Friday, April 17, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/17/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/17/2009Notice all the piracy stories today. Most days are like this now, but a couple of years ago there were just a few pirate stories, so that the saga of the Danica White was a big deal. Now it’s hard to keep track of all the hostages and ransom payoffs.

That’s what happens when pirates aren’t immediately blasted into paradise as soon as they approach their intended targets. You pay off pirates, you get more piracy. What could be simpler than that?

It’s not rocket science, yet it seems to be something that our political leaders are incapable of learning.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Charlemagne, CSP, Diana West, Insubria, Islam in Action, islam o’phobe, LT, Paul Green, TB, Tuan Jim, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Egypt: Suez Canal Revenues Fall 21 Percent in March
Sarkozy Insults EU Colleagues and US Leader at Lunch
Inside Washington: Pricey Bus Test a Bust
John Roughan: Obama’s First Kill a Baptism of Gunfire
NY Based Islamic Hate Group Exposed!! (Videos)
Team O Turns Left on Sanity With “Right-Wing Extremists”
Canadian Charged in Attempt to Ship Banned Nuclear Technology to Iran
Colby Cosh: Mutilating the Body to Correct a Delusion
Kevin Libin: Next From the CCPA, Proof That Water is Wet
Ottawa Imam Targeted in ‘Hostile Takeover’
Europe and the EU
Croatia-EU: Slovenia Confirms Veto to Membership
Cultural Bridge Builder Tariq Ramadan Can Stay in Rotterdam
Czech Rep Criticises Racism Conference Declaration on Behalf of EU
Czech President Will Not Shake Hands With Lukashenko
Denmark: Absalon Returns From Pirate Duty
Denmark: Veils Must be Lifted for Season Ticket Holders
EU Dismayed by Romania Mass Citizenship Plan
Finland: Cleaners Have Highest Sick Leave Rates, Doctors Lowest
France: Sarkozy, Against Discrimination at School and Work
France: Saudi Prince Convicted of Cocaine Trafficking
France: Children Malnourished for Islamic Purification
France: Storm in a French Port
Greenland: Nunavut Premier: EU Not Welcome in Arctic Council
Italy: Three Held for Grain King Murder
Moldova Brutality Admitted
Netherlands: Terrorism Convict to Move to Dutch Prison
Netherlands: Undercover Officers Police Anti-Social Bus Routes
Norway: 30,000 Asylum Seekers Arrive Without Passports
Racial Laws: Osservatore, Fini Petty Opportunism
Slovenia: Average Monthly Salary Up, Now at 918 Euros
Sweden: Prosecutor: Giving the Pill to Teens Aids Rape
‘The Only Thing Saving the Irish is European Protection’
UK: Court Convicts UK Tamil Tigers Head
UK: Policeman Deletes Tourist’s Photos ‘to Stop Terrorism’… After He is ‘Caught’ Taking Picture of Iconic London Bus
UK: Thousands Line Streets to Welcome Home Soldiers From Afghanistan
Serbia Submits Kosovo Motion at ICJ
Mediterranean Union
Egypt: Aymar Nour, Political Error Sending Me to Prison
North Africa
Egypt: Dissident Leader Criticises Cairo for Hezbollah Crackdown
Morocco: General Strike Against Highway Code Reform
Shoes Against Bush, Egyptian Proposes Daughter to Zahidi
Stakelbeck Sits Down With Jehan Sadat, Widow of Egyptian President
Israel and the Palestinians
Arab Youth Attacks European Tourist in Jerusalem Old City
Egypt-Israel: Abul Gheit Refuses to Deal With Lieberman
Lieberman to Moratinos, First Stop Iran & Hamas
US Sees Arab Peace Plan as Part of Palestinian State Push
Middle East
Israel Asks Russia Not to Sell S-300 to Iran
Lebanon: Mig-29 From Russia, Beirut Press Sceptical
Lebanon: Another Arrest for Presumed Pro-Israeli Spying
Saudi Court Confirms Validity of Marriage for Eight-Year-Old Girl
Saudi Cleric Khaled Al-Khlewi Teaches Children to Hate Jews
US Weighing Punishing Israel if it Attacks Iran
Russia: NATO Exercises ‘a Dangerous Move’
South Asia
Afghanistan: Hero Marine Rugby-Tackles Suicide Bomber and Says ‘Don’t Tell Mum, I Don’t Want Her to Worry’
Attracted by Promises of a Better Life in Naples, Somali Refugees Find Themselves in Nepal
Pakistan: Radical Cleric Returns to Red Mosque
Taliban Foment Class Revolt in Pakistan
What Indian Christians Can Hope From These Elections
Far East
Philippines: Hostage Rescue Gets Green Light
Philippines: US Set to Help in Jolo, Sulu Hostage Crisis, Says Envoy
Australia — Pacific
Australia: ‘I Just Wanted to be Safe’: Asylum Seeker
Australia: People Smuggler Jailed for Six Years
New Zealand: Patrick Gower: a Liberal Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing
Sub-Saharan Africa
‘I Used Icepick to Take Somali Pirate Hostage’ Says Sailor
‘I’m Not a Pirate, I’m the Saviour of the Sea’
Prison Sentence for Insulting Gambian President
S. Korean Navy Repels Pirate Attack
Scott Stinson: Got Pirate Problems? Hire Some Russians
Latin America
Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: An Ideological Crusade Against Alberto Fujimori
Obama Blames U.S. Guns in Mexico
154 Illegal Immigrants Stranded at Sea
Australia: Navy to Intercept Asylum-Seekers on Way to Australia; Police Warned of Increase
Denmark: Fears of Foreigner Flood Just a Trickle
Finland: Thors Accuses Zyskowicz of Divisiveness in Asylum Debate
Indonesia: 68 Afghan Migrants Arrested
Italy: European Rights Watchdog Attacks Immigration Record
Netherlands Gets Tough With Somali Asylum Seekers
Singapore: 245 Suspicious Vessels
Three More Landings on Lampedusa
Culture Wars
UK: We Can’t Let the Family Die
Romancing the Jihad
Stop Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth

Financial Crisis

Egypt: Suez Canal Revenues Fall 21 Percent in March

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, April 16 — In continuation of a downward trend, Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues dropped 21 percent to USD 327.9 million this past March from USD 416.9 million the previous year, according to a government statement. Although the figures for March are an improvement on February’s earnings, which were the lowest since April 2006 at USD 301.8 million, Suez Canal revenues are expected to continue dropping steadily into the next fiscal year as a result of the ongoing financial crisis. The number of vessels using the waterway last month was 1,439, down from 1,699 in March 2008. In February 2009, only 1,272 ships passed through Suez, a five-year low in canal traffic. The Suez Canal is a vital source of foreign currency for Egypt, along with tourism, oil and gas exports and remittances from Egyptians living abroad. It is also a contributor to Egypt’s economic growth, constituting 0.7 percent of Egypt’s 7.2 percent overall growth for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. It appears that revenues from the canal can be expected to continue dropping for the foreseeable future. Cairo investment bank EFG-Hermes expects total revenues for the canal to drop 10 percent for the 2008-2009 fiscal year from USD 5.1 billion in 2007-2008, and a further 25 percent in the coming fiscal year beginning July 1.(ANSAmed)

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sarkozy Insults EU Colleagues and US Leader at Lunch

Nicholas Sarkozy, the talkative and not infrequently tactless French president, has once again been robustly, awkwardly blunt.

His style, which has seen the politician call impoverished suburban youth “scum” and tell a heckler to “sod off, asshole,” normally brings a smile to the kind of conservative voters who find it refreshing to hear a politician abandon the langue du bois, or “wooden speaking style” historically used by the country’s leaders.

But this time those whom he has insulted are some of his most important international allies, and they might have a different sense of humour to the politically incorrect man on the street.

At a lunch with 24 French senators and MPs from all parties invited to discuss the state of the ongoing financial crisis on Wednesday (15 April), the French president gave an update to his colleagues on the results of the recent meeting of the G20 in London.

In so doing, he described Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, as stupid, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, as simply following Mr Sarkozy’s lead and Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, as “absent.” By the end of the lunch, he had also cast the new American president, Barack Obama, as inexperienced and not up to speed on the issue of climate change.

The sole global leader that remained high in the French president’s estimation was the equally unpolished Silvio Berlusconi, for his repeated electoral successes.

Mr Sarkozy had perhaps assumed that the private discussion would not be passed on by his guests, but among their number were not a few opposition politicians, and Liberation, the left-wing French daily, immediately published their reports of the meeting.

According to the politicians, the president said of his American counterpart: “Obama has a subtle spirit, very intelligent and very charismatic. But he’s only been elected two months and has never headed up a government ministry in his life.”

“There are a certain number of things about which he has no position,” he said, Liberation reports. “I told him: ‘I don’t think you’ve really understood what we have done regarding CO2. You have talked, but one must act.’ The [EU] climate-energy package that I got passed during the french [EU] presidency will see in 2020 a reduction of emissions on 1990 [levels]. We in Europe have sanctions against states and companies. He just wants to return to 1990 emission levels and there are no sanctions.”

French magazine L’Express reports that Mr Sarkozy also joked about Mr Obama’s saintly image in the context of a planned visit to France in June. “I am going to ask him to walk on the [English] Channel, and he’ll do it,” the French leader said.

Mr Sarkozy qualified the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, as “totally absent from the G20” and said of the German chancellor: “When she realised the state of her banks and her automobile industry, she had no choice but to take on my position.”

The most piquant phrase came with dessert, for the Spanish prime minister. “One can say many things about Zapatero …He’s maybe not very intelligent,” Mr Sarkozy said.

He added that intelligence is not a vital element in politics, as he knows many intelligent politicians who have failed to get re-elected.

He then saluted the Italian prime minister for being able to surmount such hurdles. “The important thing in a democracy is to be re-elected. Look at Berlusconi. He’s been re-elected three times.”

The 24 deputies are scheduled to be invited for another presidential lunch briefing on the financial crisis in June.

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


Inside Washington: Pricey Bus Test a Bust

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Good ol’ Falls Church — always good for a laugh.]

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — It seemed like a good idea, perhaps one that could be emulated nationwide: a fleet of electric buses to ease congestion in one of Washington’s traffic-choked suburbs in an environmentally friendly way.

Congress provided earmarks of nearly $2 million to make it happen. But about 10 years later, the buses serving the small, prosperous city of Falls Church aren’t electric, their usage has leveled off at half of what was projected, and the city is considering scrapping the system.

Taxpayers subsidize the service at a whopping $8 per ride, in most cases enough to pay for a cab ride.

The GEORGE system has become another demonstration of the risks of congressional earmarks — spending provisions in the law that doles out money for specific projects in their home states or districts.

“That little earmark is a microcosm of the problem,” said Leslie Paige, spokesman for Citizens Against Government Waste.

After two contractors failed to provide suitable clean-running electric buses for the system, the city ended up with diesel buses — albeit ones equipped to reduce emissions.

And at many points on the route, the GEORGE bus stops overlap or are less than a block away from regional bus routes that also connect to Metrorail, the Washington area’s large subway system.

Earmarks have become a particularly contentious part of the federal budget process. President Obama campaigned against earmark spending, but last month signed a $410 billion spending package that included 8,000 earmarks costing $5.5 billion.

Transportation projects are an earmarking favorite. A 2007 report from the Transportation Department’s inspector general found that in 2006, Congress had taken an $847 million federal program for bus funding and earmarked $814 million of it for pet projects, leaving almost nothing to be allocated under the traditional merit-based funding formula.

Meanwhile, Falls Church is deciding whether to continue the GEORGE service. A city of about 12,000 inside the Capital Beltway, it would have to pay as much as $600,000 to maintain service next year, according to city manager Wyatt Shields. Bus systems in the nearby suburbs of Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington provide an average subsidy of $2 per ride or less. Shields recommends eliminating the service.

But the system still has supporters, and the city council is looking at ways to make the system more efficient.

Its biggest booster, city councilman David Snyder, said the earmarks will only waste taxpayer money if the city gives up on GEORGE. “It’s up to us (on the city council) now to make sure the earmark isn’t wasted,” he said.

The idea for GEORGE came from a former mayor in the 1990s who was impressed by electric buses he rode in Chattanooga, Tenn.

A working group was formed to study feasibility. But it was a series of congressional earmarks, shepherded by Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., that got the project off the ground. Moran is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which controls earmark spending.

Service began in December 2002, with the buses primarily delivering Falls Church commuters to two Metrorail stations on opposite ends of the city. Initial projections estimated ridership of about 144,000 annually. But ridership has never exceeded 75,000 and now stands at about 70,000.

Falls Church resident Jeff Proctor said he occasionally uses the bus to connect to Metrorail. The GEORGE bus, which costs 50 cents a ride, stops directly in front of his apartment.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” he said. “If I had to pay $8 I’d just take a cab, right? It seems silly to subsidize it at that level.”

Paige said GEORGE demonstrates many of the problems with earmarks. Among them is the temptation to throw good money after bad, with local governments on the hook for heavy operating subsidies to justify the money spent to establish the system.

“Earmarks become like a seed for even more wasteful spending further on down,” she said.

Moran, a defender of the earmark system who has requested a $2 million earmark in the upcoming budget cycle for neighboring Arlington County’s bus service, said the federal government can no longer continue subsidiziing the GEORGE service, but he doesn’t see the earmark as a waste.

“We gave it our best shot,” he said. “If we hadn’t had this financial depression or recession we probably could have continued. But in tough fiscal times like this, you have to make tough choices. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good idea.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

John Roughan: Obama’s First Kill a Baptism of Gunfire

Barack Obama, like the best who have been in his office, is an ordinary human being who finds himself wielding extraordinary and ultimately lonely power.

Devotees of the television series The West Wing, a fictional drama made with the help of some former White House staff, will remember what happens every time an American life is threatened by armed force abroad.

Blue lights go on in the “situation room”, a windowless chamber with banks of screens and electronic maps around a long table where the Joint Chiefs of the uniformed services, heads of the intelligence agencies and probably the Secretaries of State and Defence sit in solemn discussion with senior presidential staff.

All will have already read briefings by specialists in the zone of concern. The equipment in the room will give them instant communication with commanders in the field and live pictures from satellites or high-flying aircraft can be screened if they need them.

When the meeting has settled on the options available and has some action to recommend, the President is summoned. He sits at the head of the table and it is his decision alone.

In one memorable West Wing scene the fictional President, a very liberal Democrat, has authorised a secret assassination of a troublesome Middle Eastern figure, mainly because the opportunity arose.

After the deed the President ponders how many American laws he has just broken, not to mention his own moral code. He asks his loyal and equally liberal Chief of Staff why he had to do it.

The man looks at him and says, “Because you were elected.”

I wonder what went through Obama’s mind when the news reached him last Monday that the ship captain held hostage by Somali pirates had been rescued?

Elation, obviously, that the man was safe and unharmed and a family’s agony was over. It is one of the President’s happy tasks, or dreadful duties, to call the family whatever happens.

But a man like Obama might experience some other thoughts. The three pirates were aged 17 to 19. The lifeboat in which they held the captain at gunpoint had been taken under tow by the USS Bainbridge. They had been negotiating.

The incident was near the end of its fifth day when the moment came that all three teenagers simultaneously put their heads in the rifle sights of a Navy Seal sniper crouched on the fantail of the destroyer. The President had given the order to kill if the opportunity presented itself.

It was done. And it was right. I haven’t read criticism of the action, though I wonder what would have been said if the decision had been made by John McCain.

We would have read much more, I suspect, about the plight of Somalis, the tempting prize that passing cargo ships present to bands of young tribesmen in a country with no law, no government, not much of a functioning economy, no shortage of firearms and not many other ways to make a living.

They are accustomed to ships that offer no resistance. It has been pathetic to read how easily these hoodlums in small craft have approached container ships far out on the ocean, clambered up their towering hulls somehow and subdued the seamen who must vastly outnumber them.

