria in 1976, the western or mixed weekend has been demanded by business owners and the main Algerian union, UGTA (General Workers’ Union). According to estimates made by the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, Algeria loses 1 billion dollars each year due to the Islamic weekend, while according to the government, it loses total 150 million dollars. Algeria is one of the few countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya who still use the Islamic weekend. Other Maghreb states like Tunisia, Morocco, and Mauritania, have changed to the universal weekend’, while other Arab countries like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, and Qatar, have chosen a Friday-Saturday weekend. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Explosives Haul Missing in Gaza

The UN urges the return of an arms stockpile which disappeared while under Hamas control, the BBC learns.

A large stockpile of unexploded weapons has disappeared in Gaza, before United Nations experts were able to dispose of it safely, the BBC has learned.

The explosives, including aircraft bombs and white phosphorus shells, were fired by the Israeli military during its recent offensive in the Gaza Strip.

UN officials said they were urgently trying to establish where the arms had gone and have called for their return.

Israel has accused Hamas of taking the stockpile, which was under Hamas guard.

‘Extremely dangerous’

Richard Miron, the senior UN spokesman in Jerusalem, said: “We are anxious to get the return of this ordnance. It’s clearly extremely dangerous and needs to be disposed of in a safe manner.

“This is our primary concern.”

A UN Mines Action Team has been in Gaza since the end of the war, last month, its job to locate unexploded Israeli ordnance and to organise its safe disposal.

Two weeks ago, on 2 February, the UN team was given access to a storage site in Gaza City where more than 7,000kg of explosives was being housed.

It included three 2,000-pound bombs and eight 500-pound bombs, which had all been dropped from aircraft but failed to explode.

There was also a large number of 155mm shells for delivering the incendiary chemical white phosphorus.

Safe areas

Many of the explosives had been collected by the Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip.

The UN staff had been waiting for the Israeli army to allow them to bring specialist equipment into Gaza so they would be able to destroy the explosives safely.

In particular, the team needed explosives or flares to set off a controlled explosion and they needed tools to allow them to extract fuses from some of the bombs.

The UN staff were also waiting for permission from the Israeli military to use two safe areas to dispose of the munitions.

At a meeting last Thursday with the Israeli army, two areas were identified: one in the north, in a no-go area close to the border with Israel and the other near Khan Younis in the south, in a former Hamas training area.

On Sunday, when UN officials returned to the warehouse, which was under a Hamas police guard, they say they found most of the explosives had gone missing.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said the stockpile had been “commandeered by Hamas”.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Former CIA Director Says US Need to Engage With Hamas in Gaza

A former head of the CIA’s Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program said that no democratization and economic growth can be possible without engaging Islamic groups, including Hamas and parties in these societies, during the interview of Washington Babylon.

Reminding Hamas was democratically elected in Gaza, Emile Nakhleh, author of the new book, “A Necessary Engagement: Reinventing America’s Relations with the Muslim World”, said that United States needed to engage Hamas.

“The result of the U.S. supported Palestinian elections of 2006, which were observed to be free and fair, was the election of Hamas,” he said.

“As a result of the Gaza War, the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas have become more and more discredited. If we are going to rebuild Gaza, if we are going to restart the process of rejuvenating Gaza, we need to engage with Hamas.”

He underlined that economic growth of Gaza can’t be achieved without engaging Hamas.

“For Hamas to become a partner, we need to focus on two major impediments: the continued Israeli occupation and the blockade of Gaza. Gaza has become a huge prison. If Gaza is going to economically grow, the blockade must be lifted. This can’t be achieved without engaging Hamas.”

He said Israel also must deal with Hamas on a daily basis on issues “that are not political but are germane to the populace.”

He expressed the criticized about “the two-state solution” by U.S., saying “There is growing dissatisfaction with the two-state solution, amongst both Israelis and Palestinians… The other alternatives-like a one-state solution-would be difficult to sell either in Israel or the U.S. because of our domestic politics.”

“If we are going to pursue the two-state solution, it must involve all Palestinians. And talking to the Abbas government in Ramallah is not a conduit to reach Gaza. The 2002 Arab peace initiative would be, as President Obama indicated, a good start. It generally calls for the Arab states to establish normal relations with Israel if Israel withdraws from the lands it occupied in 1967.”

Nakhleh said US also should find common ground wtih Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah on daily issues, such as education, economics, commerce, health services, and community services.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Palestinian Man Killed by Accident, Not Gunfire

(ANSAmed) — GAZA/TEL AVIV, FEBRUARY 16 — The death of a Palestinian man, which took place today in the far north of the Gaza Strip and was initially thought to have been caused by Israeli gunfire, was in fact an accident, say local Palestinian sources. According to the sources, the explosion took place when the man was handling a bomb left on the ground last month during the conflict between Hamas militia and Israeli soldiers. It seems that the man was looking to save some scrap metal. In Tel Aviv an Israeli military spokesperson assured that no shots have been fired today in the direction of the Gaza Strip. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel: Tzipi Livni: Give Up Half of Land of Israel

Tzipi Livni, who hopes to be appointed Israel’s prime minister, has said that her country needs to give up half of the biblical Land of Israel to secure peace with the Palestinians.

Drawing clear water between her centrist Kadima party and the Right-wing Likud party of her rival for the premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu, she conceded that claims on the territory must be abandoned for progress to be made.

She told a convention of American Jewish leaders that “we need to give up half of the Land of Israel”, using a term that refers to biblical borders that include today’s Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.

She explained that such a withdrawal would be for the good of Israel, to maintain it as a Jewish state.

Miss Livni said that Israel must take the initiative and come forward with its own peace plan to head off international initiatives. “Any plan put on the table will not be in our interest,” she said.

Mr Netanyahu opposes large-scale territorial concessions in peace talks with the Palestinians. He believes negotiations should concentrate instead on building up the Palestinian economy.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Promises Palestinians He’ll Protect ‘Biblical Heartland’

President pledges to protest Jewish housing developments

The Obama administration has pledged to the Palestinian Authority it will closely monitor Jewish construction in the West Bank and will protest any new housing developments in the biblical territory, a top PA negotiator told WND.

“They told us the White House will watch for any Jewish construction,” said the PA negotiator, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Obama knows that if [Likud Chairman Benjamin] Netanyahu is the next prime minister, he will try to expand the settlements. They pledged to us this will be strongly protested,” the negotiator said.


The PA officials said they were enthusiastic about the new tone of the White House and about recent meetings with Obama’s Mideast envoy, former Democratic Sen. George Mitchell. They said they believe that under Obama the Palestinians can extract from Israel concessions reaching “much further” than during talks held under the previous administration.

“Regarding all understandings achieved between the parties, the Obama administration told us they will give guarantees to carry them out,” said a top PA official.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Factions Move Closer to Unity Deal

Cairo, 16 Feb. (AKI) — Rival Palestinian factions will reportedly have two months to form a unity government after a reconciliation conference scheduled for 22 February. The conference will follow a weekend meeting in Cairo where senior Fatah and Hamas officials met for the first time in two years to discuss plans on how to form a unity government.

The meeting signals a change in the policy of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who until now had refused to talk to Hamas unless the movement ended its control over the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian source involved in the negotiations between the Islamist Hamas and rival Fatah group revealed the proposed schedule for a unity government to the Arab newspaper, al-Sharq al-Awsat.

“The Egyptians have told them that from 22 February, the start of the reconciliation conference, they will have 60 days’ time to form a united government,” he said.

“The new executive will be transitory and tasked with calling new political and presidential elections, as well as the reconstruction of Gaza and maintaining normal administration.”

Several Fatah leaders told the Arab newspaper, al-Hayat, that Hamas leaders had shown a willingness for dialogue they had never seen before.

“They speak a different language about dialogue than they did in the past and it is clear there is a willingness to reach an agreement on all the points before the Cairo conference begins,” he said.

The crisis between Hamas and Fatah reached its peak during the recent Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip known as Operation Cast Lead during which at least 1,300 Palestinians died.

During the conflict the Islamist Hamas faction accused its rival secular faction of providing the Israeli Defence Forces with information about the location of security installations and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, several details have emerged about the negotiations that could see 1,000 Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive since June 2006.

He was seized by militants in a cross-border raid and his capture was one of the factors that provoked the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to the Lebanese newspaper, al-Safir, the exchange could take place in three phases. Around 350 Palestinian prisoners including those considered to be the least dangerous, would be released in the first phase, and the Gaza borders would be opened.

In the second phase, Shalit would be released to Egyptian mediators in exchange for 550 Palestinians considered “moderately dangerous”.

The third and final phase would see Shalit returned to Israel in exchange for another 400 prisoners, considered more dangerous than the others.

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

Middle East

“Iran is Unknown and Misunderstood”

Thirty years ago Iran became an Islamic republic, when the Shah was overthrown and religious clerics assumed control under supreme leader Ayatollah Khomenei.

Tim Guldimann, the former Swiss Ambassador to Iran, talks to swissinfo about the possible impact for Iran of the arrival of United States President Barack Obama in Washington and of forthcoming elections in Tehran in June.

In a break from the policy of former President George W. Bush, Obama has said he is willing to start talks with Iran, which Washington accuses of supporting terrorism, meddling in Iraq and seeking nuclear weapons, all charges Tehran denies.

Iran sent one of its warmest signals yet on Wednesday over prospects for improved relations with Washington, when Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki praised Obama’s election promises and declared that change would be “happy news”.

A day earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran was ready to hold talks, provided they were held in an atmosphere of “mutual respect”. Notably, Ahmadinejad did not mention tough preconditions for talks as he had in the past.

swissinfo: Iran is celebrating 30 years of its Islamic revolution. What are Iran’s main objectives?

Tim Guldimann: To secure the respect and recognition of western countries, especially the United States, over its role as a regional power. But for various reasons, such as its seizure of the US embassy in 1979, the Islamic revolution and human rights abuses, Iran has become a pariah state.

But if we compare it objectively with other countries, especially in the light of human rights and democracy, we have reason to believe that the nation is unknown and misunderstood. Iran clearly has certain contradictions and faults, but it should be given the role it deserves, as it offers huge potential.

swissinfo: While attention has focused on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, it has meanwhile launched its first satellite. Certain people believe Iran’s space programme is a cover for developing ballistic missiles. What do you think?

T. G.: Officially, Iran denies any links between its nuclear and military programmes. It’s clear that the country wants to create a nuclear capability, but at the same time Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, officially rejects any military plans for this programme. Of course, certain developments give rise to doubts, especially as it’s very expensive to produce nuclear energy, but we are a long way off for now.

For me what’s extremely important is the country’s sense of pride in wanting to show its people and the world how technologically advanced it is. Can you remember the shock when the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite? It wanted to show that it was a great power. Iran is doing the same by launching its own satellite, a symbol of its technological progress and prestige…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Clerics Urge New Jihad Over Gaza

At a weekend meeting in Istanbul, 200 religious scholars and clerics met with senior Hamas officials to plot a new jihad centred on Gaza.

The BBC’s Bill Law was the only Western journalist at the meeting.

In a hall crowded with conservative Sunni Muslim sheikhs and scholars, in a hotel close to Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport speaker after speaker called for jihad against Israel in support of Hamas.

The choice of Turkey was significant. Arab hardliners were keen to put aside historic differences with the Turks.

As one organiser put it: “During the past 100 years relations have been strained but Palestine has brought us together.”

Many delegates spoke appreciatively of the protest by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who stormed out of a Davos debate on Gaza two weeks ago.

The conference, dubbed the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign, also gave impetus to Sunni clerics concerned about the growing power of Hezbollah, the Shia movement backed by Iran, which rose to international prominence in its own war with Israel in 2006.

“Gaza is a gift,” the Saudi religious scholar Mohsen al-Awajy told me. He and other delegates repeatedly referred to the Gaza war as “a victory”.

“Gaza,” he continued, “gives us power, it solves our differences. We are all now in a unified front against Zionism.”

In closed meetings after sessions delegates focussed on the creation of a “third Jihadist front” — the first two being Afghanistan and Iraq. The intensity of the Israeli attack had “awakened all Muslims,” Mr Awajy claimed.

“Palestine is a legitimate theatre of operations for jihad (holy war),” he added.

Road to liberation

Mohammed Nazzal, a senior Hamas leader based in Damascus, challenged Arab governments to “open their borders and allow the fighters to come.”

