Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/31/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 3/31/2009As a follow-up to my earlier G20 post: police in Plymouth have seized a weapons cache that they believe is related to the G20. The funny thing is, the weapons were fake — basically replica models incapable of firing live ammunition.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, Brutally Honest, C. Cantoni, CSP, EMET, Fausta, Fjordman, Gaia, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, Paul Green, Reinhard, The Observer, Tuan Jim, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Arab and Latin American States Seek G20 Front
Beyond AIG: a Bill to Let Big Government Set Your Salary
Fiat CEO in USA to Seal Deal
Financial Rescue Approaches GDP as U.S. Pledges $12.8 Trillion
Immigration Reform Tough During Crisis, Biden Says
Jordan: Immigrants to Return Home Due to Job Losses
The American Jewish Committee Deserves Better Leadership
UK: G20 Protests: Put People First, They Shout… Yes, But How?
UK: What Planet Are They on? MPs Get Inflation Busting Pay Rise and Expenses Soar to £93m (While Ordinary Brits Fight Recession)
Don’t Like CFLs? Ask Your Pet About Them
News Agencies Concealing Islamic Names?
Obama’s Coupe D’etat
Obama Pick Favors International Law
Obama Courts West-Haters
Retired Central Florida Judge Sues Gov. Charlie Crist
Suburban Schools See Limited Hispanic Integration
The Gitmo Guard Who Converted to Islam
U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy
Video: Maher Insults American Troops Again
Walgreen to Cut Washington State Medicaid Business
Anti-Semitism Incidents Rising as Economy Ails: Report
Court Upholds British MP’s Canadian Entry Ban
Galloway Speech Will Aid Hamas, Group Alleges
Europe and the EU
Battlelines Drawn Between Police and an Activist Army
Czech Teachers to Count Romany Pupils at Elementary Schools — Press
Denmark: Muslim Woman Refused Travel on Bus Due to Headscarf
Denmark: Teaching According to Ability Proves Popular
Dutch Institute Grows Intestine Outside the Body
EU Reaches Draft Deal on Telecoms Reform
Europe: Rights Watchdog Slams Italian Legal Delays
Germany Bans Far-Right Group That Targeted Youth
IRA Dissidents Burn Cars, Block Belfast Roads
Italy: Bribesville Figure Arrested
Legion of Christ to be Investigated
Malta: EU; Excessive Deficit, Brussels Pardons Valletta
Police Seize Weapons as Five Are Held in G20 ‘Terror Plot’
Spain: Deal in Basque Country to Oust Nationalists
Sweden: Muslim Group: ‘Make Halal Slaughter Legal’
UK Plans to Sell Off Nuclear Clean Up Authority London — Britain’s Government Said Monday it Was Putting the Body Responsible for Decommissioning and Cleaning Up the Country’s Nuclear Sites Up for Sale.
UK: ‘I Have Never Read the EU Constitution’, Admits Europe Minister Caroline Flint
UK: Al Qaeda Jailbreak Plot to Free Nine Terrorist Inmates in Hijacked Helicopter is Foiled
UK: Failed Asylum Seekers Are Not Entitled to Free NHS Treatment, Rules Judge
UK: Government Database Now Has the DNA of 5 Million Britons
UK: House of Commons Attack on Policeman Was ‘Incredibly Violent’
UK: Now Fire Service Introduces Hijab Headscarves for Muslim Workers
UK: NHS Must Do More to Eradicate Racial Discrimination, Say Watchdogs
UK: Pregnant Woman ‘Humiliated’ After Being Ordered to Leave Pub for Sipping Friend’s Pint
UK: Woman ‘Kept Daughters-in-Law as Slaves and Forced One to Work on Sewing Machine Night and Day for 13 Years’
UK: Woman Blocked Ambulance Crew as They Tried to Treat Man Who Later Died
What Caused Rome’s Collapse: Immigration or Centralisation?
Croatia Probes a Serb for Post-WWII Killings
North Africa
Spain: Morocco Expels Missionaries Accused of Proselytizing
Israel and the Palestinians
Caroline Glick: Remembering Olmert’s True Record
Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel
Obama: I Know Better Than Israelis and Palestinians
Middle East
Arab Summit Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant Against Bashir
Elections in Turkey: Testing Ground for Erdogan and the Army
Lebanon: UNIFIL, Incidents Between UN and Civilians
Religious Police Accused of Torture by Saudi Society for Human Rights
Sweden: Five Charged Over Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring
Yemen: Two Dutch Tourists Abducted
Report: Cosmonaut Grumbles About Space Bureaucracy
Azerbaijan Removes All Obstacles to Lifetime Reelection for President Aliyev
South Asia
Afghanistan: As Bad as the Taleban? Afghan President Backs Law Which ‘Legalises Rape Within Marriage’
Dutch Company to Make Electric Cars for Europe, US
India: Mumbai Gunman’s Life ‘threatened by Mafia Boss’
Pakistan: Army Fights Militants After Storming Police Academy
Pakistan: Home-Grown Al-Qaeda Led Militants ‘Behind Lahore Attack’
Pakistan: Petraeus: Military Reserves ‘Right of Last Resort’ for Threats Inside Pakistan
Pakistan: Taliban Promises Attack on Washington That Will ‘Amaze’ the World After Pakistan Police Massacre
‘Worse Than the Taliban’ — New Law Rolls Back Rights for Afghan Women
Far East
Korea: Hyundai Asan Staffer Arrested in N.Korea
Philippine Forces Move Toward Abu Sayyaf Abductors
Philippines: Maoists Attack Philippine Army Base, at Least 17 Killed
Australia — Pacific
Accused Nazi War Criminal Zentai Must Leave WA: Court
Sub-Saharan Africa
African Monitors Keen to Oversee EU Election
Oh No, Not Again! Oprah’s School Rocked by Second Sex Scandal in 2 Years
Latin America
Mexico’s Calderon Rules Out Joint Raids With US
The Southern Front: Islamic Terrorism and Failed States, South and Central America
720 Migrants in Two Lampedusa Centres
Allow Enough Refugees in and They Will Provide All the Evidence You Need as to Why a State Can Fail
DHS Readies Tent City Strategy for Millions of Mexican ‘Refugees’
ICE Releases Workers Arrested in Washington Raid
Italy: Savage Attack Leaves Pakistani Man in a Coma
Shipwreck Libya, 300 Missing, 350 Rescued
Spain: 151 Migrants Land in the Canaries
Spain: 2 Holocaust Survivors Testify
Culture Wars
Abortion: Spain; Bishops, the Debate is Not Over
Earth Population ‘Exceeds Limits’
Rory Leishman: in Defense of the Pope

Financial Crisis

Arab and Latin American States Seek G20 Front

DOHA (AFP) — South American and Arab leaders on Tuesday sought to forge a common alliance to confront the global financial crisis on the eve of the G20 summit of industrialised nations.

Ahead of Thursday’s G20 forum in London, leaders of the 22-member Arab League and 12 South American states staged their second summit in four years in the Qatari capital, Doha, aiming to create political and economic fronts.

“We must learn from the errors that have occurred in past crises and show… our citizens that the South American and Arab nations are walking together,” Chilean President Michelle Bachelet told the gathering.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva noted that the Doha summit came two days before the London G20 summit which is due to “confront an unprecedented economic crisis.

“The world will follow carefully to see if South America and the Arab countries are capable of taking measures to prevent the financial crisis from becoming a social and political earthquake,” he said.

Lula insisted that the Doha gathering provided leaders with “an extraordinary opportunity” to endorse proposals for reform, namely “the reform of international organisations.”

“This is the only way for countries that have contributed the most to the financial crisis, the deterioration of the environment, trade imbalance and collective insecurity to assume their responsibilities,” he said.

South America and the Arab region are geographically far apart, but each contains a major oil producer, with Venezuela and Saudi Arabia among the world’s top exporters.

Gulf kingpin Saudi Arabia is the only Arab nation that will join emerging countries at the summit of leaders of the Group of 20 most industrialised and developing nations, which will also be attended by Brazil and Argentina.

The G20 summit is aimed at pulling the world economy out of its worst downturn in decades and rewriting the financial rulebooks.

South American and Arab leaders seek to bolster their economic ties, buoyed by the fact that trade between them has almost tripled to around 18 billion dollars since their first summit in Brasilia in 2005.

Leaders also hope to make progress towards forming an economic partnership and a political alliance in global institutions, diplomats said.

Among the South American representatives attending are eight heads of state, including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Chavez, who last week announced a clampdown on government spending to offset tumbling oil revenue, called for a “multipolar world,” saying “we think that (the Doha summit) is a good opportunity for this to happen.”

“The hour has come for the final fall of the American empire,” Chavez told reporters.

Regional issues, such as deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the interntional arrest warrant facing Sudanese President Omar al-Beshir for alleged war crimes in Darfur, were also raised by South American leaders.

The warrant issued on March 4 by the International Criminal Court is “a judicial horror and a disrespect to the people of the Third World,” Chavez told reporters.

“Why don’t they order the arrest of (former US president George W.) Bush, why don’t they order the arrest of the Israeli President (Shimon Peres)?” he asked.

Monday’s Arab summit in Doha united firmly behind Beshir in rejecting the ICC warrant.

Lula urged the incoming Israeli right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, leading to the creation of an independent Palestinians state.

“It is important for the new government in Israel to commit itself firmly to the peace process and respect peace agreements previously reached,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Beyond AIG: a Bill to Let Big Government Set Your Salary

By Byron York

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., left, talks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, right, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, on Capitol Hill Tuesday, March 24,2009. Frank’s committee has passed a bill giving Geithner extensive control over salaries of employees working at companies receiving government bailout funds. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) It was nearly two weeks ago that the House of Representatives, acting in a near-frenzy after the disclosure of bonuses paid to executives of AIG, passed a bill that would impose a 90 percent retroactive tax on those bonuses. Despite the overwhelming 328-93 vote, support for the measure began to collapse almost immediately. Within days, the Obama White House backed away from it, as did the Senate Democratic leadership. The bill stalled, and the populist storm that spawned it seemed to pass.

But now, in a little-noticed move, the House Financial Services Committee, led by chairman Barney Frank, has approved a measure that would, in some key ways, go beyond the most draconian features of the original AIG bill. The new legislation, the “Pay for Performance Act of 2009,” would impose government controls on the pay of all employees — not just top executives — of companies that have received a capital investment from the U.S. government. It would, like the tax measure, be retroactive, changing the terms of compensation agreements already in place. And it would give Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner extraordinary power to determine the pay of thousands of employees of American companies.

The purpose of the legislation is to “prohibit unreasonable and excessive compensation and compensation not based on performance standards,” according to the bill’s language. That includes regular pay, bonuses — everything — paid to employees of companies in whom the government has a capital stake, including those that have received funds through the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP, as well as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The measure is not limited just to those firms that received the largest sums of money, or just to the top 25 or 50 executives of those companies. It applies to all employees of all companies involved, for as long as the government is invested. And it would not only apply going forward, but also retroactively to existing contracts and pay arrangements of institutions that have already received funds.

In addition, the bill gives Geithner the authority to decide what pay is “unreasonable” or “excessive.” And it directs the Treasury Department to come up with a method to evaluate “the performance of the individual executive or employee to whom the payment relates.”

The bill passed the Financial Services Committee last week, 38 to 22, on a nearly party-line vote. (All Democrats voted for it, and all Republicans, with the exception of Reps. Ed Royce of California and Walter Jones of North Carolina, voted against it.)

The legislation is expected to come before the full House for a vote this week, and, just like the AIG bill, its scope and retroactivity trouble a number of Republicans. “It’s just a bad reaction to what has been going on with AIG,” Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey, a committee member, told me. Garrett is particularly concerned with the new powers that would be given to the Treasury Secretary, who just last week proposed giving the government extensive new regulatory authority. “This is a growing concern, that the powers of the Treasury in this area, along with what Geithner was looking for last week, are mind boggling,” Garrett said.

Rep. Alan Grayson, the Florida Democrat who wrote the bill, told me its basic message is “you should not get rich off public money, and you should not get rich off of abject failure.” Grayson expects the bill to pass the House, and as we talked, he framed the issue in a way to suggest that virtuous lawmakers will vote for it, while corrupt lawmakers will vote against it.

“This bill will show which Republicans are so much on the take from the financial services industry that they’re willing to actually bless compensation that has no bearing on performance and is excessive and unreasonable,” Grayson said. “We’ll find out who are the people who understand that the public’s money needs to be protected, and who are the people who simply want to suck up to their patrons on Wall Street.”

After the AIG bonus tax bill was passed, some members of the House privately expressed regret for having supported it and were quietly relieved when the White House and Senate leadership sent it to an unceremonious death. But populist rage did not die with it, and now the House is preparing to do it all again.

           — Hat tip: Brutally Honest[Return to headlines]

Fiat CEO in USA to Seal Deal

Chrysler needs partnership to survive

(ANSA) — Turin, March 31 — Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne is in the United States to hammer out the details of a partnership with American automaker Chrysler which will allow the Detroit No.3 to qualify for up to $6 billion in government loans.

US President Barack Obama said on Monday that Chrysler’s only hope of survival was to enter into a partnership with Fiat which would give the Italian automaker a controlling stake.

He also praised Fiat’s “impressive turnaround,” which has been orchestrated by the Canadian-trained Marchionne since he arrived in 2004.

Fiat Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo on Tuesday voiced “pride and satisfaction” over the fact that “the greatest nation in the world is paying attention to an Italian company and its technology”.

Leading Italian unions and the powerful industrial employers’ association Confindustria also expressed their satisfaction over the US president’s words and the possible partnership with Chrysler. Obama gave Chrysler and Fiat only 30 days to strike a definitive agreement in order to receive federal funds.

According to reports in the Italian and American press, the final agreement could be different from a preliminary, non-binding one they signed last January which would have given Fiat an initial 35% stake in Chrysler in exchange for the Italian automaker’s cutting-edge technology in the production of fuel-efficient vehicles.

The agreement also gave Fiat an option to but a further 20% stake in the US automaker and envisioned Fiat management “consulting” Chrysler in its strategy decisions.

Because of the size of Chrysler’s debt and costly union benefits, many observers believe that Chrysler may first be piloted through bankruptcy to restructure the company and eliminate the bulk of these obligations.

This would entail convincing lenders and unions that it would be better to own a stake in a ‘new’, profitable Chrysler than to try and recovery their losses through the company’s liquidation. In this case, Fiat would be given a 20% stake in the ‘new’ Chrysler in exchange for its technology and promise to produce cars in the US.

Fiat would later be allowed to increase its stake to a maximum of 49%, with much of the rest being held by unions and lenders in exchange for restructuring Chrysler’s debt and worker benefits.

If Fiat wanted to increase its stake above 50%, Chrysler would first have to pay back its bail-out loans, according to the conditions set by Obama on Monday.

According to one critic of aid to the auto industry, Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker, the Obama approach is basically giving Chrysler away to Fiat.

According to the Financial Times, since Fiat already has an important partnership with India’s Tata Motors, with Chrysler it may seek to create a giant international group which could possibly be opened to Peugeot of France.

Peugeot at the weekend fired its CEO, Christian Streiff, who had been cool to an alliance with Fiat and appeared convinced the French automaker could stand alone.

Marchionne, who is expected to stop in Washington on his way back from Detroit, recently said that once the current global economic crisis is over the world would be left with only six automakers and each would have to sell at least six million cars a year to survive.

Fiat shares on Tuesday were gaining more than 10% in Milan..

photo: Sergio Marchionne

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Financial Rescue Approaches GDP as U.S. Pledges $12.8 Trillion

March 31 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. government and the Federal Reserve have spent, lent or guaranteed $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches the value of everything produced in the country last year, to stem the longest recession since the 1930s.

New pledges from the Fed, the Treasury Department and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. include $1 trillion for the Public-Private Investment Program, designed to help investors buy distressed loans and other assets from U.S. banks. The money works out to $42,105 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. and 14 times the $899.8 billion of currency in circulation. The nation’s gross domestic product was $14.2 trillion in 2008.

President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with the chief executives of the nation’s 12 biggest banks on March 27 at the White House to enlist their support to thaw a 20-month freeze in bank lending.

“The president and Treasury Secretary Geithner have said they will do what it takes,” Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein said after the meeting. “If it is enough, that will be great. If it is not enough, they will have to do more.”

Commitments include a $500 billion line of credit to the FDIC from the government’s coffers that will enable the agency to guarantee as much as $2 trillion worth of debt for participants in the Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility and the Public-Private Investment Program. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair warned that the insurance fund to protect customer deposits at U.S. banks could dry up because of bank failures.

‘Within an Eyelash’

The combined commitment has increased by 73 percent since November, when Bloomberg first estimated the funding, loans and guarantees at $7.4 trillion.

“The comparison to GDP serves the useful purpose of underscoring how extraordinary the efforts have been to stabilize the credit markets,” said Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank in Dallas.

“Everything the Fed, the FDIC and the Treasury do doesn’t always work out right but back in October we came within an eyelash of having a truly horrible collapse of our financial system, said Johnson, a former Fed senior economist. “They used their creativity to help the worst-case scenario from unfolding and I’m awfully glad they did it.”

The following table details how the Fed and the government have committed the money on behalf of American taxpayers over the past 20 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg…

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Immigration Reform Tough During Crisis, Biden Says

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (Reuters) — The economic slump and soaring unemployment in the United States mean this is not a good time to push immigration reform, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Central American leaders on Monday.

“It’s difficult to tell a constituency while unemployment is rising, they’re losing their jobs and their homes, that what we should do is in fact legalize (illegal immigrants) and stop all deportation,” Biden told a news conference in the Costa Rican capital.

President Barack Obama said during his election campaign that he supported comprehensive immigration reform, as countries like Mexico have been urging for years.

Some 12 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, many from Mexico and Central America. The economic crisis has made many U.S. workers more hostile to legalizing those without papers.

“We believe, the president and I, that this problem can only be solved in the context of an overall immigration reform,” Biden said, asked about the chances of extending temporary migrant protection programs.

“We need some forbearance as we try to put together a comprehensive approach to deal with this.”

Biden was in Costa Rica to meet Central American leaders at an informal regional summit.

A comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws — including plans for a guest worker program — was killed off by Republicans in the U.S. Senate in 2007, although many Central Americans have been able to stay in the United States under the Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, system.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Immigrants to Return Home Due to Job Losses

Amman, 24 March (AKI) — Arab countries including Egypt and Jordan are preparing for the return of thousands of immigrant workers who have lost jobs due to the global economic crisis.

According to Arabic satellite TV network, Al-Jazeera, authorities in Amman are preparing for the return of thousands of Jordanians who are expected to return from neighbouring countries in the next year due to the collapse of the job market.

Around 10,000 Jordanians are currently believed to be unemployed in the region. Qualified engineers in Amman have been particularly hard hit by the crisis.

“I lost my job in February,” said engineer Hamza al-Qatani. “Six other Jordanians who were working with me at the same company were also dismissed.

“Many Jordanians were left without work here in Dubai and have already returned home. From January to today there are at least a thousand of my countrymen who have lost their jobs.

There are an estimated 15,000 Jordanian engineers working in the United Arab Emirates and at least 20 percent of them are reportedly unemployed.