After one such incident I overhead in a bar some powerfully built veterans of the British merchant marine recalling acts of piracy they had encountered. I asked them the reason for this lack of resistance and they said ships’ crew were not trained in martial skills.

What they really meant, I think, is that guns can only be met with guns and it goes against the grain of most ordinary men to kill another unless they are in desperate personal danger.

It probably goes against Obama’s grain, too, but he was elected. Probably nothing prepared him for the first execution he would have to order, or for the realisation that, though the decision was his alone, it was really not his.

The responsibilities he had sought as a candidate would be suddenly overwhelming in office. They would overwhelm personal inclinations. Private moral misgivings — is it right to murder people who are committing not much more than armed robbery? — become mere indulgence.

You are responsible for the security of a country and every one of its citizens. Uniquely, the country has the power to protect them anywhere in the world. They expect you to do it.

Christians learn the crucifixion was ordered by a powerful Roman governor against his private inclinations. But then, they believe it served the cause of salvation.

It was Easter Sunday in America when the pirates were shot. Obama probably went to church.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

NY Based Islamic Hate Group Exposed!! (Videos)

By Christopher Logan

As we can see by the picture the NY based Islamic Thinkers Society is once again spewing their hatred of non-Muslims. As they are calling for Muslims not to befriend Jews or Christians. But they did not just come up with this line of thinking out of thin air. It is commanded from the Koran verse 5:51, which tells Muslims not to be friends with Jews or Christians…

           — Hat tip: Islam in Action[Return to headlines]

Team O Turns Left on Sanity With “Right-Wing Extremists”

By Diana West

I’ve got it.

After reading and rereading the surreal Department of Homeland Security intel report on “right-wing extremism” that clearly designates conservative political dissent as part of the threat, I finally figured out why it all seems so familiar.

First, there’s the report’s leading villain, the “military veteran” returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan — the “potential lone wolf” terrorist with the lethal capabilities. That could raise goose bumps in anyone, right?

Then there are the “white supremacists” well known for their “longstanding exploitation of social issues such as abortion, interracial crime and same-sex marriage.” (I don’t get the connection either.) According to the government, we just might see a growing movement of similarly pro-life, pro-law-and-order, pro-marriage … “white supremacists.” Enough to make anyone hyperventilate, of course.

And what about the “right-wing extremist” who “adopts the immigration issue as a call to action”? Or the “many right-wing extremists” who “are antagonistic toward the new presidential administration and its perceived” — perceived? — “stance on a range of issues” including immigration, expanding government programs and gun control? According to the report, such “right-wing extremists are increasingly galvanized by these concerns and leverage them as drivers for recruitment.” Sounds like a GOP voter drive to me. Cue up “Psycho”- strains of shrieking violins.

The fact is, we’ve seen this cast of characters before — many times before — in all of the schlock Hollywood movies that year after year harvest a diseased crop of villains from the American heartland, endlessly returning them to the screen as the “crazed veteran,” the “religious zealot” and the anti-immigration “Nazi.” These are the stock villains — all racist, naturally — who are now similarly demonized in the government’s report.

This fantastic worldview that sees the country imperiled by military heroes, traditional values and even border security meshes perfectly with the also-official flip side to such paranoid liberal fantasy: namely, the harmlessness of the Islamic brand of “extremism,” which Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently renamed, and with a straight face, “man-caused disasters.” Hollywood, of course, doesn’t touch such “extremism” either, sticking with right-wingers- gone-wild to the very last reel…

           — Hat tip: Diana West[Return to headlines]


Canadian Charged in Attempt to Ship Banned Nuclear Technology to Iran

Attempted to conceal nature of devices and final shipping destination, police allege

TORONTO — A Toronto man has been arrested for allegedly attempting to export nuclear technology to Iran.

Mahmoud Yadegari appeared in court this morning to face federal customs charges but he may face additional charges for violating a United Nations embargo.

Mr. Yadegari attempted to “procure and export” pressure transducers used in the production of enriched uranium, the RCMP said in a statement.

While enriched uranium is used to produce nuclear fuel, it is also a component of nuclear weapons. The U.N. Security Council banned exports of nuclear-related technology to Iran in 2006 because of its alleged efforts to build nuclear weapons.

Mr. Yadegari was allegedly purchasing the materials in the United States and sending them through the United Arab Emirates to Iran, said RCMP Sgt. Marc Laporte.

“The product was being exported through Dubai and then we’re alleging that the end destination was going to be Iran,” he said.

The charges followed an “extensive investigation” involving RCMP, Canada Border Services Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Service (ICE). “ICE is involved because the product originated in the U.S. and was being brought into Canada,” Sgt. Laporte said.

Police are claiming Mr. Yadegari tried to conceal his activities. “The police investigation shows that steps to conceal the identification specifications of these transducers were taken in order to export the items without the required export permits,” the RCMP said.

Mr. Yadegari is a Canadian citizen.

He once worked for Iran Javan, a Toronto company that publishes an Iranian-Canadian business directory, said Reihany Pour, the Executive Director.

But Mr. Pour said the man had not worked at the company for eight to ten years. He declined to comment further, saying he would only speak to police.

Several countries are engaged in ongoing efforts to develop nuclear weapons, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said in its annual report to Parliament two weeks ago.

“The proliferation of nuclear weapons, technology and expertise — particularly to less stable or conflict-ridden regions — continues to present a security threat to the international community,” the report says.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has warned that up to 30 countries could have the capacity to develop nuclear weapons in the next several decades, the report said.

CSIS said the likelihood of a terrorist group building a nuclear bomb is “extremely low” due to the complexities and expense. “The larger nuclear threat remains that of a rogue state, or one which is a sponsor of terrorism, obtaining nuclear weapons and technology for military use.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Colby Cosh: Mutilating the Body to Correct a Delusion

The government of Alberta’s decision to stop health-department funding for future gender reassignment surgeries has, in just a few days, been seized upon as a convenient high-profile example of Conservative heartlessness and Neanderthality. Don’t all decent, progressive governments pay the full freight for these procedures? Well, as it happens, they don’t; the only other province that was hitherto covering the whole tab was Liberal Ontario, which agreed to do so only after a human rights commission ruckus in 2008.

A similar melodrama is underway here, and the eventual outcome in favour of those seeking the surgery is certain. And even though the Alberta government will accede to the ruling, just like Ontario’s did, special opprobrium will be reserved for Alberta’s uniquely transphobic brand of evil.

This is all somewhat depressing to contemplate — as much because it introduces needless uncertainty into the lives of gender identity disorder (GID) victims as because of what it says about the politics of Canadian health care. Political correctness, lobbying power, and press clippings containing sorrowful anecdotes should not be permitted to influence governments’ decisions about what drugs and therapies to fund. Nor should the retrograde beliefs or uninformed instincts of government caucus members.

On Tuesday, in talking about the decision to delist reassignment surgeries, Health Minister Ron Liepert mused about the creation of an “expert committee” to review medical procedures on the same evidentiary basis that is used to list or delist drugs. Heck of an idea, Ron. Maybe you should have implemented it before you made a decision to defund the most popular treatment for GID. Having done so, you might conceivably have had a shred of justification with which to defend that decision before the human rights commission. Which will be sorely tempted to shove it back down your throat and make funding for gender reassignments mandatory, universal, and permanent in Alberta.

There is a strong bioethical case against the very existence of surgical gender reassignment, not that most members of the newly empowered caste of professional bioethicists would ever dare advance it. (Indeed, that there is not a louder debate about gender reassignment suggests that bioethicists are a virtually useless species.) The case against is usually made by Catholics, but nothing about it depends on any religious premise. It boils down to this: Gender reassignment constitutes the irreversible surgical mutilation of a healthy body — and thus violates the traditional prime directive of medicine — in the effort to correct a delusion, one which may be reversible.

But this is a philosophical view, and I cannot insist that Alberta Health, or anyone else, adopt it. My policy preference is for evidence-based medicine. I believe that, ideally, GID sufferers would be entitled to a hearing on scientific evidence of positive psychological outcomes from the surgery.

And I believe that on the existing evidence, they would lose. Most studies of gender reassignment surgery are retrospective; where the findings are positive, they may depend on well-known cognitive biases. Psychologists know that when one performs some expressive act in favour of a view or opinion, one thereby commits to it mentally and becomes more strongly convinced of it. There can hardly be an expressive act involving greater commitment than having your penis cut off.

What is needed in the field of gender reassignment, as papers in that field point out ad nauseam, are prospective studies with randomized controls. So far, there don’t seem to have been any. One non-randomized study containing just 40 GID patients has been recycled with almost comic frequency. The latest wide-ranging review of the subject, printed earlier this year in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive, and Aesthetic Surgery, offered the usual complaints about the inadequacy of the data, and noted that there are a lot of people around who seem generally happier after sex changes, but had to confess that “the magnitude of benefit and harm cannot be estimated accurately using the current available evidence.”

In other words, no scientific claim about the therapeutic appropriateness of gender reassignment is possible. (It has been speculated that sex changes pay for themselves quickly in savings on psychiatric treatments, so Liepert may be costing Alberta money. No one knows.) And we are even further, decades away, from having the sophisticated, detailed quality-of-life information that would permit governments to underwrite gender reassignment with confidence and in good faith.

And it won’t make a damn bit of difference. It will either be funded, or not funded, on the basis of a cynical, ridiculous political tug-of-war.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Kevin Libin: Next From the CCPA, Proof That Water is Wet

If you’ve ever wondered exactly where your taxes go, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (the only Canadian think tank officially endorsed by Naomi Klein!) has spared no effort finding out for you. And in a report released Wednesday, it revealed the “path-breaking” answer. Ready? Turns out your taxes go to people with lower incomes than you.

If that strikes you as rather obvious, then clearly you don’t work in the news business, because the study was picked up by the CBC and a number of other media outlets across Canada, all of which credulously accepted the authors’ attendant conclusion at face value: that because we redistribute income like this, Canada’s public services must be a “bargain” for most of us (the study was called “Public Services . . .a Quiet Bargain”), since the majority of Canadians collect as much or more in direct transfers and other government benefits than they pay for. Just not that unfortunate minority in the highest income brackets. In other words: we soak the rich.

Of course, the CCPA didn’t quite put it that way. But report author Hugh MacKenzie, did contort this patent fact into an argument against tax cuts—since most of us are better off continuing to tax the wealthy for our own benefit: “Tax cuts are always made to sound like they’re free money to middle income Canadians. They are anything but,” he told the CBC. “We’re far better off with the public services we fund, than we are with tax cuts.”

Hand it to the CCPA for finding a way to put an artful spin on the elementary principle of tax redistribution. The think tank appears to have hit that news-coverage sweet spot where it matters enough to get editors’ attention, but evidently not enough to raise reporters’ scrutiny, because the study offers a number of howlers that sailed past them all. There’s the old chestnut from Oliver Wendell Holmes that “taxes are what we pay for civilized society” but no mention that this was uttered in 1927, when civilized society was still selling for an average 12% tax rate (Canadians pay about 45% now). Or how about this kneeslapper of a statistic: “An upper-middle income Canadian household would have to devote half a year’s wages to pay for the public services that their taxes provide.” Mr. MacKenzie seems to think this is a helluva deal, forgetting that, as any upper-middle income Canadian household currently preparing their tax return knows, these people are devoting pretty well half their wages in paying for government services (counting sales taxes, gas taxes, property taxes, etc.). But the report doesn’t bother to address that. And because the study relies on an overly simplistic mathematical analysis (total taxes paid, segmented by benefit, allocated over various income brackets), nor does it address how efficiently those services are delivered relative to the private sector or relative to other countries. That Canadians get some benefit out of universal education and public infrastructure is something we don’t need a 40-page study to tell us; whether we’re getting as much bang for our publicly spent bucks as other industrialized countries? Now that’s a report we might be interested in.

Because, these shallow assumptions—that all government spending is automatically a “benefit” to Canadians, exactly proportionate to spending, and that lowering taxes helps no one but the fat cats—quickly fall apart if you take them to their logical conclusions. After all, if taxing away wealth from the rich is such a “bargain” for everyone else—and to a certain extent, it certainly is, which is why democracies inevitably favour redistributive tax regimes—then why not tax big incomes away entirely, and give the majority of Canadians an even more spectacular quality of life than they have now?

I’m sure Mr. MacKenzie would hesitate to go quite that far. But by leaving out the vital analysis of spending effectiveness and utility (ie, waste) and, even more importantly, tax competitiveness, this is the inevitable conclusion he’s headed toward. When Ottawa and the provinces were forced to cut taxes in recent decades, it was because economists with a far more sophisticated analytical tools than this determined that their uncompetitive tax regimes were discouraging investment and productivity (why work extra hard if the government’s going to take most of it anyway?) and ultimately destroying not only personal wealth but the ability to collect sufficient revenue to sustain those very public services that the CCPA cherishes so—too many goose feathers, too much hissing, to paraphrase an old, French finance minister. Nearly every government in the developed world has since figured out that streamlining taxes on individuals and wealth-creating businesses makes all of us—including governments—better off in the long run. For a report so full of blatancies, it’s surprising the CCPA missed that one.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ottawa Imam Targeted in ‘Hostile Takeover’

Scores demand search for new leader as Imam Khaled’s wings clipped

Ottawa’s new imam is on the brink of losing his job, thanks to fierce infighting at the city’s main mosque.

The Ottawa Muslim Association, which controls the main mosque on Northwestern Avenue, has mailed a letter to the Egyptian ambassador, saying they do not want Imam Khaled Abdul-Hamid Syed to continue, even though he has been here less than a year.

The 37-year-old Egyptian came to Canada with his wife and young son last summer after 12 years at one of the most prestigious Islamic universities in the world. But several people believe his English is not clear enough and many Ottawa Muslims have insisted all along that only an imam from Canada or at least North America will suffice.

A document with 40 names demands a search for a new imam fluent in English, Arabic, and, preferably, French, at home in North American society and unconnected to any foreign government. No mention is made of religious or scholarly criteria.

Imam Khaled would be relegated to one sermon a month, giving Islamic lectures in Arabic, and teaching the Sunday school, “in appreciation of his services this far” and “under the supervision of the OMA,” says the statement.

One of three candidates would step in until the final imam arrives:

- Imam Zijad Delic, a Bosnian, executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress in Ottawa.

- Imam Ismail Batnuni, who has led prayers at the mosque and speaks on various Islamic radio programs.

- Imam Adburrahman Al Hejazy, a Syrian who grew up in Saudi Arabia, and is now studying computer science at Carleton University. He filled in at the mosque until the current imam arrived. A petition was circulated asking that he take the position permanently.

Imam Delic said Thursday he knows nothing of the document, nor had anyone asked his permission to have his name put forward. “I know of the situation at the mosque,” he said. “It’s touchy. But I hope this new discourse brings a positive result.”

Similarly, Al Hejazy says he plans to graduate in the next year and leave the city to be near his parents, perhaps back in Saudi Arabia.

The mosque is so bitterly divided that the chairman of the association’s board of trustees has resigned over the issue. “It is not right what they have done to him,” said Nazih Hammoud. “They didn’t give him a chance.”

More than 100 others have signed a counter-petition trying to revoke the letter to the ambassador, asking that the matter be brought up at the association’s general meeting this Sunday. It says: “It is imperative that we air this issue internally so that the miscreants’ hostile takeover of the mosque is thwarted as their radical views would be a disservice to the OMA established in 1962.”

Farid Ahmed, a longtime member of the association who is considered to be one of the voices of reason in the community, went so far as to circulate bright yellow flyers at Friday prayers recently, saying in bold type:

“Are we Muslims or are we chicken? We should have an equal say in judging our Imam.

“Please do not let those who hide and cheat, win over those who worked hard to build this community!!!