Delegates from all over the Middle East, and from Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Indonesia applauded as he stabbed the air with a raised finger and declared: “There will be no agreement with Israel… only weapons will bring respect.”

Mr Nazzal told his audience: “Don’t worry about casualties.”

The 23 days of bombardment of Gaza, in which some 1,300 people, many of them civilians and nearly 300 of them children, are believed to have died, was “just the beginning” of the struggle, Mr Nazzal said.

To laughter in the audience, another speaker noted that twice as many babies were born as children were killed during the war.

Every death, I was told, was a martyrdom on the road to liberation.

For the hardline sheikhs, it was an opportunity to underline what they see as the growing gulf between Arab regimes who are hesitant to back Hamas and the people of the region who, they say, embrace Hamas as heroes fighting against overwhelming odds.

More importantly, this conference represented something of a coup for Hamas. They were promised weapons, money and fighters.

The question remains whether such rhetoric can or will be translated into action. Israel keeps a tight blockade on the Gaza Strip, where Hamas exercises de facto control, and Israel’s other borders are also heavily guarded.

But at the very least this statement of intent from Sunni hardliners poses new challenges, not just to the Israelis and to Western efforts to broker a peace deal but to Arab regimes as well.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

‘Israel Assassinating Iranian Officials’

Israel has launched a covert war in an effort to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, the British Daily Telegraph quoted US intelligence sources as saying.

According to the article published on Tuesday, sabotage, front companies and double agents, as well as the assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s atomic operations, were being used to interrupt the program.

“Disruption is designed to slow progress on the program, done in such a way that they don’t realize what’s happening. You are never going to stop it,” a former CIA officer on Iran told the Telegraph. “The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don’t want the current Iranian government to have those weapons.

“It’s a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks.”

The newspaper quoted Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, a US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, as saying that the strategy was to assassinate key figures.

“With cooperation from the United States, Israeli covert operations have focused both on eliminating key human assets involved in the nuclear program and in sabotaging the Iranian nuclear supply chain,” she said. “As US-Israeli relations are bound to come under strain over the Obama administration’s outreach to Iran, and as the political atmosphere grows in complexity, an intensification of Israeli covert activity against Iran is likely to result.”

The paper went on to cite a rumor that the Mossad was responsible for the death of Ardeshire Hassanpour, a top nuclear scientist at Iran’s Isfahan uranium plant, who reportedly died from gas poisoning in 2007. It also mentioned other recent deaths of figures connected to Iran’s nuclear program that have reportedly been the result of Israeli hits.

“Israel has shown no hesitation in assassinating weapons scientists for hostile regimes in the past,” the paper quoted an anonymous European intelligence official as saying. “They did it with Iraq and they will do it with Iran when they can.”

The former CIA operative also revealed to the Telegraph how Israeli and US intelligence cooperated with European companies working in Iran to obtain photographs and other confidential material about Iranian nuclear and missile sites.

“It was a real company that operated from time to time in Iran and in the nature of their legitimate business came across information on various suspect Iranian facilities,” he said.

Israel has also apparently used front companies to infiltrate the purchasing network that the Islamic Republic uses to get around United Nations sanctions and obtain so-called “dual use” items — metals, valves, electronics and machinery — for its nuclear program. According to the report, the businesses first supply legitimate material, winning Teheran’s trust, before delivering faulty or defective items that sabotage the country’s atomic activities.

Mossad and Western intelligence operations have also infiltrated the Iranian nuclear program, “bought” information from prominent atomic scientists and leaked details to its allies, the media and United Nations atomic agency inspectors, the paper went on to say.

On one occasion, said the report, Iran destroyed a nuclear facility near Teheran after its existence was revealed to UN inspectors, fearing overwhelming UN pressure for tougher action.

The report also claimed that Iran had become so concerned about penetration of its program that it has announced arrests of alleged spies in a bid to discourage double agents.

Former CIA counter-terrorism chief Vince Canastraro, however, doubted the effectiveness of the alleged covert operations. “You cannot carry out foreign policy objectives via covert operations,” he said. “You can’t get rid of a couple of people and hope to affect Iran’s nuclear capability.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel Launches Covert War Against Iran

Israel has launched a covert war against Iran as an alternative to direct military strikes against Tehran’s nuclear programme, US intelligence sources have revealed.

[Comment from JD: well, it is not covert anymore …]

It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime’s illicit weapons project, the experts say.

The most dramatic element of the “decapitation” programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran’s atomic operations.

Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.

They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran’s nuclear installations and Mr Obama’s offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.

The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran’s research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Elections, 4 Million Euro for EU for Reforms

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 16 — In light of the Lebanese legislative elections scheduled for June 7, the European Commission placed four million euro at the disposal of the government in Beirut to “support it initiating electoral reform in 2008” and to “prepare the elections”. The declaration was made in a statement from the Delegation of the European Commission in Beirut. The announcement arrives a few hours after the start of the 24 hour official visit to the Lebanese capital by the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner. The announcement specifies that the four million euros in financing was to cover expenses for technical assistance for the electoral campaign’s oversight committee and for the purchase of equipement need for polling. Leaving from Damascus for Beirut, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner, on her third visit to Lebanon, will meet Lebanon’s main leaders. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Press, Alleged Israeli Spy Arrested in South

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, FEBRUARY 16 — An alleged spy from Lebanon accused of working for Israel from the mid ‘90s has been arrested by the Lebanese authorities in Nabatiye, in the south of the country, reports the local daily al-Akhbar. The pro-Hezbollah newspaper specifies that Marwan F., around 40 years old and manager of a petrol station some 60km south of Beirut, was been arrested after being tailed for months. According to ‘‘well-informed” sources quoted by the daily, the alleged spy reportedly confessed that he was recruited by Israeli secret agents in France, where he lived at the time. Israel reportedly asked him to collect information on the “resistance” (the armed wing of Hezbollah) and the Lebanese army. From then until the summer of 2006, Marwan F. reportedly stayed in contact with Israel over the internet. Marwan F. decided to stop working for “the enemy” during the war between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006, particularly “after seeing the Israeli Air Force destroy a building close to his petrol station”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

On Al-Jazeera, Kuwaiti Professor Suggests a Biological Attack on White House

Following are excerpts from a speech by Kuwaiti Professor Abdallah Al-Nafisi, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on February 2, 2009.

Abdallah Al-Nafisi: “Four pounds of anthrax — in a suitcase this big — carried by a fighter through tunnels from Mexico into the U.S., are guaranteed to kill 330,000 Americans within a single hour, if it is properly spread in population centers there.

“What a horrifying idea. 9/11 will be small change in comparison. Am I right? There is no need for airplanes, conspiracies, timings, and so on.

“One person, with the courage to carry four pounds of anthrax, will go to the White House lawn, and will spread this ‘confetti’ all over them, and then will do these cries of joy. It will turn into a real ‘celebration.’

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Saudi King Makes Overtures to Syria

Saudi King Abdullah kept up his conciliatory approach to Syria on Sunday and sent his son to Damascus to discuss with Syrian President Basher Al-Assad the best ways to improve their bilateral ties, which reached a low ebb over Lebanon, Iraq and to a lesser extent, Palestine.

Syrian officials said the overture came as Assad received earlier in the day Prince Muqran who conveyed a verbal message from the Saudi King to the Syrian leader.

“The message tackles bilateral relations, latest regional developments and the importance of coordination and consultation between the two sides in the interest of the two countries’ peoples and the Arab peoples in general,” according to an official statement.

“Assad sent a reply message on latest regional events particularly after the Israeli aggression and the importance of Arab solidarity in the face of challenges confronting the Arab nations, particularly in Palestine,” read the statement, carried by government-run Syrian Arab News Agency.

The Saudi King told his fellow Arab leaders in Kuwait last month that he was declaring an end to “the recent period of quarrels” and “opening the door of unity.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UAE: Tennis Tournament May be Cancelled Over Israel Visa Row

Dubai, 16 Feb. (AKI) — As the world’s top tennis players began to taking part in the Dubai Tennis Championships, there was speculation that next year’s tournament may be cancelled after a diplomatic dispute over the participation of Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer.

The United Arab Emirates refused to grant a visa to the Israeli tennis player preventing her from competing in the Dubai competition which is part of the Sony Ericsson Women’s Tennis Association tour.

“The tour is reviewing appropriate remedies for Ms. Peer and also will review appropriate future actions with regard to the future of the Dubai tournament,” said Women’s Tennis Association’s director Larry Scott said in a statement on the organisation’s website.

Twenty-one year-old Peer is ranked 48th in the world among female tennis players.

Scott told US media that the UAE’s decision to refuse Peer a visa could signal the end of professional tennis in the Emirates.

“The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour believes very strongly, and has a clear rule and policy, that no host country should deny a player the right to compete at a tournament for which she has qualified by ranking,” he said.

Scott and Peer also claim that she was not told in advance that her visa would be refused and that meant she did not have time to sign up for another tournament.

“Naturally, this is very disappointing,” Peer told Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth upon returning to Israel.

“This in one of the biggest tournaments of the year and unfortunately it means that I will lose my credits from last year. It puts a dent in our plans, but there is nothing I can do.”

Last year, Peer — Israel’s top tennis talent — made diplomatic history when she became the first Israeli to compete in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar.

“The tournament is sponsored by national companies that are interested in its success, in the light of the events witnessed in the region,” an unnamed source told the state news agency WAM.

At the age of 19, Peer joined the Israeli Defence Forces and received “outstanding athlete” status. This enabled her to continue training full-time and compete in tennis tournaments overseas during her two-year military service. Military service is mandatory in Israel for men and women.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: Taliban Commander Killed in Airstrike

KABUL — Forces with the U.S.-backed coalition killed a regional Taliban commander and eight others in an airstrike in western Afghanistan, the U.S. said Monday.

The Sunday night attack destroyed the building housing Ghulam Dastagir and eight other militants in the village of Darya-ye-Morghab, near the Turkmenistan border, the U.S. military said in a statement.

Dastagir oversaw all of western Badghis province for the Taliban. He was responsible for a surge in violence in the province in recent months, including a November attack on an Afghan army convoy that killed 13 soldiers, the statement said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: Unwanted Teenage Pregnancy on the Rise Says Report

Jakarta, 16 Feb. (AKI/Jakarta Post) — An average of 2.3 million women, 30 percent of whom are teenagers, report having abortions in Indonesia each year, according to a new report released on Monday.

“Unwanted pregnancy among teenagers is increasing by a rate of between 150,000 and 200,000 cases annually, Luh Putu Ikha Widani of the We Love Teenagers (Kisara) Bali non-governmental organisation said.

She said the survey found 37,000 cases of unwanted pregnancies, 27 per cent of which had occurred out of wedlock.

Around 12.5 per cent of the total number of cases occurred among students, according to the survey, which was conducted in nine major cities in Indonesia.

“If we carefully observe the phenomenon, unwanted pregnancy among teenagers is actually caused by an accumulation of factors such as poor access to proper information on reproductive health and widespread myths,” she added.

Ikha Widani argued that efforts needed to be made to provide correct information to teenagers, especially since “28.5 percent of teenagers today are sexually active.”

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

Islamist Spokesman: “Obama Continues to Oppress Muslims”

By Mike Pechar

(Jakarta, Indonesia) Strangely, it appears that Muslims in Indonesia haven’t received the hopey-changey memo. Earlier today, about 100 Muslims protested SecState Hillary Clinton’s visit later this week.

Black-and-white-clad members of the radical Hizbut Tahrir movement, or HTI, chanted “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is greater,” in front of the U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Jakarta and called on Muslims to reject the visit of the newly-appointed top U.S. diplomat.

HTI spokesman Farid Wajdji told reporters the new administration of U.S. President Barack Obama continues to oppress Muslims worldwide, despite pledges of greater “mutual respect” between the United States and the Muslim world

[continued at URL]

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Sharia Law Endorsed in Deal With Tribal Leaders

Karachi, 16 Feb. (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Sharia law will be enforced in the northwestern Swat valley under an historic agreement endorsed by the Pakistani government and Islamic leaders on Monday. Announcement of the peace deal came after talks between the government of North West Frontier Province and a local leader, Sufi Mohammad.

All un-Islamic laws in the Malakand division of Swat, which is geographically one third of the whole province, have been abolished.

The Islamic judicial system will be enforced by Islamic judges (or qazi), the chief minister of the North West Frontier Province Amir Haider Khan Hoti told media on Monday after reaching agreement with Mohammad’s group, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi.

The Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi signed the historic agreement after a tribal meeting or grand jirga which marked the victory of the Taliban and peace in the Swat valley after two years.

The government of North West Frontier Province had been holding talks with Mohammad on amendments to the enforcement of Sharia in Swat.

The peace agreement will also be complemented by a compensation package for those who were killed and injured in military operations in Swat.

“Those who were killed shall get Rs 300,000 (3,760 dollars) and those who were wounded shall be get Rs 100,000 (1,254 dollars),” Amir Haider Khan Hoti told journalists.

“The entire deal, Islamic laws and other packages related to the deal were completely approved by the president of Pakistan (Asif Ali Zardari) ,” he said.

Mohammad, considered the key Islamic leader in Swat, will now go to the region with a 42-member delegation and ask the Taliban led by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah to lay down its weapons. The Taliban has been fighting for the strict enforcement of Sharia in the region.

“We have established a task force which will monitor the implementation of Islamic law, but enforcement shall be bound by peace and the writ of the state,” said Amir Haider Khan Hoti.

“The security forces now (after the signature on agreement) shall be in reactive rather than proactive mode. They shall only retaliate if somebody tries to challenge the writ of the state,” he said.

The uprising in the scenic Swat valley, which began after the August 2007 siege at Islamabad’s Red Mosque in which over 150 people died, is expected to end after the militants accepted key demands.

The Pakistani military has in recent months been battling fighters loyal to Fazlullah in an intense military offensive.

More than 20,000 people across the Swat valley are believed to have fled their homes to escape the fighting and hundreds of girls’ schools have been destroyed since the Taliban insurgency began in 2007.

The grand jirga brought together political parties, elected representatives from the Malakand region and the TNSM leadership. All agreed to the militants’ demands regarding Sharia law which resulted in the announcement of the Nizam-i-Adal regulation 2009 (or justice regulation 2009).

“We realised that there was a vacuum in the Swat valley. People faced hardships concerning swift justice,” he said.

When Swat merged with the state of Pakistan and its Islamic courts were abolished in 1969, the area came under Pakistan’s secular legal system.

“People were getting delayed justice. In 1994 regulalations were introduced, in 1999 regulations were introduced but those were not implemented. People felt deceived.

“This coalition government and the provincial government after prolonged consultation with all the political leaders and the president’s approval amended 1999 regulations,” he said.

“I appeal to the people who adopted the path of violence to play their role for the restoration of peace,” he said.

The deal drew a mixed response from Pakistan’s political leaders.

“I am appalled by this development,” pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League senator Marvi Memon told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Yesterday, President Zardari said in a statement that the Taliban wanted to take over the entire state and today he approved an agreement which legitimises its position.

“The Taliban does not want Islamic laws in Malakand division only but the enforcement of their brand of Islam (elsewhere) in the country and in the whole world. I wonder what this government has done,” he said.

But Maulana Sami ul-Haq, leader of his own faction of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam religious party, and popularly known as the father of Taliban, told AKI he welcomed the move.

“This is a major step that’s been coming for a long time, and will ensure peace in the North West Frontier Province,” he told AKI.

“Hundreds of people were killed during the military operation and over 600,000 were displaced. Now we hope that everything shall be normalised.”

Sami ul-Haq played a pivotal role in the agreement between the TNSM and the government.

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

Pakistan: Marginalization, Threats, and Misery for Families Charged With Blasphemy

Arrests, fines, humiliations, lack of security, and possible attacks are typical for families whose members have been accused of blasphemy against the Qur’an. The case of James Masih and Boota Masih, sentenced to 10 years without any proof.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) — Blasphemy does not affect only those who are accused of it, but also their families, reducing them to misery and condemning them to marginalization. Naveed Walter, president of the NGO Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP), asserts that “their sufferings remain hidden, and do not reach the eyes and ears of the public.”

As an example, Walter explains what happened to the families of James Masih, 70, and Boota Masih, 66, both accused by a neighbor, Arshad Mubarak, of burning a copy of the Qur’an in the street.

Walter points out that the accused are often ordinary people, not very well educated, and without the means of defending themselves. They are not aware of their rights, and are paralyzed by fear and lack of security, incapable of convincing the judges, who often issue sentences under pressure from Islamic extremists.

The families of those accused also face threats and pressure. In addition to this, there are economic repercussions. Boota Masih, father of five daughters and one son, was his family’s only source of financial support. Since his father was arrested three years ago, 14-year-old Sabit Masih has been forced to work in a factory, and cannot go to school. He cannot even make friends among his coworkers because he is afraid that someone, hearing about the accusation of blasphemy against his father, could make him lose his job or try to kill him. All of the other members of the family live in the same state of fear and insecurity. One of the daughters, Nargis, worked as a maid in a Muslim household, but was fired because of her father’s arrest.

The HRFP is trying to meet the basic needs of Christian families implicated in blasphemy trials, in part by providing defense attorneys.

In 2006, Boota Masih and James Masih were sentenced to 10 years in prison and a fine of 25,000 rupees. According to some who saw the trial, the sentence from the judge, Muhammad Islam, resulted only from fear of the extremists, since no evidence was presented. The HRFP has asked Khalil Tahir, a member of an NGO, to act as defense attorney and present an appeal against the sentence to the Lahore High Court. A judgment on the appeal is expected in the next few days.

According to the National Commission for Justice and Peace, at least 892 people have been accused of blasphemy since 1986. At least 25 people have been killed by extremists, even before they were sentenced. So far, the state has not commuted any of the death sentences for blasphemy cases.

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

Pakistan: Sharia Law to be Imposed in Parts of Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The government agreed to impose Islamic law and suspend a military offensive across a large swath of northwest Pakistan on Monday in concessions aimed at pacifying a spreading Taliban insurgency there.

The announcement came after talks with local Islamists, including one closely linked to the Taliban.

The move will likely concern the United States, which has warned Pakistan that such peace agreements allow Al Qaeda and Taliban militants operating near the Afghan border time to rearm and regroup.

Amir Haider Khan Hoti, the chief minister for the North West Frontier Province, said authorities would impose Islamic law in Malakand region, which includes the Swat Valley. Swat is a one-time tourist haven in the northwest where extremists have gained sway through brutal tactics including beheading residents, burning girls schools and attacking security forces.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Sharia Imposed on Northwest Pakistan in Deal With Taleban

Pakistan was accused of surrendering a huge swath of territory to the Taleban yesterday when it agreed to impose Sharia and suspend military operations in the scenic Swat Valley.

The decision is troubling for the United States, which believes that it will embolden militants who are fighting USled troops in Afghanistan and want to impose Islamic law across nuclear-armed Pakistan.

US officials believe that it will now provide another safe haven for the militants within 80 miles of Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, as well as a corridor between the Afghan border and the disputed region of Kashmir.

Pakistani officials said that it was the only way to pacify a fierce Islamist insurgency and avoid more civilian casualties in Swat — whose ski resort and mountain scenery once made it a popular tourist destination.


           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Plot to ‘Blow Up Transatlantic Planes With Liquid Bombs Was Directed From Pakistan’

TheIslamist extremist plot to blow up transatlantic passenger jets using British-based suicide bombers was directed from Pakistan, a court heard today.

Eight men from London and the home counties intended to arm themselves with homemade bombs disguised as soft drink bottles to kill hundreds of innocent people, the jury at Woolwich crown court was told.

Led by ringleaders Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar, they had the ‘cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic’, said Peter Wright QC, prosecuting.

Even though police moved in when the atrocity was ‘almost ready’, it caused months of disruption at UK airports.

Two ringleaders acted on instructions from masterminds in Pakistan to draw together a gang of suicide bombers from radicalised and vulnerable young Muslims, he said.

Opening the prosecution today, Mr Wright said some defendants were “foot soldiers” with no knowledge of the scale of the conspiracy but who had the “cold-eyed certainty of the fanatic”.

He said: “They were prepared to strike a blow in which they would lose their lives but it was a blow that would reverberate across the globe.”

He added: “These men were indifferent to the carnage that was likely to ensue if their plans were successful.

“To them the identities of their victims was an irrelevance by race, colour, religion or creed.

“What these men intended to bring about together and with others was a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have a truly global impact.”

The jury was told the conspiracy was blown into the open when counter terrorist police swooped on two senior gang figures in a Walthamstow car park on August 9, 2006.

Abdulla Ahmed Ali and Assad Sarwar had been followed by undercover detectives for weeks as they made the final preparations for the attacks, the court heard.

Mr Wright said the men and other conspirators had been extremely busy, communicated regularly with Pakistan and the intended date of the terror strike “was not far off”.

He said: “It is the Crown’s case that this plot was being directed from Pakistan.

“This was not something that had been devised merely by Ali and Sarwar once they had realised they shared a common interest, this was part of a much wider scheme of things.

“Acts of terrorism on an international scale, directed from abroad using home-grown terrorists, young, radicalised Muslims prepared to lose their lives in a global act of jihad.”

A computer memory stick holding details of flights from Heathrow Airport to North America was found in Ali’s pocket when he was arrested.

It held details of flights operated by three carriers — American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada — from August to October 2006.

Seven services were highlighted, all leaving from Terminal Three of the London airport and all due to be mid-flight at the same time. All the flights were one-way only.

The planes were travelling to Montreal and Toronto in Canada and San Francisco, Washington, Chicago and New York in the United States.

Mr Wright said other key conspirators were overheard discussing whether to target other flights from different terminals and as many as 18 suicide bombers.

The bombs would be made from everyday household items including batteries and soft drink bottles so they could be smuggled on board and detonated in mid-flight.

Ali was an “influential figure who led by example” and who “exalted the virtues of martyrdom as a modern-day method of warfare”, the court heard.

The married father-of-one Ali was responsible for identifying other young Muslims with the same goals or who were vulnerable to radicalisation.

Details of the plot, including preparations for a disguise and instructions of how to prepare the bombs, were found in an address book he was carrying, the jury was told.

All eight men each deny conspiracy to murder, contrary to the 1977 Criminal Law Act.

Those in the dock are: Ali, aka Ahmed Ali Khan, 28, of Prospect Hill, Walthamstow; Sarwar, 28, of Walton Drive, High Wycombe; Tanvir Hussain, 27, of Nottingham Road, Leyton, east London; Ibrahim Savant, 28, of Denver Road, Stoke Newington, north London; Arafat Waheed Khan, 27, of Farnan Avenue, Walthamstow; Waheed Zaman, 24, of Queen’s Road, Walthamstow; Umar Islam, aka Brian Young, 30, of Bushey Road, Plaistow, east London; and Donald Stewart-Whyte, 22, of Hepplewhite Close, High Wycombe.

Savant, Khan, Zaman, Islam and Stewart-Whyte face one additional charge of conspiracy to murder, which again they deny.

The trial, which is expected to last 10 months, continues.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Secretary Clinton’s Asia Trip: Indonesia’s Role in the Spotlight

by Walter Lohman

Expectations for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Indonesia are sky high on symbolism and low on deliverables. Accepting that balance-unsatisfying as it may be to many American policymakers-is the key to engaging Asia.

It is encouraging that the Administration seems to understand this. One can only hope that the appreciation for Asia’s diplomatic ways is rooted in a deeper understanding of America’s strategic objectives in the region. From a strategic perspective, the trip is an excellent opportunity to tend to America’s two most important allies in Asia (Japan and South Korea) and consult with its chief competitor for regional influence (China).

It is surprising and well-noted in the media that Asia should be Clinton’s first official destination as secretary of state. But whenever she took this trip, Japan, South Korea, and China-in this order-were virtually guaranteed a place on her schedule.

So where exactly does Indonesia fit in?

It is tempting to see Indonesia entirely through the lens of engagement with the “Muslim world.” Indeed, Indonesia is the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country. Its gentle faith, deep spirituality, and respect for pluralism are an inspiration and example to the world. An Indonesian face on Islam has the potential to completely change the way many in the West view Muslims.

Due to both President Obama’s connections to Indonesia and the strong diplomatic foundation created by President Bush, U.S.-Indonesia relations are poised for a constructive new era. There are two things, however, that Clinton should keep in mind as she prepares to usher it in: First, Indonesia is much more than a “Muslim country,” and second, it is a developing democracy under assault from a determined Islamist minority.