Most of them were employed in large private construction projects begun in the past few years which are now on hold due to the current global economic downturn.

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

The American Jewish Committee Deserves Better Leadership

By Philippe Karsenty

If ever an issue begged for the intervention of a Jewish organization of international stature, it was the Mohamed al Dura affair. This notorious blood libel accused Israeli soldiers of shooting to death an Arab boy in Gaza on September 30, 2000. Though the event was actually a staged hoax, it was broadcast the same day on French public television station, France 2. Mohamed al Dura became an icon for all Muslim children. The story triggered rioting, terrorism and mayhem throughout the Muslim world; unleashed the Second Intifada; was the pretext for Daniel Pearl’s beheading, and was referenced in Osama bin Laden’s recruitment tapes prior to 9/11.

For seven years I worked to expose that hoax, and was sued for my effort.

The American Jewish Committee is one of the world’s most active Jewish institutions. It would have been entirely consistent with its mission to have stepped forward to aid me in my efforts to counter a libel that dishonored every Jew.

But under David Harris as executive director, only silence and obstruction were forthcoming.

Harris is renowned for his diplomatic skills, his warm friendship with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and his contacts at the highest levels of other European governments. Some have complained to him that his representative in France, Valerie Hoffenberg, never once objected to France 2’s hoax or supported my efforts to expose it. In fact, Hoffenberg was waging a behind-the scenes counter-offensive to cover-up the al Dura lie by blocking my access to some French officials, lobbying Jewish leaders against me, and claiming that the phony news report was authentic. Harris’ response was always polite and reassuring: “I will look into it,” he promised.

Yet nothing ever changed. It finally became clear that Hoffenberg was not acting on her own initiative, but faithfully adhering to AJC policy. Because of Hoffenberg’s activities, AJC France was actually my most destructive foe.

Nonetheless, in May of last year I was vindicated in a French court.

DAVID HARRIS’ antipathy to exposing the al Dura hoax is entirely consistent with his advice to the Obama administration (as well as other foreign governments) to participate in the planning of the Jew-hating stimulus package known as Durban II — against the wishes of the State of Israel. Now he is viciously attacking three of Israel’s best defenders — Caroline Glick, Melanie Phillips and Anne Bayefsky — for advocating an immediate and unequivocal boycott.

Harris’ claims that he deserves the credit for the current US disengagement from Durban II or improvements in its draft declaration — after undermining boycott efforts repeatedly — are more examples of the same practice I witnessed in the al Dura context: AJC’s mastery of the double game.

When the French Court of Appeals ruled in my favor, the AJC immediately issued a statement in praise of French justice. But that statement was only for its US audience. When asked to comment in French, the AJC representative in France refused, afraid it would appear as criticism of the French government which owns and controls the French public TV station that broadcast the al Dura hoax.

On December 2006, the AJC published an excellent report called “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism” by Alvin Rosenfeld. AJC received requests that it be translated into German.

Harris wrote to his Berlin bureau chief, Deidre Berger: “I believe there would be a mini-firestorm in Germany if this [the Rosenfeld report] appeared and, therefore, do far more damage than good to our image and reputation in a key country.”

In other words Germany is a “key country” and Harris had important relationships to protect.

I’M NOT ALONE in my concerns about Harris’ European involvement.

The following is an unsolicited note from a prominent German Jew that came to me in November 2008 and confirmed my perception of Harris’ “policies”:

“While you experienced problems with AJC Paris, AJC Berlin has been making problems in Germany. This is no coincidence. The explanation is that this AJC policy is supported by David Harris. AJC wants to sit in the first row among the Jewish organizations when it comes to contacts with European governments. For this reason they try to get along well with the establishments in the various countries…

“It is thus working against, and even sabotaging, other Jewish and non-Jewish NGOs that are more serious about combating anti-Semitism and supporting Israel. In short, AJC is practicing appeasement toward the European governments and elites. That establishment, for its part, appreciates AJC giving them the kosher stamp of approval. AJC is thus working against Jewish interests in Europe.”

Worldwide, Jew-hatred is skyrocketing and Israel’s enemies have never been as united as they are now. The UN’s Durban II is a forum intended to confer official legitimacy on that hatred and unity — no less than the fiction of Mohamed al Dura, the UN’s poster child for Israeli atrocities. Not surprisingly, the painful but phony image of the “dead” Al Dura boy adorned the walls of the places that hosted Durban I.

AJC attracts donors by claiming to protect Jewish interests, but in reality, under Harris’ leadership, its actions provide cover for our enemies.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

UK: G20 Protests: Put People First, They Shout… Yes, But How?

The G20 protesters have every right to be angry, but their message doesn’t make sense, says Tracy Corrigan.

I am thinking of organising a demonstration. It seems to be the thing to do, in the run-up to the G20 meeting. My target, however, will be the G20 protesters themselves. I am fed up with them making a gigantic, disruptive fuss about everything they think is wrong with the world, without having any coherent notion of how to put it right.

It sounds oxymoronic to suggest that crowds can be attention-seeking, but the faces of those “Put People First” demonstrators in London on Saturday screamed “Look at me, look at me”. I am all for offering the global leaders who are convening in London this week some fresh ideas, and I’m happy for protesters to take to the streets to deliver that advice. It’s just hard to work out what it is.

“Our message is clear,” proclaims the Put People First website. “We must put people first.” Supporters are invited to send messages to the G20. In case any global leaders who happen to be reading missed these helpful hints, here is a selection: “Put people first! Yeah!” “Put people first! We must be heard!” “Against the rich and the powerful. Just one way: fight!” And my personal favourite: “Discover for yourselves the truth… then discover the alternatives by listening to us. Then act wisely.” No, I don’t think they were teasing.

If you still do not know what the Put People First protesters want — and at this stage, there is no reason why you should — let me shed a little light. They were marching for “jobs, justice, climate”. Dig a little deeper, and you discover that “the platform is united by three linked calls” for decent jobs and public services for all, an end to poverty, and a green economy.

The problem is that these pointers may confuse our leaders, rather than guide them. Jobs are certainly a good idea, and decent ones are better than the other sort, but what if they are in the oil or coal industries? Not so good on the climate front. And justice? Well, trade barriers aren’t very just, but without them the domestic labour force will suffer more cuts. And should the Government subsidise failing industries to preserve jobs, if that means cuts to social services?

I almost feel sorry for the politicians. Not only do they have a dismally low chance of agreeing on any effective solutions; they are also facing an angry mob, demanding… well, whatever. And instead of just explaining to the demonstrators that they can’t have everything, politicians feel obliged to say that they share the same pain. This is not the way political protest should work — and I am not without some small experience in these matters. The first demonstration I attended is my model. It had a clear goal — “US out of El Salvador” — and some nice tourism opportunities, since it was held in Washington DC. I had been invited by an extremely attractive senior at the US college I was attending in my gap year. The enterprise involved a very long journey in the back of a camper van; the protest was well organised and heavily policed; it was warm and sunny; and there were lots of guitars. Subsequent experience did not match up — after encountering some hostile women at Greenham Common, I threw in the towel. But I had learnt the basic lessons: deliver a simple, achievable message, and however cross you are, have some fun and don’t get nasty.

I do not quibble with the anger expressed by the G20 protesters. We are in a dreadful mess caused by the stupidity of politicians, the ineptitude of regulators and the greed of bankers, not to mention some profligate spending by consumers. Many people who did not contribute to the problem are suffering greatly as a result, and we will all be paying through the nose for years to come. It is our democratic right to take to the streets to complain about it, and I’m very glad that I live in a country where we can still do so. Traffic snarl-ups, broken windows and a hefty security bill are a small price to pay.

But at the very least, the protesters should try to come up with some slogans that are either more honest or more specific. Those who have a specific axe to grind should say so. How about “I know we have problems, but let’s make sure poor countries don’t suffer unduly” or “Things are bleak, but please don’t forget about climate change”?

Instead, much of the rhetoric seems to be about disrupting the G20 meeting. I don’t understand how this will help. I am not overly optimistic about the outcome of the gathering, but if by some fluke our leaders manage to agree on a plan to sort out at least some of our problems, it doesn’t seem a great idea to stop them in their tracks. If protesters don’t have anything constructive to suggest, I recommend that they stick to the basics. “Global leaders, you have made a real hash of things and we are very cross with you.” That’s a message we can all agree on.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: What Planet Are They on? MPs Get Inflation Busting Pay Rise and Expenses Soar to £93m (While Ordinary Brits Fight Recession)

The full extent of the Westminster gravy train has been laid bare as MPs received an inflation-busting pay rise and it was revealed that they claimed £93million in annual expenses.

Members are effectively trebling their pay by pocketing on average £144,176 on top of their back-bench salaries.

The expenses total for 2007-08 was up 6 per cent from £87.6million a year earlier, prompting fresh accusations that MPs had their ‘snouts in the trough’ at a time when voters are experiencing pay freezes or cuts and job losses.

To add insult to injury, it emerged that backbenchers would receive a 2.33 per cent pay rise from tomorrow, increasing their basic £63,266 salary by £1,500 to £64,766.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Don’t Like CFLs? Ask Your Pet About Them

Are feds dictating new light bulbs before they’re ready?

Online, a number of consumers also complain that their pets react adversely to the new bulbs.

On the U.K. Yahoo! Answers forum, posters complained of dogs barking at the ceiling and growing agitated in rooms that use CFLs.

“When the ‘low energy’ lamp is on, the dogs are not very happy and will not go to the room by choice,” wrote Stellar Meg. “Put the lamp back to a normal light bulb, or switch the low energy one off, the dogs are quite happy.”

Florida resident Brian Hetzman told WND of similar problems with his dog.

“My wife and I put a new fluorescent bulb in our ceiling light, and our 10-year-old dog literally jumped up off the floor and starting screaming,” Hetzman said. “She was moaning and growling and barking and looking up at the ceiling.

“I figured out what was happening and took the bulb out,” he continued. “Then I put it back in a second later to test the theory. Again, she started making noises I’ve never heard her make and running around in a circle moaning and whimpering.”

Popular CFLs use an electronic ballast to send a current through the gas within the bulb, which then excites the bulb’s phosphor coating to produce light. The electronic ballast is supposed to be an improvement over the flickering, slow starting magnetic ballasts used in older fluorescent bulbs, but some believe the electronic technology also produces an ultrasonic noise that disturbs animals.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

News Agencies Concealing Islamic Names?

Muslim suspects not identified in reports of Minneapolis shooting

Most of the local reports of a Minneapolis shooting left out the Islamic names of the suspects, notes a blogger at Newsbusters.com.

The suspects were identified in one report as Mohamud Ahmed Hassan, Hamad Ahmad Issek and Jibril Farah Mohamed, and the blogger wondered whether the Islamic names had anything to do with the omission in many other Minnesota media reports.

Blogger Warner Todd Huston said the question is “did the Old Media in Minnesota purposefully leave the names unreported so that they could cover up the fact that the criminals were Somali immigrants? And, if so, why would they do this?”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s Coupe D’etat

After yesterday’s events, there can be only one conclusion about the goal of Barack Obama’s administration — to destroy the U.S. economy, to transform it from one based on free enterprise to one directed by government.

In the last 48 hours, we’ve witnessed a presidential pretender fire the chief executive officer of General Motors and put a gun to the head of the Chrysler Corp., demanding that this U.S. business begin the process of selling out to a foreign automaker.

What do you call it when Obama makes moves to take over the auto industry? A coupe d’etat.

But it is hardly a joking matter.

Do you realize what just happened?

How does a president fire a CEO?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Pick Favors International Law

As usual, President Barack Obama is multi-tasking the dismantling of the American system on so many fronts that not all of the outrages can be properly monitored. So while you should be mortified by his dictatorial power grab with General Motors, please don’t miss his recent nomination of former Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as legal adviser for the State Department.

In his new position, Koh not only would represent the United States before international bodies, such as the U.N. and the International Court of Justice, but also would influence the degree to which laws of other countries should influence American jurisprudence.

After reading an alarming piece by Meghan Clyne in the New York Post concerning the Koh nomination and the degree to which Koh believes it’s appropriate for courts to consider other nations’ laws in interpreting our Constitution, I read a number of Koh’s legal writings and speeches.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Courts West-Haters

Plans to attend conference seeking Islamic interests

Concern has been mounting over President Obama’s scheduled participation in the U.N.’s Alliance of Civilizations summit in Turkey next month, with some critics painting the organization as anti-Western and advocating Iranian interests.

“The Alliance might more appropriately be called a U.N.-approved Slush Fund for Advancing Iranian and Other Islamic Interests,” wrote Claudia Rosett, a Forbes contributor and journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Retired Central Florida Judge Sues Gov. Charlie Crist

A retired Central Florida appeals court judge is asking the state’s high court to order Gov. Charlie Crist to name his replacement in a lingering standoff over appointing more minority judges to the bench.

“I deeply regret that the Governor has made it necessary to institute an action over the appointment of my replacement,” retired Fifth District Court of Appeal Judge Robert J. Pleus said in a statement Monday. “I feel that there is no alternative.”

The court petition filed Monday asks the Florida Supreme Court to order Crist to fill the judgeship from a list of six nominees the Judicial Nominating Commission sent to him last year. The seat has been vacant since early January, but the governor has twice rejected the list of six names saying the panel could have added African-American nominees. The panel made up of lawyers from Central Florida has said it is constitutionally barred from submitting new names to Crist.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Suburban Schools See Limited Hispanic Integration

Hispanic students have become more segregated in suburban public schools over the last decade, even while blacks and Asians have become slightly less isolated, according to a new study.

The report by the Pew Hispanic Center challenges the conventional assumption that growing minority populations will create an instant “melting pot” in suburban and other districts. It raises questions about whether local school boards need to actively promote integration.

“Suburbia has changed — suburban schools are getting much more diverse,” said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, a Washington think tank. “But we shouldn’t assume that white suburban students as a result are interacting significantly more with nonwhites.”

The popularity of charter schools, now promoted by President Barack Obama, is a factor behind some of the segregation in grades K-12, Fry and other experts say. This is because many charter schools have special ethnic themes or offer bilingual courses, and minorities are choosing to enroll in schools with classmates of the same race.

The nation’s suburbs added 3.4 million students from 1993 to 2007, representing two-thirds of the growth in public school enrollment. Virtually all the suburban growth — 99 percent — came from the addition of Hispanic, black and Asian students.

But while black and Asian students saw small gains in integration, Hispanic students were increasingly clustered at the same suburban schools. The study found their segregation was particularly evident not only in counties around Chicago, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and in Prince George’s, Md., where their population is small compared with blacks and whites, but also in Hispanic hotspots in the Los Angeles, Miami and San Diego metro areas.

Among other findings:

  • White students comprised 59 percent of suburban public school enrollment, down from 72 percent in 1993. Hispanics, who now make up 20 percent of enrollment compared with 11 percent in 1993, were the primary driver of overall growth.
  • Minority students tended to cluster in schools where blacks, Hispanics and Asians made up the majority of students, rather than being evenly spread among schools.
  • Nationally, blacks, Hispanics and Asians saw modest declines overall in segregation since 1993, as minorities began moving away from city districts, which were disproportionately minority.

The latest trends reflect some of the challenges ahead as public school districts educate a K-12 population that is increasingly minority.

David R. Garcia, an assistant professor of education at Arizona State University who has researched charter schools, said the dilemma of resegregation in some communities is complicated. That’s because many minorities are choosing to congregate in charter schools because of their emphasis on special needs such as Hispanic students with English-language problems.

The Supreme Court in 2007 rejected the explicit use of race in assigning students to schools, leaving districts scrambling to find new ways to alleviate isolation among racial and ethnic groups.

“We worked hard to have more diversity by bringing together students of different races who go to school together, learn together and become more tolerant as a whole, so there is concern,” Garcia said. But policymakers have been loath to intervene when minority and other parents are making the choices, he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

The Gitmo Guard Who Converted to Islam

[Comments from JD: Note the article slant.]

Army specialist Terry Holdbrooks had been a guard at Guantánamo for about six months the night he had his life-altering conversation with detainee 590, a Moroccan also known as “the General.”


He developed a strong relationship with the General, whose real name is Ahmed Errachidi. Their late-night conversations led Holdbrooks to be more skeptical about the prison, he says, and made him think harder about his own life. Soon, Holdbrooks was ordering books on Arabic and Islam. During an evening talk with Errachidi in early 2004, the conversation turned to the shahada, the one-line statement of faith that marks the single requirement for converting to Islam (“There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet”). Holdbrooks pushed a pen and an index card through the mesh, and asked Errachidi to write out the shahada in English and transliterated Arabic. He then uttered the words aloud and, there on the floor of Guantánamo’s Camp Delta, became a Muslim.


Holdbrooks’s level of identification with the other side was exceptional. No other guard has volunteered that he embraced Islam at the prison (though Errachidi says others expressed interest). His experience runs counter to academic studies, which show that guards and inmates at ordinary prisons tend to develop mutual hostility. But then, Holdbrooks is a contrarian by nature. He can also be conspiratorial. When his company visited the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York, Holdbrooks remembers thinking there had to be a broader explanation, and that the Bush administration must have colluded somehow in the plot.


But other guards noticed changes in him. They heard detainees calling him Mustapha, and saw that Holdbrooks was studying Arabic openly. (At his Phoenix apartment, he displays the books he had amassed. They include a leather-bound, six-volume set of Muslim sacred texts and “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam.”) One night his squad leader took him to a yard behind his living quarters, where five guards were waiting to stage a kind of intervention. “They started yelling at me,” he recalls, “asking if I was a traitor, if I was switching sides.” At one point a squad leader pulled back his fist and the two men traded blows, Holdbrooks says.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

U.S. to Join U.N. Human Rights Council, Reversing Bush Policy

UNITED NATIONS, March 31 — The Obama administration decided Tuesday to seek a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, reversing a decision by the Bush administration to shun the United Nations’ premier rights body to protest the influence of repressive states.

The United States announced it would participate in elections in May for one of three seats on the 47-member council, joining a slate that includes Belgium, Norway and New Zealand. New Zealand has offered to step aside to allow the United States to run unchallenged, according to a U.S. official.

Human rights activists have been advocating U.S. membership in the council since its creation in March 2006.

“This is a welcome step that gives the United States and other defenders of human rights a fighting chance to make the institution more effective,” said a human rights advocate familiar with the decision. “I think everybody is just desperate to have the United States and Barack Obama run for the human rights council, and countries are willing to bend over backward to make that happen.”

           — Hat tip: Fausta[Return to headlines]

Video: Maher Insults American Troops Again

“At some point, these people are going to have to learn to rape themselves. [boos] I’ll ignore that.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Walgreen to Cut Washington State Medicaid Business

SEATTLE (Reuters) — Drugstore company Walgreen Co said on Monday it would pull almost half its pharmacies in Washington state from the U.S. Medicaid program in protest against the state’s plan to cut reimbursements for drugs.

Cash-strapped Washington state plans to insist on cheaper, generic drugs for low-income Medicaid clients whenever available and equivalent to brand-name drugs, and is also cutting the rate of reimbursements on all drugs to pharmacies which supply them.