“We want equal say in judging our Imam Khaled Sayed.

“Please give him a chance of one or two years to improve his English.”

In an interview at his tranquil Manor Park home, Ahmed said, “His name will be mud if he has to go back to Egypt. His future will be finished. I thought we would be more welcoming, and it’s disappointing. That’s why I wrote this.”

The community’s previous imam, Gamal Solaiman, left Ottawa in 2007. When the community could not find a satisfactory replacement, the Egyptian Ministry of Religious Affairs sent Imam Khaled from a program that sends scholars to Muslim communities abroad. He has an initial term of one year, which ends in July 2009, with an option to extend to 2011 if both sides agree. The Egyptian government, not the mosque, pays his salary. He and his family are provided with a modest apartment but no car. At this point, he travels by bus.

“It’s internal politics,” said Imam Solaiman from London, where he teaches at Cambridge’s Muslim College. “You know sometimes, age bears fruit as well … I was 68 in Ottawa, so I knew how to handle these (factions). But Khaled is a young man, and this is his first experience abroad.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Croatia-EU: Slovenia Confirms Veto to Membership

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, DECEMBER 17 — Slovenia confirmed today that it would veto the opening of new negotiations on Croatia becoming a member of the European Union. Prime Minister Borut Pahor said that Ljubljana would announce this in next Friday’s press conference in Brussels. Talking after a meeting with the leaders of all Slovenian parties, the premier underlined that he has asked the political forces for a consensus on the veto of Ljubljana, the only European Chancellery which since October has opposed the start of negotiations with Croatia on seven chapters and the closing of another two, on a total of 35. “Ljubljana keeps its reservations on these nine chapters” explained Pahor in a press meeting in which no questions could be asked, but he proposed a meeting with Croatian minister Ivo Sanader “already next week”. This means that the adhesion process of Croatia in the EU will remain blocked, at least for some months, until the two former Yugoslavian republics find a compromise on the bilateral issues which form the basis of the Slovenian ‘no’. Ljubljana claims that in a series of documents presented by Croatia to the EU the maritime border in the Gulf of Piran in the northern Adriatic Sea is jeopardised, a question that has been open since the break-up of former Yugoslavia. Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said yesterday that his government is willing to give written guarantees, that is to say that the sea boundary will be questioned in no way. Pahor has asked Croatia to use none of the disputed documents, among which abstracts of land titles, in possible future proceedings at the International Court of The Hague or Hamburg. Sanader has refused these conditions, defined an ultimatum by the Zagreb press, “because it would leave Croatia without any documents in its favour”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Cultural Bridge Builder Tariq Ramadan Can Stay in Rotterdam

Muslim intellectual wins dispute over alleged discrimination against homosexuals

by Michel Hoebink

The Swiss-Egyptian Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan, who works as a cultural ‘bridge builder’ in the city of Rotterdam, came under fire in recent weeks for alleged discriminatory statements about women and homosexuals. But now it turns out he never made these statements. “Incorrect, biased and completely taken out of context.”

That is the judgement of the Rotterdam city authorities of a recent article in the Dutch Gaykrant which caused a lot of commotion around Tariq Ramadan.

Bridge builder

The article in the Dutch gay community weekly quotes old tapes of lectures by Mr Ramadan (pictured right), on which he is supposed to have said that homosexuality is a disease and that Islam does not allow it. Ramadan himself immediately denied that he ever made these statements.

Nevertheless, the article led to calls by a number of Dutch politicians for the dismissal of Tariq Ramadan by the city of Rotterdam, where he is professor of identity and citizenship at the Erasmus University and acts as a bridge builder between the indigenous Dutch and immigrant Muslim communities.

Mr Ramadan, who is very popular among young educated Muslims in Europe, has always been haunted by controversy. European left-wingers celebrate him as a bridge-builder. His view of a modern reinterpretation of Islam and for the active participation of Muslims in European societies is deemed the perfect antidote to the growing influence of fundamentalist ‘ salafi’ Islam. But to European right-wingers Ramadan — grandson of the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood — is often viewed as a ‘ wolf in sheepskin’, a man with a double agenda who is actually far more fundamentalist than he lets on.


The Rotterdam local authorities under recently appointed Moroccan-Dutch mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb decided to investigate the matter. More than 50 tapes on which Ramadan speaks in French and Arabic were translated and scrutinised to find out once and for all what the man really said. Last Wednesday, the results were presented in Rotterdam and the outcome is clearly in Mr Ramadan’s favour. “Mr Ramadan does not speak with a double tongue”, says Rotterdam city councillor Rik Grashof. The Gaykrant, he claims, quoted Mr Ramadan incorrectly and took some of his statements out of context giving them exactly the opposite meaning to what he wanted to say. Conclusion: the Rotterdam city council sees no reason to discontinue its cooperation with Tariq Ramadan.

An interesting comment on the whole affair comes from Markha Valenta of the University of Amsterdam, who is in a same sex marriage. In an opinion piece in NRC Handelsblad, she argues that the whole discussion focuses on the question whether Mr Ramadan said that homosexuality is abnormal and not permitted in Islam. But this is beside the point. Even if he said these things, it should not have been an issue. It is not just Muslims, who think homosexuality is unnatural and does not deserve full recognition, large numbers of Westerners do too. So why should we suddenly demand that Muslims say homosexuality is good and natural, even if they don’t think so? argues Ms Valenta.

“What matters is that Muslims recognise the civil rights of homosexuals and lesbians and live their lives accordingly. Something Tariq Ramadan has always done. What a Muslim holds as his personal opinion is none of our business. The pressure on Muslims to publicly deny their personal convictions and beliefs is hypocritical and violates the values of enlightenment and democracy.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Czech Rep Criticises Racism Conference Declaration on Behalf of EU

Geneva — The Czech Republic criticised on behalf of the European Union today the modified draft final declaration of the forthcoming U.N. conference on racism.

According to the German dpa news agency, the Czech Republic, that now presides over the EU, expressed dissatisfaction with the formulations of the terms religion and occupied territories that it considers to be really essential points.

The EU previously threatened to boycott the Geneva conference due to disputes over the final document.

Muslim states are trying to include in the final document sharply anti-Israeli stands.

The United States, Israel, Canada and Italy have already cancelled their participation.

The compromise version was submitted by Russia that wanted to accommodate the objections of some western states.

The conference that is to start in Geneva on Monday and continue until Friday, April 24, is to assess progress the world has attained in the struggle against racism since the first U.N. conference on the topic in Durban in 2001.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Czech President Will Not Shake Hands With Lukashenko

Prague — Czech President Vaclav Klaus will not hold out his hand to Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko and he will not receive him at Prague Castle if he arrives in Prague to attend an EU-Eastern Partnership summit, Klaus’s spokesman Radim Ochvat said today.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg today handed an invitation to the May 7 summit in Belarus on behalf of the EU.

Ochvat said Klaus was “rather” surprised at the invitation for Belarus.

“The President is surprised at the double morals that is applied, and says he will not hold out his hand to Mr Lukashenko and will not receive him at Prague Castle,” Ochvat said.

The invitation to Belarus to the summit was handed by Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on behalf of the EU in Minsk today.

Foreign news agencies write that Lukashenko himself was invited, but Czech diplomacy says the invitation is destined for Belarus that will decide on whom it will send to Prague.

“We expect to learn soon who will arrive,” Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said.

Czech diplomacy says the invitation was consulted with the other member countries of the EU that recently decided to hold dialogue with the country.

The invitation was endorsed by outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek who will direct the summit as a representative of the country presiding over the EU, Opletalova told CTK by phone from Minks.

Schwarzenberg said on Czech Television today he thinks the EU’s attitude to Belarus is correct and that he hopes that the country, criticised for violating human rights, will start to take democratisation-aimed steps.

“I very much hope for this. The EU has embarked on the correct path (towards Belarus) and we hope that we will continue to pursue it,” Schwarzenberg said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Absalon Returns From Pirate Duty

The Danish navel contribution to the international anti-piracy mission returned home yesterday with confiscated pirate weapons

The combat support ship Absalon returned home after an eight-month tour of duty in the Gulf of Aden yesterday.

Crown Prince Frederik, who had earlier celebrated his mother’s birthday at Amalienborg Palace, boarded the ship before it arrived at Amaliekajen Quay in Copenhagen.

Defence Minister Søren Gade also accompanied the Crown Prince on board the ship, where they thanked the 110-strong crew for their efforts in the anti-piracy mission off the coast of Somalia.

During its deployment, Absalon prevented at least 11 separate hijackings and the crew confiscated 56 hand guns, eight ladders, four GPS units and five mobile phones.

In addition, the crew caught 88 suspected pirates, but the lack of an international piracy court made it difficult to follow-up with prosecutions.

As the ship rounded Kronborg Castle in Helsingør it received a traditional 27 gun salute, before making its way to a crowded Amaliekajen Quay, where the crew’s friends and family gathered with the Navy’s musical corps to welcome them home.

The defence minister has indicated that the Absalon will return to an international anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden by the start of next year.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Veils Must be Lifted for Season Ticket Holders

Women using season tickets must show their faces in order to travel on Funen buses.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: The saga continues. At least the company is less-inclined towards dhimmitude than previously indicated — although why they still fired the driver is mystifying — and hopefully something that the union will rectify.]

Veiled women, who wish to travel on Fynbus buses in Funen using a season ticket, will either have to show their faces, or purchase other forms of ticket after the Funen bus company has amended its guidelines for season ticket passengers.

The new guidelines have been introduced following a case in which a veiled woman using a season ticket was refused passage because she would not remove her face covering for identification.

“We are now making the rules very clear,” says Fynbus Chairman Torben Andersen.

Andersen says that the new rules are designed to make it clear to passengers what they may and may not do, thus sparing drivers the discomfort of having to refuse passage.

Union The 3F union, however, says the new rules are unlikely to make things easier for drivers.

“Some people with covered faces and season tickets will turn up, and it will be up to the drivers again,” says 3F spokesman Jan Villadsen.

3F has also said it is planning a labour relations case against Arriva for having sacked a driver who evicted a veiled woman from a bus.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

EU Dismayed by Romania Mass Citizenship Plan

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — EU institutions are appalled at Romania’s proposal to give citizenship to up to 1 million Moldovans — a project that could damage Romania’s standing inside the union.

If the scheme goes ahead and Moldova retaliates by making dual citizenship illegal, the EU country would effectively annex one quarter of its neighbour’s population in a scenario described by one EU official as “frightening” in terms of regional stability.

Several EU staff questioned by EUobserver on Thursday (16 April) believed the plan is political bluster ahead of Romania presidential elections and will never come to pass.

“This is just a proposal, an expression of will. I am not sure if it is not just a political statement,” EU foreign relations spokeswoman Christina Gallach said.

But the Czech EU presidency publicly rebuked Bucharest after a meeting between Czech EU minister Alexandr Vondra and Romanian foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu, in a sign of rising tension within the bloc.

“I told my Romanian colleague about our serious concerns of the possible risks arising from adopting simplified procedures for Romanian citizenship,” Mr Vondra said.

Bucharest on Wednesday night put forward a bill to extend the right to naturalisation for Moldovans whose grandparent or great-grandparent was a Romanian. Previously, only Moldovans with Romanian grandparents could apply.

The draft law — which still needs parliamentary approval — also cut the deadline for processing paperwork from six months to five months and dropped a Romanian language test.

The move is a tit-for-tat reaction to Moldova’s decision to impose visa requirements on Romanian citizens after accusing Romania of trying to stage a coup following elections last week.

Under EU law, Romania is free to give citizenship to anybody it likes.

EU states in any case collectively naturalise over 730,000 people a year in what amounts to an annual mini-enlargement, bigger in scale than the individual populations of the smallest member states, Malta and Luxembourg.

In 2006 — the latest data available — the UK and France each gave citizenship to some 150,000 people, while Germany gave passports to 125,000 individuals. But mass-scale naturalisation on the Romania-Moldova model would be unprecedented.

The Spanish gambit

Spain in 2005 “normalised” 600,000 irregular migrants. The move stopped short of granting EU citizenship but did give permanent residency and right to work, with Madrid at the time facing strong criticism for failing to consult EU colleagues.

Poland at one point mooted offering citizenship to up to 1 million ethnic Poles left in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan following post-World War II changes to its borders and Stalinist relocations.

But Warsaw feared potential complications in its bid to join the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone. The final deal in 2007 — the right for ethnic Poles to apply for a “Polish Card” — limited rights to a refund of visa costs, access to healthcare and a cheap bus pass.

“People still haven’t quite forgiven Spain. You see that in the little obstacles put in their way during day-to-day talks on immigration matters,” one EU diplomat said. “The EU institutions have a long memory.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Cleaners Have Highest Sick Leave Rates, Doctors Lowest

Among municipal employees, those with the highest rates of sick leave are in lower-paid jobs. They take as many as three times as many days off work for illness as those at the high end of the employment scale.

The highest frequency of medical leave is among cleaners, home aid and kitchen workers, according to a new study by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Among men, builders have the highest sick leave rate, while among women it is among machine operators and maintenance workers.

The lowest sickness absentee rates are among physicians and teachers. One positive finding in the report is that the growth in the number of sick days has slowed in the public sector.

In general, there are higher incidences of medical leave among older workers and those on permanent contracts. Those with temporary or freelance status may decide to work even when ill, for fear of losing income — or their job.

The broad survey encompassed data from about 20 percent of all Finnish municipal employees.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

France: Sarkozy, Against Discrimination at School and Work

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 17 — The problem of disparity in France “must be tackled from a social viewpoint because social disparity includes all others”, like ethnic disparity, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said today in a speech at the ‘Ecole Polytechnique’ near Paris, announcing measures in favour of young people in the banlieue in accessing schools, big companies and the public administration. Measures based on unpaid work experience, studentship to promote social diversity “which often” said Sarkozy “reunites ethnic diversity”. Sarkozy today also appointed industrialist Yazid Sabeg as Commissioner for diversity and equal opportunities, charged with the presentation of “a work plan” by March 2009. This morning the daily Le Figaro announced that Malek Boutih, socialist and former president of Sos Racism, would have been nominated for the same position, though he denied this. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Saudi Prince Convicted of Cocaine Trafficking

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, DECEMBER 17 — The Court of Appeal in Paris has confirmed a 10 year prison sentence, as well as a 7 million euro fine, for cocaine trafficking for Prince Nayef Bin Fawaz al Chaalan, who is tied to the Saudi dynasty through marriage, thus ending the legal process souring relations between France and Saudi Arabia. The court also confirmed an arrest warrant for the defendant, who was never present in court and through his lawyers denied all guilt. He is also accused of using his diplomatic status for importing two metric tonnes of cocaine on behalf of Columbian drug cartels. Light was shed on the matter on June 6, 1999 with the discovery of 804 kg of cocaine in a villa in the suburbs of Paris and the arrest of a Columbian with the responsibility of handling the drugs. They rapidly decided to collaborate with investigators stating that they knew that they cocaine was brought into France via airplane thanks to a member of the Saudi royal family. In 2000, after having unsuccessfully tried to identify the person and airplane involved, French investigators were pointed in the direction of Prince Nayef by the American Dea. Nayef was accused by Columbian criminals who had turned states evidence of having imported two metric tonnes of cocaine into France in his bags on board a private Boeing 727, which landed at the Le Bourget airport in Paris on the night between May 15-16 in 1999. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Children Malnourished for Islamic Purification

(ANSAmed) — PARIS, APRIL 15 — It looked like something out of ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo. Eight French children were being denied food and care by their parents so that they could be ‘purified’, or at least that is what the father, a practising Muslim, told police authorities. The man, aged 49 of Moroccan descent, is now in jail along with his wife, a 50-year-old woman of Slavonic descent who converted to Islam. They were sleeping on the floor, the house lacked furniture and beds, they walked barefoot, starving, lived locked up at home devoid of outside contact, and were harshly caned whenever they broke a rule. Rules were set by their parents, who were jailed last Saturday in Perpignan, in southern France, after being charged with repeated violence and for having denied food and care to the point that their children’s health was at risk. They told the police that they “rigorously followed the their religious precepts”, which calls for “a very rigid diet”. The couple stated that “slimming is the sign of a successful education for children which need purification”. Perpignan prosecutor Jean-Pierre Dreno explained that “the father believes that he is one of the enlightened and that the methods he imposed on his family go well beyond the rigorous practices of the Muslim religion, they are more reminiscent of the practices of a sect”. Of the eight children, aged between 7 and 17, the thinnest, two girls aged 13 and 15 who weighed 22 kilos and a 13-year-old boy (1.65 metres tall and 32 kilos in weight), were admitted to hospital. They will all undergo medical and psychiatric examination. The older girls no longer went to school because of the ban on wearing the veil. The mother had signed them up for a distance learning course. France is now asking itself how this could have happened under the watch of school and social services who failed to notice anything. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: Storm in a French Port

For more than two days, with apparent impunity, a small group of fishermen caused total chaos.