Much More Than a “Muslim Country”

Indonesia is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’s (ASEAN) indispensable member. With Indonesia, ASEAN has a population of 575 million. Without it, the association is 40 percent smaller. With Indonesia, ASEAN’s GDP is about $1.2 trillion. Without it, its GDP is only two-thirds that figure. Indonesia’s 17,000 islands stretch over three time zones and more than 40 percent of ASEAN’s land area. Without Indonesia, ASEAN is mostly packed together on land along China’s south.

As China’s gravitational pull grows, only Indonesia has the critical mass necessary to anchor ASEAN in an independent and outward-looking orientation. The combination of the remainder of ASEAN nations is too disparate in political outlook and interest to provide the balance. Without Indonesia at its center, there is no ASEAN. And without ASEAN, each country in southeast Asia would be forced to fend for itself in the face of China’s meteoric rise.

For several years following the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998, Indonesia took a break from regional leadership to deal with political revolution and economic tumult. When Indonesia returned as a regional leader, it did so with a democratic government.

And anyone who does not think that makes a difference in Indonesian foreign policy is not watching carefully enough. Concern in Jakarta about the strength of ASEAN’s commitment to “promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms” has led Indonesians to question the value of ASEAN membership. In the debate over the ASEAN charter last year, the Indonesian House of Representatives went so far as to virtually condition its approval of the charter on progress toward this goal.

Geopolitics in Asia is overlaid with the pattern states cut relative to their governing systems. America’s five treaty allies are all democracies: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines. While a security “alliance” with Indonesia is not feasible, a closer U.S.-Indonesia “strategic partnership” clearly is. When he was in Washington this past fall, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for the creation of such a partnership. Clinton has indicated that the United States is ready to take him up on the idea. She is right to do so.

The U.S. should be able to strike a deal more closely aligned with Indonesia’s values than Indonesia’s “partnership” with China. Consider, for example, Burma. Despite their massive influence in Burma, the Chinese have done nothing to help bring about justice in that nation. The Indonesians, by contrast, have emerged as the leading voice on the issue within ASEAN. The U.S. and Indonesia should explore what they can do together to pressure the Burmese junta to release political prisoners and move toward democracy. If Indonesia can nudge ASEAN toward activism on Burma, the Chinese will be hard pressed not to follow. The Chinese have, in fact, acknowledged as much.

Burma should certainly be on the “concrete” agenda Clinton says she wants to hammer out with the Indonesians. ASEAN is at a tipping point in terms of governance. By Freedom House’s calculation, half of ASEAN is “free” or “partly free”; half is “not free.” A democratic Burma would tip the scales in favor of liberty. Such a development would be good for all nations concerned: for Burma, for the developing democracies within ASEAN, and for those not yet democratic. And ASEAN’s democratic disposition would be good for the United States.

Uncertain Trends in Indonesian Politics

To say Indonesian politics today are freewheeling is an understatement. In advance of April parliamentary elections, all parties and possible presidential candidates are jockeying for position. Virtually every combination of parties is being discussed. Many of them make extraordinarily strange bedfellows. For example, PDI-P, the party that serves as the vehicle for Sukarno’s pluralist legacy, has been publicly considered as senior partner in a coalition with Islamist parties. The Islamist parties are, of course, widely assumed partners of President Yudhoyono’s own Democrat Party-in whose government they already serve. And even coalitions among mainstream Muslim parties and their fierce Islamist competition are on the table.

Pancasila and Political Parties

It is often said that political parties in Asia are personality-based as opposed to ideologically based. While often true, such shorthand is a little too simple. For example, in Indonesia, it overlooks a fundamental distinction in the parties. Most Indonesian political parties, in number and representation in parliament, subscribe to Pancasila, a word derived from Sanskrit that enshrines the five non-sectarian principles of the Indonesian state: belief in God, just and civilized humanity, the unity of Indonesia, representative democracy, and social justice. Four prominent parties reject Pancasila in favor of a Shari’a-based Islamic government. On the whole, the Islamist parties are more focused, disciplined, and audibly committed to their ideology than other parties. These groups know that even if they never reach the numbers of the pro-Pancasila parties, they can still dictate the terms of debate. The efforts of mainstream parties to curry their favor only validate that belief.

Clinton should be mindful of this dynamic and choose her words and interlocutors in ways that support Pancasila. Indonesia is not the Middle East. There is a misguided strain of American opinion calling for dialogue with Islamists in the Middle East-the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance. It is a strain that easily flows into the White House’s new inclination toward dialogue with all comers. The Islamists are much stronger in the Middle East. Going out of her way to accommodate them in Indonesia will give them a new edge on their political competition.

On the Cusp of a New Era in U.S.-Indonesia Relations

President Bush’s policies improved U.S.-Indonesia relations. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called him “one of the most pro-Indonesia Presidents” in history. President Bush normalized military relations with Indonesia. He secured their highly valuable cooperation in the war on terrorism. In 2006, Indonesia was included in the Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program. President Bush also initiated a widely heralded five-year effort to improve the Indonesian education system. Although wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush Administration’s approach to the Middle East were not popular in Indonesia, disagreements over these issues did not stand in the way of a productive relationship on the things both nations did agree on.

By accident mostly of his birth and upbringing, Barack Obama’s popularity in Indonesia is off the charts. All ears in Indonesia are open to what he and his representatives have to say…

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Far East

China is Right to Have Doubts About Who Will Buy All America’s Debt

Chinese doubts about the value of US Treasury bonds highlight a crucial question: who will buy the estimated $2.7 trillion (£1.9 trillion) to $4.2 trillion of debt expected to be issued over the next two years?

With annual foreign purchases accounting for less than a tenth of the low end of that range, and domestic investors unable to bridge the gap, the Chinese are right to worry.

Yu Yongding, former adviser to the People’s Bank of China, recently demanded guarantees for the value of China’s $682bn of Treasury securities. Then Luo Ping, director of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said that China had misgivings about the US economy, but despite this it would continue to buy Treasuries. The two statements appear designed to raise the issue non-confrontationally before new chief US diplomat Hillary Clinton’s visit to Beijing on February 20.

China worries about the dollar’s value against other currencies, particularly the yuan. With US interest rates so low, the dollar’s value may slide. However, President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he wants a strong dollar, and indeed its trade-weighted value rose 13.9pc between April and December 2008.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Killing Fields’ Trial Begins in Cambodia

The chief Khmer Rouge torturer has gone on trial in Cambodia for crimes against humanity.

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch and ex-commandant of the notorious S-21 prison, sat impassively in a blue shirt as a judge read the opening statements in court.

It is the first case involving a senior figure of Pol Pot’s regime three decades after the end of an administration that is blamed for 1.7m deaths. Advertisement

Hundreds of victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities lined up to get into court, but the proceedings are mostly procedural, with the main trial starting in March and a verdict due by September.

Duch, now a born-again Christian, expressed remorse on the eve of his trial.

The court has been set up to prosecute those most responsible for the 1975-79 reign of terror, one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.

The trial is a landmark for the strife-torn country where nearly every family lost someone under the Khmer Rouge..

‘This is the day we have waited for for 30 years. But I don’t know if it will end my suffering,’ said Vann Nath, an artist who managed to get a seat near Duch.

He was one of only a handful of people to survive S-21. He was saved because he was chosen to paint portraits of leader Pol Pot.

The trial ends a decade of delays at the Cambodian-UN tribunal due to wrangling over jurisdiction and cash, but critics say the court’s integrity is threatened by allegations of corruption and political interference over who to prosecute.

Pol Pot’s death in 1998 was followed by a formal Khmer Rouge surrender, which helped to usher in a decade of peace and stability.

           — Hat tip: islam o’phobe[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Brendan Sokaluk, Gippsland Arson Accused, Fails to Appear in Court

THE man accused of starting one of the deadly Victoria fires, which killed at least 21 people in Gippsland on Black Saturday, was rejected by a woman but was looking for true love.

On his MySpace page, 39-year-old Brendan Sokaluk described himself as a “young happy male” who wants to meet a woman and get married.

“My interest are to enjoy life to the fallest (sic) and not with … because she roots behind your back and lies a lot,” he wrote.

He lists “mother earth” as his hero because “without her we all would be dead”.


Police are also investigating the Marysville fire, in which up to 100 people might have died, as being possibly deliberately lit. Arsonists have set more fires since the disaster occurred more than a week ago. A fire at Tecoma yesterday might have been deliberately lit, police said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Human Rights: Sos Enclaves, Still Slavery in Mauritania

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, FEBRUARY 16 — The international congress ‘Civil society and human rights in the Maghreb’ has started operations in Naples in ‘Castel dell’Ovò. Biram Dah Abeid, representative of ‘Sos Enclaves’, a human rights organisation created in 1995 in Mauritania, talked about the fact that slavery is still widespread in the northern Africa. “In our country” said Biram Dah Abeid “there are 300 thousand people who have been separated from their children, who live without income and who have not been allowed to study and have private property from birth. The slave masters are all Arab-Berbers which form the dominant ethnic group in the country”. There are also many former slaves in Mauritania, who are heavily discriminated in the country. Most slaves, Biram Dah Abeid points out, are women and children. Men often manage to escape from the harsh work in the fields to the shantytowns of the capital. Women on the other hand often have children on a very young age (often they have been raped by their masters) and are therefore unable to leave). Slavery in Mauritania is officially illegal (abolished in ‘93 and a crime since 2007) but in practice, according to Biram Dah Abeid, it is still widespread and always goes unpunished. All members of the magistracy and all government members are part of the Arab-Berber ethnic group. Therefore, concludes Biram Dah Abeid, ‘‘Mauritania, a country where human rights are systematically violated, has become the country of guardian angels”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Foreign Workers Double to 3.8m Under Labour — and Majority Are From Outside the EU

By James Slack, Home Affairs Editor

Foreign workers are taking a greater share of British jobs than ever, it emerged last night.

They now hold more than 3.8million jobs — 13 per cent of the total. In 1997, when Labour came to power, people born outside the UK held only two million jobs, 7.5 per cent of the workforce.

The figures are an acute embarrassment for Gordon Brown, who was under renewed attack last night over his promise to deliver ‘British jobs for British workers’. Tories said there ‘cannot be anyone left in Britain’ who believes the 2007 pledge.

Most damagingly, two-thirds of the foreign workers were born outside the EU — in countries whose citizens need permits to work here.

The figures were compiled in the wake of angry wildcat strikes across the UK over the number of jobs going to people from overseas.

They were sparked by protests at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, where Italian and Portuguese workers took all the jobs on a lucrative new contract.

The figures came as a second study, by Migrationwatch, revealed that British workers are also losing out under EU free movement rules.

Europeans taking advantage of the rules to work here outnumber Britons working elsewhere in the EU by more than four to one.

The figures revealing the proportion of foreign workers in the UK are the result of research by the independent House of Commons Library.

The analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, which was criticised by ministers last week for releasing them.

The statistics were obtained from the Library by Shadow Work and Pensions Minister James Clappison, who said last night: ‘This is yet more evidence that Labour have failed to bring migration from outside the EU under control despite repeated promises to do so.

‘It is no wonder the Government has tried to bully the ONS into covering up yet more bad news.’

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: ‘There cannot be anyone left in this country who believes Gordon Brown’s pledge of British jobs for British workers.

‘This shows the continuing failure of the Government’s immigration policy. A Conservative Government would introduce an annual limit on work permits for people from outside the EU.

‘That’s the only way you can get some control into the system.’

Mr Clappison’s figures are particularly bad news for Labour because they indicate that, even as the economy was plunging into recession, little or nothing was done to protect the jobs of British workers.

Between October and December 2007, before the crisis took hold, there were 25,860,000 UK-born people in employment. A year later, with the UK officially in recession, the figure had shrunk to 25,582,000.

Over the same period the number of non-UK born workers leapt from 3,605,000 to 3,819,000.

Some 9 per cent of the workforce are now from outside the EU — up from 5.3 per cent in 1997.

The Commons Library figures conflict with ones issued by the Government because the methods of measurement are different.

Statisticians, including the ONS, prefer to count UK-born workers versus foreign-born workers because a person’s country of birth, unlike nationality, is not subject to change.

The Home Office prefers to focus on the number of British nationals.

This will include people who arrived from overseas but have since been given


A Government spokesman said last night: ‘Over 90 per cent of people working in this country are UK citizens and we are stepping up the help we give people to get training and support to get back to work.