Cutting the reimbursement rate of generic and brand-name drugs would severely impact the “economic viability of doing business in Washington,” Walgreen said in a statement.

Walgreen, one of the largest U.S. pharmacy chains, is to withdraw 44 of its 111 pharmacies in the state of Washington from the Medicaid program. Medicaid provides health insurance to low income individuals.

Unlike Medicare, the federal health program for seniors, Medicaid is partially funded by states. In order to cut the costs of the program, Washington state announced last week it would cut Medicaid reimbursements for brand-name prescription drugs by 6 percent, effective on Wednesday.

Walgreen said it would withdraw the 44 pharmacies from Medicaid as of May 1, a month after Washington introduces its plan. It said those pharmacies represent more than 60 percent of its total Medicaid business in the state.

There is a chance other pharmacies such as CVS Caremark Corp and Rite Aid Corp will follow suit in pulling out of Washington’s Medicaid program.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Anti-Semitism Incidents Rising as Economy Ails: Report

OTTAWA — Jews are being used as scapegoats for the ailing economy, B’nai Brith said Tuesday in its annual report that found anti-Semitism reached another all-time high last year.

The audit counted 1,135 incidents in 2008, an 8.9% increase over the previous year, and a more than fourfold increase over the past decade.

“As the economy faces recession, the hate industry experiences inflationary growth. Bad economic times encourages the growth of bigotry and especially anti-Semitism,” Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith, said at a news conference.

The Jewish group said it is no coincidence that 547 incidents happened in the last four months of the year and that December was the month with the highest total of the year.

Mr. Dimant said the federal government, as well as the official opposition, has made rooting out anti-Semitism a priority but that positive efforts are constantly challenged by a “coalition of hate”that he said includes terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah, campaigns by the Canadian Arab Federation, neo-Nazi groups and academics on university campuses that support unions such as the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. The union recently proposed adopting a resolution to prohibit Israeli academics from lecturing, teaching or researching in Canada.

“Radical Islamists threaten Jews and, together with the neo-Nazis and the academics, have created an informal entity of a coalition of hate in this country. Collectively and independently they are poisoning the harmony and tranquility which we once enjoyed in Canada, as a tolerant, multi-faith and multicultural society,” sad Mr. Dimant.

The majority of anti-Semitic incidents, 682, happened in Ontario and most of those, 538, were in the Toronto area while 62 were reported in Ottawa. Incidents in Quebec represented 22% of the country’s total, which marked a 15% decline from 2007. Anti-Semitic incidents were up in British Columbia and Saskatchewan and way up in Alberta where there was a 79% jump from the number reported in 2007.

About 800 incidents were characterized as harassment, followed by 318 cases of vandalism and 14 reports of violence.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Court Upholds British MP’s Canadian Entry Ban

OTTAWA (AFP) — The federal court on Monday refused to overturn the Canadian border agency’s decision to deny firebrand British lawmaker George Galloway entry for a speaking tour, on security grounds.

His lawyers had sought an injunction allowing him to speak at anti-war forums in Toronto and other Canadian cities this week, accusing Ottawa of censorship and heavy-handedness.

But Federal Court judge Luc Martineau ruled there were insufficient grounds to overrule the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).

“As a fundamental principle of immigration law, non-citizens do not have an unqualified right to enter in Canada,” Martineau said in his decision.

“In this respect, Parliament has expressly given the CBSA officers legal authority to exclusively determine whether a foreign national who seeks to enter this country is admissible,” he said.

In this case, “a proper factual record and the benefit of full legal argument are lacking at the present time” to warrant an exception to the rule, the judge said.

The CBSA notified Galloway by letter on March 20 that his donation of cars and cash to the Hamas-run government in Gaza make him inadmissible to Canada, as Hamas is a listed terrorist organization in Canada.

Galloway had traveled to Gaza mid-March at the head of a humanitarian convoy, donating thousands of dollars and dozens of vehicles to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

He praised the Palestinian “resistance” and condemned Israel’s 22-day offensive launched in December, in which 1,300 Palestinians died, as “genocidal aggression.”

Alykhan Velshi, a spokesman for Canada’s immigration minister, however described Galloway as “a street-corner Cromwell who brags about giving ‘financial support’ to Hamas.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Galloway Speech Will Aid Hamas, Group Alleges

A Federal Court judge in Toronto has upheld a Canadian travel ban for outspoken British MP and antiwar activist George Galloway.

TORONTO — George Galloway’s planned visit to Canada is not just a speaking junket, but a fundraising tour that would benefit the outlawed terrorist group Hamas, the Canadian wing of the Jewish Defence League alleged yesterday.

The controversial Zionist group cited a press release from Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights, one of Mr. Galloway’s hosts, that said a Montreal event on Wednesday “will aim to raise additional funds for Galloway’s Gaza aid caravan.”

On Monday, a federal court judge in Toronto upheld a Canadian travel ban for the outspoken British MP and antiwar activist.

Hamas, an acronym meaning Islamic Resistance Movement, has ruled Gaza since elections in 2007.

Meir Weinstein, national director of JDL, said he did not know if it was his March 16 letter, citing Mr. Galloway’s own promotional material, that tipped the Conservative government to the visit.

But he praised the decision, taken four days later, to inform Mr. Galloway that he would be refused entry to Canada because he had “provided financial support to Hamas,” in the form of an aid convoy to Gaza.

Mr. Weinstein said he is primarily concerned with the fundraising, not the famously bombastic content of Mr. Galloway’s speeches.

He said concerns over free speech made him feel “damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” But he said he “can’t accept being relegated to second rate status, that we don’t have a right to object.”

“We would oppose him speaking anywhere and we would oppose any apologist or supporter of Hamas,” he said. “But whether or not the government would prevent that, I don’t know. We’re not taking a stand on the issue of free speech here… It’s extremely dangerous what this individual represents.”

He criticized SPHR in particular for supporting Mr. Galloway, and alleged that they “instigated a riot” in 2002 to prevent a speech by then-former (now newly elected) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They believe in free speech as long as it’s for them, and they deny free speech to others,” Mr. Weinstein said.

Laith Marouf, branches coordinator for Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights in Montreal, said that for the JDL to accuse others of supporting terrorism “is like the pot calling the kettle black.”

He referred to the FBI’s description of JDL as “a violent extremist Jewish organization.” Among other critics, the Southern Poverty Law Center calls it a “hate group,” and denounces its “long history of bombing, assaulting and threatening its perceived enemies.”

JDL’s Canada wing was recently reformed under Mr. Weinstein after a period of inactivity.

Mr. Marouf said Mr. Galloway’s aid caravan brought humanitarian and medical aid to Gaza, and did not support terrorism.

“That is what we are aiming to raise funds for,” Mr. Marouf said, adding that the money would be given as a donation to the British charity Viva Palestina.

This charity, backed by Mr. Galloway, has said it raised around $2-million, largely as a result of public outcry at Israel’s offensive there in January.

Last week, the British Charity Commission launched an inquiry after Viva Palestina offered “no substantive response” to requests for detailed financial information. It also expressed concerns with the charity’s financial governance structure.

Aside from handing out copies of an SPHR press release and a BBC news story, the main focus of the JDL press conference was a video it took from YouTube and showed to assembled journalists. It was a montage of short Galloway clips, such as his statements that “We are all Hamas now,” “Victory to the Intifada,” and “I’m not in favour of a two-state solution because I don’t believe in a Jewish state.”

The video also included crude propaganda, such as unidentified images of children wearing suicide bombs and masked men brandishing knives. One image showed Yasser Arafat against a backdrop of flames, with the caption, “No Virgins?”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Battlelines Drawn Between Police and an Activist Army

LONDON’S 10,000-plus police are pitted in an ever-changing game of cat and mouse against an unknown army of activists whose domain is the street but whose plans are made in cyberspace.

The Metropolitan Police says the G20 — which includes President Barack Obama’s first London visit — is the most complex and, at $15 million, the most expensive security operation in the city’s history.

Behind the scenes they are also dealing with veteran anarchists, young socialists, savvy climate change warriors, seasoned hippies, angry students and old-fashioned, blue-collar workers who have united in a common force of protest against the global financial crisis.

The images and rhetoric may not have changed much since the anti-globalisation protests of 2000, but the level of penetration and reach, via the internet, has deepened. The world of paper flyers and pamphlets posted on walls and telegraph poles has been replaced by email, chatrooms, Facebook and Twitter.

Commander Simon O’Brien of the Metropolitan Police said that police intelligence officers were working overtime to monitor traditional and newer sources of information.

“There is an almost unprecedented level of activity going on. We are seeing the return of some old faces, people we haven’t seen on the protests circuit in London for some years … what we have yet to see is how achievable some of the aims and ideas being discussed are going to be.”

Between Friday and Monday in Plymouth police arrested five protesters, the youngest aged 16, under anti-terrorism laws after one was caught painting Antifa (a Europe-wide anti-fascist and anti-racist organisation) on a wall and replica guns, homemade fireworks and flares were found during a police search.

And, for the first time in London, protesters’ greatest defence against police heavy handedness — photographs and video — may lead to their arrest, as the Counter Terrorism Act now permits the arrest of anyone “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” about members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers.

In other words, someone taking a picture of a policeman during a protest could face a fine or a jail sentence of up to 10 years — if a link to terrorism is proved.

The Herald spoke to representatives of London based anarchist groups, but only two agreed to be interviewed, and not until 24 hours before the first big protest. Dr Ashok Sinha, Director of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, said organisations such as his prefer legal, non-violent protests such as the 35,000-strong marches in London last Saturday.

“The one thing about direct action is they play cards close to their chest. They want to stay ahead of the authorities.. We know they will be active. We know they want to set up a camp in the City [London’s financial district]. There have also been some unhelpful noises. Some have talked

about bankers hanging from lampposts.”

But Dr Sinha, whose Coalition represents more than 100 global organisations and has close to 11 million members, said he accepts different forms of protest.

“I do understand some are so enraged by a new coal power plant that they want to trespass and sit in front of diggers.”

New forms of direct action, as planned for London today, also present a dilemma for the police: how to deal with the sudden appearance of a peaceful camp, including tents, toilets and mess huts, in the middle of main roads and the city’s financial district? Police may have tried-and-tested strategies to halt violence but street occupations, as pledged by the Climate Camp, may be more difficult.

The so-called G20 Meltdown Campaign — an informal group of organisations — is also expected to pose problems when they set off from four sites in London to converge on the Bank of England.

“We will seek to facilitate lawful demonstrations,” Commander O’Brien said.

“But there are groups who, by their very ethos, won’t work or talk with police. And we won’t allow, nor will we tolerate, people breaking the law, attacking buildings, other people, or our officers. Our plan spans right across London, and we have large numbers of officers [in] reserve to respond wherever and whenever we are needed. And we are very well rehearsed in the tactics that we are going to be using.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Czech Teachers to Count Romany Pupils at Elementary Schools — Press

Prague — The Czech Education Ministry has authorised teachers at elementary schools to count Romany pupils in their classes, the daily Lidove noviny writes today, adding that the project is aimed at finding out whether Romany children are discriminated against in the Czech education system.

Elementary schools will be obliged to report to the ministry how many Romany children started attending schools later than other children, how many of them were in preparatory classes and how many hours they were absent from the teaching process in these classes, LN writes.

The teachers who will be entrusted with the task will also have to provide data on how many Romany children had to repeat their grade and how many of them proceed to the next grade, LN writes.

“We need to know whether the groups of these children are subject of segregation and whether they are put at a disadvantage in the social and cultural area,” Deputy Education Minister Klara Laurencikova told LN.

It is generally accepted that Romany children attend schools for children with learning difficulties. These schools were previously called special and are now called practical schools in the Czech Republic.

So far, there has been no statistics on how many Romany children attended these schools, the paper says.

Laurencikova says there have been restrictions on the collection of ethnic and racial data for a long time, but this should be done in order to implement systemic changes.

She says she does not think the questionnaire drafted by the ministry has any racial subtext.

European directives allow the collection of such data when their collection helps reveal discrimination, Laurencikova says.

Schools and class headmasters must determine by themselves how many Romany children they have, the paper says.

According to the Education Ministry’s manual, boys and girls who consider themselves Romanies and declare their belonging to the Romany community and are also viewed as Romanies by a large part of their neighbours are considered Romany children.

The ministry believes that the role of the teachers involved in the project is of key importance as teachers themselves should be able to define their children’s ethnic origin over which they could be discriminated against, LN writes.

Ivan Vesely, chairman of the Romany Dzeno association, says he does not consider the collection of the data a problem but sees no benefit of the measure.

“I do not think that after the data are available something fundamental would change in this question in the following years,” Vesely told the paper.

He say the parents of Romany children often want their children to attend special schools but this harms the children. The Education Ministry shares his view.

The failure to enroll ethnic minority children in mainstream education has a negative impact on their further development and on their future, LN writes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Muslim Woman Refused Travel on Bus Due to Headscarf

Bus company Arriva said that it was a case of confusion and not racism that led a bus driver to refuse travel to a woman wearing a headscarf

A Muslim family was shocked when a local bus driver refused to continue driving unless the mother, who was wearing a traditional headscarf, got off the bus.

Århus Stiftstidende newspaper reported that Houria Nouioua, together with her husband and three young children, was told by the young male bus driver that she couldn’t travel on the bus because she was wearing a niqab — a traditional Muslim veil that covers the face.

‘The driver said that the rules in Denmark meant he couldn’t carry passengers that were masked,’ said the woman’s husband, Mohamed Belgacem. ‘I was so shocked that she couldn’t travel on the bus. I’ve lived in Denmark for 12 years and have never experienced anything like this.’ The Arriva bus remained at the bus stop for 15 minutes while other passengers became involved in the incident, outraged at the behaviour of the bus driver.

‘It’s pure racism and discrimination,’ said a female passenger who rang the Arriva head office and spoke to an official who instructed the driver to accept the Muslim passenger.

Martin Wex, press manager with Arriva said the driver will not be fired as it was not a case of racism but one of confusion.

‘The driver said he had heard that masks were forbidden during demonstrations in Denmark and thought that it also applied to busses,’ said Wex, who confirmed that in the next issue of the employee magazine rules will be made clear to all personnel.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Sounds like it was a burkha/niqab rather than a “headscarf”.]

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Teaching According to Ability Proves Popular

Schools are reporting good results from splitting primary school students into groups according to ability, but some worry about the social affects of the policy

More schools are starting to implement a two-level teaching system in their upper primary school classes, where stronger and weaker students are put into separate teams for certain subjects, reports Politiken newspaper.

An ‘A and B team’ system was once prevalent in all schools, but was phased out due to concerns that it fostered inequality.

However, new legislation from 2003 made it again possible for teachers to split students up into groups according to ability, and most who have adopted the technique say it has been a success for effectively educating both groups. ‘Some parents were worried at first when we began using the system, but those concerns have since been alleviated,’ said Torben Mørup, headmaster at Nordvangsskolen in the Jutland city of Esbjerg. ‘The children know themselves what level they are at, and they say they don’t feel as incapable when they are in a group with others at that same level.’

But some experts and politicians continue to express concerns over the social stigma of students in the lower group, saying that they may feel inadequate compared to those in the higher-level group.

‘My scepticism stems from a concern that there will be so much class splitting that we end up with the old A and B group system again,’ said Social Democratic MP Christine Antorini.

But Frans Ørsted Andersen of the Danish School of Education believes that the two-tier concept is not being used enough in Danish schools.

‘We have a prevailing ideology where we want to hold onto the concept of one class,’ he said.

Anders Balle, president of the national headmasters’ association, said students want to feel they’re being taught at the level that suits them best.

‘Plus, they’re also getting more personal attention through this system,’ Balle said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Dutch Institute Grows Intestine Outside the Body

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Presumably this wasn’t an embryonic mouse stem cell — doesn’t really say.]

Dutch researchers have made the first step on the way to growing artificial organs outside the body. The advance is a significant one and may even be used to treat cancer patients in a few years’ time.

Dutch researchers at the Hubrecht Institute for stem cell research in Utrecht have successfully grown intestinal tissue from a single cell. The tissue reproduces itself fivefold in a week. This means that doctors can cut away more tumor tissue as it can be replaced quickly. In the scientific journal Nature, the researchers say this is the first time that intestinal tissue grown in a laboratory has remained stable for several months.

The tissue has been grown from a single cell from a mouse, but it has the same structure as human tissue. The artificial tissue replaces itself in the same way as normal tissue does, and with the right nutrition it can independently grow into organ tissue.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

EU Reaches Draft Deal on Telecoms Reform

European Union’s main institutions have struck a draft deal on the main elements of a package to reform EU telecom rules to increase competition and cut prices for customers, the EU executive said on Tuesday.

“We have a draft deal that was concluded at a very late hour last night,” European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr said.

The reform sets up a new pan-EU supervisory body, beefs up consumer rights and allows regulators to split up integrated telecoms companies as a last resort to boost competition, a step Germany and its largest domestic operator is unhappy with.

“At the moment we are still cautious with regard to statements since the draft deal is ready for the vote but has not yet been approved,” Deutsche Telekom said.

“In general, however, network unbundling is the medicine for a disease Germany does not have,” the operator said.

The reform also aims to make it harder for a national regulator to shield a local operator from competition

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

Europe: Rights Watchdog Slams Italian Legal Delays

Strasbourg, 26 March (AKI) — Europe’s top human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has expressed concern about what it calls the “dysfunction” of Italy’s judicial system and its risks. The council said on Thursday that its committee of ministers had adopted a resolution concerning the excessive length of judicial proceedings in Italy.

“The dysfunction of the justice system, as a consequence of the length of proceedings, represents an important danger, not least for the respect of the rule of law,” said the resolution which was adopted last week.

The resolution followed two others concerning the excessive length of civil and criminal judicial proceedings and bankruptcy cases in Italy.

“Given the substantial backlog in the civil and criminal fields — approximately 5.5 million pending civil cases and 3.2 million pending criminal cases — as well as in the administrative field, a final solution to the structural problem of length of proceedings still needs to be found,” it said.

The council said there are currently 2,183 cases against Italy concerning the length of judicial proceedings.

It also said the average duration of civil procedures for filing a bankruptcy petition was 159 days in 2007, while bankruptcy proceedings took an average of 3,754 days.

In addition, a 2009 report entitled ‘Doing Business’ by the World Bank ranked Italy 156 out of 178 countries in the enforcement of commercial contracts.

The World Bank also found that Italy’s judicial system offered business investors less protection than the African country of Mozambique and that contracts were more difficult to enforce in Italy than Colombia in South America.

In a report published in the British weekly, The Economist, in early March, Italy’s justice minister Angelino Alfano was reported to have said that it takes more than 31 months to bring a case to court.

Alfano’s view was echoed by the head of Italy’s supreme judicial court, Vincenzo Carbone who said in late January that Italy is ranked last in Europe in judicial speed and efficiency.

The council called on Italian authorities to adopt urgent measures to reduce the civil, criminal and administrative backlog and introduce reforms to speed up the processing of civil and criminal cases.

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

Germany Bans Far-Right Group That Targeted Youth

BERLIN — Germany’s top security official on Tuesday banned a far-right group on the ground that it organizes seemingly harmless activities to promote racist and Nazi ideology among children and young people.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the ban on the Homeland-Faithful German Youth, or HDJ, was effective immediately.