French trawlermen have lifted their blockade of the Channel ports while they consider an offer from their government of compensation for lost fishing rights. There is, however, no suggestion that compensation will be paid to the holidaymakers, lorry drivers and shipping businesses whose transport arrangements were disrupted by the action. There are, nowadays, alternatives to travelling to France by sea, but the ferries remain a vital link between Britain and the Continent. Yet for more than two days, with apparent impunity, a small group of fishermen caused total chaos, preventing thousands of people from getting home or conducting their business.

There is a well-known anarcho-syndicalist tradition of direct action in France; but just because it has a characteristically Gallic touch does not make it any more tolerable. There has not, to our knowledge, been a single word uttered by the British government in condemnation of this blockade. While it was under way, the two governments managed to issue a joint statement about Sri Lanka, but not about an issue of direct interest to both countries.

The problem with the ferry blockade is that we all know that either it will resume if the trawlermen do not get their way or, later in the summer, farmers or other disgruntled workers will prevent road access to the ports just in time for the holiday season. The free movement of services around the EU is supposed to be policed by the European Commission. Yet there has not been a word from them, either. In the past, France has managed to escape fines that were imposed for restraint of trade, notably when Paris refused to reopen its markets to British beef after the BSE scare. France must recognise there is a price to pay for allowing international waterways to be blockaded in this way.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Greenland: Nunavut Premier: EU Not Welcome in Arctic Council

Premier Eva Aariak does not think the European Union should be permitted to join the Arctic Council due to its proposal to ban the import of seal products.

The EU is one of several bodies that have applied to be permanent observers of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum of eight Arctic countries, including Greenland and Canada, as well as Arctic indigenous groups, reported the Canadian broadcasting corporation.

However, non-Arctic states and groups can apply for observer status, which currently allows them to attend council meetings but without the ability to vote.

Premier Aariak of Nunavut is currently involved in talks with the Canadian government to oppose an EU application for observer status, due to its proposed ban on seal products. A proposal that the Premier feels would have a major impact on the Inuit way of life.

“I wouldn’t see the balance in European nations getting a membership with [the] Arctic Council while they are working very hard to counteract with our very way of life,” said Aariak to CBC News, commenting further that sealing is very important to Inuit culture in Nunavut and other Arctic communities.

The EU’s proposed ban includes a limited exemption for seal products from the Inuit of Canada and Greenland, whose goods could be traded only for cultural, educational or ceremonial purposes. That exemption would be subject to a number of conditions.

Politicians and officials from Nunavut believe that the exemption is too restrictive, and worry it would still seriously undermine Inuit sealers’ living.

In Canada the Nunavut and federal governments have been working to fight the EU’s proposed seal ban.

Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon will be attending the Arctic Council’s ministerial meeting April 29 in Tromso, Norway. Aariak will also attend the meeting as an observer.

“This will be the highest-level ever political meeting of the Arctic Council,” said Karsten Klepsvik, Norway’s ambassador for polar affairs and the chair of senior Arctic officials at the council.

The council is aware of the concerns being raised about the EU’s application, Klepsvik said, adding that the issue of who should get observer status will be hotly debated.

“The European Union is a substantial player, so we cannot exclude them from taking part in Arctic activities,” he said.

“At the same time, we have these concerns that the EU might come in with points of view, etc., which we don’t like. So here you have to find a balance.”

The Arctic Council consists of eight member nations; Canada, the U.S., Denmark/Greenland, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. There are also six indigenous groups that sit as permanent observers.

However, the number of council observers has been growing. There are currently eight countries with observer status: China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain. A further four have applied to become observers.

This story originally featured on the website of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Please visit for more news from Nunavut relating to Greenland.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Italy: Three Held for Grain King Murder

Romanians accused of killing couple in burglary

(ANSA) — Naples, April 16 — Three men were arrested Thursday in connection with the murder of Neapolitan former ‘Grain King’ Franco Ambrosio and his wife.

The three Romanian immigrants, including the dead couple’s former gardener, were found in possession of the haul from the dead businessman’s luxury villa.

The ex-gardener, Marius Acsiniei, 22, allegedly planned the nighttime burglary which degenerated into a bloodbath, police said.

Acsiniei, who worked for the Ambrosios until last year, was said to have recruited his compatriots for the heist: Valentin Dumitriu, 22, a stableboy, and Calin Petrica, 24, a carwash employee. Police traced them after Acisniei used a cellphone stolen from the villa to phone his mother in Romania, talking about the incident.

An officer played a recording of the call in which the ex-gardener was heard to say: “I killed two people, beating them, but I didn’t realise what I was doing”. “The case is solved,” Naples Police Chief Santi Giuffre’ told reporters, saying the evidence against the three detainees was “crushing”.

The intruders left fingerprints and biological traces which could contain their DNA, he said.

Police had to protect the trio from an angry crowd as they were being taken to a Naples courthouse.

Ambrosio, 77, and his wife Giovanna Sacco, 74, were found beaten to death in the exclusive Naples district of Posillipo on Wednesday morning.

Police said Ambrosio and his wife, Giovanna Sacco, were apparently taken by surprise by two or more people who bludgeoned them with a steel rod or something similar.

He was discovered in a pool of blood in the kitchen while she was in a study. Both were in their night clothes.

The Ambrosios’ bayside villa was said to have been ransacked and a broken terrace window was found which may have been the point of entry.

Eastern European gangs have targeted villas in the Naples area recently, after a spate of similar robberies in northern Italy, some resulting in grisly murders, in recent years.

Ambrosio was once the owner of Italgrani, a grain company which at its height had a turnover of some 1.2 billion euros.

His industrial empire began to crumble after he was arrested in 1994 on allegations of defrauding the European Union of some $32 million of subsidies for a phantom export shipment of durum wheat to Algeria.

The following year he was back in the national spotlight after being arrested for allegedly collecting kickbacks on behalf of his friend Paolo Cirino Pomicino, a former Christian Democrat budget minister and fellow Neapolitan.

Ambrosio’s involvement in the Clean Hands political corruption scandal set the stage for the end of his business empire which stretched to Africa, Australia, Russia and the United States.

The multinational collapsed in 1999 and Ambrosio was later convicted of fraudulent bankruptcy.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Moldova Brutality Admitted

A senior official in Moldova’s Communist party has admitted that opposition protesters have been subject to police brutality over the past week but said the officers in question should not be punished.

Marian Lupu, speaker of Moldova’s parliament, said the amnesty from prosecution announced on Wednesday by Vladimir Voronin, Moldova’s president, must apply to protesters who contested the Communists’ election victory two weeks ago as well as to the police who beat them in holding cells.

“The president said there would be an amnesty for everybody involved,” he told the Financial Times. “Logically, if you forgive one side then you have to forgive the other side as well.”

Many Moldovans took to the streets 10 days ago over allegations that the ruling Communists stole elections held two Sundays ago. Protests turned violent as the parliament and presidency buildings were stormed by demonstrators.

Over the following days, hundreds of people involved in the protests were arrested and taken to police holding cells, where, according to reports by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the United Nations, many were beaten by police and sentenced collectively to short prison terms.

Mr Lupu said police had reacted emotionally to the injuries sustained by their colleagues. “They visited their colleagues in hospital, some 200 of them, and saw how badly injured they were.”

Mr Voronin offered the amnesty after 10 days of tension in the capital, Chisinau, with many young people saying they were reluctant to go out on the streets for fear of being arrested.

But opposition parties were sceptical about the amnesty. Dorin Chirtoaca, the mayor of Chisinau and a senior figure in the opposition Liberal party, said: “I am not aware anyone has been released, and, even if they have, the damage has already been done.”

On Wednesday, Romania’s president said he was speeding up the process by which almost 1m citizens of Europe’s poorest country could acquire Romanian citizenship, in a move Mr Voronin described as “meddling”.

The results of an election recount, begun on Wednesday, are expected on Friday. Opposition parties are boycotting the process, saying it will do nothing to address concerns about ballot stuffing in the elections.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Terrorism Convict to Move to Dutch Prison

Iraqi-Dutch Wesam al-D. was convicted to 25-years in prison by a federal judge in Washington DC on Wednesday.

Under a plea bargain deal, Al-D. (36) will be allowed to serve his sentence in the Netherlands where he will be eligible for an early release on parole.

Al-D., a 36-year-old who was born and raised in Fallujah, Iraq, became a Dutch citizen as an adult. In February he pleaded guilty to his involvement in attacks against US forces in Fallujah in 2003. He and his fellow ‘Mujahedeen from Fallujah’ videotaped themselves showing off roadside bombs they said they would use to kill Americans. The films were found in his home in Amersfoort in the Netherlands in 2005.

Al-D. was extradited from the Netherlands two years ago under the agreement that he would be tried in US federal court and not by a military commission, such as those set up for terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay. Under the deal, Al-D. has to be returned to the Netherlands after sentencing, after which a Dutch judge will decide how much time he should actually serve.

The American judge was not entirely happy with the arrangement. “If I had my way, I wouldn’t be giving an advisory opinion,” he said. “I’d be saying 25 years is 25 years. … But I don’t have that authority.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Netherlands: Undercover Officers Police Anti-Social Bus Routes

Amsterdam police say undercover teams of officers and council workers have taken part in patrols on buses to stop secondary school students causing trouble. Members of the Public Transport Safety Team took two bus trips on a route which is prey to nuisance caused by youths travelling to and from school.

The officers in civilian dress detained 19 youngsters guilty of vandalism and who threatened passengers who tried to stop them misbehaving. The offenders were taken home to their parents and were given fines or told to report to youth crime centres.

The trial patrols reveal that the students are well behaved when uniformed officers are riding on the buses. However, when they get off, the youngsters revert to their anti-social behaviour.

Since the trial patrols, problems on the bus route have been reduced. The Public Transport Safety Team patrols will now be extended to cover other problem bus routes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Norway: 30,000 Asylum Seekers Arrive Without Passports

33,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Norway without a passport or ID documents since 2005, and most of them are still in Norway, according to Aftenposten. The Aliens Office (UDI) will now refuse them work permit. According to the police, there are several reasons why a large number of asylum sekers dispose of their ID documents.

One is that many fear that it may be revealed that they have earlier applied for asylum in other countries.

Earlier this year, the Department of Labour instructed the UDI to refuse work permit to asylum seekers without ID documents.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Racial Laws: Osservatore, Fini Petty Opportunism

(AGI) — Vatican City, 17 Dec. — “It is certainly surprising and upsetting that one of the political inheritors of fascism, which was the sole creator of the infamous racial laws, who has for some time now commendably tried to distance himself from this past, now openly criticises the Catholic Church. Revealing historical inaccuracies and petty political opportunism”. Today the Osservatore Romano concluded a brief article on the racial laws of 1938 with these words, below a concise heading, “On the declarations of Gianfranco Fini”.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Slovenia: Average Monthly Salary Up, Now at 918 Euros

(ANSAmed) — LJUBLJANA, DECEMBER 17 — The average net salary in Slovenia reached 918 euro at the end of October 2008. According to what the Italian Foreign Trade office in Ljubljana, real growth, compared to that of the same period for last year, was 3%, 8.4% in nominal terms. Nominal growth in gross salaries annually was 9.2%, and reached 1,424 euro. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Prosecutor: Giving the Pill to Teens Aids Rape

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I think my head would explode if I heard a US prosecutor say this…but a Swedish one???]

A Swedish prosecutor thinks that health professionals who prescribe birth control pills to girls younger than 15-years-old should be charged as accomplices to rape.

“I’m read the law. Those how facilitate a crime are accomplices and whoever hands out birth control to someone who is underage makes it easier for assailants to continue attacking,” said deputy public prosecutor Mikael Hammarstrand to the medical trade newspaper Dagens Medicin.

Hammarstrand refers to the sex crimes law of 2005 which states that sex with someone younger than 15-years-old is always consider an unlawful act of coercion even if the sex is consensual.

A lack of legal clarity on the issue has resulted in a few midwives refusing to write birth control pill prescriptions for girls younger than 15-years-old.

But Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) disagrees with the prosecutor’s views.

“Our opinion is that those who issue prescriptions like this are doing nothing wrong,” said the agency’s Thomas Tegenfeldt to the TT news agency.

Protecting young girls who are already sexually active against unwanted pregnancies should take precedence over other aspects of the law, the health board claims.

“Since the law is formulated like this, we’ll take a look ourselves at the question of the law’s intent and if it really should be understood in this way,” said Tegenfeldt.

The health board has a previously scheduled meeting with the prosecutor’s office and Tegenfeldt says the agency plans to take up the issue then.

Lena Marions, the head physician at the women’s clinic of Karolinska University Hospital in Solna finds Hammarstrand’s interpretation of the law unfortunate.

“It’s sort of sad,” she told TT.

“The reason we prescribe birth control pills is to help people avoid unwanted pregnancies. When they come to us they’ve already had sex and they will continue to have sex even if we don’t write out a prescription.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

‘The Only Thing Saving the Irish is European Protection’

DANIEL COHN-BENDIT criticised the Irish when they voted against the Lisbon Treaty last year. But the Franco-German Green MEP has mellowed. “I had harsh words for the French and Dutch when they voted No too,” he said yesterday at a press conference to launch the Paris Europe-Ecology list, which he heads, for the June European elections.

“You can understand the Irish position,” Cohn-Bendit says. “They thought, ‘For us in Ireland, Europe is fine the way it is. We’ve benefited enormously, so why would we want it to change’?”

Cohn-Bendit became famous as “Dany le Rouge” in the May 1968 student riots. He derides European politicians with the same insolence he used to taunt Gaullist ministers 41 years ago. Yesterday, the Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy was twice the object of Cohn-Bendit’s barbs.

The Irish campaign is becoming the stuff of European legend. “You have to remember what happened,” Cohn-Bendit recounts. “Monsieur McGreevy [sic] lands in Lisbon and declares to the Irish media, ‘You know, the Lisbon Treaty, I haven’t read it. It’s too complicated. But it’s very good for Ireland’.” Laughter breaks out in the press conference. The result of McCreevy’s admission, Cohn-Bendit said, was the slogan, “If you don’t know, vote No.”

“Well today, the Irish know,” he continues. “They know how much they depend on the European Central Bank; that their policy of low corporate tax didn’t save them; that the only thing saving them from the mess they’re in is European protection. That’s why they’ll say Yes, because they have a strong sense of their national interest.”

Interviewed four years ago, Cohn-Bendit criticised the Irish Green Party because he expected them to oppose the constitutional treaty. Yesterday, he had only praise for his “lucid and courageous” Irish comrades.

Although Cohn-Bendit insists his heart is still on the left, he advocates “radical political pragmatism” and approves of green parties going into coalition with conservatives if it enables them to move ecological issues forward.