‘Many migrants stay for only a short period of time. We have always said we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK.

‘We have brought in the points-based system to control numbers and we have put restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria.

‘We are using the flexibility of the system to make employers offer British jobs through Jobcentre Plus before recruiting foreign workers.

‘But if we close our borders we all become poorer.’

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Hamas for the Homeland

By Dr. Paul L. Williams & Michael Travis

A reporter from World Net Daily (WND) has claimed that the New Media Journal and Canada Free Press were incorrect in reporting that President Barack Obama recently issued a presidential determination to allocate $20.3 million from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Act to enable refugees from the conflict in Gaza to relocate in the United States.

The rejoinder, penned by Aaron Klein, appeared as WND’s lead story on Sunday, February 15. It took to task the statement that the $20.3 million would be used to relocate thousands of HAMAS supporters to the United State.

Mr. Klein insisted that the money would not be used for this purpose but that the presidential determination stipulated that the funds were to be used for “distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and potable water.”

But such wording is not contained in the determination and the notion that the $20.3 million in funds can only be used to alleviate the refugee situation within the borders of Gaza appears to come from an unofficial memo or the reporter’s fanciful imagination.

The official document, as signed by President Obama, reads as follows in its entirety:

Presidential Determination No. 2009-15 of January 27, 2009

Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related To Gaza

Memorandum for the Secretary of State

By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the “Act’’), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act in an amount not to exceed $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

(Presidential Sig.)

THE WHITE HOUSE, Washington, January 27, 2009

[FR Doc. E9-2488 Filed 2-3-09; 8:45 am]

Billing code 4710-10-P

The order contains no further wording and no addendum, let alone the stipulation reported by Mr. Klein.

The purpose of the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund is “to provide U.S. resettlement opportunities to refugees” so that “U.S. admissions programs may become more responsive to critical refugee rescue needs.” Since this is the purpose of the legislation, it should be abundantly clear to any perceptive reader that the funds are earmarked for the resettlement of thousands of Palestinians in the United States — - not for the alleviation of conditions in Gaza.

The order signed by President Obama follows a pattern of Islamic rapprochement that he established as soon as he took a seat within the Oval Office.

? His first call to any head of state as president was to Mahmoud Abbas, leader of Fatah party in the Palestinian territory.

? His first one on one interview with any news organization was with Al Arabia television.

? He ordered Guantanamo Bay closed and all military trials of detainees halted.

? He ordered all overseas CIA interrogation centers closed.

? He withdrew all charges against the masterminds behind the USS Cole and 9/11

The directive should be a matter of grave concern to all American citizens, but even more alarming is Klein’s contention that the $20.3 million will be handed over to the nefarious, terror-supporting, UNWRA….otherwise known as the HAMAS Central Bank.

$20 million can train a lot of terrorists and buy a lot of bombs and missiles.

Readers may take heart in the realization that the WND is in error and that Klein fails a make a distinction between the presidential determination and an unofficial memo.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Ismu Map of Migrants Province by Province

(ANSAmed) — NAPLES, FEBRUARY 16 — Istat data on the foreign population resident in the main provinces of Italy at January 1 2008 confirm Milan at the top (344,000 people) followed by Rome (322,000) — despite the numbers actually registered being halved in one year — and Naples (54,000 people), the only southern region represented. A statement by Ismu — a foundation which provides documentation, training, information, studies and research on the theme of multiethnicity, particularly relating to the phenomenon of international migration — reveals that the most consistent increases occurred in the small provinces in southern Italy: Cosenza (+62%), Potenza (+52%), Enna, Siracusa (+50%), Caltanissetta (+45%), Agrigento (+43%), Foggia, Reggio Calabria (+42%), and Vibo Valentia (+41%). These increases were below 19,000 units in the period up to January 1 2008. The city which registered the greatest increases in the north was Turin, up by 27%. Turin had the greatest intensity of growth during 2007 among the ten Italian provinces affected by migration: substantially ahead of the other cities at the top of the list: Verona (+19%), Roma (+16%), Bergamo (+15%), Bologna (+14%), Treviso (+13%), Firenze (+12%), Brescia (+11%), Vicenza (+9% ) and in last place Milan (+8%) — despite being confirmed in first place in absolute terms — coming just ahead of Genoa (+8%) and Prato (+7%). (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy and Nigeria Join Forces

Joint patrols in Italy to combat illegal immigration

(ANSA) — Rome, February 17 — Italy and Nigeria on Tuesday agreed to carry out joint patrols to combat human trafficking and illegal immigration.

The agreement was part of a bilateral accord signed in Abuja by Italy’s national police chief, Antonio Manganelli, and Nigerian police top brass.

The accord follows a similar one Italy recently signed with Tunisia to intensify efforts against illegal immigration and human trafficking, which is controlled mainly by organized crime. A pilot project for joint Italian-Nigerian patrols in Italy will be coordinated by Interpol for a one-year period and will see the patrols employed not only in border, airport and port duties in Italy, but also in cities where there is a significant Nigerian community.

‘‘I am very pleased with this accord which represents a step forward in combating illegal immigration and human trafficking,’’ Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni said in a statement.

Speaking in the Nigerian capital, Manganelli said that ‘‘evidence shows that one out of three crimes in Italy is committed by an illegal alien and in some parts of northern Italy the ratio is two out of three’’.

‘‘With this accord we intend to achieve our goal of controlling illegal immigration and human trafficking through greater international collaboration,’’ he added.

Tuesday’s accord came a week after Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini visited Nigeria and invited it to attend one of the outreach sessions at next July’s G8 summit in Sardinia, hosted by Italy as G8 president for 2009.

During his visit Frattini announced that Italy will give Nigeria two boats to patrol the Niger Delta.

The boats, which will be manned by local forces, will be used to help prevent attacks on Western oil interests in the area including those of Italian fuels group ENI.

Anti-government militia have declared an ‘oil war’ in the Delta.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Rome to Dismantle Illegal Camps

The authorities in Rome have begun dismantling illegal camps amid an outcry over three rapes last weekend that have been blamed on immigrants.

Mayor Gianni Alemanno supervised the demolition of about 30 camps, home to many Roma, or Gypsies, from Romania.

A 14-year-old girl was raped in a park in the capital on Saturday, allegedly by two men from Eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, a government minister has said surgical castration might be the best option for those who raped minors.

“In some cases, I don’t believe that rehabilitation is possible,” Roberto Calderoli, the minister without portfolio for legislative simplification, told the newspaper La Stampa.

“I think that chemical castration may be insufficient and that surgical castration is the only option left,” he added. “Society has to protect itself.”


The call by Mr Calderoli, a leading member of the anti-immigrant Northern League party, comes as the government prepares new measures aimed at dealing with both crime and illegal immigrants.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, his party colleague, said it would push through an emergency decree this week speeding up legislation aimed at creating “groups of unnamed citizens” in high-risk areas, who would “assist the police by bringing to their attention events which might be damaging to urban security”.

The decree would also ban magistrates from releasing into house arrest those accused of crimes involving sexual violence, he said.

Critics say the measures could effectively legitimise vigilantism and xenophobia.

The Vatican has warned against anything that turns innocent foreigners into convenient scapegoats.

Police say a mob of around 20 masked men beat up four Romanians outside a kebab restaurant in Rome on Sunday in an apparent vigilante attack.


Investigators believe the violence is a response to a series of sex attacks in recent weeks, including the rape of the girl in Rome’s Caffarella Park on Saturday.

Also at the weekend, a 21-year-old Bolivian woman was raped in Milan by a man described as North African, while in Bologna, a Tunisian who had just been released from prison was re-arrested for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl.

While visiting Caffarella Park on Sunday, Rome’s mayor said rapists had to know they would face “a definitive sentence” and that all illegal gypsy camps in the city would be dismantled.

A bill going through parliament includes a provision calling for a census of homeless people to be entered into a database held by the interior ministry. Doctors would also be allowed to report illegal immigrants to the authorities, something which is currently banned.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Spain: Police Set Quota on Minimum Arrests

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 16 — National police corps officers in Madrid have received the order to arrest a weekly quota of illegal immigrants, according to a piece of internal communication at the Villa de Vallecas police station on November 12, quoted by the agency Europa Press. Every police station must arrest a specified number of illegal immigrants, the number being set in proportion to the population of the district, and if they fail to achieve this target officers will be authorized to go beyond their sphere of action and arrest immigrants even in other areas. In the case of the Villa de Vallecas police station, according to what has been reported by a number of police unions, the weekly minimum is 35 foreigners per week.”We need to be selective when requesting the transfer to the Immigration Detention Centre” were the words used in the police order, which indicated Morocco as ‘a priority’’, since repatriation is easy and economical due to the country’s proximity. The general directorate of police has justified the existence of the quotas with the “problem of criminality”. ‘National Police,’’ reads an official statement, ‘set directives which serve only to apply laws for foreigners, and which have been decided on in the interests of the population and against criminality in all areas.’’ (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Moderates Want Tougher Immigration Rules

Naturalized Swedes who received their citizenship under false pretenses could have their Swedish passports revoked, according Migration Minister Tobias Billström.

“Swedish migration and integration policy has failed,” Billström and two other high-ranking politicians from the ruling conservative Moderate Party wrote in an article in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper upon handing over a report on immigration commissioned by their party.

Billström, along with deputy mayor Ulf Kristersson and Moderate Party Riksdag member Elisabeth Svantesson make up a party working group tasked with proposing changes to Sweden’s immigration laws.

The group wants to increase demands on immigrants which they feel often abuse the privileges afforded them upon arriving in Sweden.

“Many immigrants remain year after year completely dependent on benefits,” they said, lamenting that especially many refugees remain outside the labour market and that criminal immigrants are allowed to remain in the country.

“We have seriously neglected the task of quickly, effectively and respectfully conveying basic Swedish rules to people who move here,” they added, calling for immigrants found guilty of serious crimes to be expelled and for people who illegally achieve citizenship to have their passports revoked.

Examples of improper grounds for citizenship include employing threats, bribes, or using a false identity, write the group in DN.

In addition to the citizenship revocation proposal, the article contains several other changes to Sweden’s immigration policies which the group plans to present to the Moderate Party’s governing board.

Among other things, they propose implementing a “starter contract” for newly arrived residents which will require immigrants to learn Swedish and “will be tied to the payment of their establishment allowance”.

It should also “to a larger extent than today” be possible to deport a foreign a foreign citizen convicted of a serious crime, even if that person has received permanent residency after many years of living in Sweden.

The group also wants Sweden to invalidate passports that are reported missing, reporting that over 200,000 Swedish passports “are floating around in the world”, many of which were likely sold rather than lost, they suspect.

They say it shouldn’t be “possible to, time after time, loss one’s passport” without something happening.

“After a number of lost passports, a police investigation will precede the issuing of a new passport,” they write.

Sweden has been hardening its generous immigration and asylum policy since the Moderate-led coalition government came to power in 2006.

The working group’s proposals will now be discussed by the three other centre-right coalition parties before possibly being voted on in parliament.

They are also set to shape the Moderate Party’s immigration policy ahead of the next general elections in 2010.