“Today’s ban puts a stop to the offensive intrigues of the HDJ,” Schaeuble said. “We will do everything possible to protect our children and youth from these rat-catchers.”

Authorities in the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Saxony launched searches in connection with the ban.

Schaeuble’s ministry said in a statement that the group organizes activities to gain access to children who are then taught about the importance of race, with an emphasis on “true blood” and the “continuation of the German people,” while Jews and foreigners are depicted as posing a threat to the German race.

Schaeuble called the ban “a necessary step in the fight against far-right extremism,” but insisted that such measures alone are not enough.

“We need responsible parents, sensitized teachers and other engaged role models who teach our children the values on which our democratic society is based,” he said.

Security officials have been monitoring the HDJ’s activities for several years and say the group is well connected to other elements of the far-right scene.

The name, HDJ, evokes the German initials for the Hitler Youth, HJ — one of the Nazi youth movements meant to indoctrinate people with the party’s racist and xenophobic ideology from an early age.

Today in Germany it is against the law to display symbols or repeat slogans from the Nazi era, although far-right groups often find ways to skirt the regulations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

IRA Dissidents Burn Cars, Block Belfast Roads

DUBLIN — Suspected IRA dissidents and their supporters hijacked cars Monday in working-class Catholic areas of Northern Ireland in a coordinated effort to block roads and threaten police stations, police said.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland said it was receiving a wave of reports of vehicles being hijacked by masked gunmen in several parts of Belfast and in the Kilwilkie district of Lurgan, a power base for Irish Republican Army dissidents southwest of Belfast.

Some vehicles were being set on fire in roads to disrupt traffic at rush hour, while others were abandoned near four Belfast police stations and on Northern Ireland’s major motorway near Lurgan.

Police said they were treating all the abandoned vehicles as potential car bombs, although they cautioned this was unlikely. They urged motorists to avoid Kilwilkie and parts of Catholic west Belfast entirely.

Monday’s upheaval came at the end of a month in which IRA dissidents shot to death two soldiers and a policeman — the first killings of British security forces since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland’s peace accord.

Police said at least two cars were hijacked in Lurgan’s Kilwilkie district, the power base of suspected IRA dissident Colin Duffy. Duffy, 41, was charged last week with murdering the two soldiers.

One of the hijacked cars was abandoned on the M1 motorway, which connects Belfast to Dublin, 100 miles (160 kilometers) to the south. Authorities shut part of the motorway as a precaution.

One abandoned vehicle — which police said did not contain a bomb — was left near the Stormont Parliamentary Building, the center of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government between the British Protestant majority and Irish Catholic minority.

The coalition’s Protestant leader, First Minister Peter Robinson, said the rising dissident IRA threat would not spur Protestants to sever links with Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that represents most Catholics today.

“The criminal terrorists responsible for the series of bomb scares and hijackings are beneath contempt and have no support whatsoever in the community,” Robinson said.

The hijackings and security alerts also coincided with a widespread breakdown of Belfast’s traffic lights system.. Police in a statement called that an “unfortunate coincidence.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Bribesville Figure Arrested

Mario Chiesa in waste scam 17 years after Clean Hands arrest

(ANSA) — Milan, March 31 — The former nursing home chief who triggered the historic Bribesville scandals of the early 1990s was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of heading a huge waste management scam around Milan.

Mario Chiesa, 56, the trigger of the Clean Hands probes that shook Italy’s political and business establishments, was taken into custody with nine others after a sweep by 150 policemen across northern Italy.

He is accused of running a scam that won tenders by offering discount prices and carrying out work on the cheap or not at all, police said.

Police said Chiesa’s influence was so great that he managed on one occasion to have a tender won by another firm annulled and awarded to his front company.

The head of the environmental protection police in Treviso, Colonel Michele Sarno, told reporters that when investigators heard Chiesa speaking on wiretaps, “we were amazed when we realised that we were dealing with a figure who changed Italian history”.

Investigators dubbed their probe Rewind “because it showed how things had returned to the way they once were”.

Chiesa, once nicknamed ‘Mr 10%’ after the kickback rate on the Milan nursing home where he fell from grace in 1992, is accused of bumping up prices by 10% and controlling an illegal business worth some two million euros ($2.7 million).


The starting date of the Bribesville scandals is usually put at February 17, 1992 when Chiesa, a well-known Milan figure in Bettino Craxi’s Socialist Party, was caught red-handed pocketing a kickback of seven million lire (about $4,000) for a cleaning contract at the plush Pio Albergo Trivulzio nursing home in Milan.

After weeks in jail he started spilling the beans on a corruption system whose exposure would within two years engulf Italy’s traditional ruling political parties including Craxi’s Socialists and the long-dominant Crhistian Democrats.

Craxi, who had initially called Chiesa a “naughty boy”, eventually had to flee Italy and died in exile in Tunisia.

Chiesa was himself sentenced to five years, four months in prison but avoided jail after giving back six billion lire (about $3.5 million) and doing social work, including helping the handicapped, for a couple of years.

He disappeared from public view in 2000.

After Tuesday’s arrest, former Clean Hands spearhead Antonio Di Pietro, now a centre-left opposition party leader, said “this arrest shows that kickbacks have never stopped”.

He claimed it was “much harder to discover things now” because politicians had denigrated the work of prosecutors, depenalised crimes and blocked trials.

“Bribesville never died and, instead of lowering the guard, it should have been raised,” said Di Pietro, one of several leftwing leaders who have accused Premier Silvio Berlusconi of “criminalising” prosecutors.

Berlusconi has repeatedly claimed that the prosecutors who went on to target him in several cases were hounding him for political reasons. photo: Chiesa in 1991, a year before his arrest

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Legion of Christ to be Investigated

Benedict XVI asks for report on troubled religious order

(ANSA) — Rome, March 31 — Pope Benedict XVI has ordered an investigation into the activity of influential Catholic religious order the Legion of Christ after reports of sexual impropriety by its late founder.

It was revealed in February that Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, who died last year at the age of 87, had fathered a daughter now in her 20s.

Father Maciel had previously been disciplined by the Vatican in 2006 for the sexual abuse of seminarians and young priests in the 1940s and 1950s.

In a letter published on the Legion’s website, Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone told the movement that the pope had nominated a team of prelates who will make “apostolic visitations” to the Legion’s institutions before submitting a report on their activity.

Bertone said the pope wanted to help the Legion deal with its current problems with “truth and transparency” but stressed that Benedict had renewed his “solidarity and prayers” for the movement and those associated with it.

Father Alvaro Corcuera, director general of the Legionaries, said he “thanked the Holy Father from my heart” for offering help “to face our present vicissitudes related to the grave facts in our father founder’s life”.

He added that the Legionaries were “deeply saddened and sorry” about Maciel’s sexual impropriety and asked “for forgiveness from God and from those who have been hurt through this”.

In 2006 Benedict approved disciplinary action against Father Maciel, who had been accused of sexual abuse, telling the Mexican priest to observe a “reserved life of prayer and penitence” and to avoid saying mass in public.

The move, coming at the end of a long investigation, was seen by Vatican-watchers as showing that top officials believed at least some of the allegations were true.

The accusations first became public in the late 1990s.

Father Maciel, the highest-ranking Catholic official to be disciplined for sexual abuse, denied all the allegations against him.

At the time the Vatican said its action regarding the priest should be seen “independently” of the order he founded.

The Legion of Christ has a high standing in the Catholic Church and Father Maciel was frequently praised and supported by Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II.

Father Maciel founded the Legion of Christ in Mexico in 1941, and the order now operates in some 20 countries, including Spain and the United States, and has enjoyed rapid growth in Latin America.

It has has some 700 priests and 1,300 seminarians worldwide. The lay branch of the order, Regnum Christi, reportedly has 70,000 members.

The Legion of Christ also runs a pontifical university in Rome.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Malta: EU; Excessive Deficit, Brussels Pardons Valletta

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, MARCH 25 — Brussels ‘pardons’ Malta for exceeding the 3% threshold in 2008 of the deficit/GDP rate specified in the Maastricht Treaty. A document issued by the European Commission explains that the overshoot was “limited” and “temporary”. Moreover, according to Brussels, despite the fact that the national debt was higher than 60% of the GDP (the threshold set by Maastricht) in 2008-2009, on the medium term the trend can be considered satisfactory since it is moving towards the benchmark value at a good pace after the reduction recorded over the period 2004-2007. Brussels has decided not to ask the Ecofin Council to take further steps in the procedure for EU countries that present an excessive deficit. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Police Seize Weapons as Five Are Held in G20 ‘Terror Plot’

DETECTIVES investigating a G20 “terror plot” arrested five people yesterday and seized weapons including an imitation AK-47 assault rifle, handguns and fireworks.

The haul was made after officers held a 25-year-old man for allegedly spraying graffiti on a wall in Plymouth.

They discovered the cache during raids on addresses in the city before swooping on four other suspects — two males, aged 16 and 19, and two women of 20.

Yesterday, all five were being detained at Launceston police station under the Terrorism Act as officers were granted extra time to question them.

The arrests were the most dramatic development in the build-up to Thursday’s G20 summit, marred by threats of mob violence.

Scotland Yard has warned of “unprecedented levels” of protest for the London Docklands gathering of world leaders, including US President Barack Obama.

However, police sources said those arrested — four Britons and one Greek — were not among dangerous “hard-line” anarchists identified by intelligence services.

Although they found “material relating to political ideology” the suspects did not belong to a particular radical group.

The guns recovered — including the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle — were understood to be incapable of firing live ammunition. One source said the group are political activists who may have wanted to disrupt the summit without harming anyone. Paul Netherton, Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, said: “Further searches are ongoing and a number of items have been submitted for forensic examination.”

He described the weapons as “not major” and “probably not even lethal” and the arrests were an “isolated incident”, adding: “Police will be applying for warrants and further detention orders under the Terrorism Act in order to continue to search various properties in the Plymouth area and to interview the five suspects.”

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Spain: Deal in Basque Country to Oust Nationalists

Mon Mar 30, 5:43 pm ET MADRID (AFP) — The conservative party in Spain’s Basque Country announced Monday a deal with the Socialists to end their nationalist rivals’ 30-year grip on power in the region.

After lengthy negotiations following inconclusive March 1 regional elections, the Popular Party has agreed to back Basque Socialist leader Patxi Lopez as the head of a new government, said the secretary general of the PP in region, Inaki Oyarzabal.

The deal between the Popular Party and the Socialists, their traditional rivals at the national level, is expected to be signed on Wednesday and Lopez sworn in by late April, he told reporters in the Basque city of San Sebastian.

“A new step has opened in the Basque Country,” he said..

“It is a great opportunity to defend the freedom of all, to defeat ETA,” he said, referring to the armed separatist group blamed for 825 deaths in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.

The PP and the Socialists together have a slim majority of 38 seats in the 75-member regional assembly from the regional elections, compared to 30 gained by the incumbent Basque Nationalist Party (PNV).

It was the first time since Spain returned to democracy in 1975 that non-nationalist parties had obtained a majority in the wealthy region bordering France..

Lopez had said on the night of the elections that he hoped to be appointed as the new head of government with the support of the conservatives.

The Socialist Party holds power in the central government in Madrid, while the PP are the main opposition party.

But both opposed plans presented by PNV leader and outgoing head of the regional government Juan Jose Ibarretxe for referendums on self-determination. However, the moderate nationalist PNV rejects ETA’s violent separatist campaign.

Analysts had attributed the rise in support for the Basque Socialists in part on tentative peace negotiations with ETA launched by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in 2006.

The talks collapsed when the group killed two people in a bomb attack at Madrid airport in December 2006. ETA formally called off a ceasefire six months later, and since then the government has taken a tough line against the group and its outlawed political wing Batasuna.

Spain’s Supreme Court last month banned two pro-independence parties from participating in the regional election due to their links to ETA and Batasuna.

But the political deal in the Basque Country could complicate life for Zapatero in the national parliament, where the PNV has withdrawn the support of its six deputies for the prime minister’s minority government.

Under the deal announced Monday, called “Bases for democratic change in the service of Basque society,” the PP agrees to support Lopez as head of government and ensure the “stability” of the new administration while the PP would hold the post of parliament speaker.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Muslim Group: ‘Make Halal Slaughter Legal’

The Muslim Association of Sweden (SMF) has renewed calls for the legalization of religious slaughter practices such as kosher and halal.

In a letter to the Swedish government, SMF chairperson Mahmoud Aldebe, challenges the government to respect the “democratic rights” of Sweden’s Muslims to exercise their “religious freedoms” and find a way to permit the practice.

He points out that all other European Union countries have found a way to permit religious slaughter practices in a way that most religious authorities accept.

The halal slaughter method is administered by means of a sharp knife, cutting through the skin, jugular vein, and trachea to result in thorough bleeding of the carcass in preparation for dressing and evisceration in accordance with Islamic guidelines.

There is a great deal of similarity between halal and kosher methods and some Muslim halal authorities accept kosher meat as halal.

A key issue is when and how the pain killer is administered to the animal. The SMF is seeking a dispensation from the agriculture ministry over the requirement that an electric shock be administered to the animal before the cut is made.

“This method is prohibited by most Muslim and Jewish authorities as the risk of the animal dying before the cut is made is high,” Aldebe writes.

The ban on the slaughter of animals by cutting the jugular vein has been in force in Sweden since 1937.

Aldebe points out that in 1937 “around 20 Muslims” lived in Sweden. There are now around 500,000 and 60 percent of these are Swedish citizens.

Aldebe argues that the Swedish government should consider the issue as a question of the democratic rights to religious freedoms and not bow to pressure from “extremist groups” such as “neo-Nazis, animal rights activists and certain veterinarians” and grant dispensation.

He argues that opponents “have to see that the issue is more than simply a case of animal protection” and argues that if that were the case then elk hunting and the slaughter of pigs should also be banned.

The issue was last considered in a report by the agency for the prevention of cruelty to animals (Djurskyddsmyndigheten) published in the spring of 2007.

The department has since been integrated into the agriculture ministry and no action has been taken on the report’s recommendations.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK Plans to Sell Off Nuclear Clean Up Authority London — Britain’s Government Said Monday it Was Putting the Body Responsible for Decommissioning and Cleaning Up the Country’s Nuclear Sites Up for Sale.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the sale of the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s commercial arm, UKAEA Ltd., would help save public money. The body is primarily responsible for nuclear decommissioning and waste management, although it also works helping to build new power stations in Britain and abroad.

The government said it hoped the sale would help the company win consultancy and project management contracts in the expanding world civilian nuclear market. Last year’s spike in energy prices and continuing concern over fossil fuels and global warming have led to renewed interest in nuclear energy across the globe.

The government said it would consider keeping a stake in UKAEA Ltd., which employs some 230 people. It said it hoped to complete the sale by the end of the year.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: ‘I Have Never Read the EU Constitution’, Admits Europe Minister Caroline Flint

The Government minister responsible for the revived EU constitution made an astonishing gaffe by admitting she had never read it. Europe Minister Caroline Flint admitted she had only been ‘briefed’ on parts of a document that surrenders a raft of British powers to Brussels.

Labour has refused to give British voters a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it is ‘substantially’ different to the dumped constitution.

But during a Commons debate, Ms Flint confessed she had not read all of the despised charter.

Critics said it was an ‘extraordinary admission’ to make. Mark Francois, the Tory Europe spokesman, said: “It is not every day that someone will admit they haven’t read the most important document for their job.

‘Her astonishing admission does leave some questions. How does she know if the Treaty is good for Britain if she hasn’t read it?

‘If she had taken the time to read the whole Treaty, as I have, she might then know it means a major transfer of power from Britain to the EU.

‘The right thing to do would be to let the British people have the chance to read it and decide for themselves.’

Lorraine Mullally, director of the anti-EU think-tank Open Europe, said: ‘This is an unbelievable admission. It is extremely worrying that the minister responsible for promoting the treaty in this country has no idea what it actually says.

‘Perhaps this explains why she is against giving the British people the vote on it they were promised — she simply has no idea how important it is.’

She branded Ms Flint a ‘hypocrite’ for telling Irish voters who threw out the treaty that they had ‘misunderstood’ it, despite never reading it herself.

Asked by MPs if she had read the elements of the treaty that related to defence, Ms Flint replied: ‘I have read some of it but not all of it.’

After an astonished response from politicians, she added: ‘I have been briefed on some of it.’

The Government has refused to honour an election pledge to hold a ballot by claiming the treaty — the biggest transfer of sovereign powers to Brussels — was different to the constitution, rejected by French and Dutch voters in 2005.

Ministers said they had protected their crucial ‘red lines’ covering policing and courts, human and social rights, foreign policy and taxes.

But their claims were blown out of the water by the Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Select Committee, which carried out a line-by-line study of the documents.

Only four countries have not yet fully ratified the Lisbon Treaty: the Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany and Poland.

Britain rubber-stamped the power-grab by a vote in Parliament, despite more than 90 per cent of people questioned wanting a referendum.

Ireland is holding a second referendum in October after a ‘no’ vote last year. The future of the controversial constitution was thrown into further doubt following the collapse of the pro-Brussels Czech government.

It is almost certain to delay Czech ratification of the revived Lisbon Treaty, which can come into force only after it has been approved by all 27 European Union member states.

The Lisbon Treaty treaty comprises of nearly 300 pages, but it is written in complex legal language.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Al Qaeda Jailbreak Plot to Free Nine Terrorist Inmates in Hijacked Helicopter is Foiled

A plot by Al Qaeda terrorists to escape from a British jail in a hijacked helicopter has been foiled.

Nine Muslim inmates planned to kidnap the jail imam during prayers with weapons hidden in the mosque at Full Sutton prison in East Yorkshire.

Their plan was to then use the imam as a human shield as they made their way to the jail’s sports field.

Once there, accomplices from the outside were to pick them up in a helicopter hijacked at gunpoint after being hired for ‘business’.

Acting on a tip-off, wardens at the jail swooped on the inmates hours before the escape attempt was due to begin on Friday.

The nine men — who included convicted terrorists — were immediately segregated from other inmates and will now be transferred to different prisons.

The jail’s imam is not believed to have been involved in the plot.

One high-profile terrorist being held at the jail is Omar Khyam, who was sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in 2007 for leading a gang that planned to blow up London’s Ministry Of Sound nightclub and Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

‘The intelligence was very strong and from a good source,’ an insider told The Sun. ‘It had to be acted on immediately.

‘It involved some of the most dangerous Al Qaeda terrorists in jail, all of whom are a massive threat.

‘It had been planned for months and the use of a helicopter shows it was sophisticated.’

The nine may have been inspired by the February escape of notorious Greek criminal Vassilis Paleokostas, who escaped with another man from a high security prison near Athens.

Accomplices hijacked a helicopter and picked up the pair by dropping a rope ladder into the prison’s exercise yard.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Failed Asylum Seekers Are Not Entitled to Free NHS Treatment, Rules Judge

A judge has ruled that failed asylum seekers should be refused free NHS treatment, declaring they ‘ought not to be here’.

Delivering a judgment that will save the taxpayer millions of pounds, Lord Justice Ward added: ‘They should never have come here in the first place.’