European greens oppose another term for the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso. “He’s a man with no backbone,” Cohn-Bendit says, advising us to read a book by Jean-Pierre Jouyet, who was Nicolas Sarkozy’s minister for European affairs during the French presidency. “When I say Barroso degraded the commission, people say I exaggerate. When Jouyet writes it, they start wondering.”

Cohn-Bendit offers “two out of a thousand” examples of Barroso’s ineffectual leadership: the German commissioner Günter Verheugen denouncing an ecological package as inimical to the interests of the German automobile industry; and Charlie McCreevy saying deregulation should continue, shortly after speeches by Sarkozy and Barroso on the necessity of regulating markets. Both times, Cohn-Bendit maintained, Barroso should have told the commissioners to “shut up or get out”.

“What did he say?” Cohn-Bendit asks. “Nothing. I want a president of the commission who doesn’t always agree with the last person who’s spoken, especially when they’re from a big country.”

Cohn-Bendit accuses Barroso of scheming to get himself reappointed in July, because he knows he will face stronger opposition if the appointment is left until the new commission is formed in the autumn. Britain, Spain and Portugal support his reappointment.

The longer it is delayed, the better the chances of a strong candidate emerging, says Cohn-Bendit. “The green candidate is me.” He holds dual German and French nationality, and has served as a German or French MEP for the past 15 years.

“I have as much chance of becoming president of the commission as of becoming pope,” he laughs. Cohn-Bendit describes himself as a non-believer. His parents were German Jews who fled to France during the second World War.

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

UK: Court Convicts UK Tamil Tigers Head

A London court convicted a man described as the head of the Tamil Tigers in Britain on two terror-linked charges, including supplying bomb-making equipment to the Sri Lankan group.

Arunachalam Chrishanthakumar, 52, was found guilty of coordinating supplies of material to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Jurors failed to reach verdicts on three other charges against Chrishanthakumar, also known as AC Shanthan, plus one charge against another accused, Jegatheeswaran Muraleetharan.

Chrishanthakumar, described as a “very prominent figure” in Britain’s Tamil community, supplied electrical components for the LTTE, some of which had “an obvious terrorist purpose,” the court found.

He was also convicted of receiving documents for the purpose of terrorism, after a trial at Kingston Crown Court, southwest London.

The LTTE has been fighting to carve out an independent homeland for the Tamil minority in north and east Sri Lanka since 1972. Tens of thousands have died on both sides of the conflict in the Sinhalese-majority nation.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Policeman Deletes Tourist’s Photos ‘to Stop Terrorism’… After He is ‘Caught’ Taking Picture of Iconic London Bus

No tourist trip to London is complete without a set of holiday snaps. But a father and son were forced to return home to Austria without their pictures after policemen deleted them from their camera — in a bid to prevent terrorism. Klaus Matzka, 69, and his son, Loris, 15, from Vienna, were taking photographs of a double-decker bus in Walthamstow, north-east London, when two policemen approached them.

The tourists were told it is ‘strictly forbidden’ to take pictures of anything to do with public transport and their names, passport numbers and hotel address in London were noted. Mr Matzka was then forced to delete any holiday snaps that featured anything to do with transport. The retired television cameraman was particularly annoyed to give up his pictures of Vauxhall underground station, a building he regards as ‘modern sculpture’. ‘I’ve never had these experiences anywhere, never in the world, not even in Communist countries,’ he said. ‘These deletions were not only enforced destruction of private property, but an infringement of our privacy.

‘I understand the need for some sensitivity in an era of terrorism, but isn’t it naive to think terrorism can be prevented by terrorising tourists?’

He added: ‘Google Street View is allowed to show any details of our cities on the world wide web, but a father and his son are not allowed to take pictures of famous London landmarks.’

Mr Matzka said he Loris enjoyed exploring cities by avoiding traditional tourist traps, but such a ‘nasty incident’ had ‘killed interest’ in any future trips to London. ‘We typically crisscross cities from the end of railway terminals,’ he said. ‘We like to go to places not visited by other tourists. ‘You get to know a city by going to places like this, not central squares. Buckingham Palace is also necessary, but you need to go elsewhere to get to know the city,’ he told the Guardian. The Metropolitan Police said it was investigating the allegations and had no knowledge of any ban on photographing public transport in London. A spokeswoman added: ‘It is not the police’s intention to prevent tourists from taking photographs and we are looking into the allegations made.’ Jenny Jones, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority and a Green party member of the London assembly, said the incident was ‘another example of the police completely overreaching the anti-terrorism powers’. She said she would raise the issue with the Met chief, Sir Paul Stephenson, as part of the discussion into police methods at the G20 protests, adding: ‘I have already written to him about the police taking away cameras and stopping people taking photographs. ‘[I] made the point that if it was not for people taking photos, we would not know about the death of Ian Tomlinson or the woman who was hit by a police officer.’ The Independent Police Complaints Commission have launched investigations into both of these incidents, which happened at the G20 demonstrations in London on April 1, after footage appeared on You Tube and the Guardian’s website.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

UK: Thousands Line Streets to Welcome Home Soldiers From Afghanistan

Soldiers paraded through Plymouth city centre today along streets lined with thousands of spectators waving Union Flags to mark their homecoming from Afghanistan.

The 450 men of 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery returned from a six month tour of the country earlier this week.

Today’s march-past, service of thanksgiving and parade brought the city centre to a standstill as thousands of relatives and well-wishers turned out in support…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Serbia Submits Kosovo Motion at ICJ

BELGRADE — Serbia has this Friday submited its Kosovo motion to The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ).

In over a thousand pages of legal arguments and documents, the state contests the legality of the Kosovo Albanian unilateral declaration of Kosovo’s independence.

The document has been officially delivered by chief legal representative SaÅ¡a Obradović, who said Serbia’s argument before the court will be that the proclamation is a legal rather than a political issue.

The state insists that the unilateral decision, made by the temporary Kosovo institutions over a year ago, had violated international law, Obradović added.

At the same time, the Kosovo Albanian legal team will submit its files defending the proclamation.

The submitting of written motions marks the end of the first phase of the process.

Serbia expects that those countries which have not recognized the declaration will support its case at the ICJ.

On Monday, the court will publish the list of all the countries that have decided to take part in the process by submitting written explanations.

Unofficially, Serbia will be supported in this way by Russia, China, several Latin American countries, and those European states which have not recognized Kosovo.

Arguments in favor of Serbia’s position and against the province’s independence could also come from some Islamic countries.

The process of assessing the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence was launched by the highest UN court at the order of the UN General Assembly and at Serbia’s initiative.

A resolution adopted by the General Assembly ordered the ICJ to provide an advisory opinion on whether the unilateral proclamation of independence of Kosovo in February 2008 was in line with international law.

In the next stage, which will last until July 17 this year, all sides involved will have the right to provide the court with additional written arguments and comments on the written filings of other participants in the process, the sources said.

ICJ judges will then review all the case documents and schedule a hearing, where the sides involved will exchange verbal arguments. The court will then hand down an advisory assessment of whether the declaration of independence was legal.

The ICJ is not bound by any deadlines, and the judges usually take months to reach a decision.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Mediterranean Union

Egypt: Aymar Nour, Political Error Sending Me to Prison

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 14 — “Imprisoning me has been a huge political mistake on the part of the regime. It has made my name known internationally and I don’t think they will do it again” said Ayman Nour, Egyptian opposition leader. His remark came during a meeting in the European Parliament in Brussels in response to a question on the possible risk of going back to prison when returning to Egypt. According to the founder of the Al Ghad party, which took second place in the presidential elections of 2005 after Mubarak, his visit to the Belgian capital was his first foreign trip after being imprisoned from January 2005 to February 2009. On invitation of liberal-democrat party whip Graham Watson and the Euro-Mediterranean Network for human rights, Nour had a series of meetings with MPs of the European Parliament which in 2005, 2006 and 2008 asked for his release in several resolutions. “I don’t want to give up” said Nour, “even though the government has released me but still tries to deny me my rights every day. Yesterday I was excluded from the Bar Council so that I can’t practice my profession, but I am still part of the political scene”. The Egyptian opposition leader cannot run for the political elections of 2010 and the presidential elections of 2011, but he explained that he wants to meet more European MPs in the UK, Sweden and Canada. So far he hasn’t been invited by the Italian parliament, but “wherever Emma Bonino tells me to go I’ll go”, said the leader of Al Ghad, who decided today “to become a member of the transnational Radical party”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Dissident Leader Criticises Cairo for Hezbollah Crackdown

The leader of the secular El-Ghad party, Ayman Nour, is one of Egypt’s leading political dissidents. Some observers say he poses the strongest challenge to president Hosni Mubarak.

Brussels, 16 April (AKI) — Egyptian opposition leader and political dissident Ayman Nour says the government has been “foolish” in its crackdown on alleged members of the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah movement. Last week, Egypt announced the arrest of 49 members of a Hezbollah cell suspected to be operating inside Egypt and planning attacks on both Egyptian and Israeli targets.

“We agree with Hezbollah and its resistance and we respect its historic battle for the liberation of Lebanese territory (from Israeli occupation), even if we do not approve of its orientation,” said Nour in an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Egypt claimed the men who were arrested were commissioned by Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah to destabilise the country and its leadership by carrying out terror attacks. Nasrallah has denied the accusations and called them fabrications.

According to Nour, tension between the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah and Egypt reflects the rift between predominantly Shia Iran and mainly Sunni Egypt.

Nour also criticised the way in which Egypt, Syria and Iran handled the latest crisis in the Gaza Strip in December and January and said Egypt’s position “damages the image and reputation of the country.”

The government of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was widely criticised in the Arab world for failing to open the border crossings with Gaza for humanitarian aid during the Israeli offensive which killed at least 1,330 Palestinians and caused widespread destruction in the coastal strip.

Nour also launched an appeal to the international community to work for the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, but in particular the prominent Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.

“He (Barghouti) could play an important role in an eventual peace process in the Middle East,” Nour told AKI.

Nour attacked Arab regimes who according to him have benefited from the conflict between Palestinian and Israelis.

“These regimes take advantage from the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and that is how they establish their legitimacy,” he said.

Nour then denied that his centrist, liberal and secular party El-Ghad had anything in common with Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Kefaya movement as well as other parties have common goals, but we do not share a strategy. On the contrary, we have reservations in regards to the Brotherhood’s position about women, Copts, etcetera.”

According to Nour, the El-Ghad party believes in the democratic transfer of power and religious and social tolerance. But he said in Egypt there was a great deal of tension and anger, due to the political and economic situation in the country.

“I hope that people will not rise up and revolt,” Nour said.

Forty-four-year-old Nour was released from a Cairo prison on 18 February 2009 after more than four years, in what some commentators interpreted as a “goodwill gesture” to US president Barack Obama.

He was charged by the government with forging powers of attorney to secure the formation of his party before the last presidential election in 2005, but he denied the charges.

Nour is Egypt’s best-known political dissident and some believe him to be the strongest challenger to authoritarian president Mubarak.

Nour has been banned from politics for a period of six years after his release. He received 13 percent of the vote in what was Egypt’s first multi-party presidential elections in 2005 since Mubarak came to power in 1981 .

Mubarak won a fifth consecutive six-year presidential office, with official results showing he won 88.6 percent of the votes cast. His son Jamal — chairman of the ruling National Democratic Party — is tipped to be his successor.

Tensions between Shia Hezbollah and predominantly Sunni Egypt have been running high after Nasrallah accused Egypt of siding with Israel in its siege of the Gaza Strip.

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

Morocco: General Strike Against Highway Code Reform

(ANSAmed) — RABAT, APRIL 14 — The plan to adopt a new Highway Code and the resulting call for a general strike in the transport sector has created notable difficulties in all of Morocco and specifically in Casablanca, especially for fuel distribution. Problems are also beginning to occur in the trade sector, specifically for fruit and legumes. Under pressure from the strike, Transport Minister Karim Ghellab and the Chamber of Advisors (Senate) decided to postpone discussion on the new code “in order to receive and examine the observations and proposals made by professionals in the sector together,” read a joint statement. One of the reasons for the protest is regulations that call for up to four years in prison and heavy fines for individuals who cause fatal accidents. Last year about 4,000 people died in car accidents, with losses valued at one billion euro, equalling 2% of Morocco’s GDP. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Shoes Against Bush, Egyptian Proposes Daughter to Zahidi

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, DECEMBER 17 — There is great respect across the Arab world for Muntazer al-Zahidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the President of the USA, George W. Bush. In Egypt, a man has gone so far to as offer his 20 year old daughter’s hand in marriage to the journalist, assuring that she was happy about the idea too. “I would be proud, I would like to live in Iraq, especially if I was with a hero like him”, said the girl, who was contacted by telephone. Her father, Saad Gumaa, has called al-Zahidi’s brother to make the proposal offical. “I have nothing more precious to offer him”, he said, underlining that he could provide everything the girl might need for the marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Stakelbeck Sits Down With Jehan Sadat, Widow of Egyptian President

[With video]

It’s been 30 years since Israel and Egypt signed a historic peace treaty that sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East.

Three decades later, the two nations remain at peace. And it couldn’t have happened without the brave efforts of Egypt’s then-president, Anwar Sadat.

Sadat’s widow, Jehan, recently sat down with me to discuss her late husband’s legacy and a host of other issues, including her new book, My Hope for Peace.

While I may not agree with everything Ms. Sadat says—particularly when it comes to Israel giving up land for peace—she is one smart and classy lady. You can watch our interview here…

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Arab Youth Attacks European Tourist in Jerusalem Old City

A European tourist sustained light head injuries on Friday, when he was attacked by an Arab youth in Jerusalem’s Old City.

An initial report found that the youth encountered a group of four European tourists along the Via Delorosa, and attacked them with a knife.

He then ran and hid a nearby restaurant, where he was discovered by border police officers shortly after.

The youth was taken for interrogation by Jerusalem Police.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Egypt-Israel: Abul Gheit Refuses to Deal With Lieberman

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 16 — “The government in Cairo will not be engaging in talks with the ultra-nationalist Lieberman,” was the comment by the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit reported today on Israeli TV Channel 2. “We will work with any proposal made by the Israeli government, but not by way of its foreign minister,” stressed Gheit in an interview with Russia Today Television, of which Channel 2 broadcast some parts. Lieberman raised polemics last year when he said that Hosni Mubarak could “go to hell” if the Egyptian president did not want to visit Israel. “Obviously Lieberman will not be coming to Cairo until his position changes,” said Gheit. On his first day as foreign minister, Lieberman also said that the Annapolis Peace Accords of 2007 with Palestinians were no longer valid. “A person should think before he lets certain words out of his mouth during a speech, and there have been consequences on the situation with Egypt,” added the Egyptian foreign minister. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lieberman to Moratinos, First Stop Iran & Hamas

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM — The peace process does not figure among the top three priorities of the new Israeli foreign policy. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told his Spanish counterpart, and former EU representative for the peace process, Miguel Moratinos that Iran is exerting a negative influence across the Middle East and that it is therefore necessary to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons to head off a region-wide arms race. According to a communique’ issued by Israel’s foreign ministry, Lieberman laid down to Moratinos ‘the three basic principles that should make up the new foreign policy”. These principles, the Minister explained, are: ‘1) to guarantee Israel’s security, putting an end to the firing of rockets from Gaza onto Israel’s civilian population and to arms smuggling into Gaza; 2) an end to Iran’s nuclear programme; 3) improve the economy in the Palestinian Authority”. Lieberman was positive about Spain’s participation in the UNIFIL mission and in stabilising southern Lebanon. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

US Sees Arab Peace Plan as Part of Palestinian State Push

RAMALLAH, West Bank, April 17 (Reuters) — U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, called on Friday for an Arab peace initiative to be part of a planned U.S. drive to create a Palestinian state.