Sweden’s national statistics agency meanwhile reported Tuesday that a record 101,000 people immigrated to the country last year.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Tragedy in the Canaries, Shipwreck, 21 Dead

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID, FEBRUARY 16 — They were 20 metres from the coast of Lanzarote, a step away from safety and the new life to which they were aspiring, but their hopes went down with the ship on which they were travelling, tossed by the waves onto the rocks. According to sources from the Maritime Rescue, the bodies of 21 Northern African immigrants have been retrieved, including 14 children,aged between one and fifteen years old. Six survived the shipwreck which occurred at 18:30 yesterday near the town of Terguise, thanks to two surfers who did not hesitate to dive into the water with their boards and bring some of the migrants to safety. According to one of the survivors, 28 people were on the boat, mainly minors and two women, one of them in an advanced state of pregnancy. “It was terrible. When we saw them, many dead bodies were already floating, other immigrants were shouting from under the boat which had flipped over”, said one of the surfers who had helped the immigrants, Uruguayan Cristin Hunt. “We were able to bring some of them to shore by getting them to grab hold of our boards. Residents of the island brought them blankets and water while they waited for the Red Cross to arrive”. This is the worst tragedy for clandestine immigrants in the past 10 years on the Spanish coasts. In the meantime, Madrid is hunting down illegal foreigners, according to reports from police unions who revealed yesterday that pressure has been put on them by police headquarters to arrest a certain quota of illegal immigrants. According to an internal document distributed to the police headquarters of Villa de Vallecas on November 12, cited by Europe Press, National Police agents in Madrid have received orders to arrest a weekly quota of clandestine immigrants. Each police headquarters has to detain a certain number of illegal foreigners according to the population of their district, and if they don’t make their quota, police are authorised to go outside of their jurisdiction and arrest immigrants in other districts. At the Villa de Vallecas, according to reports from police unions, the minimum weekly quota has been set at 35 foreigners per week. “It is necessary to be selective when asking to transfer to the Internment Centre for Foreigners”, says the police order which indicates that arresting Moroccans is a “priority”, since their repatriation is simple and less costly and is done overland, compared to Latin-Americans. “Police headquarters order the arrest of a minimum quota of foreigners to police agents, who cannot take the pressure any more”, confirmed the secretary general of the UFP (Federal Police Union) Alfredo Perdiguero, speaking on radio Cedena Ser today. According to Perdiguero, the practice dates back to last October, when the current Police Chief of Madrid, Carlos Rubio, took office after transferring from Valencia where he had already applied the quota system. Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba assured today in statements to the media, that “it is a legal activity”, while recognising that there can be “misunderstandings” about the application of the law for foreigners. “The priority is to arrest illegal immigrants when they are involved in crimes”, said the minister. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

12-Year-Old Steals Day With Pro-Life Speech

Teachers threaten disqualification, but girl chooses to speak against abortion

Despite facing threats of disqualification, a 12-year-old girl took first place in a speech contest when she eloquently argued for the rights of unborn children — after an offended judge quit.

“What if I told you that right now, someone was choosing if you were going to live or die?” the seventh-grader begins in a video recording of her speech on YouTube. “What if I told you that this choice wasn’t based on what you could or couldn’t do, what you’d done in the past or what you would do in the future? And what if I told you, you could do nothing about it?”


Despite Lia’s enthusiasm for her topic, her teacher “strongly encouraged” her to select a different one for her class presentation or she would be considered ineligible for an upcoming speech contest.

“[S]everal teachers discouraged her from picking the topic of abortion; she was told it was ‘too big,’ ‘too mature’ and ‘too controversial,’“ her mother wrote. “She was also told that if she went ahead with that topic, she would not be allowed to continue on in the speech competition.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu: Christians Are Regarded as ‘Mad’ by Society

Christians are regarded as “mad” by the rest of society because they are motivated by charity and compassion rather than the reckless pursuit of money, according to the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu.

Churchgoers are now “counter-cultural” because their values are so opposed to prevailing behaviour, claimed Dr Sentamu.

But he insisted that faith cannot be separated from the world of work, and that staff should not be expected to give up their religious convictions when they walk into the office.

Dr Sentamu, the second most senior cleric in the Church of England and its first black Archbishop, also said the recession should lead to a rediscovery of what is truly important in life, just as Britons rebuilt the country after the devastation of the Blitz.

His comments come amid growing concern about the marginalisation of Christianity in public life.

Labour MPs want to sever the historic link between Church and state, which would end the right of bishops to sit in the House of Lords and remove the right of all residents to be married, baptised or buried by a parish priest.

Meanwhile public sector workers now risk being sacked if they talk about religion in the workplace, under “equality and diversity” rules.

New NHS guidelines state that doctors and nurses face harassment charges if they are accused of “preaching” to colleagues or patients, while a draft code of practice for teachers could be used by schools to discipline those who discuss their beliefs with pupils.

Caroline Petrie, a community nurse who is a devout Baptist, was suspended without pay for two months after she offered to pray for an elderly patient. Jennie Cain remains off work from her job as a primary school receptionist for sending a private email asking for spiritual support from her friends, after her five-year-old daughter was scolded for talking about Hell to another girl.

Latest figures show that courts dealt with 600 cases of workplace discrimination on religious grounds in the year to April 2008, up from 486 two years before.

A Christian registrar lost her job for refusing to take part in civil partnership ceremonies while a relationship counsellor was sacked after he refused to give therapy to homosexual couples. Both have been unsuccessful in their claims for unfair dismissal.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Losing Our Heads Over Multiculturalism

You don’t normally hear about beheadings in the United States.

But perhaps you should prepare yourself to hear more about them in the future.

The day before Valentine’s Day, which has always been a holiday associated with maximum repression against women in the Islamic world, a Muslim TV executive in New York decapitated his wife.

Mo Hassan, founder of Bridges TV, a station whose mission was “fostering understanding between cultures and diverse populations,” cut off the head of his wife, Aasiya Hassan, 37, who had recently filed for divorce. What she got instead was, what I call, “divorce Islamist-style.”

By the way, Mrs. Hassan was listed as general manager of the station. Perhaps the couple should have focused on fostering mutual understanding between themselves rather than preaching to Americans unaccustomed to the concept of divorce through beheading.

Mo Hassan wanted to portray Muslims in a more positive light. That was the goal of his TV station.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Winning the Cultural War

Editor’s note: Exactly 10 years ago today, on Feb. 16, 1999, legendary actor Charlton Heston delivered this powerful message to a packed audience at Harvard Law School.

I remember my son when he was 5, explaining to his kindergarten class what his father did for a living. “My Daddy,” he said, “pretends to be people.” There have been quite a few of them. Prophets from the Old and New Testaments, a couple of Christian saints, generals of various nationalities and different centuries, several kings, three American presidents, a French cardinal and two geniuses, including Michelangelo.

If you want the ceiling re-painted I’ll do my best. There always seem to be a lot of different fellows up here. I’m never sure which one of them gets to talk. Right now, I guess I’m the guy.

As I pondered our visit tonight it struck me: if my Creator gave me the gift to connect you with the hearts and minds of those great men, then I want to use that same gift now to re-connect you with your own sense of liberty … your own freedom of thought … your own compass for what is right.

Dedicating the memorial at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln said of America, “We are now engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether this nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.”

Those words are true again. I believe that we are again engaged in a great civil war, a cultural war that’s about to hijack your birthright to think and say what resides in your heart. I fear you no longer trust the pulsing lifeblood of liberty inside you … the stuff that made this country rise from wilderness into the miracle that it is. Let me back up. About a year ago I became president of the National Rifle Association, which protects the right to keep and bear arms. I ran for office, I was elected, and now I serve … I serve as a moving target for the media who’ve called me everything from “ridiculous” and “duped” to a “brain-injured, senile, crazy old man.” I know … I’m pretty old … but I sure thank the Lord ain’t senile. As I have stood in the crosshairs of those who target Second Amendment freedoms, I’ve realized that firearms are not the only issue. No, it’s much, much bigger than that. I’ve come to understand that a cultural war is raging across our land, in which, with Orwellian fervor, certain acceptable thoughts and speech are mandated.

For example, I marched for civil rights with Dr. King in 1963 — long before Hollywood found it fashionable. But when I told an audience last year that white pride is just as valid as black pride or red pride or anyone else’s pride, they called me a racist.

I’ve worked with brilliantly talented homosexuals all my life. But when I told an audience that gay rights should extend no further than your rights or my rights, I was called a homophobe.

I served in World War II against the Axis powers. But during a speech, when I drew an analogy between singling out innocent Jews and singling out innocent gun owners, I was called an anti-Semite.

Everyone I know knows I would never raise a closed fist against my country. But when I asked an audience to oppose this cultural persecution, I was compared to Timothy McVeigh.

From Time magazine to friends and colleagues, they’re essentially saying, “Chuck, how dare you speak your mind. You are using language not authorized for public consumption!”

But I am not afraid. If Americans believed in political correctness, we’d still be King George’s boys-subjects bound to the British crown. […]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Charles Darwin ‘Had Autism’

Charles Darwin probably had a form of autism called Asperger’s syndrome which is related to creativity and originality, a leading psychiatrist claims.

Darwin, the author of On the Origin of Species which sets out the theory of natural selection, had an extraordinary attention to detail but had difficulties with social interaction, according to Prof Michael Fitzgerald of Dublin’s Trinty College.

Prof Fitzgerald believes that Darwin, who was born on Feb12, 200 years ago, was suffering from a behavioural disorder.

Today he will tell the annual meeting of the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Faculty of Academic Psychiatry, and says Darwin was probably suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.

Prof Fitzgerald said: “It is suggested that the same genes that produce autism and Asperger’s syndrome are also responsible for great creativity and originality.

“Asperger’s syndrome gave Darwin the capacity to hyperfocus, the extra capacity for persistence, the enormous ability to see detail that other people missed, the endless energy for a lifetime dedication to a narrow task, and the independence of mind so critical to original research.”

Darwin was a solitary child — as many people with Asperger’s syndrome are, Prof Fitzgerald said and his emotional immaturity and fear of intimacy extended to adulthood. He avoided socialising and took long solitary walks, walking the same route daily. He was a compulsive letter writer, but these were almost devoid of social chat.

Darwin was a great collector. As a child he hoarded insects and shells, and while at university he became obsessed with chemistry and gadgets.

Professor Fitzgerald said: “Darwin had a massive capacity to observe, to introspect and to analyse. From adolescence he was a massive systematiser, initially of insects and other specimens which he catalogued. He had a tremendously visual brain. He spent eight years studying barnacles, and wrote books on his observations of earthworms and even his own children. He was a rather obsessive-compulsive and ritualistic man.

“Creativity is extremely complex, and so far no theory or model of brain function has been able to explain it fully. But I hope that future progress in understanding the basis of autism may lead to a better understanding of autistic creativity and creativity in general.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Islam and the West: Lines of Demarcation

By Roger Scruton

What it is about our civilization that causes such resentment, and why we must defend it.

The West today is involved in a protracted and violent struggle with the forces of radical Islam. This conflict is intensely difficult, both because of our enemy’s dedication to his cause, and also, perhaps most of all, because of the enormous cultural shift that has occurred in Europe and America since the end of the Vietnam War. Put simply, the citizens of Western states have lost their appetite for foreign wars; they have lost the hope of scoring any but temporary victories; and they have lost confidence in their way of life. Indeed, they are no longer sure what that way of life requires of them.

At the same time, they have been confronted with a new opponent, one who believes that the Western way of life is profoundly flawed, and perhaps even an offense against God…

…we in the West stand on the edge of a dangerous period of concession, in which the legitimate claims of our own culture and inheritance will be ignored or downplayed in an attempt to prove our peaceful intentions. It will be some time before the truth will be allowed to play its all-important role of rectifying our current mistakes and preparing the way for the next ones. This means that it is more necessary than ever for us to rehearse the truth and come to a clear and objective understanding of what is at stake. I will, therefore, spell out in what follows some of the critical features of the Western inheritance which must be understood and defended in our current confrontation.

The first of the features that I have in mind is citizenship. The consensus among Western nations is that the law is made legitimate by the consent of those who must obey it. This consent is given through a political process in which each citizen participates in the making and enacting of the law. The right and duty of participation is what we mean by “citizenship,” and the distinction between political and religious communities can be summed up by the view that the former are composed of citizens, whereas the latter are composed of subjects who have “submitted” (which is the primary meaning of the word islam).


Law for us is a guarantee of our freedoms. It is made not by God, but by man, following the instinct for justice that is inherent in the human condition. It is not a system of divine commands, but rather the residue of human agreements.

This is particularly evident to British and American citizens, who have enjoyed the inestimable benefit of the common law-a system which has not been laid down by some sovereign power but, on the contrary, built up by the courts in their attempts to do justice in individual conflicts. Western law is therefore a “bottom-up” system that addresses the sovereign in the same tone of voice that it reserves for the citizen. It insists that justice, not power, will prevail.


In short, citizenship and secular law go hand in hand. We are all participants in the process of law-making; hence we can view each other as free citizens, whose rights must be respected and whose private lives are our own concern. This has made possible the privatization of religion in Western societies and the development of political orders in which the duties of the citizen take precedence over religious scruples…

This brings me to the second feature which I identify as central to European civilization: nationality. No political order can achieve stability if it cannot call upon a shared loyalty, a “first-person plural” that distinguishes those who share the benefits and burdens of citizenship from those who are outside the fold. In times of war, the need for this shared loyalty is self-evident, but it is as necessary in times of peace, if people really are to treat their citizenship as defining their public obligations. National loyalty marginalizes loyalties to family, tribe, and faith, and places before the citizen, as the focus of his patriotic feeling, not a person or a group, but a country. This country is defined by a territory, and by the history, culture, and law that have made that territory ours. Nationality is composed of land, together with the narrative of its possession.