The test case was brought by a 35-year-old Palestinian, known as YA, who has links to the extremist Hamas party.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Government Database Now Has the DNA of 5 Million Britons

More than five million men and women now have their DNA profile held on the Government’s controversial database, it has been revealed.

The number of records held has increased a staggering 40 per cent in two years, despite a promise from Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to remove the data of all children under the age of ten.

Figures released by the Home Office showed 5.1million have their profiles on the database, up 1.4million since February 2007. Database

That means one in 12 Britons has been profiled — the highest proportion of any country in the world.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: House of Commons Attack on Policeman Was ‘Incredibly Violent’

A man who allegedly injured a police officer in an “incredibly violent” assault yards from the Commons chamber remained in custody today as fresh questions were asked about parliamentary security.

The attacker, believed to be a director at a London-based publishing house, had to be sprayed with CS gas after going “berserk” when an officer intervened to stop an argument with another reporter and a woman in a corridor.

The officer received treatment for a split lip after the attack.

With the start of the G20 only days away, questions remain as to how the attacker and another colleague were able to carry their noisy argument to an area directly behind the Speaker’s chair, only a few yards from one of the main doors leading to the Chamber…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Now Fire Service Introduces Hijab Headscarves for Muslim Workers

Pop into the firestation and the chances are there’d be a group of reassuringly burly men in there waiting for the call out, with uniforms and firefighting suits tailored for their use alone.

The one or two women among them would have to make do with ill-fitting adaptations of the men’s outfits while the handful of Muslim women in the service would be wearing their own head scarfs.

But, with the fire service anxious to attract recruits of all sexes and backgrounds, it was decided that something had to be done.

So yesterday the results were uneveiled, including full-length skirts, hijab headscarfs and long- sleeved shirts for Muslim women recruits.

The hope is that the uniforms, designed for wearing round the station and for outings such as school trips, will be smarter and better fitting for every firefighter — even the men.

For the first time also, women will get their own mustard yellow fire-fighting suit designed to protect their breasts and upper body.

This outfit was tried on yesterday by Lincolnshire firefighter Julie Smith.

‘It is right that male firefighters and female firefighters to need protection in different areas,’ she said. ‘It is very comfortable, very new and very yellow.’

Her boss Mike Thomas, Chief Fire Officer for Lincolnshire, declared the uniforms would help ‘bust’ the ‘ traditional image of the hunky, British, white, male, firefighter’ — even though a great many of his staff probably fit this description.

‘There are no better positive role models than women and ethnic recruits in these uniforms, and hopefully they will encourage people to join,’ he added.

Firemen in Lincolnshire will be the first to try out the new national uniform which also includes sports and maternity wear.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Must Do More to Eradicate Racial Discrimination, Say Watchdogs

Trusts in England are failing to meet their obligation under race equality legislation to produce accurate and up-to-date ethnic workforce data

Health watchdogs called today for urgent action throughout the NHS in England to identify and eradicate racial discrimination against ethnic minority patients and staff.

In a final report before going out of existence tonight, the Healthcare Commission said only 35% of NHS trusts are meeting their obligation under race equality legislation to produce the information needed to assess whether they discriminate on ethnic grounds.

The commission, whose watchdog role is being taken over by the Care Quality Commission, said: “Trusts must do more to ensure that people from minority ethnic groups are fully represented in senior management positions. This group accounts for 16% of the workforce, but fewer than 10% are in senior management roles and just 1% are chief executives.”

It added: “Staff from minority ethnic groups are disproportionally involved in bullying and harassment cases, and are over-represented in disciplinary and grievance procedures.

The commission called on the NHS to look into the reasons for this and take appropriate action.

The report said it is not possible to discover whether health differences between people of different ethnic groups are getting better or worse because of the absence or incompleteness of data. For example, no ethnic data is recorded on 90% of contacts between patients and GPs. “Without the necessary data, it is not possible to analyse ethnic differences in access to healthcare services, quality outcomes and choice.”

The study was based on analysis of published data and an in-depth review of performance in 39 trusts. Last year, 35% of trusts provided the information required by race equality legislation, including ethnic workforce statistics, equality impact assessments and a race equality scheme. Although this was an improvement on a 9% rate of compliance in 2007, the commission thought progress was still too slow.

Anna Walker, the commission’s chief executive, said: “NHS trusts need to properly understand the ethnic makeup of the community they serve and the people they employ if they are to deliver services that are fit for purpose.

“NHS trusts have a legal responsibility both as an employer, and as a commissioner and provider of services, to meet certain requirements to promote race equality. It is not acceptable that nearly two-thirds of trusts do not meet these basic requirements in full.

“It is time for a fundamental shift in the way trusts prioritise issues around race equality and the wider equality agenda. The lack of publicly available data means that people from minority ethnic communities’ contact with services and the employment of those from minority ethnic communities cannot be properly assessed.

“Without accurate and up-to-date workforce data, trusts cannot be assured that their staff are promoted equitably, that staff are representative at all levels of the population they serve and that trusts are not discriminating against their own staff.”

Professor Helen Hally, national director of Race for Health, a government programme to develop best practice on race equality in the NHS, said: “It is unacceptable that some trusts are still not meeting minimum requirements for tackling race inequality. This is not a bureaucratic exercise — it has real impact in terms of saving lives and improving health for large numbers of people who, for reasons of ethnicity, are disadvantaged in the NHS.

“The core principles of equal access for all that drive the NHS demand that the improvements called for by the Healthcare Commission are made immediately.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Pregnant Woman ‘Humiliated’ After Being Ordered to Leave Pub for Sipping Friend’s Pint

A pregnant woman was left shocked and disgusted after pub staff ordered to leave the premises for taking a sip of her friend’s beer.

Staff at the Sussex Cricketers pub refused to serve Caroline Williams, who is 23 weeks pregnant, because they said they were concerned for her unborn baby’s health.

Mrs Williams said she felt humiliated after being asked to leave and accused the pub of acting like the ‘drink police.’

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman ‘Kept Daughters-in-Law as Slaves and Forced One to Work on Sewing Machine Night and Day for 13 Years’

A cruel mother-in-law treated her sons’ wives as ‘slaves and dogs’ and made one of them work on a sewing machine day and night for 13 years, a court heard today.

The three women came to the UK from Pakistan as part of arranged marriages and were allegedly kept as prisoners in the family house in Blackburn, Lancashire, against their will.

Preston Crown Court was told that Naseebah Bibi, 63, ruled the household with a regime of beatings and threats as she ‘totally dominated’ her victims.

One daughter-in-law was ordered to work on an industrial sewing machine from early in the morning to just before midnight every day as soon as she arrived at the house in 1993.

The prosecution said her ordeal only ended in 2006 when her three-year-son told nursery staff that his grandmother was the cause of bruising on his mother’s hands.

Mother-of-five Bibi is alleged to have falsely imprisoned Nagina Akhtar between 1993 and 2006, Tazeem Akhtar from 2001 to 2003 and Nisbah Akhtar between 2005 and 2007.

Bibi’s son denies Nadeem Akhtar falsely imprisoning his wife Nisbah between 2005 and 2007.

Philip Boyd, prosecuting, said all three women had high expectations of a happy family life in England when they married their first cousins in Pakistan, but instead on their arrival they were abused and allowed no contact with the outside world.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Woman Blocked Ambulance Crew as They Tried to Treat Man Who Later Died

A 50-year-old woman blocked an ambulance crew in her driveway as they were trying to get a patient with chest pains to hospital where he later died, a court has heard.

Gillian Birdsall was putting her dogs in her Citroen AX which was parked in front of the ambulance, blocking it in the driveway she shared with neighbours Malcolm and Margaret Burdett in Bournemouth, Dorset.

Mr Burdett was being treated for chest pains and the crew wanted to take him to hospital for further treatment on October 31 2008.

Emergency care assistant Anna Marie Mills told Bournemouth Magistrates’ Court she was dressed in full uniform and, while her colleague carried out an ECG in the back of the ambulance, she confronted Birdsall.

“I asked her how long she was going to be parked there as being an emergency vehicle we would need to leave shortly,” she told the court.

“She just responded saying it was a shared driveway.”

Miss Mills then went to speak to Mrs Burdett who was getting her 62-year-old husband’s medication and added: “I had to reassure the patient’s wife because she was clearly distressed as she could see we were being blocked in.”

When she asked her to move her car for a second time, Birdsall replied “Why, are they dead?” before driving off.

The ambulance then took the patient to the Royal Bournemouth Hospital where he died an hour and a quarter later.

The crew had arrived at about 12.45pm and left at about 1.10pm.

Miss Mills said Birdsall delayed them by five to 10 minutes and said if she had not needed to repeatedly ask her to move her car: “I would have been able to get the medication quicker and we would have left quicker.”…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

What Caused Rome’s Collapse: Immigration or Centralisation?

by Thomas F. Bertonneau


The Roman Empire in the West did not, in fact, suffer fatally from an illegal immigration problem, as Heather posits; it suffered, as O’Donnell argues, from rampant aggression by a criminal politician from the Bosporus who, long before Louis XIV, believed in the notion, “l’état c’est moi.”

In the demonic self-aggrandizement of the incipient étatiste regime in the District of Columbia, from whose marshy precincts the cronies of Big Government today seek to rule rather than to govern, as the Constitution directs; and in the self-righteous diktat-style of the European Union, its bureaucrats ordering people around by non-appellate edict from their cozy Brussels ensconcement: In these conditions — might I modestly submit — our world currently and obviously does suffer (and suffers daily, hourly) from the arrogant superbia of wealth- and freedom-destroying madmen who, when they look in the mirror, see looking back at them The State, if not rather a Redeemer or some species of Gnostic deity. Ah, but note this: We also suffer from pronounced crises both of illegal immigration and technically legal immigration by culturally inassimilable people, many of whom wish to see us humiliated in our own countries, roundly impoverished, and made subservient to a mad god’s law. The two kinds of aggressive Puritanism, étatiste and Islamic, are already in an arrangement of foreboding synchronization in Europe, and might soon be also in the United States. Or else the pretty little Reconquista, enabled by the Multiculturalists, will serve in the USA, as Islam serves in Europe. Multiculturalism — that too is a puritanical religion.

The basically non-religious latitudinarianism of a previous age, which would never have permitted the existing scandal, has meanwhile given way, in the Twenty-First Century, to a new Puritanism that resembles Justinian bigotry or Islamic fanaticism (two similar things) more than it will ever resemble “barbarian” tolerance, like Theoderic’s. In other words, our situation is actually worse than the Roman situation, or rather the Western situation, at the beginning of the Sixth century.

The Latinate world of that day had merely to deal with the concupiscent madness of a Constantinopolitan pipsqueak elevated by the equivalent of soccer-hooligans to the throne and given command of the armies.

An ex-KGB officer, Igor Panarin, has apparently argued in a recent monograph that the United States will soon split up, as the Soviet Union did twenty years ago. That spontaneous disintegration of the Stalinist Empire was the best fate that could have overcome the superannuated Bolshevik experiment and its subject peoples. In one of history’s ironies, the European nation-states began their march into lock-step rule by apparatchiks at exactly the moment when their old enemy ceased to exist. The United States, too, under Bush I and Bush II and now Obama, has embraced a new doctrine of centripetal authoritarianism and coercive ideological reconstruction. The much-to-be-hoped-for failures both of the European Community and the socialist-in-fact-but-not-by-name Democrat-Party regime in the United States, followed by the genuine re-federalization of Europe and North America, might be the most providential turn of events as the world lurches stupidly into its Twenty-First Century “Globalist” delusions.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]


Croatia Probes a Serb for Post-WWII Killings

ZAGREB, Croatia — A prosecutor in Croatia has lifted the veil on a painful episode of Balkan history: the execution of thousands pro-Nazi soldiers and civilians at the end of World War II.

The Croatian state attorney has asked that a case be brought against an elderly former major in the communist-run Yugoslav army on suspicion of ordering 13,000 people put to death.

It marks the first legal procedure ever in Croatia regarding postwar killings carried by the victorious antifascists, or partisans. And part of the evidence may be the accused’s own autobiography.

Simo Dubajic, 86, is suspected of ordering the executions — mostly of Croatian pro-Nazi soldiers, but also civilians — between May 26 and June 5, 1945. Dubajic is believed to be living now in Belgrade, in neighboring Serbia, and the Croatian state attorney has asked that he be detained, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The allegations relate to a cataclysmic period at the end of the war. As partisans poured into the cities and villages of Yugoslavia, thousands of troops loyal to the Nazis, accompanied by frightened civilians, tried to flee. But many were caught and executed.

Martina Mihordin, a spokeswoman for the attorney’s office, said Tuesday that Dubajic’s victims were killed near Kocevski Rog in neighboring Slovenia and buried in natural pits. Most of the remains were recovered in recent years, but no one has ever been tried for the killings.

The people allegedly killed by Dubajic’s unit managed to reach Austria, but the allies turned them around and forced them back toward Yugoslavia.

The state attorney’s office said Dubajic’s unit was tasked with the liquidations. Dubajic is suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes against prisoners of war, Mihordin said.

Postwar communist authorities are believed to have ordered the execution of thousands of troops loyal to fascists from across the former Yugoslavia, but many civilians also fell victims to the revenge killings..

Croatia was a pro-Nazi state during World War II, and neighboring Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia also had troops opposing the antifascists. Those countries formed communist-run Yugoslav federation, which disintegrated in bloody wars in the 1990s.

The post-World War II killings were a taboo topic in the former Yugoslavia and they remain a sensitive issue today.

Croatian nationalists often use them to diminish the crimes committed by pro-Nazi Croatian forces during the war. Others vehemently deny that any such executions took place, saying the claims are meant to blemish the partisans.

Croatian media have speculated that part of the attorney’s evidence against Dubajic is his autobiography, “From Kistanje to Kocevski Rog,” published in Belgrade in 2006, in which he reportedly admits the killings.

A leading daily, Vecernji List, quoted Dubajic as saying in 1990: “I did participate in liquidation of people, as I was commanded to do so. I am telling this today because I realized that conscience is stronger than victory.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Spain: Morocco Expels Missionaries Accused of Proselytizing

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 30 — Morocco has expelled five evangelical missionaries (four Spaniards and one German) accused of “proselytising” the Christian faith, reads a communiqué from the country’s Interior Ministry quoted today by El Pais. Casablanca-based police arrested the missionaries on Saturday during a “meeting on proselytism with Moroccan citizens”, say the sources. During the operation the police seized “evangelical propaganda material” including books, videos and prayer items. According to sources close to the mission, when the police carried out the raid “a communion meeting” was taking place in a closed off area where there were only Christian women, and no Muslims, meaning it was not a “meeting on proselytism”. Morocco recognises religious freedom but forbids the conversion of Muslims to other religions. The arrested missionaries have been moved to the port of Tangiers and put onto a boat bound headed to Algesiras, in Spain. El Pais highlights that the Moroccan authorities did not get in contact with the Spanish consulates in Casablanca and Tangiers to inform them of the arrests. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Caroline Glick: Remembering Olmert’s True Record

Last week’s reports that during Operation Cast Lead Israel bombed truck convoys in Sudan transporting medium-ranged Fajr-3 missiles to Gaza from Iran couldn’t have come at a better time for outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Even as defense officials were following standard practice of neither confirming nor denying the reports, Olmert was bragging like a teenage boy.

In an address at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya last Thursday Olmert crowed, “We are operating in every area in which terrorist infrastructures can be struck. We are operating in locations near and far and attack in a way that strengthens and increases deterrence. It is true in the north and in the south. There is no point in elaborating. Everyone can use their imagination. Whoever needs to know, knows.”

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Jordan: Water; Desalination Plant to End Supply From Israel

(ANSAmed) — AMMAN, MARCH 25 — Experts in Jordan called today for the construction of a desalination plant in the port city of Aqaba to solve the kingdom’s chronic water problem. Former water minister Mohammad Kilani said the desalination plant at the Red Sea would cost around USD 200 million annually, a price within reach, considering the importance of water resources to the population. “Jordan will no longer be hostage to fluctuating rainfall levels,” he said today during the final day of a seminar marking World Water Day organised by the Jordan Engineers Association (JEA). “The government can fund this project in cooperation with the Water Ministry,” he said, noting the population will be able to get water on regular basis. Currently citizens get water once a week as part of a rationing programme to manage the meagre reserves around the country. Jordan’s fragile water situation was exposed at full earlier this month when Israeli born contamination forced authorities to stop pumping water to the capital until the contamination was put under control. Jordan gets nearly one third of its water needs from Israel as part of an agreement to share water resources of the Yarmouk River. Other resources of water include dams that collect water in the rainy winter season and underground wells. JEA President Wael Saqqa called on the government to enhance its monitoring policy over water pumped by Israel to avoid a repetition of the recent water contamination the canal. “The government must find alternative sources for water and not depend on water pumped by the enemy,” said Saqqa. This year’s rainfall was less than average, with the kingdom’s dams filled up to less than half their capacity, raising concern of possible shortage in the summer. Experts believe the country needs continuous water supply that can put an end to this debacle once and for all. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Obama: I Know Better Than Israelis and Palestinians

By Barry Rubin

President Obama got it wrong in answering a question about Israel-Palestinian issues in his press conference, March 25. But his mistakes are different from those everyone noticed.

The reporter asked:

“Mr. President, you came into office pledging to work for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. How realistic do you think those hopes are now, given the likelihood of a prime minister who’s not fully signed up to a two-state solution and a foreign minister who has been accused of insulting Arabs?”

The reporter’s wording betrays typical aspects of many mainstream media messages:

—Any fault must be Israel’s and Israel is the sole focus of why there’s a problem. At least he formulated terms carefully. Benjamin Netanyahu is said to be “not fully signed up to a two-state solution,” instead of being labeled as opposed; Avigdor Lieberman is merely “accused” of insulting Arabs rather than being an evil racist.

—Palestinians only exist as victims so their politics aren’t worth studying or analyzing. After all, the PA’s prime minister just resigned, there’s a Hamas-Fatahn civil war, the PA announced elections in a year, and the current leader is ailing. As if that isn’t enough, the Palestinian leaders are really “not fully signed up to a two-state solution” and constantly insulting Jews.