The 2002 Arab initiative offers Israel normal ties with all Arab states in return for a full withdrawal from the lands it seized in the 1967 Middle East war, creation of a Palestinian state and a “just solution” for Palestinian refugees.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: Let’s see if I’ve got this right…Israel gives up everything that it got in the ‘67 war and still has, full creation of a Palestinian state (‘48 areas or different)…in return for “recognition”. I’m not seeing how that’s a winner to any Israeli gov’t — much less economically/socially feasible…ever.

Mitchell and Obama are dumber than I thought if they think this has a snowball’s chance with any Israeli administration — much less the current one.]

“The U.S. is committed to the establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state where the aspirations of the Palestinian people to control their destiny are realised. We want the Arab peace initiative to be part of the effort to reach this goal,” Mitchell said after talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mitchell met on Thursday with Israel’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has yet to commit to restarting U.S.-backed talks with Abbas on core issues such as statehood borders, and the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Israeli officials quoted Netanyahu as telling Mitchell that his right-leaning government wanted the Palestinians to first recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians have long rejected such explicit recognition of the Jewish nature of a state where one in five people is Arab.

“It is clear that there is a government in Israel that rejects signed agreements, that insists on continuing settlement activities,” senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.

Erekat said Abbas asked Mitchell to “exert every possible effort” to pressure Israel to commit to a two-state solution and to meet other obligations, including a freeze in Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank and a halt to home demolitions in Arab East Jerusalem.

Netanyahu’s two-week-old government has yet to take a public position on the Arab peace initiative.

But in their meeting on Thursday, Netanyahu spoke to Mitchell about “the need to involve in the process important moderate Arab states”, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a senior Israeli official said.

“They have an important role to play in strengthening the peace process and we see their greater involvement in the peace process as something positive,” the official added.

Another senior Israeli official quoted Mitchell as telling Netanyahu that “we intend to seriously examine the Arab proposal”.

A senior Western diplomat familiar with the Obama administration’s deliberations said Washington wanted to pursue the Arab peace initiative but was keeping its options open.

“We have put the flag squarely in the two-state solution camp but we haven’t said how you get there,” the diplomat said.

Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, said he saw positive points in the Arab peace initiative.

But Israel opposes the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in what is now the Jewish state and wants to hold on to major settlement blocs in the West Bank.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Israel Asks Russia Not to Sell S-300 to Iran

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, APRIL 16 — Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak asked Russia today not to sell S-300 surface to air missiles to Iran, as they could be used by Tehran to protects its nuclear plants from a possible Israeli air attack. Barak made the request, according to public radio, during a meeting today in Tel Aviv with the Russian President’s special envoy to the Middle East, Alexandre Saltanov. Barak made positive reference during the meeting to Russia’s efforts to prevent instability in the Middle East. Only yesterday Russia’s Aleksandr Fomin, chief vice director of the Federal service for technical military cooperation, said of the missiles: ‘nothing is happening. There is no supply” . (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Mig-29 From Russia, Beirut Press Sceptical

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, DECEMBER 17 — The day after the announcement by Russia to supply ten Mig-29 hunters to Lebanon, the Beirut press is asking about the real technical and financial ability of the country to maintain the military aircraft. The newspaper as-Safir is asking what will be done with the Mig-29, seeing that the government, with its huge public debt of more than 40 billion dollars, is not even able to increase its soldiers’ salaries. The paper asks how the State coffers can meet the cost of training at least 30 pilots and about a hundred technicians, not to mention the costs of enlarging disused airbases and buying a radar system which would also require several more specialist technicians. Another paper, al-Akhbar asks how these Mig-29s can be protected without a missile defence system, bearing in mind that Israel could easily destroy the hunters when they are parked on the runway. The an-Nahar newspaper reports the dissatisfaction by military experts over the Russian offer “because Lebanon, a country which has not had its own aviation industry for decades, does not currently have the capacity to make the Mig-29s operational”: Lebanese pilots, writes the paper, would need at least a year’s training before being able to take off. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Lebanon: Another Arrest for Presumed Pro-Israeli Spying

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, APRIL 16 — A third member of a presumed, “professional and well-trained” pro-Israeli spy network has been arrested by police in southern Lebanon. According to sources in the press, G. Alam, a corporal in the Lebanese police forces, was arrested in the southern city of Rmeish, which is located near the Blue Line separating Lebanon and Israel. A few days ago, Lebanese police had already arrested his uncle Abid Alam (formerly a general in the Lebanese police forces, retired since 1998), who has also been accused of spying for Israel. His wife Hayat was also taken in for questioning, who the press has said told interrogators that her husband had begun to collaborate with Israel in 1982. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Saudi Court Confirms Validity of Marriage for Eight-Year-Old Girl

Criticisms from UNICEF and the U.S. State Department. The Riyadh justice minister himself says that he wants to put an end to the arbitrary power of parents who arrange marriages for minor children, but does not mention any ban.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) — UNICEF, the U.S. State Department, and human rights groups are protesting over the sentence from the Saudi court of Unaiza, which has confirmed the validity of the marriage between an eight-year-old girl and a fifty-year-old man.

The court confirmed that Islamic tradition allows girls to marry, on the condition that they not have sexual relations before puberty.

In theory, the woman’s consent is required for a marriage to be valid, but many officials who perform weddings do not feel it is necessary to ask for this.

The question of the minimum age for marriage is extremely controversial in Islamic countries. Those who oppose setting one point out the fact that Mohammed himself took a nine-year-old girl as a wife. But women’s movements and women in general see it as indirect human trafficking, in addition to its being the violation of a fundamental human right. This can even lead to the abandonment of the Islamic religion.

This case, however, seems capable of providing a jolt to the system, partly because of the desire for the modernization of his country expressed by King Abdullah. If UNICEF has said that it is “deeply concerned” by the sentence of the Saudi court, asserting that child marriage is “a violation of that child’s rights,” and a spokesman for the State Department, Robert Wood, has called it “a clear and unacceptable violation of human rights,” the Saudi justice minister himself, Mohamed al-Issa, has announced that he wants to “put an end to arbitrariness by parents and guardians in marrying off minor girls.” The minister, however, did not mention a ban, but only the desire to “preserve the rights” of girls, and “end the negative aspects of underage girls’ marriage.”

Behind marriages like these, in fact, in addition to tribal traditions, there is often economic trafficking, with actual “purchase” of child brides on the part of adult men. The practice, in fact, is present above all in the poorest areas of countries in the Arabian Peninsula, like Yemen.

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

Saudi Cleric Khaled Al-Khlewi Teaches Children to Hate Jews


Following are excerpts from an address by Saudi cleric Khaled Al-Khlewi, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on January 11, 2009.

Khaled Al-Khlewi: The [Jewish] Qaynuqa tribe betrayed the Prophet Muhammad. A woman went to a Jewish market in order to buy a piece of jewelry. The members of the Qaynuqa tribe were the most ruthless and wealthiest Jews. When the Muslim woman reached the market, what did they do to her? A Jew sneaked behind her, and tied her gown to her headdress, so when she tried to get up, her private parts were exposed. She cried for help, and one of the Prophet’s companions came and killed the Jew. Then the Jews ganged up on him and killed him. When the Prophet Muhammad learned about this, he fought the Qaynuqa tribe and banished them. This is the only way to deal with them.

In the case of the Qurayza tribe — or rather, the Nazir tribe — the Prophet Muhammad went to them, and learned against a wall. Some of the Jews said: “The Prophet Muhammad is leaning against the wall. Someone should go to the top of the roof and throw a rock on his head.” Then the Angel Gabriel appeared, and informed the Prophet in advance about this treachery. So the Prophet Muhammad banished them. The Prophet carried out the greatest killing among the Qaynuqa tribe, because they had violated their covenant with him.

So, my friends, the conclusion we may draw from this introduction is that with the Jews, nothing works but force. Memorize the following parable, just like I learned it from others: “Kiss the head of a Jew, and he will deceive you — deceive him, and he will kiss your head.” The Jew is treacherous, disloyal, deceitful, and belligerent by nature. Nothing works with him but force.


They have formed clandestine groups in Islamic societies, as well as internationally. Marxism was founded by Karl Marx the Jew. The Austrian journalist who preached the establishment of Israel, 50 years later — Theodor Herzl — was a Jew as well. Many U.S. Congressmen are Jews. Most of the media moguls are Jews.


Who can tell us the slogan that points to the geographic [aspirations] of the Jews? What is their slogan?

Well done! Come up here, my dear… Excellent! Come on up, this way. Come here, my dear, here, so we can see you.

Eight-year-old Omar comes to the stage

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

US Weighing Punishing Israel if it Attacks Iran

Having taken military action against Iran off the table, the Obama administration is considering ways of punishing Israel if it attacks Iran to end its nuclear arms program (and prevent a second Holocaust).

In other words, having failed to contain Iran, the United States is concentrating on restraining Israel.

Administration contingency plans include condemnation of Israel, support for a United Nations Security Council resolution that could include sanctions on Israel, and suspending or seriously cutting military aid to the Jewish State.

One of President Obama’s closest foreign policy advisers, National Security Council member Samantha Power, is a proponent of ending military aid to Israel in order to force it to negotiate with Iran’s Palestinian Islamist proxy, Hamas, and withdraw from all lands taken during the Six-Day War of June 1967. Power also advocates shifting aid to a Palestinian state. Overall, she views Israel as a liability and a historic mistake, in line with the European left position (and that of old-line, right-of-center, American isolationists and anti-Semites). Her antidemocratic admirers in the Democratic Party’s (Hillary-hating) left wing agree and are eager for an opportunity to paint Israel as a Jewish North Korea (although they actually have more sympathy for North Korea than for Israel).

The big question is how the Obama administration would react if Iran retaliated against Israel indirectly as well as directly—by making good on its repeated threats to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East and shut down the strategic, 29 mile-wide Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 20% of the world’s crude oil is transported by tanker ships. Would the U.S. fight back with real ferocity or respond in a limited way while blaming Israel for preemptively attacking Iran and appealing to “the Muslim world” for “understanding?”

One wonders how the Apologizer-in-Chief would react.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]


Russia: NATO Exercises ‘a Dangerous Move’

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has condemned Nato’s “dangerous decision” to hold military exercises in Georgia next month.

He said such decisions “are aimed at muscle-flexing” and would impede the resumption of full-scale contacts between Moscow and Nato.

Moscow’s envoy to Nato said on Thursday he had asked the Western military alliance to postpone the exercises.

Nato says the exercises, from 6 May to 1 June, represent no threat to Moscow.

Held some 20km (12 miles) east of Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, they will be non-aggressive and based on a fictitious UN-mandated, Nato-led crisis response operation, the alliance said.

“There should really be no element of surprise for anyone,” Nato spokesman Robert Pszczel said. “There is no heavy armour involved at all, it’s just people.”

Nato has said the exercises, expected to involve 1,300 troops from 19 countries, were planned before last year’s conflict between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia.

Georgia hopes eventually to join Nato, a move strongly opposed by Russia, which says the alliance’s eastward expansion is a threat to its security.


“I think this is the wrong decision, a dangerous decision,” Mr Medvedev said on Friday.

“Such decisions are disappointing and do not facilitate the resumption of full-scale contacts between the Russian Federation and Nato.”

His comments came a day after Moscow’s ambassador to Nato, Dmitry Rogozin, described the exercises as “absurd and a provocation”.

“I have asked the Nato Secretary General [Jaap de Hoop Scheffer]… to postpone these exercises or to cancel them,” he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Rogozin said military co-operation between Russia and Nato was still frozen as a result of last summer’s South Ossetia conflict and that Moscow’s position would not change before a forthcoming ministerial meeting in May.

He also rejected Nato’s argument that the exercises had been planned last year.

“A war is a ‘force majeure’,” he said. “To hold military exercises in a country where a war has just ended is impossible.”

The ambassador also said the exercises could be exploited by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in his stand-off with opposition parties, which have recently held a series of mass protests.

The opposition accuses him of mishandling the war with Russia, during which Georgia’s attempts to regain control of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia were repelled by Russian forces.

Under an EU-sponsored ceasefire, monitors were sent to Georgia. But thousands of Russian troops remain in both breakaway regions.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghanistan: Hero Marine Rugby-Tackles Suicide Bomber and Says ‘Don’t Tell Mum, I Don’t Want Her to Worry’

A hero soldier who saved the lives of 30 comrades after rugby-tackling a suicide bomber pleaded to his sister: ‘Don’t tell mum.’ Sergeant Noel Connolly, 41, saved dozens of colleagues when he threw himself at the Taliban fanatic as he approached an army base in Afghanistan.

The bomber was pushing a motorcycle packed with more than 150lbs of high explosives towards the base.

Sgt Connolly went to intercept him and ordered him to stop before spotting a tell-tale toggle switch attached to the handlebars.

The Royal Marine dived on the bomber, grabbed him by the shirt and managed to haul him away from the bike.

Sgt Connolly modestly never mentioned the incident to his family until his worried sister Breda wrote to him.

She asked him if the exploits of the then unnamed soldier and had anything to do with him and he said: ‘Yes, but don’t tell mum.’

In a letter from the frontline, Noel, 41, wrote: ‘Let’s just say the sergeant concerned was Mancunian, about 5ft 7ins, with grey hair and supports Man City. You can do the maths, as the Yanks would say.’

She said: ‘He doesn’t talk about what happens when he’s away. But when I heard the news that a sergeant had stopped a bomber, I wrote to him and he admitted he’d been involved but said ‘Don’t tell mum’.

‘Our mum is a devout Catholic and has been praying for him every day since he has been away. Noel wrote to her telling her that everything was quiet and he wasn’t in the danger zone because he didn’t want to worry her.’

Sgt Connolly, of Manchester, and the 600 other Royal Marines of Plymouth-based 42 Commando returned to Britain on Thursday.

His wife Lorraine, who is a Navy servicewoman, and two teenage daughters were at Exeter airbase to welcome him home.

The youngest of seven children, he joined the Marines 22 years ago and has served in danger zones around the world.

Sgt Connolly and his unit were occupying an abandoned school in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province when they received warning of an impending attack.

He said: ‘I was near the school when I caught a fleeting glimpse of a motorbike. I told all my lads to expect a bomber.

‘The motorcyclist looked lost. He turned the bike around up the track and came back. I grabbed two lads and went to intercept him. I had no idea if he was the bomber. The only way of finding out was to challenge him.’

The sergeant said he then stepped into the road and, speaking Pashtu, he ordered the man on the motorcycle to stop.

He added: ‘He stalled the bike and fell off, then started pushing it away from us.

Eventually he stopped again, straddled it and turned to face us. I closed in on him and as I got to within ten metres there was a loud crack from halfway down the bike.

‘That’s when I saw a small toggle switch had been fitted to his handlebars. As soon as he went for the toggle again I rushed him. I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and hauled him off.’

The motorbike’s frame was found to contain 154lbs of explosive. The bomber was handed to police and jailed for 18 years.

Sgt Connolly added: ‘I’m not brave. Someone had to stop him.’

But Noel didn’t want his 81-year-old mother Mary to find out about his act of bravery in case she got worried he was putting himself in harm’s way.

Breda Connolly, of Fallowfield, Manchester said: ‘It was always understood that we wouldn’t talk with mum about what he was doing. Now that he is coming back from the tour, she’s learned about it but she is just very relieved.

‘Noel is a true Mancunian. We are so proud of him. He is a Royal Marine through and through and is dedicated to the job.’

His mother Mary, who has two grown-up daughters and five sons, said: ‘I’m just happy that he is home safe. I thank God that nothing happened to him.’