It is this form of territorial loyalty that has enabled people in Western democracies to exist side by side, respecting each other’s rights as citizens despite radical differences in faith and absent any bonds of family, kinship, or long-term local custom to sustain the solidarity between them. Such national loyalty is not known everywhere in the world, and certainly not in the places where Islamists are rooted. People sometimes refer to Somalia, for example, as a “failed state,” since it has no central government capable of making decisions on behalf of the people as a whole, or of imposing any kind of legal order. The real trouble with Somalia, however, is not that it is a failed state, but that it is a failed nation. It has never developed the kind of secular, territorial, and law-minded loyalty that makes it possible for a country to shape itself into a nation-state, and not simply an assembly of competing tribes and families.

The same is true of many other places where Islamists are produced. Even if, as in the case of Pakistan, these countries function like states, they are often failures as nations. They have not succeeded in generating the kind of territorial loyalty which enables people of different faiths, different kinship networks, and different tribes to live peacefully side by side, and also to fight side by side on behalf of their common homeland. The recent history of these countries might lead us to wonder whether there is not, in the end, a genuine and profound conflict between the Islamic conception of community and the conceptions which have fed our own idea of national government. Maybe the nation-state really is an anti-Islamic idea.


The third central feature of Western civilization is Christianity. I have no doubt that it is the long centuries of Christian dominance in Europe which laid the foundations of national loyalty as a type above those of faith and family, and on which a secular jurisdiction and an order of citizenship could be founded. It may sound paradoxical to identify a religion as the major force behind the development of secular government. But we should remember the peculiar circumstances in which Christianity entered the world. The Jews of first-century Judea were a closed community, bound by a tight web of religious legalisms but nonetheless governed from Rome by a law which made no reference to any God, and which offered an ideal of citizenship to which every free subject of the empire might aspire.

Jesus found himself in conflict with the legalism of his fellow Jews, and in broad sympathy with the idea of secular government. Hence his famous words in the parable of the tribute money: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” After his death, the Christian faith was shaped by Paul for communities within the Roman Empire that sought only the freedom to pursue their worship, and had no intention of challenging the secular powers. This idea of dual loyalty continued after Constantine, and was endorsed by Pope Gelasius I in the fifth century in his doctrine of the two swords given to mankind for their government: that which guards the body politic, and that which guards the individual soul. This endorsement of secular law by the early Church was responsible for subsequent developments in Europe, from the Reformation and the Enlightenment through to the purely territorial law that prevails in the West today.


…If national loyalties have emerged in the Muslim world in recent times, it is in spite of Islam, and not because of it. And it should come as no surprise if these loyalties seem peculiarly fragile and fractious, as we have noticed in the case of Palestinian attempts at national cohesion, and in the troubled history of Pakistan.

Christianity is sometimes described as a synthesis of Jewish metaphysics and Greek ideas of political freedom. No doubt there is truth in this, given the historical context of its inception. And it is, perhaps, the Greek input into Christianity which is responsible for the fourth of the central features that I believe worthy of emphasis when addressing the Western confrontation with Islam: that of irony. There is already a developing streak of irony in the Hebrew Bible, one that is amplified by the Talmud. But there is a new kind of irony in Jesus’ judgments and parables, one which looks at the spectacle of human folly and wryly shows us how to live with it. A telling example of this is Jesus’ verdict in the case of the woman taken in adultery. “Let he who is without fault,” he says, “cast the first stone.” In other words, “Come off it. Haven’t you wanted to do what she did, and already done it in your hearts?”

Indeed, this is nowhere more apparent than in the matter that called forth Jesus’ ironical judgment. Death by stoning is still officially endorsed in many parts of the Muslim world as a punishment for adultery, and in many Islamic communities women are treated as prostitutes as soon as they step out of the lines drawn for them by men. The subject of sex, which cannot be usefully discussed without a measure of irony, has therefore become a painful topic among Muslims, especially when confronted, as they inevitably are, by the lax morals and libidinous confusion of Western societies. The mullahs find themselves unable to think about women as sexual beings, and unable to think for very long about anything else. As a result, an enormous tension has developed in the Muslim communities of Western cities, with the young men enjoying the surrounding freedoms and the young women hidden away and often terrorized lest they do the same.


…It seems to me…that irony, although it infects our states of mind, is better understood as a virtue, a disposition aimed at a kind of practical fulfillment and moral success. If I were to venture a definition of this virtue, I would describe it as the habit of acknowledging the otherness of everything, including of oneself. However convinced you are of the rightness of your actions and the truth of your views, look on them as the actions and the views of someone else, and rephrase them accordingly. So defined, irony is quite distinct from sarcasm. It is a mode of acceptance, rather than a mode of rejection. And it points both ways: Through irony I learn to accept both the other on whom I turn my gaze, and also myself, the one who is gazing…

Irony is intimately related to the fifth notable feature of Western civilization: self-criticism. It is second nature to us, whenever we affirm something, to allow a voice to the opponent. The adversarial method of deliberation is endorsed by our law, by our forms of education, and by the political systems that we have built to broker our interests and resolve our conflicts. Think of those vociferous critics of Western civilization such as the late Edward Said and the ubiquitous Noam Chomsky. Said spoke out in uncompromising and, at times, even venomous terms on behalf of the Islamic world against what he saw as the lingering outlook of Western imperialism. As a consequence, he was rewarded with a prestigious chair at a leading university and countless opportunities for public speaking in America and around the Western world. The consequences for Chomsky have been largely the same. This habit of rewarding our critics is, I think, unique to Western civilization. The only problem with it is that, in our universities, things have gone so far that there are no rewards given to anyone else…

This habit of self-criticism has created another critical feature of Western civilization, and that is representation. We in the West, and the English-speaking peoples preeminently, are heirs to a longstanding habit of free association, in which we join together in clubs, businesses, pressure groups, and educational foundations. This associative genius was particularly remarked upon by Tocqueville in his journeys through America, and it is facilitated by the unique branch of the English common law-equity and the law of trusts-which enables people to set up funds in common and to administer them without asking permission from any higher authority.

This associative habit goes hand in hand with the tradition of representation. When we form a club or a society which has a public profile, we are in the habit of appointing officers to represent it. The decisions of these officers are then assumed to be binding on all members, who cannot reject them without leaving the club. In this way, a single individual is able to speak for an entire group, and in so doing, to bind it to accept the decisions made in its name. We find nothing strange in this, and it has affected the political, educational, economic, and leisure institutions of our society in incalculable ways. It has also affected the government of our religious institutions, both Catholic and Protestant. Indeed, it was among nineteenth-century Protestant theologians that the theory of the corporation as a moral idea was first fully developed. We know that the hierarchy of our church, be it Baptist, Episcopalian, or Catholic, is empowered to take decisions on our behalf, and can enter into dialogue with institutions in other parts of the world, in order to secure the space that we require for worship.

Association takes a very different form in traditional Islamic societies, however. Clubs and societies of strangers are rare, and the primary social unit is not the free association, but the family. Companies do not enjoy a developed legal framework under Islamic law, and it has been argued by Malise Ruthven and others that the concept of the corporate person has no equivalent in shari’ah…

The same is true for other forms of association. Charities, for instance, are organized in a completely different way than are those in the West: not as property held in trust for beneficiaries, but as property that has been religiously “stopped” (waqf). As a result, all public entities, including schools and hospitals, are regarded as ancillary to the mosque and governed by religious principles. Meanwhile, the mosque itself is not a corporate person, nor is there an entity which can be called “the Mosque” in the same sense as we refer to the Church-that is, an entity whose decisions are binding on all its members, which can negotiate on their behalf, and which can be held to account for its misdeeds and abuses.

As a result of this long tradition of associating only under the aegis of the mosque or the family, Islamic communities lack the conception of the spokesman. When serious conflicts erupt between Muslim minorities in Western cities and the surrounding society, we have found it difficult, if not impossible, to negotiate with the Muslim community, since there is no one who will speak for it or take responsibility for imposing any decision upon it. If by chance someone does step forward, the individual members of the Muslim community feel free to accept or reject his decisions at will. The same problem has been witnessed in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries with radicalized Muslim populations. When someone attempts to speak for a dissident group, it is very often on his own initiative, and without any procedure that validates his office. Like as not, should he agree to a solution to a given problem, he will be assassinated…

This point leads me to reflect once again on the idea of citizenship. An important reason for the stability and peacefulness of societies based on citizenship is that individuals in such societies are fully protected by their rights. They are fenced off from their neighbors in spheres of private sovereignty, where they alone make decisions. As a result, a society of citizens can establish good relations and shared allegiance between strangers. You don’t have to know your fellow citizen in order to ascertain your rights against him or your duties toward him; moreover, his being a stranger in no way alters the fact that you are each prepared to die for the territory that contains you and the laws which you enjoy. This remarkable feature of nation-states is sustained by the habits to which I have referred: self-criticism, representation, and corporate life, the very habits not to be found in traditional Islamic societies. What the Islamist movements promise their adherents is not citizenship, but “brotherhood”-ikhwân-an altogether warmer, closer, and more metaphysically satisfying thing.

And yet, the warmer and closer an attachment, the less widely can it be spread. Brotherhood is selective and exclusive. It cannot extend very far without exposing itself to sudden and violent refutation. Hence the Arab proverb: “I and my brother against my cousin; I and my cousin against the world.” An association of brothers is not a new entity, a corporation which can negotiate for its members. It remains essentially plural-indeed, ikhwân is simply the plural of akh, “brother”-and denotes an assembly of like-minded people brought together by their common commitment, rather than any institution which can claim sovereignty over them.

This has significant political repercussions. For instance, when Nasser’s successor as president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat, set aside seats in the Egyptian parliament for the Muslim Brotherhood, they were immediately occupied by those judged suitable by the president, and disowned by the real Brotherhood, which continued its violent activities, culminating in Sadat’s assassination. Simply put, brothers don’t take orders. They act together as a family-until they quarrel and fight.

This brings me to a final and critical point of difference between Western and Islamic communities. We live in a society of strangers who associate rapidly and tolerate each other’s differences. Yet ours is not a society of vigilant conformity. It makes few public demands that are not contained in secular law; and it allows people to move quickly from one group to the next, one relationship to the next, one business, religion, or way of life to the next, and all with relative ease. It is endlessly creative in forming the institutions and associations that enable people to live with their differences and remain on peaceful terms, without the need for intimacy, brotherhood, or tribal loyalties. I am not arguing that this is a good thing, but it is the way things are, and this is the inevitable byproduct of citizenship as I have described it.

What makes it possible to live in this way? There is a simple answer, and that is drink. What the Koran promises in paradise but forbids here below is the necessary lubricant of the Western dynamo. You see this clearly in America, where cocktail parties immediately break the ice between strangers and set every large gathering in motion, stimulating a collective desire for rapid agreement among people who a moment before did not know each other from Adam. This habit of quickly coming to the point depends on many aspects of our culture besides drink, of course, but drink is critical, and those who have studied the phenomenon are largely persuaded that, for all the costs that our civilization has paid in terms of alcoholism, accidents, and broken homes, it is largely thanks to drink that we have been, in the long run, so successful. Of course, Islamic societies have their own ways of creating fleeting associations: the hookah, the coffee house, and the traditional bathhouse, praised by Lady Mary Wortley Montague as establishing a solidarity among women that has no equivalent in the Christian world. But these forms of association are also forms of withdrawal, a standing back from the business of government in a posture of peaceful resignation. Drink has the opposite effect: It brings strangers together in a state of controlled aggression, able and willing to engage in any business that should arise from the current conversation.

The features to which I have referred do not merely explain the uniqueness of Western civilization; they also account for its success in navigating the enormous changes that have come about through the advance of technology and science, just as they explain the political stability and democratic ethos of its component nation-states. These features also distinguish Western civilization from the Islamic communities in which terrorists are cultivated. And they help to explain the great resentment of those terrorists who cannot match, with their own moral and religious resources, the easy competence with which the citizens of Europe and America negotiate the modern world.