What should Obama have said? If he were really professional something like this…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Arab Summit Rejects ICC Arrest Warrant Against Bashir

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, MARCH 31 — The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has also condemned the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the president of Sudan, Omar el Bashir.. He made his statement today in Doha, where he participates in the 21st summit of Arab State leaders. Yesterday all participants in the summit rejected the measure against Bashir, who is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes regarding the civilian war in Darfur, in progress since 2003.. Chavez called the measure “a judicial disgrace and a lack of respect for all the people of the Third World”. “We underline our solidarity with Sudan” the document read out yesterday by the secretary-general of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, explains, and “we reject the decisions taken by the ICC against President Bashir (…) and we back the unity of Sudan. We reject the measures which jeopardise the peace efforts”. The Sudanese head of State called the resolutions “historic”. He ignored the fact that his request for a total annulment of the arrest warrant had not been taken up. Bashir promised to do “all I can to reach peace and stability across Sudan”. Libyan leader Gaddafi unexpectedly attacked Saudi King Abdullah ben Abdel Aziz, interrupting the host of the summit, Emir of Qatar Khalifa al Thani. Gaddafi returned accusations received by him six years ago by the Saudi king, accusing him of lying and being a ‘US protege”. But Gaddafi added that “out of respect for the (Arab) nation” the personal problem has been resolved. The two incidents show that it will not be easy to reconcile the 22 States of the Arab League, particularly after the war in the Gaza Strip split the League into two parts: Egypt and Saudi Arabia on one side with a moderate approach and support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Qatar and Syria on the other side backing Hamas and its biggest supporter, Iran. Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak — absent from the meeting together with the leaders of Algeria, Morocco, Oman and Iraq (though Iraq is represented by Prime Minister Al Maliki) — has issued a message in which he stigmatises “the dissipation of Arab efforts, the risks to a formal reconciliation in the absence of honesty and openness”. Today the Arab leaders will meet in Doha with their South American guests in the second summit between South American leaders of State and Arab countries. (remigio.benni@ansa.it). (ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Elections in Turkey: Testing Ground for Erdogan and the Army

The AKP is the clear favorite, and seems set to win over the nationalists and Kurds. The electoral campaign has been conducted amid scandal, but freely and openly. The unknown postelection scenario: relations with the EU, or a “neo-Ottoman” program? Even the Vatican has something to say.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) — Tomorrow, March 29, Turkey will hold the most important administrative elections in its modern history. These elections, in fact, will determine the new political composition of the country, as a testing ground for the most important political transition after that of 1923, when Ataturk founded the Turkish Republic: the result of these elections will be a sort of referendum that could either confirm or fail to confirm the end of a parliamentary regime characterized until now by the invasive presence of the armed forces in the management of Turkish affairs.

In the newspaper Radikal, Hasan Celal Guzel wrote that after March 29, Turkish could conclude the period of state coups by the army. The importance of these elections can be seen in the fact that since the beginning, they have involved the party leaders themselves, more than the candidates, and that the campaign has been conducted at the grassroots level, from door to door.

Erdogan seems set to win

The long electoral debate began after the sentence from the Supreme Court in the summer of 2008, which prevented the suspension of the AKP, Erdogan’s governing party. The climate has been burdened by the continual revelations on the case of the terrorist group Ergenekon, with which Erdogan has stretched the credibility of the armed forces, and on the clash between Erdogan and Dogan, the head of the most important media group in Turkey, connected to the old Kemalist establishment. Dogan has been accused of tax evasion, and risks the dissolution of his media empire, but his guilt seems connected more to the fact that he brought light to the Fener Davasi case, a financial scandal in which some of Erdogan’s close collaborators have been charged.

Baykal, the head of the CHP, the party founded by Kemal Ataturk, is fighting for his political survival in these elections, and although he has denounced Erdogan for the dissolution of the secular state, he did not hesitate to accept the decision on headscarves for women. Meanwhile, the head of the MHP (the nationalist party) is seeking to corner the votes of the young people disappointed by Baykal, and afraid of Erdogan’s party.

Despite the crisis that is also beginning to affect Turkey, Erdogan is convinced that he has changed the history of this country, and is seeking definitive confirmation in these elections. All the more so in that the local administrations led by the governing AKP party, although they are not free from corruption, have administered well. In addition to these tangible results, the AKP has even presented modern women, with short skirts, as candidates. So he is telling everyone that if he does not win the elections with 47% of the vote, he will resign.

And then there is the Kurdish wild card in Diyarbakir, toward which Erdogan has conducted an all-out campaign. The analyst Ismail Kucukkaya says that Kurdish voters in the area are facing a serious dilemma: whether to vote according to logic, for the AKP, or according to sentiment, for the DTP, the Kurdish party. If the DTP loses support, this would also be a heavy blow for the PKK, the armed party of Ocalan, which is accused of terrorism.

Relations with Europe

One new element of this electoral campaign is the widespread sense of freedom that pervades the big cities above all. This is due in large part to the clash between the old establishment and the AKP. Thanks to the latter, the grip of the state over the masses and minorities, its asphyxiating control, has been relaxed.

Massive urbanization has also contributed to changing the mentality. Some of the members of the ODP party (the only true leftist party, and European in its orientation) says that there is a severe conflict between urban and rural culture in Turkey. This transformation could certainly produce many new outcomes.

The greatest danger for the country today seems to come from the possible exaltation or arrogance that could result from the geopolitical importance that Turkey is taking on — prompted in part by the new U.S. administration, urging it toward a neo-Ottoman model. And it is worrying that certain schools of thought, like that of Chicago, are urging Turkey to turn its back on Europe and resume its former Ottoman-style role.

Of course, President Gul, visiting Brussels yesterday, promised that after tomorrow’s elections there will be a resumption of negotiations to integrate Turkey into the EU. EU commissioner José Manuel Barroso spoke about freedom of the press in Turkey, and about the fine levied against Dogan.. The EU is calling for reforms, but Bajis, the Turkish head of relations with the EU, said that the journey of European integration is being slowed by the EU itself!

To all of these voices is added that of the Vatican. According to the president of Cyprus, Christofias, who met with the pope yesterday, the Holy See is in favor of Turkey’s entry into the EU, if the country meets European standards. At the same time — again according to Christofias — the pope is concerned over the withering of the Christian and cultural roots in the northern part of the island, which was occupied by the Turkish army in 1974.

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

Lebanon: UNIFIL, Incidents Between UN and Civilians

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, MARCH 30 — A UN press release has reported that two incidents have taken place in Lebanon in the last 24 hours involving UNIFIL, the UN mission deployed in the south of the country, and civilians resident outside the UN area of responsibility. The first incident involved a UNIFIL official in the Nabatiye area, to the north of the Litani river which marks the border of the operations area. According to the statement, the uniformed serviceman who was travelling in a vehicle with the UN emblem, had got lost and ended up on a by-road where he was stopped by several civilians, two of whom were armed. The civilians seized the officer’s camera, mobile telephone, geographic maps and identification documents. They detained the officer until Lebanese soldiers arrived on the scene. In the other incident, several UN peacekeepers, who were not in uniform and were in a civilian car, were also detained whilst travelling on a road in the eastern valley of Bekaa, to the north of the Litani river. In collaboration with the Lebanese army, UNIFIL has opened inquests into the two incidents. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Religious Police Accused of Torture by Saudi Society for Human Rights

A report for the kingdom’s highest advisory body confirms cases of abuse of power, mistreatment, harassment, and, in some cases, the death of people under arrest. The new head of the muttawa is asked to give precise guidelines to the members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — Torture, arbitrary arrests, violations of rights, abuse: the Saudi Society for Human Rights has presented a long and detailed list of accusations against the religious police in its 100-page report to the Shoura Council, the highest advisory body in the kingdom.

The report essentially charges the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the official name of what is ordinarily called the muttawa, of “exercising excessive powers that are actually not in its jurisdiction.”

The report comes as the Commission finds itself the target of unprecedented criticisms on the part of the media, and after King Abdullah in February replaced its head, Shaikh Ebrahim Al Gaith, with Shaikh Abdul Aziz Bin Humaid. The men of the muttawa are a de facto police force charged with enforcing the rules on the separation of sexes, dress, and respect for the duty to pray. They also intervene in matters like the elimination of “signs” for the feast of Saint Valentine: for this holiday, they ordered florists and shops in the capital to remove any red-colored items.

Although the document from the Society for Human Rights speaks of the behavior of “men” of the muttawa who have not followed their instructions, the striking thing is the confirmation of the accusations made against the religious police in recent years. “There were several complaints about the torture and even custodial deaths against the members of the commission,” the document reads. Often these incidents ended up in the newspapers, but “in such cases, the commission officials have resorted to blaming the media and playing down the reports as exaggerated ones.” “It has been confirmed that there were several cases in which the commission members had taken custody of many individuals and subjecting them to various sorts of interrogation and torture. In some cases, mobile phones of the detainees were snatched by the commission members and even denied permission to contact with family members.”

Finally, the report asks the new president of the Commission to issue precise guidelines and repair the damage done. “The Presidency should issue work card for the members to specify their role and conduct periodical training courses to improve their efficiency besides taking measures to repair damage caused to the image of the commission.”

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

Sweden: Five Charged Over Iraqi Human Smuggling Ring

Three men and two women were formally charged on Monday for human smuggling on suspicions they helped transport 24 Iraqis into Sweden in return for large sums of money.

A 49-year-old man, his ex-wife and their son are the main suspects in the case at Attunda district court, while another man and woman are thought to have played a less prominent role.

According to prosecutor Marie Lind Thomsen, the suspects smuggled Iraqis into Sweden from the beginning of 2006 until June 2008.

They are alleged to have supplied the Iraqi citizens with legitimate passports, either lost by their rightful owners or stolen. In each case, the passports contained photos that resembled the Sweden-bound refugees in appearance.

The smugglers made large profits from the operation, with earning of at least 687,000 kronor ($82,000).

“One woman and her four children paid $25,000 US for their journey,” Lind Thomsen told news agency TT.

All of the Iraqi refugees were smuggled into the country via Stockholm’s Arlanda airport.

One of the suspects has admitted to involvement in the smuggling operation, while the four remaining suspects deny the charges.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Yemen: Two Dutch Tourists Abducted

(ANSAmed) — ROME, MARCH 31 — Two Dutch tourists have been kidnapped in Yemen today. After initial reports which gave fragmented information on the identity of the victims, their nationality was reported to ANSA by president of the Association for Italian-Yemeni friendship in Sanaa, Arhab Al-Sarhi. The abduction happened 90km south-east of the capital Sanaa, while the tourists were travelling without a guide. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Report: Cosmonaut Grumbles About Space Bureaucracy

MOSCOW — Squabbles on Earth over how cosmonauts and astronauts divide up the space station’s food, water, toilets and other facilities are hurting the crew’s morale and complicating work in space, a veteran Russian cosmonaut said, according to an interview published Monday.

Gennady Padalka told the Novaya Gazeta newspaper as saying space officials from Russia, the United States and other countries require cosmonauts and astronauts to eat their own food and follow stringent rules on access to other facilities, like toilets.

“What is going on has an adverse effect on our work,” Padalka, 50, was quoted as saying in an interview conducted before he and his crew mates blasted off to the station last Thursday. They arrived safely at the outpost Saturday.

Russian space agency spokesman Alexander Vorobyov said he would not comment until he had read the interview.

Padalka, who will be the station’s next commander, said the arguments date back to 2003, when Russia started charging other space agencies for the resources used by their astronauts. Other partners in space station responded in kind.

“Cosmonauts are above the ongoing squabble, no matter what officials decide,” said Padalka, a veteran of two space missions, according to the newspaper. “We are grown-up, well-educated and good-mannered people and can use our own brains to create normal relationship. It’s politicians and bureaucrats who can’t reach agreement, not us, cosmonauts and astronauts.”

He said he had inquired before the current mission whether he could use an American gym machine to stay fit.

“They told me: ‘Yes, you can.’ Then they said no,” he was quoted as saying. “Then they hold consultations and they approve it again. And now, right before the flight, it turns out again that the answer is negative.”

While sharing food in the past helped the crew feel like a team, the new rules oblige Russian cosmonauts and U.S. and other astronauts to eat their own food, Padalka said, according to the report.

“They also recommend us to only use national toilets,” he was quoted as saying.

Russian Soyuz and Progress spacecraft were the only link to the space station when the U.S. space shuttle fleet was temporarily grounded following the 2003 Columbia disaster. They have continued to ferry crews and supplies to the station, and a Soyuz capsule is permanently docked at the station to serve as a lifeboat.

Padalka was also quoted as criticizing the Russian portion of the station, saying it looks backward compared to other sections.

“It’s built on technologies dating back to the mid-1980s, at the very latest,” he said. according to the report. “We are lagging seven to 30 years back in various space technologies.”

Russia’s space program fell on hard times after the Soviet collapse and struggled to stay afloat by selling seats on its Soyuz spacecraft to well-heeled space tourists. During the oil-fueled economic boom its budget increased, but it is again heading for tough times as Russia tries to weather its worst financial crisis since 1998.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Azerbaijan Removes All Obstacles to Lifetime Reelection for President Aliyev

The opposition calls it “a step toward monarchy,” and the Council of Europe is criticizing Baku and threatening sanctions. But the president’s party insists that about 90% of the voters are in favor.

Baku (AsiaNews/Agencies) — In a referendum on March 18, Azebaijan approved 49 changes to the constitution with a “Soviet style” majority. But at the Council of Europe, there are concerns that these modifications will allow current president Ilham Aliyev to be elected repeatedly, and consolidate his personal power at the risk of the young democracy.

According to the official data, about 90% of the voters approved the changes. The supporters of the referendum stress that 71% of the 4.9 million eligible voters turned out.

The opposition, which had indicated that it would abstain from voting, says that this is “a step backward for democracy, and a step toward monarchy.” The Constitution prohibited the president from being reelected more than two consecutive times, meaning that Aliyev would not have been able to run again at the end of his current term. Now there are no limits to reelection, and there are fears of power for life, after the country was led for decades by the father of the current president.

The opposition is also claiming fraud, and announcing appeals to invalidate the vote. But this is contradicted both by independent observers and by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which maintains that the vote was “transparent, well-organized and held in a peaceful atmosphere.”

But there is harsh criticism from Ian Micallef, president of the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, the main regional organization for the protection of human rights. In an interview with Radio Free Europe, he says that these changes violate the pro-democracy commitment made by Baku in 2002, and that Azerbaijan’s membership in the Council could be suspended.

From Baku, Samed Sayidov, head of the Azeri delegation to the PACE and a member of Aliyev’s Yeni Azerbaycan party, responds that Micallef is not well informed on the situation in the country, and that the referendum was held in a completely democratic manner.

Previously, the Commission had stated that a limit on reelection is necessary, to prevent the president in office from using his power to impose an authoritarian and anti-democratic regime on the country.

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

South Asia

Afghanistan: As Bad as the Taleban? Afghan President Backs Law Which ‘Legalises Rape Within Marriage’

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win election votes by backing a law which the UN says legalises rape within marriage.

The final document has not been published but it is believed to state that wives cannot refuse to have sex with their husbands.

The Independent reports it also forbids wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

It is thought to have been rushed through parliament in a bid to appease Islamic fundamentalists ahead of the August elections.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Dutch Company to Make Electric Cars for Europe, US

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia — Malaysia’s national car maker Proton and a Dutch-based company signed a $555 million deal Monday to make zero emission electric cars that they said would be more powerful that any existing model.

Proton and Detroit Electric, a startup company that owns the technology, signed the agreement in the presence of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to produce the sedan cars, initially targeted for Europe and the U.S.

“We have the audacity to bring to the people an affordable, practical, everyday car … with zero emission,” Detroit Electric Holdings Ltd. Chief Executive Albert Lam said in a speech.

The four-door vehicle will roll out of Proton’s factory by early next year, Lam told The Associated Press in an interview.

The aim is to produce 40,000 units in the first year, ramping up to 270,000 by 2013, he said. The cars will be priced between $23,000 and $33,000, depending on the model and taxation.

Under the agreement, Detroit Electric will use Proton’s underutilized assembly line. Detroit Electric’s motor, lithium polymer battery, the drive train and other components will be fitted in the bodies of two Proton models, Persona and Gen 2. They will be sold as Detroit Electric, without a specific brand name.

If it succeeds, Detroit Electric would be among the first to mass-produce an electric car driven purely by a noiseless battery-powered motor, unlike current hybrid engines that combine gasoline engines and electric motors.

General Motors Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co., PSA Peugeot-Citroen, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. and Tesla Motors are all seeking to develop electric cars market amid rising consumer interest in “green” technologies — and at a particularly difficult time for the industry amid the global slowdown.

U.S.-based Tesla Motors has a prototype that has a claimed range of 160 miles (257 kilometers) and is scheduled to be produced by 2011, and cost about $50,000. A Peugeot-Mitsubishi collaboration, the iMiEV hatchback, expected to reach European consumers next year, has a stated range of 90 miles (145 kilometers).

Lam said Detroit Electric’s base model, meant for city driving, will have a range of 150 miles (240 kilometers) on a full charge of eight to 10 hours and will have a top speed of 120 miles per hour (195 kmph).

The higher model will have a range of 200 miles (320 kilometers) with a top speed of 120 miles per hour. Plugging the car to an ordinary electric power outlet would charge the battery, manufactured by a South Korean company.

“We will be the spark that triggers change and tells people now is the time,” said Lam. “Let’s push change in the industry for environment’s sake, for the sake of less dependency on petrol, for the sake of zero emission and for noiseless driving.”

Lam, a British citizen and a longtime auto industry executive, joined a group of Dutch investors and inventors of the car’s motor to set up a company in Damwoude, Netherlands. Lam bought the rights to the company’s name — Detroit Electric produced electric cars in the U.S. in 1907 — to restore its historical legacy.

The engineers developed the car over 18 months and two working models were demonstrated to journalists last year.

Proton, which has struggled in recent years, could benefit from the agreement and create a niche market for itself.

“The project shows that Proton can adapt well to the current challenging economic climate,” said Proton Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin bin Syed Mohamed Tahir. “As a manufacturer, we have to think differently from others and start venturing into new areas where there are potential for growth,” he said.

He said the deal will earn Proton revenue of at least 2 billion ringgit ($555 million) over four years, even if it makes only 40,000 cars per year.

Proton will have the option of buying the Detroit Electric technology after a nine-month evaluation period and to sell the car under its own brand in Southeast Asia.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

India: Mumbai Gunman’s Life ‘threatened by Mafia Boss’

Mumbai, 25 March (AKI/Asian Age) — India’s Intelligence Bureau has claimed it received a new threat against the life of Ajmal Aamir Qasab, the alleged gunman caught alive during the Mumbai attacks last November. However, this time the threat is from fugitive Indian mafia boss Chhota Rajan, the Intelligence Bureau said.

According to a senior official from the Mumbai police, Rajan has always projected himself as patriotic and in order to prove his patriotism he would try to eliminate Qasab.

“We have been informed by the central agencies that Rajan has hatched a plan to kill Qasab and is making arrangements to execute the plan,” an official said.

Although Rajan’s most trusted aide, D.K. Rao, was transferred from Arthur Road jail — Mumbai’s oldest prison — to the Taloja prison in early March, other suspected Rajan gang members are being held at Arthur Road.

“We are keeping a close watch on the movements of Rajan’s henchmen, who are either languishing in jail or are outside,” an unnamed official said.

A list of Rajan’s associates has been prepared and local police stations have been informed to keep a check on them, according to the official.

Rajan also killed several of suspected terrorist and underworld boss Dawood Ibrahim’s associates, who were allegedly involved in the March 1993 Mumbai bombings.

The 1993 bombings killed 250 people and injured 700 others.

Ibrahim is alleged to have financed and coordinated the March 1993 attacks and is now in hiding. Rajan — once a key aide and lieutenant of Ibrahim — is also at large and thought to be moving between various African countries.

“Until now there was no local connection to the 26 November (2008) Mumbai terror raids, however we have specific inputs that in order to eliminate Qasab, local assistance would be of utmost importance,” said a senior official from the Mumbai police.