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Attracted by Promises of a Better Life in Naples, Somali Refugees Find Themselves in Nepal

For the past three years, 72 “urban refugees” from Somalia are stuck in Kathmandu, victims of international human traffickers, who lied to them about work in Italy. The Somalis cannot leave Nepal however because the local government wants them to pay 40,000 euros for overstaying in the country. Now the refugees are threatening a hunger strike and say they are “ready to die.”

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) — All he wanted to do was flee war, desperation and hunger and find refuge in Naples (Italy) to rebuild his life. For this reason a Somali refugee paid international traffickers to take him to Italy but upon landing he discovered that instead of Naples he was in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.

The main character in this misadventure is Shukrui Dec, a 25-year-old man who along with 72 other Somali refugees left his country of origin in quest of peace, two meals a day for his family and a better education for his kids. He paid a hefty sum to an international agent who promised him a home and a job in Naples. But on landing at Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu, he realised he had been swindled.

For days Shukrui Dec roamed the streets of the city before surrendering to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Nepali capital, asking for hospitality for himself, his wife and 8-year-old son.

“We had no option but to surrender to UNHCR,” Dec said.

At present he has a place to stay and financial aid from the UNHCR. But for the past three years he has been an “urban refugee” waiting for repatriation.

If he is not home yet that is because of an obligation to pay about € 40,000 (US$ 55,000) in total to the government as overstay fee. According to Nepali Immigration Department rules, any foreign national in Nepal has to pay US$ 6 per day of overstay.

The refugees have asked the government to wave the fee and let them go. But for Home Ministry Spokesperson Nabin Kumar Ghimire, “there is no question of exempting them.”

With the UNHCR’s living expenses for Somali refugees ranging from 19 to 42 euros (US$ 25 to 54) per person, none of the “illegal immigrants” can raise 40,000 euros. And yet they still must pay.

Out of desperation Somali refugees are threatening to go on a hunger strike.

Through AsiaNews they are calling on the international community to help them.

“We can leave Nepal only if the government exempts us from the overstay fee,” says Fatima Muhammad, a 17-years-old Somali woman.

“Refugees are desperate to go home. We will die a dog’s death here, better to die in our own country,” Fatima added.

“We will fast on to death if the government ignores our demands”, added a Somali woman who had her seven malnourished children with her.

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

Pakistan: Radical Cleric Returns to Red Mosque

Islamabad, 16 April (AKI) — By Syed Saleem Shahzad — Almost two years after the bloody siege on the Red Mosque in Islamabad, the radical cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz returned to the mosque late Thursday to lead the final prayers of the day.

Thousands of people welcomed the cleric at the mosque and showered him with rose petals, after being granted bail by Pakistan’s Supreme Court. The cleric then led the day’s final Isha’a prayers.

He had been accused of inciting the bloody siege at Islamabad’s Red Mosque and seminary in July 2007.

Pakistani authorities had filed 27 criminal cases against the cleric, shortly before military commandos stormed the Red Mosque to end the standoff with his armed students in July 2007 (photo).

The operation left more than 100 people dead, including about a dozen security personnel. His brother Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, his mother and dozens of students were among those killed.

Maulana Abdul Aziz was arrested as he tried to flee the mosque dressed in a woman’s burqa. He has been detained under house arrest in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“This marks the defeat of state terrorism and today we would say the prayer behind Maulana Abdul Aziz,” retired squadron leader Khalid Khawaja, a close friend of slain Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, said during an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

Khawaja, a close friend of slain Abdul Rasheed Ghazi, was arrested during the Red Mosque operation but later released.

“ I remember that several years ago I met (militant leader) Maulana Sufi Mohammad when he initiated the movement for the enforcement of Islamic laws in Malakand division. He survived imprisonment and today he and his cause are victorious and Sharia law has been enforced in Swat.

“Maulana Abdul Aziz also raised the flag of Islam in Pakistan and I can see that his cause will be victorious one day,” an emotional Khawaja told AKI.

The news of Maulana Abdul Aziz release rapidly spread through the city of Islamabad and people distributed sweets in the neighbourhoods to celebrate, especially around the Red Mosque.

The first Friday prayers since the release of Maulana Abdul Aziz are also expected to attract a historic crowd in the heart of the Pakistani capital.

“The court has observed that there was no evidence against Maulana Abdul Aziz in this case that could prevent his release on bail,” Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said.

The court ruling followed a petition filed by Aziz challenging a lower court ruling in relation to regarding the illegal occupation of a library adjacent to the mosque.

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

Taliban Foment Class Revolt in Pakistan

Jane Perlez, Pir Zubair Shah, New York Times

Peshawar, Pakistan — The Taliban have advanced deeper into Pakistan by engineering a class revolt that exploits profound fissures between a small group of wealthy landlords and their landless tenants, according to government officials and analysts here.

The strategy cleared a path to power for the Taliban in the Swat Valley, where the government allowed Islamic law to be imposed this week, and it carries broad dangers for the rest of Pakistan, particularly the militants’ main goal, the populous heartland of Punjab province.

In Swat, accounts from those who have fled now make clear that the Taliban seized control by pushing out about four dozen landlords who held the most power.

To do so, the militants organized peasants into armed gangs that became their shock troops, the residents, government officials and analysts said.

The approach allowed the Taliban to offer economic spoils to people frustrated with lax and corrupt government even as the militants imposed a strict form of Islam through terror and intimidation.

“This was a bloody revolution in Swat,” said a senior Pakistani official who oversees Swat, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by the Taliban. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it sweeps the established order of Pakistan.”

The Taliban’s ability to exploit class divisions adds a new dimension

to the insurgency and is raising alarm about the risks to Pakistan, which remains largely feudal.

Unlike India after independence in 1947, Pakistan maintained a narrow

landed upper class that kept its vast holdings while its workers remained subservient, the officials and analysts said. Successive Pakistani governments have since failed to provide land reform and even the most basic forms of education and health care. Avenues to advancement for the vast majority of rural poor do not exist.

Analysts and other government officials warn that the strategy executed in Swat is easily transferable to Punjab, saying that the province, where militant groups are already showing strength, is ripe

for the same social upheavals that have convulsed Swat and the tribal areas.

The Taliban strategy in Swat, an area of 1.3 million people with fertile orchards, vast plots of timber and valuable emerald mines, unfolded in stages over five years, analysts said.

The momentum of the insurgency built in the past two years, when the Taliban, reinforced by seasoned fighters from the tribal areas with links to al Qaeda, fought the Pakistani army to a standstill, said a Pakistani intelligence agent who works in the Swat region.

Since the Taliban fought the Pakistan military to a truce in Swat in February, the militants have deepened their approach and made clear who is in charge.

           — Hat tip: LT[Return to headlines]

What Indian Christians Can Hope From These Elections

Voting, which began today, is scheduled to last a month. For Christians two factors are a potential sign of change: the end of the alliance between the BJP and Orissa’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his party, and the election of a new leader to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS or National Volunteers’ Organisation).

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — The political scenario is becoming more complicated day by day. The old alliances are breaking up. Every party wants to go alone to face the electorate, hoping to gain and be in a better bargaining position to make alliances for the future government. New regional parties are appearing, moved by the desire to acquire statehood or by the need to resolve regional problems. Most probably the two national parties, Congress and BJP will suffer a loss. There is a lot of talks about a third front, around the communist party and Dalit parties, hopeful to put up a government without the Congress and BJP, but among them there are too many self proclaimed candidates for prime minister. The real battle will be in the second half of May, when the results will be known and the leaders will start working out coalitions, promising ministerial berths right and left.

One survey published on The Times of India said that the Congress will emerge as the single largest party with 144 seats, but will find the BJP just a step behind with 137.

If the Congress will be able to convince the present allies it will get 257 seats but it will fall still short of the required majority of 272 in a house of 543 members.

Will the Christian community gain from the present election? The question is particularly relevant in places where they suffered persecution in the recent past like in Orissa.

Two events may have some bearing on this question.

First the chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, with his party, had broken away from the BJP. Second the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) has a new leader in Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat.

The first event was greeted with great enthusiasm by the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Raphael Cheenath. He said that the church is happy to see Orissa’s ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) parts ways with ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Violence against Christians in Orissa by Hindu rightwing activists last year, particularly in Kandhamal district, is believed to be one of the reasons behind the collapse of the BJD-BJP alliance in the state.

“The Kandhamal incident may be one of the reasons for breaking the alliance” Cheenath acknowledged. Communist Party of India-Marxist general Secretary, Praksh Karat, has said his party leaders met Orissa Chief Minister and BJD chief, Naveen Patnaik, following the attack on Christians by rightwing Hindu groups and told him that “it is untenable for him to continue with the BJP”.

Kandhamal district in Orissa witnessed large-scale violence against Christians after the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, August 23 last year. At least 38 people were killed and thousands of Christians were driven out of their homes. . More than 3,000 people are still living in government relief camps.

Cheenath himself received death threats from alleged VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) activists that his life would be taken to avenge the killing of the Hindu seer. He expressed hope that secular forces would come to power in the state after the general elections.

Another encouraging fact in Orissa is the recent arrest of the local BJP candidate to Lok Sabha, Ashok Sahu. He was arrested Tuesday for making an inflammatory speech in Orissa’s Kandhamal region earlier this month. ‘Sahu was arrested from Phulbani town,’ Kandhamal District Collector Krishan Kumar told Asia News. He was accused of delivering a communally charged speech on April 5 at a public meeting in Raikia town. He allegedly accused the church of indulging in conversion. During his two-hour-long speech he accused Congress Rajya Sabha MP Radhakant Naik and archbishop Cheenath and missionaries of plotting the Swami murder. He also held the church responsible for the insurgency in the north-east of India and Maoist violence in Jharkhand and Kandhamal. His hate speech prompted the administration to lodge a complaint against him on April .

Kandhamal DM Krishna Kumar said: “We had also sent the videotape and other proof to the Election Commission.” He was arrested in the district headquarters town of Phulbani. He was produces before a local court which remanded him in judicial custody for 14 days. Sahu, linked to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, had made similar remarks during the communal violence last year. Christian leaders had immediately refuted the allegations. While Sahu is contesting the Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, the BJP has also nominated Manoj Pradhan, an accused in the riots, for the assembly election from G. Udayagiri constituency in the district. Pradhan was arrested about four months ago and is still in jail.

The second event that can have a bearing on the relationship between the Christians and the rightwing Hindu organisations is the change of leadership at the top of RSS.

Mohan Madhukar Bhagawat, a 58 year old veterinary doctor, was elected last month as the sixth Sarsanghchalak. He comes from a family of RSS activists. His father, Madhukar, is known to have initiated LK Advani into RSS fold.

Bhagawat is seen as unifier within the Sangh. Bringing back a sense of equilibrium within the BJP and the Sangh Parivar’s functioning are expected to top his priorities.

One of his first priorities will also be to prepare a second line of leadership after the aging LK Advani.

In the recent past the Jesuits had tried to start a dialogue with the RSS, but with little success. The RSS founded in 1925, is keeping the idea of a colonial church, not acknowledging the changes of Vatican II. With a new leadership, a new start can be made on the basis of the recent documents of the Vatican and World Council of Churches on conversion and freedom of religion.

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

Far East

Philippines: Hostage Rescue Gets Green Light

ISABELA, Basilan, Philippines — The provincial crisis committee negotiating the release of nine people taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf has authorized the military and police to proceed with rescue operations.

Basilan Vice Gov. Al-Rasheed Sakalahul, chairman of the crisis management committee (CMC), said they adopted the resolution approved yesterday by the provincial board allowing the military and the police to take measures to rescue the hostages from the Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The hostages, abducted separately by the Abu Sayyaf, include teachers Janette de los Reyes, Rafael Mayonado, Freires Quizon; lending company employee Lea Patris, and Sri Lankan peace volunteer Umar Jaleel.

The latest hostage, farmer Bernard Chavez, was snatched last week.

Three other teachers were kidnapped in Naga town, Zamboanga Sibugay province last March. The bandits were demanding P10 million for the release of Noemi Mandi, Jocelyn Inion, and Jocelyn Enriquez.

The nine hostages are being held by the group of Abu Sayyaf commander Furuji Indama and several guerrillas of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Sakalahul informed Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro of the decision of the crisis committee to rescue the nine hostages.

Puno and Teodoro were attending an emergency meeting in the capital with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Jesus Verzosa and ranking military officials.

“The CMC has exerted efforts in diplomacy but the kidnappers insisted on the ransom. The CMC has given the police and military authority to run after the kidnappers,” Sakalahul told the meeting.

Puno and Teodoro said they are ready to launch the operation “Oplan Sagip Guro,” and ordered the police and military to form a combined group to launch the rescue mission.

“The resolution is a declaration of intent… it will allow the PNP and AFP to go full-force against the kidnappers,” Teodoro said.

Teodoro said the safety of the hostages would be taken into account in the rescue operation.

He said contingencies have been readied for the possible displacement of civilians during the conduct of operations.

“We have prepared for that and there’s enough budget to assist those who will be affected,” he said.

Puno, for his part, said they are also working to encircle the lair of the kidnappers, just as security forces have done against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu.

Puno said civilian volunteers would serve as police auxiliary forces to protect the city while the rescue operations are ongoing.

At the same time, Teodoro said the combined police and military operation would not consider allegations of encroachment on MILF camps, an excuse often used by the kidnappers to prevent government troops from going after them.

“There will be no sacred grounds as we have to enforce the laws,” Teodoro said.

Puno added a review of the proposed peace accord with the MILF revealed the Muslim guerrilla group does not have any enclaves in Basilan.

Teodoro also claimed some MILF rebels are using the Muslim guerrilla organization as a front to hide their criminal activities in the province.

Asked if the defense department as well as the Department of the Interior and Local Government would be asking the local governments of Basilan under Gov. Jum Akbar to place the troubled province under a state of emergency, Teodoro replied this wasn’t necessary given the different situation.

Teodoro was referring to the declaration of a state of emergency by Sulu Gov. Abdulsakur Tan to hasten the early resolution of the hostage crisis in the province involving Red Cross workers Swiss national Andreas Notter and Italian Eugenio Vagni.

“We will enforce the law here in Basilan,” Puno told reporters after the meeting.

Puno said he and Teodoro were ordered by President Arroyo to personally oversee security measures in Basilan following the spate of kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf in the region.

Akbar, for her part, said the authority given to the security forces to rescue the hostages would address the kidnapping problem in the province.

Akbar said she will support any move to place the entire province under a state of emergency, but only if necessary.

“If ever we will follow what Sulu has implemented, why not? Because we have once upon a time experienced a similar crisis and we adopted a state of emergency here. It is not new to us,” Akbar said.

The Sulu provincial government, on the other hand, is preparing for a possible military operation to rescue the two Red Cross workers still being held hostage by a separate Abu Sayyaf group.

Last-ditch efforts are being made to negotiate the release of the two hostages by allowing a team of Muslim clerics to negotiate their release.

Puno and Teodoro earlier flew to Sulu to oversee preparations in case efforts to secure the release of the two foreign hostages would fail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Philippines: US Set to Help in Jolo, Sulu Hostage Crisis, Says Envoy

The United States is ready to provide “assistance” to end a hostage crisis in the restive southern Mindanao involving two European Red Cross volunteers, officials yesterday said.

“We stand ready to help our Philippine counterparts with whatever they might request of course,” Thomas Gibbons, the US Embassy’s deputy envoy and political affairs counsellor, told reporters at the opening ceremony of annual joint US-Philippine military exercises.

He, however, stressed that US forces will not take part in any direct combat missions.

US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, for her part, said “Outside of actually taking part, the United

States continues to share intelligence with the Philippines on this (hostage situation).”

She added US participation is limited only to information-sharing as involvement of foreign troops in combat operations in the country is prohibited by the Constitution.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Alexander Yano assured there will be no American participation in actual combat operation by the military in an effort to free the two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) being held as hostages by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu province.

“We have not allowed and we will not involve them in direct combat actions, they can provide other assistance but not in direct combat actions,” he stressed, citing provisions in the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) barring the participation of foreign troops into actual combat operations.