If this is so, then how should we defend the West from Islamist terrorism? I shall suggest a brief answer to that question. First, we should be clear about what it is that we are and are not defending. We are not defending, for example, our wealth or our territory; these things are not at stake. Rather, we are defending our political and cultural inheritance, embodied in the seven features which I have singled out here for attention. Second, we should be clear that you cannot overcome resentment by feeling guilty or by conceding fault. Weakness provokes, since it alerts your enemy to the possibility of destroying you. We should therefore be prepared to affirm what we have, and to express our determination to hold on to it. That said, we must recognize that it is not envy but resentment that animates the terrorist. Envy is the desire to possess what the other has; resentment is the desire to destroy it [ed].

How do you deal with resentment? This is the great question that so few leaders of mankind have been able to answer. Christians, however, are fortunate in being heirs to the one great attempt to answer it, which was that of Jesus, who drew on a longstanding Jewish tradition that goes back to the Tora, and which was expressed in similar terms by his contemporary R. Hillel. You overcome resentment, Jesus told us, by forgiving it. To reach out in a spirit of forgiveness is not to accuse yourself; it is to make a gift to the other. And it is here, it seems to me, that we have taken a wrong turn in recent decades. The illusion that we are to blame, that we must confess our faults and join our cause to that of our enemies, only exposes us to a more determined hatred. The truth is that we are not to blame; that our enemies’ hatred of us is entirely unjustified; and that their implacable enmity cannot be defused by our breast-beating.

There is a drawback to realizing this truth, however. It makes it seem as though we are powerless. But we are not powerless. There are two resources on which we can call in our defense, one public, and the other private. In the public sphere, we can resolve to protect the good things that we have inherited. That means making no concessions to those who wish us to exchange citizenship for subjection, nationality for religious conformity, secular law for shari’ah, the Judeo-Christian inheritance for Islam, irony for solemnity, self-criticism for dogmatism, representation for submission, and cheerful drinking for censorious abstinence. We should treat with scorn all those who demand these changes and invite them to live where their preferred form of political order is already installed. And we must respond to their violence with whatever force is required to contain it.

In the private sphere, however, Christians should follow the path laid down for them by Jesus: namely, looking soberly and in a spirit of forgiveness on the hurts that we receive, and showing, by our example, that these hurts achieve nothing save to discredit the one who inflicts them. This is the hard part of the task-hard to perform, hard to endorse, and hard to recommend to others. Nonetheless, it is the task at hand, and in a battle the stakes of which are so high, it is a task that we cannot fail to undertake.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Johann Hari: Despite These Riots, I Stand by What I Wrote

The answer to the problems of free speech is always more free speech

Last week, I wrote an article defending free speech for everyone — and in response there have been riots, death threats, and the arrest of an editor who published the article.

Here’s how it happened. My column reported on a startling development at the United Nations. The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights has always had the job of investigating governments who forcibly take the fundamental human right to free speech from their citizens with violence. But in the past year, a coalition of religious fundamentalist states has successfully fought to change her job description. Now, she has to report on “abuses of free expression” including “defamation of religions and prophets.” Instead of defending free speech, she must now oppose it.

I argued this was a symbol of how religious fundamentalists — of all stripes — have been progressively stripping away the right to freely discuss their faiths. They claim religious ideas are unique and cannot be discussed freely; instead, they must be “respected” — by which they mean unchallenged. So now, whenever anyone on the UN Human Rights Council tries to discuss the stoning of “adulterous” women, the hanging of gay people, or the marrying off of ten year old girls to grandfathers, they are silenced by the chair on the grounds these are “religious” issues, and it is “offensive” to talk about them.

This trend is not confined to the UN. It has spread deep into democratic countries. Whenever I have reported on immoral acts by religious fanatics — Catholic, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim — I am accused of “prejudice”, and I am not alone. But my only “prejudice” is in favour of individuals being able to choose to live their lives, their way, without intimidation. That means choosing religion, or rejecting it, as they wish, after hearing an honest, open argument.

           — Hat tip: ScottSA[Return to headlines]

Obama and Islam

For the tired and disenchanted Arab and Muslim world, exasperated by a long history of humiliations and defeats now strengthened by the war in Gaza, the interview President Obama released to al-Arabiya is more than a breath of fresh air: it’s a sign of change and political turnover, something we weren’t ready to expect from the United States. The cultural shift couldn’t be more sharper. It has evident symbolical issues: Obama chose an Arab network for his first international interview, knowing that its impact would have been global. It was something new even on the linguistic side: “We are going to use the language of respect” is something that Arab and Muslims are not used to hear from the United States.

Stefano Allievi is Professor of Sociology at the University of Padua. He has written several books on Islam; last one “Le trappole dell’immaginario: Islam e Occidente” (Forum Edizioni) in 2007.

It might not have been Kennedy’s Ich bin ein Berliner, but it could have the same political consequences. And we may not see it from Europe, but for the tired and disenchanted Arab and Muslim world, exasperated by a long history of humiliations and defeats now strengthened by the war in Gaza, the interview President Obama released to al-Arabiya is more than a breath of fresh air: it’s a sign of change and political turnover, something we weren’t ready to expect from the United States. Obama’s challenge was tougher than Kennedy’s: Kennedy was addressing Europe, particularly an affected and defeated Germany, waiting for the speech of the Messiah as well as for the fundamental material aid the Americans were already providing to. Obama, instead, is speaking to an Arab world less and less pro-American and more and more criticizing, in which older resentments outcropped and exploded during Bush’s era, who fed those resentments and never really understood Islam. Obama’s words foresee a mild turnover: we’ll see where these words will lead to. When the President stated that “people are going to judge me not by my words but by my actions and my administration’s actions”, he informed clearly that there’s already a plan of action in the White House…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama Naïveté at the U.N.

by Anne Bayefsky

In a major foreign-policy decision taken over the weekend, President Obama has decided to legitimize the United Nations’s “anti-racism” forum known as Durban II. State Department officials announced in a press release buried on Saturday, that starting today the United States will attend for the first time the preparatory meetings of this controversial U.N. conference. The “Durban Review Conference,” scheduled for April in Geneva, is the progenitor of the anti-semitic hatefest that took place in South Africa in early September 2001.

The searing images of the demonization of America and Jews on the U.N.’s global stage, and the terrorism in New York 72 hours later, should have made joining this revived forum for U.N.-driven hate inconceivable. But President Obama seems intent on learning the lessons of history — and the relationship between hatemongering and violence — the hard way.

The State Department announcement claims that participating in Durban II preparations still leaves open the possibility of refusing to attend the April conference itself. The claim is completely disingenuous. They know full well that preparations are planned on and off-the-record from now until April and will likely continue until the final moments of the actual meeting — justifying ongoing participation under the guise of “still can’t tell yet.” Like diplomatic bees to honey. It is the decision to attend at all which represents a huge shift in American principles and priorities. For the past seven and a half years, the United States has boycotted Durban follow-up activities and voted against every Durban-related U.N. resolution.

Moreover, the very objective of Durban II is “to foster the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.” This is non-negotiable and cannot be changed by U.S. participation, period. In addition, all U.N. states attending these preparatory sessions have already agreed to “reaffirm the Durban Declaration”. Since the U.S. walked out of Durban I in disgust (along with Israel) and rejected the Durban I Declaration, joining negotiations now means agreeing to its provisions for the first time.

But the Durban Declaration asserts that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism. This is also the only country-specific accusation in a document purporting to address international racism and xenophobia. Regardless of the quantity of new vitriol in Durban II’s final product, therefore, participation legitimizes the mantra of Israeli racism. What is new is that the new president of the United States doesn’t care about the U.N.’s reincarnation of ‘Zionism is racism’.

The position is not only repugnant, but naïve. Evidently, American officials believe that an African-American president can climb into a U.N. anti-racism ring, throw his weight around, and the 56 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference will roll over and play dead. Or hard-liners like Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand, and developing countries like South Africa, will jump on a U.S.-led bandwagon.

It will be painful to watch the administration forced to enroll in U.N. 101. At Durban I, the European Union did a numbers count and recognized that Western democracies were bound for the back of the bus. So they proceeded to permit condemnation of racist Israel in exchange for omitting any inconvenient reference to financial compensation for slavery (and adding a minor sop to the existence of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism). No matter that murdering Jews in Israel in the here and now — justified as an alleged struggle against racism — is a modern form of anti-Semitism.

Not only will Obama be buffeted by EU members attempting to save themselves and their pocketbooks, the developing world will be overjoyed at the prospect of debilitating Gulliver. The fact that he is prepared to lie down of his own volition and hand them the strings, just makes the occasion merrier. Obama will also come to know the overarching theme of all U.N. meetings, namely, that saving the credibility of the institution itself is the number one priority. This means that having mounted a global conference, any outcome or deal is better than nothing. Such a mindset leaves the extremists in the driver’s seat. They will eat multilateralists-in-need-of-a-warm-group-hug for breakfast.

True, State department officials are masters at claiming victory with a straight face regardless of the drivel they draft. The 250-paragraph draft of the Durban II “outcome document” now before Obama, includes provisions which: say Israel’s right of return (Jewish self-determination) is racist, accuse Israel of apartheid and crimes against humanity, seek major curbs on freedom of expression, invent global Islamophobia, and allege anti-terrorism tactics are a racist plot. The anti-democratic forces have thrown in the kitchen sink, knowing full well that Westerners will feign a win if even half of it is removed — though the reality will be a giant step backwards for rights and freedoms.

[Return to headlines]

‘Toxic’ Fumes Found on Passenger Planes

PASSENGERS on some of the world’s popular airlines are reportedly breathing in contaminated air, an investigation has revealed.

Swab samples taken by German television network, ARD, along with Swiss broadcasters Schweizer Fernsehen, reportedly found high levels of a dangerous toxin onboard several planes.

Undercover journalists took 30 swabs in total, which were later analysed by leading toxicologist Professor Christian van Netten.

Twenty-eight samples were found to contain high levels of tricresyl phosphate (TCP), found in modern jet oil, which can lead to drowsiness, headaches, respiratory problems or neurological illnesses.

Scientists refer to the condition as Aerotoxic Syndrome.

The investigations said since the air in aircraft cabins are usually not filtered, TCP can find its way through air conditioning and inhaled by cabin crew and passengers.

In February 2008, Swedish pilot Neils Gomer revealed how he was almost completely incapacitated by toxic fumes, which also left passengers in a “zombie-like condition”.

Speaking to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Gomer said he was close to vomiting before managing to put on his mask while flying at 600 miles an hour.

The pilot managed to land, but said later that if he had delayed by seconds going on to oxygen the plane would have crashed.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

We Need Ideas, Not Just Tactics, Against Islamism

by Melik Kaylan

I have met U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke a few times and found him to be a practical man, perhaps even a little too practical for his new role as the troubleshooter on Afghanistan. He will no doubt try to solve the problem of a resurgent Taliban in practical ways, by rejigging military deployments, moving money around or fine-tuning Afghan democracy.

My friend Ann Marlowe, expert on Afghanistan and general counter-insurgency theorist, suggested a menu of just such concrete measures in her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed. Solutions of that kind could certainly work—in the short term. But the problem will pop up elsewhere around the world, not least in nearby Pakistan.

We can deal with the Islamist threat country by country, indeed we will have to, but the West won’t prevail without a full-blown macro strategy of the kind deployed in the Cold War. We need to launch a counter-insurgency of ideas to challenge the mullahs on their own turf.

Islamic societies are by no means all alike, but they are more alike than they once were. And there are enough similarities that certain generalizations can be made. It’s often the case that extreme minorities hijack the rest of the society, even when the majority inclines in a different direction.

In such disparate places as Lebanon, Pakistan, Iran, Algeria and Syria, small groups have exerted greater influence than their numbers should have allowed. This echoes Islam’s history, in which an austere and warlike faction grew by conquest to rule over larger tribes, and in which various dynasties took over the caliphate by being hungrier and bloodier than the established powers.

This historical psychodynamic is part of the scenario that Islamists and violent extremists implicitly appeal to nowadays, when they operate within target countries, such as Egypt or Pakistan. They invoke the revolutionary dialectic that existed at the beginning of Islam—the pure, hardened, inevitable and therefore divine force that comes out of the desert and sweeps over the too-comfortable urbanized stable community.

From the Prophet’s lifetime to the Abbasids, Fatimids, Timurids, Ottomans, et al, the pattern repeated itself and with it always came a tighter code of warrior discipline, which merged easily with doctrinal Islam’s core Puritanism and social discipline.

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]


elifrank said...

sad but ....a joke