“Qasab’s security is a major issue and we do not want to take any chance as it may send a wrong signal to other countries,” an official said.

The Intelligence Bureau had earlier informed Mumbai police that a team of highly-trained operatives from the banned militant Kashmiri separatist group Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency with the help of Ibrahim may try to eliminate Qasab.

Indian authorities have blamed LeT for the Mumbai attacks, which which killed over 170 people and injured hundreds in multiple locations in the financial capital.

Pakistan has admitted the attacks were partly planned inside the country, but it and LeT have denied any involvement.

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

Pakistan: Army Fights Militants After Storming Police Academy

Lahore, 30 March (AKI) — Militants on Monday killed at least 25 people and injured scores of others after attacking a police training academy in the Pakistani city of Lahore using grenades and rifles. Between eight and 14 militants are said to be holed up inside the academy.

Pakistan’s Dawn News TV said over 400 police recruits are being held hostage inside the academy and that snipers and sharpshooters have surrounded the training school.

The governor of the Punjab province Salman Taseer has said the Pakistani army has joined the gunbattle against the gunmen and have laid siege to the academy.

The militants are said to be wearing plain clothes and masks while others are said to have entered the academy wearing police uniforms. One gunman has been arrested, Dawn said.

Police have cordoned off the area and security has been put on high alert across the country. A curfew has also been imposed in the area.

Pakistan’s interior minister Rehman Malik said involvement of foreign jihadi outfits cannot be ruled out and added that Uzbeks have entered Lahore from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

He also said the government had no prior information on the attack.

Less than a month ago, a terrorist attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore killed six policemen and a Pakistan Cricket Board driver. Six players were injured in the attack.

The police academy, known as Manawaal, is located on the outskirts of Lahore.

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

Pakistan: Home-Grown Al-Qaeda Led Militants ‘Behind Lahore Attack’

Lahore, 30 March (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Home-grown Al-Qaeda led militants are behind Monday’s deadly attack on a police training academy in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, according to interior ministry chief Rahman Malik and some security analysts, including former general Talat Massood.

Such attacks have in the past been blamed on foreign intelligence agencies. While militant violence has surged in Pakistan since mid-2007, most violence has been in the northwest near the Afghan border.

Militant sources confirmed the early-morning grenade and rifle assault on the police academy was retaliation by Al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Punjabi militants for Pakistan’s recent cooperation with the United States in hunting down Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

The attack marks a new front in the war against Pakistan’s security forces, the sources said.

Between 18 and 20 gunmen reportedly killed up to 50 people, wounded up to 90 and took hundreds of police cadets hostage during an eight-hour siege of the academy.

The siege ended when Pakistani security forces took control of the building. Four gunmen were killed in heavy exchanges of fire with army snipers while a fifth suspected gunman (photo)was taken into custody.

News reports were unclear over how many of the other gunmen had died in the siege, with police saying they may have blown themselves up.

The assault copied attacks carried out by gunmen from the banned militant Kashmiri separatist group Laskar-e-Toiba against military camps in Indian administered Kashmir.

LeT fighters — allegedly trained by elements in Pakistan’s ISI military intelligence — have been known to infiltrate army camps disguised in the uniforms of the Indian security forces before carrying out massacres and taking hostages.

Some of the militants involved in Monday’s attack in Lahore were wearing police uniforms, while other were wearing plain clothes and masks. They had ‘inside’ help to enter the academy and appeared to be highly trained, sources said.

More attacks of this sort are expected in bigger cities such as the southern port city of Karachi and the capital Islambad to press Pakistan and its military to stop its cooperation with Washington’s drive to route militants carrying out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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

Pakistan: Petraeus: Military Reserves ‘Right of Last Resort’ for Threats Inside Pakistan

The U.S. military will reserve the “right of last resort” to take out threats inside Pakistan, but it would prefer to enable the Pakistani military to do the job itself, Gen. David Petraeus said Monday in an exclusive interview with FOX News.

The commander of U.S. Central Command was interviewed as the Obama administration prepares to step up the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Asked about lingering concerns that Pakistan is not fully on board, Petraeus told FOX News’ Bret Baier that the U.S. military is putting “additional focus” on rooting out ties between Pakistan’s intelligence service and the Taliban.

One incident of obvious cooperation between the Pakistani intelligence community and extremists has already been uncovered, he said. “There is a case in the past year or so that we think was unambiguous. There appears to have been a warning prior to a Pakistani operation,” Petraeus said.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Taliban Promises Attack on Washington That Will ‘Amaze’ the World After Pakistan Police Massacre

[Comments from JD: Warning: graphic photos]

The top Taliban commander in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for an attack on a police academy that left 18 dead after an eight-hour bloodbath.

And Baitullah Mehsud also promised an assault on Washington ‘soon’ — one he said will ‘amaze’ the world.

At least 18 people were dead last night after militants stormed the police academy in Pakistan.

The attackers, some wearing police uniforms, hurled grenades and seized dozens of hostages.

More than 100 people were wounded as military helicopters moved in to end the carnage.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

‘Worse Than the Taliban’ — New Law Rolls Back Rights for Afghan Women

Hamid Karzai has been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs that it flouts the constitution’s equal rights provisions.

The final document has not been published, but the law is believed to contain articles that rule women cannot leave the house without their husbands’ permission, that they can only seek work, education or visit the doctor with their husbands’ permission, and that they cannot refuse their husband sex.

A briefing document prepared by the United Nations Development Fund for Women also warns that the law grants custody of children to fathers and grandfathers only.

Senator Humaira Namati, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament, said the law was “worse than during the Taliban”. “Anyone who spoke out was accused of being against Islam,” she said.

The Afghan constitution allows for Shias, who are thought to represent about 10% of the population, to have a separate family law based on traditional Shia jurisprudence. But the constitution and various international treaties signed by Afghanistan guarantee equal rights for women.

Shinkai Zahine Karokhail, like other female parliamentarians, complained that after an initial deal the law was passed with unprecedented speed and limited debate. “They wanted to pass it almost like a secret negotiation,” she said. “There were lots of things that we wanted to change, but they didn’t want to discuss it because Karzai wants to please the Shia before the election.”

Although the ministry of justice confirmed the bill was signed by Karzai at some point this month, there is confusion about the full contents of the final law, which human rights activists have struggled to obtain a copy of. The justice ministry said the law would not be published until various “technical problems” had been ironed out.

After seven years leading Afghanistan, Karzai is increasingly unpopular at home and abroad and the presidential election in August is expected to be extremely closely fought. A western diplomat said the law represented a “big tick in the box” for the powerful council of Shia clerics.

Leaders of the Hazara minority, which is regarded as the most important bloc of swing voters in the election, also demanded the new law.

Ustad Mohammad Akbari, an MP and the leader of a Hazara political party, said the president had supported the law in order to curry favour among the Hazaras. But he said the law actually protected women’s rights.

“Men and women have equal rights under Islam but there are differences in the way men and women are created. Men are stronger and women are a little bit weaker; even in the west you do not see women working as firefighters.”

Akbari said the law gave a woman the right to refuse sexual intercourse with her husband if she was unwell or had another reasonable “excuse”. And he said a woman would not be obliged to remain in her house if an emergency forced her to leave without permission.

The international community has so far shied away from publicly questioning such a politically sensitive issue.

“It is going to be tricky to change because it gets us into territory of being accused of not respecting Afghan culture, which is always difficult,” a western diplomat in Kabul admitted.

Soraya Sobhrang, the head of women’s affairs at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said western silence had been “disastrous for women’s rights in Afghanistan”.

“What the international community has done is really shameful. If they had got more involved in the process when it was discussed in parliament we could have stopped it. Because of the election I am not sure we can change it now. It’s too late for that.”

But another senior western diplomat said foreign embassies would intervene when the law is finally published.

Some female politicians have taken a more pragmatic stance, saying their fight in parliament’s lower house succeeded in improving the law, including raising the original proposed marriage age of girls from nine to 16 and removing completely provisions for temporary marriages.

“It’s not really 100% perfect, but compared to the earlier drafts it’s a huge improvement,” said Shukria Barakzai, an MP. “Before this was passed family issues were decided by customary law, so this is a big improvement.”

Karzai’s spokesman declined to comment on the new law.

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

Far East

Korea: Hyundai Asan Staffer Arrested in N.Korea

North Korea on Monday morning arrested a Hyundai Asan staffer working at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex on charges of insulting the regime. A South Korean government official said North Korea claims the staffer denounced the political system, and “sought to corrupt a North Korean female worker and cajole her into defecting from the North.” The veracity of the claim could not be confirmed.

“Around 11:50 a.m., the immigration office of North Korea’s Kaesong Industrial Complex sent a telephone message that they are investigating a South Korean staffer in the industrial park in accordance with relevant regulations,” the Unification Ministry said.

A cross-border agreement on the Kaesong Industrial Complex and the Mt. Kumgang tourist area stipulates that if a South Korean staffer violates laws and regulations there, North Korea will investigate and notify South Korea of the violation, and warn, fine or deport the offender.

Observers say it is improbable that a staffer with Hyundai Asan, which has been Pyongyang’s main South Korean business partner for years, intentionally made remarks that would irritate the North at a time when it is imminently launching what the West believes is a ballistic missile.

A researcher with a South Korean government-funded think tank said it is more likely the North is holding the man hostage, much in the way it has arrested two U.S. journalists for on charges of spying.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippine Forces Move Toward Abu Sayyaf Abductors

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine troops and tanks advanced toward a jungle stronghold of al-Qaida-linked extremists after a deadline expired Tuesday for the beheading of one of three Red Cross hostages in a critical juncture of the 10-week crisis.

Officials redeployed government forces near the Abu Sayyaf camp in Indanan township on southern Jolo Island and put the predominantly Muslim region under a state of emergency after talks for the safe release of the hostages became bogged down and the militants threatened to behead them by 2 p.m. Tuesday.

There was no immediate indication that any of the Swiss, Italian and Filipino hostages, who have been held since Jan. 15, were killed after the deadline expired.

Jolo Governor Sakur Tan said an informant told him that all the hostages were still alive but his source had no proof to back up his claim.

“I hope the worst didn’t happen and will not happen,” International Committee of the Red Cross spokeswoman Anastasia Isyuk told reporters in Manila.

More than 1,000 marines, police and militiamen, who have surrounded the militants for weeks, pulled back from around the Abu Sayyaf stronghold last week to prod the gunmen to make good on their pledge to free one hostage. But the militants reneged on their promise and insisted that troops withdraw from 15 Jolo villages — a demand rejected by the government.

“We’ve given them everything but they didn’t budge,” Tan said. “The troops are returning there.”

On Tuesday, tanks and truckloads of marines rolled out of a Jolo camp toward Indanan to try to surround the gunmen in a hilly jungle, Tan said. He refused to say if a military rescue was imminent or if the troops were being brought back to force the militants to resume negotiations.

“We’ll make sure that these bandits cannot kidnap again,” Tan said.

Tan’s emergency declaration empowered him to order the arrests of the Abu Sayyaf kidnappers, impose a curfew and set up road checkpoints on Jolo. He said the hostage-taking was “a heinous crime that deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Abu Sayyaf gunmen said earlier Tuesday they would behead one of the captives unless troops withdrew from the area by the deadline, despite appeals from Pope Benedict XVI and others to free the hostages.

“The decision of the group is to behead if there will be no pullout,” Abu Sayyaf commander Abu Ali told The Associated Press in a cell phone text message Tuesday from the militant jungle stronghold on Jolo island.

“There will be no extension of the deadline for the pullout and we have no plan to release any hostage if there will be no pullout,” he said.

Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Philippine Red Cross, made a last-minute appeal to the militants to spare the hostages as the deadline passed, and he addressed the captives directly on national television.

“The whole family of the Red Cross prays for you and I’m proud of the way you’ve comported yourself,” Gordon said in the broadcast, his voice breaking and wiping away tears as he mentioned the names of the captives. “I’m sorry I should be stronger than you because I’m not in the midst of the ordeal you’re in now.”

Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno said it was impossible for the government to vacate the 15 villages by 2 p.m. Tuesday as demanded by the militants a day earlier. He said there was not enough time and that a wider pullout would leave the island’s civilian population exposed to militant attacks.

Puno hinted the government was ready to use force if the militants harm any of the hostages — Filipino Mary Jean Lacaba, Swiss Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni….

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippines: Maoists Attack Philippine Army Base, at Least 17 Killed

MANILA, March 31 (Reuters) — Maoist-led guerrillas stormed an army base on the restive southern Philippines island of Mindanao on Tuesday, and at least 17 people were killed, the military said.

Troops held their ground for about 90 minutes when communist New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas attacked the base in Bukidnon province, said Major Michele Anayron.

Eleven rebels and two civilians were killed, Anayron said, adding the retreating guerrillas commandeered two private trucks passing the area. Four members of a local militia were also killed.

The rebel attack came two days after the NPA, the communist party’s military arm, marked its 40th anniversary. Active in 69 of 80 provinces across the country, the rebels have been waging a protracted war to overthrow Manila’s democratic government.

The rebels usually attempt to grab ammunition and weapons during raids on military posts to boost their own armoury.

The Maoist-led insurgency has killed 40,000 people and scared potential investors from the resource-rich Southeast Asian state.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Accused Nazi War Criminal Zentai Must Leave WA: Court

An alleged Nazi war criminal has failed to avoid extradition to Hungary on charges of murdering a Jewish teenager in 1944.

Charles Zentai, 87, appeared in the Federal Court on Tuesday to learn the outcome of his application for a review of a magistrate’s ruling that he is eligible for surrender to Hungarian authorities.

Zentai, of the southern Perth suburb of Willeton, had made the application on the basis that the charge against him did not constitute a war crime at the time of the murder.

Justice John Gilmour upheld the ruling of magistrate Barbara Lane, concluding the charge was a war crime and an extradition offence.

Asked why Zentai should not be held in custody until the federal government made a decision on his extradition, lawyer Denis Barich said his client had a heart condition and was under the care of specialists.

Zentai, who supported himself with walking stick at the hearing, was given a seven-day stay on a bail ruling.

Justice Gilmour said he should provide submissions from his specialists to show cause why he should not be held in custody.

Zentai is alleged to have been with two other men who tortured 18-year-old Peter Balazs in Budapest in November 1944, leading to his death.

Zentai says he was not even in Budapest at the time.

After Ms Lane ruled he was eligible for surrender to Hungarian authorities, his lawyers argued that a 1945 decree in the Australia-Hungary treaty meant the offence Zentai was accused of was not a war crime.

Zentai, who will appear in the Federal Court again next Tuesday, is likely to make application for an appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court.

           — Hat tip: The Observer[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

African Monitors Keen to Oversee EU Election

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — The Pan-African Parliament is in talks with the EU on sending monitors to the European elections in June, in a project that could see Zimbabwean politicians oversee voting in the UK.

The South Africa-based institution, which is the parliamentary wing of the African Union, agreed details of a monitoring mission with European Parliament officials last week.

The EU sees itself as a model for free and fair elections around the world (Photo: wikipedia)

Ten members of the African Parliament (MAPs) would first see how the UK conducts its election on 4 June. The delegation would then inspect the central vote-counting office in Wiesbaden, Germany. The MAPs would watch the final result with MEPs in Brussels on 7 June.

The main goal of the project is to learn lessons ahead of a potential pan-African election some time in the future. But the mission would also produce a final report on EU democratic standards.

The scheme could fall through if it clashes with the African parliament’s plenary session. But if it goes ahead, it would represent a role reversal for the EU, which frequently organises election monitoring missions to African states.

The African Parliament has suspended the activities of members that recently suffered coups d’etat, as in Mauritania, Guinea and Madagascar.

But there is a prospect that countries with a poor track record on democracy and human rights, such as Zimbabwe, could form part of the 10-man EU monitoring team.

If a Zimbabwean delegate is chosen, he or she might come from an opposition party instead of the camp of authoritarian President Robert Mugabe, African parliament spokesman Khalid Dahab told EUobserver.

“I was in both rounds of the Zimbabwe elections as a co-ordinator for our observation mission,” he said. “The first round met the minimum standards of being free and fair. But we criticised the second round very strongly and said it does not represent the will of the people,” he added.

“I don’t think the fact that Zimbabwe is a member of our organisation has a negative effect on our work.”

The African Parliament is not the only body keen to keep an eye on the EU vote.

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

Oh No, Not Again! Oprah’s School Rocked by Second Sex Scandal in 2 Years

Oprah Winfrey’s elite boarding school for girls in South Africa has been rocked by its second sex scandal in fewer than two years.

Seven students were suspended last week for sexually harassing their schoolmates, the “Afrikaans on Sunday” newspaper reported.

One 15-year-old was accused of preying on another pupil and forcing other girls to lie to investigators about it, the paper reported.

“You have been found guilty of physical contact of a sexual nature with another pupil on campus, harassment, bullying other girls on campus and of being dishonest by not telling investigators the whole truth,” a letter to her parents read.

Other girls were caught fondling each other or trying to get other girls to join them in lesbian liasons, the paper reported.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Mexico’s Calderon Rules Out Joint Raids With US

LONDON — Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Monday he’s ruled out joint raids with the United States aimed at stemming drug cartel violence along their border, but called for closer cooperation between the neighboring nations.

Calderon said he wants the U.S. to share intelligence on drugs traffickers and help Mexican law enforcement by providing high-tech surveillance equipment.

He urged U.S. President Barack Obama to do more to reduce demand in the U.S. for drugs produced in Mexico and to stop the flow of powerful weapons, including assault rifles, over the border.

“It is true that we do have a problem of violence and organized crime that we have to tackle,” Calderon told reporters in London, speaking through a translator. “It is acknowledged by President Obama this is a common problem that we have to face commonly.” But he said “that does not imply, or shall not imply, the joint participation of military operations, or even the joint participation of law enforcement agents.”

Most Mexicans oppose any U.S. intervention on their side of the border, in part due to lingering sensitivities over the U.S. seizure of swathes of Mexican territory, including the area which now comprises Texas and California, in the mid-19th century.

Calderon said both countries should instead step up their efforts on their respective sides of the border.

Mexico claims that since 2006, around 9,000 people have been killed in violence linked to Mexico’s drugs cartels. Army troops have been deployed in an attempt to root out criminals and drugs traffickers.

“We are facing this problem with a firm hand and a determination that has not previously happened in our country,” Calderon told reporters after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that violence in Mexico’s north is a serious threat to U.S. border communities.

He said he was considering putting more National Guard troops on the U.S. border and will take steps to limit the flow of cash and guns heading south into Mexico.

Calderon is in London for a state visit. He was due to spend Monday evening dining at Buckingham Palace’s ballroom with Queen Elizabeth II and invited dignitaries.

His comments to the media came as his military commanders met their U.S. counterparts on the Mexican side of the border to discuss the escalating violence.

Mexico’s Defense Department said the officials were exchanging experiences in the annual closed-door meeting in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora state, bordering Arizona. The meeting ends Thursday.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

The Southern Front: Islamic Terrorism and Failed States, South and Central America

By: Kyle Shideler, Senior Research Fellow, EMET

Concern over the potential threat of Islamic terrorism operating from South and Central America to strike the United States is not new. As early as 1992, Iranian proxy Hezbollah utilized the lawless enclave known as the Tri-border Area (TBA) which conjoins Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to strike Jewish and Israeli targets in Argentina . Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Hezbollah are all believed to conduct organization and fundraising in the area. In 2002, Paraguay’s public prosecutor for drug trafficking and terrorism stated that since 1995 around $50 million dollars had been remitted to Hezbollah by Lebanese businessmen in the TBA , with as much as $300 to $500 million being transmitted all of the active Islamic terrorists both Sunni and Shiite…

           — Hat tip: EMET[Return to headlines]


720 Migrants in Two Lampedusa Centres

(ANSAmed) — LAMPEDUSA (AGRIGENTO), MARCH 30 — 720 illegal immigrants are the guests of the reception centre in Contrada Imbriacola (540) and the former military base Loran in Capo Ponente (180). This morning about a hundred, mainly women and children, were transferred to Porto Empedocle by ferry. The transfers should continue tomorrow, according to the Agrigento prefecture. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Allow Enough Refugees in and They Will Provide All the Evidence You Need as to Why a State Can Fail

The first step on a society’s road to destruction can usually be called “stupidity”. That stupidity can be due to naivety, or optimism, or ignorance, or even just plain stupidity itself.

Either way, it can be fatal. Here in Ireland we’ve had plenty of opportunity to study examples of how threats to other European societies have begun, so by this time we should have learnt about the suicidal stupidity of allowing foreigners uncontrolled access into one’s country.

The Labour Party, however, seems to have learnt almost nothing at all about such matters. Joan Burton last week complained to an Oireachtas Committee that thousands of foreigners who were “legitimately” visiting Ireland to see relatives and to take holidays were being refused entry by “over-zealous” immigration officials.. Other visitors had to endure “excessive scrutiny”.

Excessive scrutiny: what does that mean, please, in a Europe which was only spared the simultaneous mid-air destruction of up to a dozen airliners a couple of years ago by a vigilant security official at Heathrow who noticed that a succession of Asian-looking men had identical bottles of mineral-water in their hand-luggage?

The bottles were found to contain a high-explosive that would have brought down any airliner. No subsequent investigation could possibly have revealed the causes of such a simultaneous mid-Atlantic multi-plane massacre, for the debris would have been spread over thousands of square miles.

To be sure, the intended authors of this massacre were home-grown Britons. But their cultural allegiance was and is to the jihadist caliphate that is apparently about to take over the failed-state of Pakistan. Which is why, as a general rule of thumb, the entire European Union should be very reluctant indeed to accept anyone from that particular country, and half a dozen other countries like it.

If you have ever wondered why a state fails, let me suggest the following uncontrolled experiment: allow a large enough number of refugees from it to enter your country, and they will very rapidly provide all the evidence you need as to why a state can fail. The answer is simple: the people in it.

The hiberno-left apparently still believes that we shouldn’t have tight, stop-and-check airport security. Some US lefties were probably saying something similar about immigration controls at JFK when Mohammed Atta arrived to start a course in a flying school nearly a decade ago. The chances are that those freedom-loving American lefties were not trapped on a window sill 80 storeys up, with an inferno a few floors below, about a year later. Three thousand other people were not so lucky.

Moreover, the culprits there were part of a truly global franchise. Many of the Saudi plotters of 9/11 in New York lived in London, but the terror cell responsible was based in Hamburg. So the cultural and demographic threat to Europe is no longer some lurid right-wing fantasy. Many areas of Britain, France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have spiritually seceded from the polities they live within. With mass immigration, entirely new value-systems have arrived.

We know that thousands of bogus asylum seekers have arrived in Ireland in the past 15 years, we just don’t know how many. Should we now deliberately allow their numbers to increase merely because Joan Burton — using the special innocence-sensors which left-wing politicians are apparently born into this world with — is able to declare all incoming foreigners are arriving here “legitimately”?

The shocking fact is that, last week’s Oireachtas Committee notwithstanding, the issue of immigration has never once been discussed in Dail Eireann. Moreover, the ridiculous fiction-filled saga of Pamela Izebekhai, now finally drawing to a close, would only have been possible in a society where any discussion about “asylum seekers” is routinely reduced to a hibernian moral superiority competition, in which the victor is the Irish commentator who can emote the loudest and longest about the alleged plight of would-be aslyum-seekers back home. Though, frankly, I’d let the woman and her daughters stay, but as strict exceptions to the rule.

Entire areas of Ireland have been transformed by the arrival of thousands of her fellow Nigerians, who seem to find that the word “racist” rises with remarkable ease to their lips whenever they don’t immediately get what they want. Are they the people Joan Burton wants to have waved through immigration at our airports? Or has she Pakistanis in mind? Or perhaps Algerians and Saudis? She should let us know, and maybe then the Dublin Airport Authority and gardai will oblige, and remove security measures for them all.

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

DHS Readies Tent City Strategy for Millions of Mexican ‘Refugees’

Rather than fight the [drug] war, the Obama administration appears ready to surrender, Corsi contends.

The Obama administration has developed a contingency plan for millions of Mexicans to flee the drug war by coming across the southern border as illegal immigrants.

Rather than turn back the refugees at the border, the Obama administration is planning to create tent cities to house and feed the millions fleeing Mexico.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

ICE Releases Workers Arrested in Washington Raid

SEATTLE (AP) — Many of the 28 workers arrested by immigration agents last month in a northwest Washington raid have been released and given permission to work, in another sign of how the Obama administration is handling illegal immigration differently than its predecessor.

The raid at a Yamato Engine Specialists plant in Bellingham was the first mass arrest of immigrants since President Barack Obama took office and appeared to contradict his policy that federal agents focus more on employers who hire undocumented workers than on the workers themselves. Shortly after the arrests, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of the raid.

The Bellingham Herald reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave the immigrants work permits or the option of returning to their native country.

Immigrants were released with documents advising them “that per the assistant United States attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists … should be afforded the benefit of deferred action and an employment authorization document, valid for the duration of this case.”

ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the workers were released pending further investigation of the engine company and were given the option of work permits. She declined to comment further.

Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of the Bellingham-based immigration advocacy group Community to Community Development, said most of the workers are remaining in the area with their families, and that two were deported.

The workers were released Thursday, she said.

Guillen said workers are expecting more questioning from ICE agents, and may seek legal help.

Shirin Dhanani Makalai, Yamato’s administrative manager, declined to comment.

Workplace raids involving the arrests of hundreds of illegal immigrants at a time became almost routine in the last years of the Bush administration.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Italy: Savage Attack Leaves Pakistani Man in a Coma

Rome, 30 March (AKI) — A witness of a savage attack in Rome against a Pakistani man was due to testify on Monday as police seek to identify the attackers, who fled the scene. Five Italian youths in their 20s are said to have severely beaten a Pakistani man last Monday in what investigators say was a racially-motivated attack. However, the news only surfaced on Saturday.

Mohammad Basharat, 35, the owner of a small convenience store is said to be in a coma at Rome’s Policlinico Casilino after the group of young men began to savagely beat him, while his car was stopped at a red light in Rome’s deprived Tor Bella Monaca district.

Reports say Basharat’s friend, Naziq Mehmood Muheed, managed to keep his door locked after a young man with shaved head tried to open it. Muheed told Basharat to be calm. However, four other men arrived at the scene and tried to open his door.

Basharat then got out of his van and asked the young man what they wanted. He was then brutally punched, causing him to fall to the ground and hit his head on the pavement.

Basharat fainted but regained consciousness and was taken to the hospital. After staying in the hospital overnight, his condition worsened and suffered a severe brain haemorrhage, probably due to the beating he received.

Basharat’s 38 year-old Sri Lankan partner Chandy Karunasekera , who was three months pregnant, miscarried on hearing the bad news about her husband.

“We were about to get married. Now what do I do? I am alone and I am afraid,” Karunasekera told Italian daily Il Messaggero.

“My husband did not have enemies, he did not have problems with anyone.”

The Pakistani immigrant has been living in Italy for 14 years, while Karunasekera has been here for 16 years.

Muheed will be shown several photos of the alleged attackers on Monday and will attempt to recognise them.

In late January, three Italian youth attacked an Indian labourer Navtej Singh Sidhu and doused him with petrol and paint and set him alight as he slept on a station bench in Nettuno, south of Rome. The three youths, aged 17, 20 and 30 kicked, punched and insulted him before they set the 35-year-old on fire.

January 2009 saw vigilante-style attacks against immigrants in Italy following several rapes allegedly perpetrated by immigrants. Last November, four youths beat up and set alight a homeless Italian man sleeping on a park bench in the northern city of Padova.

A 63-year-old Ghanaian immigrant sitting on a park bench in Milan was severely beaten last year by baseball-bat wielding thugs who shouted: “Dirty nigger, you all have to get out of Italy!”

Earlier vigilante-style attacks have occurred in central Italy, for example when a naval captain’s wife was allegedly raped and murdered in Rome by a Romanian drifter in 2007.

Raids were carried out on encampments across Italy and dozens of Romanians judged to be a threat to public security were deported after the incident.

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

Shipwreck Libya, 300 Missing, 350 Rescued

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Sources in the International Organisation for Migration reported that 300 persons are missing at the moment after the shipwreck of three barges off the Libyan coast. An official Coastguard communique’ has stated that around 350 migrants have been rescued by an Italian ocean-going tug. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed its deep sadness for this migration tragedy. According to preliminary reconstructions, on the evening of March 28 three crowded barges went down due to strong winds. A fourth boat was assisted by an Italian unit together with Libyan authorities. On Sunday the boat was towed to the port of Tripoli with all passengers still on board. At the moment 23 persons have been rescued from the other boats, 21 lifeless bodies have been found. The number of missing persons is expected to rise, since one barge was carrying 253 persons, the other 365. According to Egyptian press agency Mena, all illegal migrants — many of Egyptian nationality — were headed for Italy. One of the ships had left Sid elal Janzur, a suburb of Tripoli. After three hours the ship went down 30km off the Libyan coast. This renewed tragedy on the route between Libya and Sicily hasn’t curbed migration to Italy: over 400 non-EU citizens have reached the Sicilian coast in the past hours.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: 151 Migrants Land in the Canaries

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, MARCH 31 — Two boats with 151 migrants on board landed today on El Hierro island, in the Canaries, say sources in the office of the vice-prefect, as quoted by Europa Press. Both boats were spotted by the SIVE, Spain’s border surveillance service, 1.8 miles off the coast and were aided and escorted ashore by the Marine Rescue group. The landings occurred late this morning in the port of La Restinga. Some 75 people were travelling on the first boat, and 76 on the second boat, which landed shortly after. Among the immigrants, who were all sub-Saharan Africans, were many minors, although the exact number has not been indicated. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: 2 Holocaust Survivors Testify

MADRID — Two Spanish Holocaust survivors testified Monday about their Nazi concentration camp ordeals as a judge began gathering evidence in a lawsuit urging the United States to extradite four alleged former death camp guards for genocide.

Judge Ismael Moreno of the National Court heard from Ramiro Santisteban and Jesus Tello, who were both at the Mauthausen camp, for about four hours, according to a court official and the human rights group that filed the lawsuit.

Last July, Moreno agreed to consider the complaint from the Brussels-based group, Equipo Nizkor, which argues the four suspects should be extradited from the United States on charges of genocide under the so-called principle of universal justice.

The doctrine allows particularly heinous offenses — such as crimes against humanity, terrorism and torture — to be prosecuted in Spain even if they are alleged to have been committed elsewhere.

Spain has used it to go after former Chilean ruler Augusto Pinochet in 1998 and Osama bin Laden in 2003, although extraditions and convictions have been extremely rare.

The complaint identifies the four suspects as John Demjanjuk, Anton Tittjung, Josias Kumpf and Johann Leprich, and says they worked as camp guards at Flossenberg and Sachsenhausen, in Germany, or Mauthausen in Nazi-occupied Austria.

Demjanjuk is also being sought by Germany.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, which worked with Equipo Nizkor to prepare the lawsuit, says Demjanjuk is No. 2 on its “most wanted” list of Nazi war criminals — behind only SS doctor Aribert Heim.

Moreno has to decide whether to file charges against Demjanjuk and the other three and seek their extradition. It is not clear how long he will take.

The four live in the United States and are in their 80s. Equipo Nizkor says U.S. authorities have tried for years to deport them after they lied on their immigration papers about their Nazi pasts, but they remain in the United States because no country wants to take them in.

Equipo Nizkor says its case in Madrid is bolstered by the fact that thousands of Spaniards were among the millions killed in Nazi concentration camps. It says more than 7,000 Spaniards were held at Mauthausen and at least 4,300 of them died.

Most Spaniards in Nazi camps were leftist Republicans who fled to France during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39 and were captured while fighting German troops.

In Monday’s closed-door session with Judge Moreno, Santisteban and Tello were shown archive photos of Mauthausen and “talked about how the camps worked and how the extermination methods worked,” said Gregorio Dionis, a spokesman for Equipo Nizkor, whose lawyers were present during the testimony.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Abortion: Spain; Bishops, the Debate is Not Over

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, MARCH 5 MAR — “The government cannot be the judge in the debate on abortion. It is society Which decides whether a social debate is closed or not”. The statement was made by the Secretary General of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, in an interview published today by the conservative newspaper Abc on the reform of the abortion law being studied by the government. According to Camino, the events and demonstrations scheduled for this week, as well as today for the Day of Life, are “evidence that the debate on the decriminalisation of abortion is not closed or over”. Regarding the publicity campaign started by the church, which maintains that animals in danger of extinction like the Iberian lynx have greater protection than unborn children, Martinez Camino said it was in good part getting what the ecclesiastical hierarchy wanted, meaning that the “protagonist of the debate has a voice. “You can’t be silent, not listen to the voice without words of those to be born and whose life is being decided” stated the Episcopal Conference secretary general. As to the mobilisation of some associations to support the anti-abortion campaign during Holy Week, the bishop defined the initiative as “coherent and worthy of gratitude from all of society”. Finally, on the demonstration against the reform of the abortion law scheduled for Sunday in Madrid by the pro-life organisations, Martinez Camino affirmed that “the bishops exhort the associations that defend life to contribute in all legitimate ways” to the demonstration, “as announced in the recent statement from the Family and Life Commission”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Earth Population ‘Exceeds Limits’

There are already too many people living on Planet Earth, according to one of most influential science advisors in the US government.

Nina Fedoroff told the BBC One Planet programme that humans had exceeded the Earth’s “limits of sustainability”.

Dr Fedoroff has been the science and technology advisor to the US secretary of state since 2007, initially working with Condoleezza Rice.

Under the new Obama administration, she now advises Hillary Clinton.

“We need to continue to decrease the growth rate of the global population; the planet can’t support many more people,” Dr Fedoroff said, stressing the need for humans to become much better at managing “wild lands”, and in particular water supplies.

Pressed on whether she thought the world population was simply too high, Dr Fedoroff replied: “There are probably already too many people on the planet.”

GM Foods ‘needed’

A National Medal of Science laureate (America’s highest science award), the professor of molecular biology believes part of that better land management must include the use of genetically modified foods.

“We have six-and-a-half-billion people on the planet, going rapidly towards seven.

“We’re going to need a lot of inventiveness about how we use water and grow crops,” she told the BBC.

“We accept exactly the same technology (as GM food) in medicine, and yet in producing food we want to go back to the 19th Century.”

Dr Fedoroff, who wrote a book about GM Foods in 2004, believes critics of genetically modified maize, corn and rice are living in bygone times.

“We wouldn’t think of going to our doctor and saying ‘Treat me the way doctors treated people in the 19th Century’, and yet that’s what we’re demanding in food production.”

In a wide ranging interview, Dr Fedoroff was asked if the US accepted its responsibility to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be driving human-induced climate change. “Yes, and going forward, we just have to be more realistic about our contribution and decrease it — and I think you’ll see that happening.”

And asked if America would sign up to legally binding targets on carbon emissions — something the world’s biggest economy has been reluctant to do in the past — the professor was equally clear. “I think we’ll have to do that eventually — and the sooner the better.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Rory Leishman: in Defense of the Pope

Pope Benedict XVI seems to be under attack in the secular media. First, newspapers around the world mocked him for suggesting during a discussion of AIDS with reporters: “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Then, on Saturday, Agence France-Presse sensationally reported: “Pope Benedict used a nationally televised speech in Angola yesterday to reiterate the Roman Catholic Church’s ban on abortion, even to save a mother’s life.”

According to the official Vatican text of the Pope’s address, he made only one reference to abortion, stating: “How bitter the irony of those who promote abortion as a form of ‘maternal’ health care! How disconcerting the claim that the termination of life is a matter of reproductive health!”

Later, Agence France-Presse reported that Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi had “clarified” the Pope’s remarks on abortion, stating that the Church has always taught that “indirect” abortion is permissible if necessary to save the life of the mother. Lombardi added: “What the Pope said is that the concept of maternal health cannot be used to justify abortions as a means of limiting births.”

Quite so. It is generally agreed among pro-lifers — Catholic, Protestant and secular — that induced abortion is a grievous wrong that can never be justified except if necessary to save the life of the mother.

Meanwhile, the controversy over the Pope’s remark about condoms and AIDS continues. In an editorial, The New York Times contended: “Pope Benedict XVI has every right to express his opposition to the use of condoms on moral grounds, in accordance with the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. But he deserves no credence when he distorts scientific findings about the value of condoms in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus.”

In support of this argument, the Times editorial stated: “From an individual’s point of view, condoms work very well in preventing transmission of the AIDS virus from infected to uninfected people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cites ‘comprehensive and conclusive’ evidence that latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are ‘highly effective’ in preventing heterosexual transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.”

This statement is essentially misleading. Despite several decades of “safer-sex” propaganda, the great majority of sexually active people do not use condoms “consistently and correctly.” In an article published in The British Medical Journal, Dr. Stephen Genuis, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Alberta, observed: “In theory, condoms offer some protection against sexually transmitted infection; practically, however, epidemiological research repeatedly shows that condom familiarity and risk awareness do not result in sustained safer sex choices in real life. Only a minority of people engaging in risky sexual behaviour use condoms consistently. A recent study found that … [e]ven among stable, adult couples who were HIV discordant and received extensive ongoing counseling about HIV risk and condom use, only 48.4% used condoms consistently.”

What about Africa, in particular? Have the millions of free condoms that Western countries have distributed on this continent over the past several decades not at least served to reduce the scourge of AIDS among Africans?

Alas, no. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at Harvard University, is one of the leading authorities on AIDS. In an illuminating article in First Things, he wrote, “Consider this fact: In every African country in which HIV infections have declined, this decline has been associated with a decrease in the proportion of men and women reporting more than one sex partner over the course of a year — which is exactly what fidelity programs promote. The same association with HIV decline cannot be said for condom use, coverage of HIV testing, treatment for curable sexually transmitted infections, provision of antiretroviral drugs or any other intervention or behaviour.”

Even The New York Times has grasped that condoms are not a cure-all for the AIDS epidemic. In its editorial chiding the Pope, the paper conceded: “The best way to avoid transmission of the virus is to abstain from sexual intercourse or have a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person.” Pope Benedict could not have said it any better.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]