Yano said the US military had trained and equipped Filipino special forces against the Abu Sayyaf in the past, and the local troops were now capable of dealing with the insurgents on their own.

But if there is a need for assistance, the Philippines may ask the US forces to provide “technical intelligence, medical air evacuations and airlifting of equipment and transport.

“Other than that, as in the past, we have not utilized them for any direct combat action,” he added.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel earlier urged the government to seek US assistance to free the ICRC hostages.

About 6,000 US troops and some 2,500 Filipinos are involved in two-week Balikatan exercises, which include field training exercises and humanitarian missions in the main island of Luzon and eastern Bicol region.

A small number of US forces, however, have also been carrying out various missions for several years on the southern island of Jolo, where Abu Sayyaf militants have been holding Italian Eugenio Vagni and Swiss Andreas Notter since Jan. 15.

A third hostage, Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba, was freed earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the local crisis negotiating team on Jolo dispatched five Muslim clerics to the Abu Sayyaf lair in a last-ditch effort to convince them to hand over the hostages peacefully.

Yano said there had been no update from the intermediaries and declined to comment on the next move.

Malacañang also yesterday deferred revealing the name of senior Muslim cleric or “Ulama” negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf.

Presidential deputy spokesman Anthony Golez said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno and Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro would be in better position than Malacañang to disclose on the course of negotiation that will take place with the participation of the Ulama negotiator.

But Puno said the Ulamas were able to establish communication with the Abu Sayyaf.

“Right now there are talks going on and they’re trying to convince them (bandits) to allow medical attention to be extended to Vagni right away,” he added.

Reports reaching the Task Force ICRC disclosed that Vagni is having difficulty in moving from one place to the other owing to his deteriorating health condition.

Puno said he is hopeful that the bandits will release Vagni earlier so that the Italian hostage could undergo surgery.

Meanwhile, a petition filed before the Supreme Court (SC) is asking the high tribunal to stop the implementation of state of emergency in the province of Sulu.

In their 57-page suit, a lawyer and four residents of the war-torn province Sulu asked the SC to immediately stop ongoing military and police operations in the province covered by guidelines of the state of emergency order of Gov. Abdusakur Tan.

The petitioners also asked the high court to nullify the proclamation of the governor that declared state of emergency in the province last March 31 on the ground that it was unconstitutional.

Filing the sut were lawyer Jamar Kulayan joined by Temogen Tulawie, provincial chairman of Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Societies; Mohamman Yusop Ismi, president of Southern Mindanao Islamic Institute; and Ahajan Awadi and SPO1 Sattal Jadjuli, who were both arrested by police in the ongoing state of emergency.

Named respondents were Tan; Maj. Gen. Juancho Saban, chief of Task Force Comet; Col. Eugenio Clemen, commander of Third Marine Brigade and deputy chief of the military task force; Supt. Julasiim Kasim, police director of the province; and Senior Supt. Bienvenido Latag, commander of police component of ICRC hostage crisis task force.

The suit argued that Proclamation 1-2009 and its implementing guidelines violated Sections 1 and 18 of Article VII of the Constitution, which give exclusive authority to declare state of emergency or state of rebellion to the President.

The petitioners said Tan “arrogated unto himself and usurped the exclusive power of the Chief Executive,” which is “a culpable violation of the Constitution.” Mario J. Mallari, Michaela P. del Callar, Benjamin B. Pulta, Riza Recio, PNA and AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Australia: ‘I Just Wanted to be Safe’: Asylum Seeker

WORD of mouth in a refugee camp in Pakistan led Tahre Rahimi to men who spoke so many languages he had no idea of their nationality. But they made it clear. A sum of $US9500 would “guarantee” him safe passage through several borders and across treacherous seas to Australia.

“There was no choice but Australia,” Rahimi told The Weekend Australian yesterday of his first meeting with the people-smugglers last November, “and I just wanted to be safe.”

He was told nothing of the impending journey, but was assured he would reach Australia. And aside from a terrifying final leg at sea — “I couldn’t believe we were going to make it to Australia, I was 90per cent sure we were going to die” — it was a promise well worth his life savings.

During his first meeting with the people-smugglers, the 28-year-old ethnic Hazara from Afghanistan found the men well-organised and very experienced, with a collection of passports.

Handing over the first instalment — $US4000 — Rahimi was given a Pakistani passport, and his journey to Australia began in the back of a crowded truck — incredibly with a return to his native Afghanistan.

From Kabul, the young man was taken through several Middle Eastern countries, including, he thinks, Kuwait, before finally being flown to Indonesia.

Rahimi does not know where he ended up in Indonesia other than that he was kept alone in a small house guarded by a “soldier”.

Then came the final leg of his 20-day voyage.

He was told to hand over the remaining cash — $US5500 before joining 35 other Afghans, Pakistanis and some Iraqis on an Indonesian boat. He recalled, through an interpreter yesterday, how scared he was when he saw the boat. “We didn’t see a boat before … we were very afraid.” About four or five Indonesians joined them on the final part of the journey, but they were unfriendly and “had very bad behaviour” towards the refugees.

Rahimi was on the fifth boat to arrive in Australian waters — intercepted near Ashmore Reef — after the Rudd Government’s softening of Australia’s border security policies.

After three months in detention on Christmas Island, he has been granted a permanent residence visa and is living in Brisbane.

Rahimi, from one of the most persecuted minorities in Afghanistan, said he never understood before the “goodness” of the Australian people.

“Only now I am feeling safe.”

Rahimi lived in the central province area of Ghazni until he discovered his father’s body in a “hole” three days after he had disappeared.

He was warned the Taliban were coming for him next and fled across the Afghanistan border to Pakistan, where he found himself in a camp with other refugees. He was soon joined by what was left of his family — his younger brother, sister-in-law and their children.

The Rahimi brothers between them had only enough money for one of them to take the journey, so it was decided it would be Tahre.

“I worked all my life and this was my savings,” he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: People Smuggler Jailed for Six Years

AN Indonesian fisherman who captained a sinking vessel with 10 asylum seekers intercepted off the West Australian coast has been sentenced to at least six years’ jail for people smuggling.

Man Pombili, 31, was sentenced in the District Court in Perth today for illegally transporting 10 Afghans and an Indonesian crewmen into Australia.

Judge Mary Ann Yeats sentenced Pombili to a six-year jail term with a non-parole period of three years.

The court was told Pombili was the captain of a sinking vessel intercepted by Australia’s Border Protection Command about 150km from Ashmore Island on November 19, 2008.

It had a broken engine, a hole in the hull and was sinking.

The court was told Pombili had accepted 2566 Rupiah from people smugglers to transport the asylum seekers from Indonesia to Australia.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I think that’s a typo — since it’s around 10000 rupiah to the dollar at the moment (haven’t checked recently).]

Defence lawyer David McKenzie told the court smugglers had given Pombili a compass and a map to an island and his client was unaware he was heading to Australia.

In sentencing, Judge Yeats said Pombili played a small but pivotal role in human trafficking and his sentence would serve as a deterrent to other Indonesian fishermen.

“Australia has orderly ways in which non-citizens are allowed to enter and in some cases stay in this country,” Judge Yeats told the court.

“You have played a pivotal and crucial role in this offence by bringing 10 Afghani men and two Indonesian men to Australia.

“I accept that you are not at the top of the chain and you were not fully aware … but that can not mitigate what you have done.”

Judge Yeats said Pombili’s early guilty plea on January 13 was a mitigating factor in sentencing. His jail term was backdated to November 21 last year.

The maximum penalty for people smuggling is 20 years’ jail.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

New Zealand: Patrick Gower: a Liberal Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing

Two patched gang members made their presence felt in Parliament’s Grand Hall recently, with the full blessing of Justice Minister Simon Power.

Black Power’s Eugene Ryder and Mongrel Mobster Edge Te Whaiti weren’t there to cause crime, but to discuss what causes it, as part of Power’s ministerial meeting on the “drivers of crime”.

Both gang members have rejected the criminality that usually goes with gang life and are instead using their inside knowledge to work against it.

Just as they can’t be judged by their gang exterior, Power is also coming out from behind his hard edge.

Power has just completed a clutch of hardline punitive measures. He’s passed laws tightening bail and toughening sentences for crimes against children.

He’s made a start on legislation that will keep the worst murderers in jail until the day they die, deny parole to repeat violent offenders, impose a levy on criminals that will go to victims and create new anti-gang laws.

His fingerprints are also on legislation that will expand the court’s powers to deal with young offenders.

This was all part of National’s “public safety” and tough-on-crime agenda, pushed heavily before the election and a major point of difference from Labour.

But with all those policies introduced in National’s first 100 days, Power is now talking up rehabilitation and addressing the causes of crime.

He’s looking like a sheep in wolf’s clothing: tough on the outside and liberal on the inside.

First came the drivers of crime meeting, with its surprising cross-section of attendees and equally broad discussions about cultural alienation and genetic disposition towards crime. It sounds more like a classic Labour hui.

Then this week came National’s tentative support for the Maori Party’s initiative of a separate prison for Maori with a focus on healing and where the inmates go flatting — an unthinkable position in the Don Brash days of not all that long ago. This put National so far out on the “do-gooder” side of the crime debate that Labour ended up taking the hard line with the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

National isn’t suddenly going soft — it has been that way for a while.

Rehabilitation was party policy, although not emphasised on the election trail where the punitive measures were always going to get the headlines.

National emphasised rehabilitation heavily in the final plans for boot camps for young offenders.

National will also go ahead with plans to double the amount of prisoners on existing rehabilitation programmes and expand the numbers of inmates on work schemes, although its $10.4 million cost estimate shows the investment is small.

The liberal agenda is driven by Power, one of National’s liberals in the tradition of Ralph Hanan, the 1960s Justice Minister who crossed the floor to vote against the death penalty for murder. Others include Doug Graham, Power’s current mentor.

Power won the arguments with the hang ‘em high brigade in National’s caucus during their last term in Opposition. So how has a true blue liberal managed to toughen the law but stay true to his beliefs?

A close examination of National’s sentencing measures for the worst murderers and repeat violent offenders show that while very hardline, they actually have a very limited application.

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, as now before the House, would bring in ineligibility for parole only for violent offenders who have crossed the high threshold of twice being sentenced to five years or more. Corrections advised its then-Minister Phil Goff last year that this happens in “relatively few” cases.

The same advice says even fewer murderers have previously committed the five-year sentence needed to trigger the life without release provision.

Corrections said only 40 more prison beds would be needed by 2011 to cover the violent offenders’ losing parole. The murderers without release will require 29 beds to be added but over a period stretching out to 2026. This is in stark contrast with National’s election trail claims it could add up to 572 offenders by 2011.

Power’s aims with this bill are shown in the “Lundy clause”, giving judges the discretion to put the worst murderers away for life even if they don’t have a violent past.

The truly bad offenders will face heavy and symbolic sentences. This will sate the public’s desire for big sentences for the offenders who make the news without sending too much of an extra bulge into the prisons as a broader measure like Act’s original “three strikes” would.

The reforms will continue. A workhorse, Power has introduced 18 of the 38 bills on the Government’s order paper and shows no sign of stopping.

The work the Ministry of Justice is doing indicates what he might turn his attention to next: the self-defence law, juries being trusted with previous convictions, the right to silence or the way rape trials are conducted.

The court process can be further simplified and Legal Aid is undergoing a fundamental review with the Public Defender’s Office waiting in the wings.

Power has to make the most of public goodwill and has the two-year window new governments are afforded before their first re-election campaign to work with.

Labour ended up paralysed on law and order by trying to keep the prison numbers down via community sentencing but defending its policies by showing how they boosted the prison population — all in the face of the inevitable but unpredictable crime dramas.

For now National is betting that its “whatever works” approach will be embraced by the public, eager to see crime drop but accepting that prisons just can’t keep on being built.

Power will hammer criminals at the sharp end but look to liberal solutions to address crime overall.

There is danger that this could be seen as playing a double game: a sheep when courting the liberals, a wolf with the hardliners.

Sooner or later, the real test will come when National is struck down by a bailed murderer, paroled rapist or illogical verdict on its watch.

The public outcry will be loud, the problem complicated and Power’s plans will come up hard against reality.

The answer might be either liberal or hardline — but it cannot be both.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

‘I Used Icepick to Take Somali Pirate Hostage’ Says Sailor

A crew member gave his first account yesterday of stabbing and capturing a Somali pirate leader on board the US-flagged Maersk Alabama during last week’s battle in the Indian Ocean.

A.T.M. “Zahid” Reza told reporters on his return to America that he had captured the pirate, “Abdul”, with Mike Perry, the ship’s chief engineer.

“I was attempting to kill him,” Mr Reza said. “Chief engineer said, ‘No, no, no, don’t. We need him alive.’ “ Mr Reza, from Connecticut, has been praised by shipmates for his bravery during the high-seas drama that ended with US navy snipers shooting dead three pirates holding Captain Richard Phillips hostage in a lifeboat.

When four pirates boarded the container ship off the Somali coast on April 8, most of the 20-man crew hid in safe rooms below decks.

The Bangladeshi-American sailor, who has a degree in political science and once dreamt of a career in film, remained on the bridge with the captain. Once the pirates clambered on board using grappling hooks the crew switched control of the ship from the bridge to the engine room and shut down power to the ship.

“I was thinking what to do. I was thinking how to save my life. I was lost. I was confused. I think captain also confused. I saw his movements,” Mr Reza said. “But captain, I think, all the time was playing with the pirates.” Mr Reza persuaded the pirate leader to go below decks with him, where the other crew members were hiding.

“I convinced him. I told him, ‘Trust me. I am Muslim. You are Muslim. Trust me, Abdul. I am from Bangladesh. You are from Somalia. So we are brothers. Anyhow, I convinced him,” he said. “[The] engine room was dark because ship was shut down.”

Mr Reza, a slight man, said the chief engineer jumped the teenage pirate, and he piled on to help, stabbing the pirate in the hand with an icepick. “I saw the pirate lying on the floor and chief engineer on his back with the knife. He was having \ hard time to control him. I jumped over the pirate and stabbed him and the chief engineer also stabbed him in the back.”

Mr Reza added: “I hold him because chief engineer not strong enough to hold him. I tied his hands. Me and chief engineer Mike Perry tied his hands and tied his legs, then took him our hostage.” The crew negotiated the return of the pirate leader in return for the gang releasing Captain Phillips and leaving the ship in a lifeboat.

However, the pirates took the skipper hostage for five days until he was freed by US Navy Seals on Sunday.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

‘I’m Not a Pirate, I’m the Saviour of the Sea’

Who are the pirate bands menacing commercial and tourist shipping off Somalia? Our writer meets one of the leaders

Boyah is a pirate. One of the original “Old Boys”, he quietly pursued his trade in the waters of his coastal home town of Eyl, years before it galvanised the world’s imagination as Somalia’s infamous “pirate haven”. Boyah is dismissive of the recent poseurs, the headline-grabbers who have bathed in the international media spotlight and it shows; he exudes a self-assured superiority.

Pirates are easy to spot on the streets of Garowe, the regional capital: their Toyota 4x4s cluster around equally new white-washed mansions on the edge of town. But to approach them, I am warned, is to invite kidnapping or robbery. In Somalia, everything is done through connections, be they clan, family, or friend, and Mohamed, my interpreter, was on and off the phone for almost a week to coax his network into producing Boyah.

Our meeting takes place at a virtually deserted farm 15km outside Garowe. Mohamed is the son of the newly elected president of Puntland and does not want to be seen in public cavorting with pirates. Moreover, Boyah has recently contracted tuberculosis and Mohamed insists that we meet him in an open space.

As we step out of our vehicles, I catch my first glimpse of Boyah. Immensely tall and disconcertingly menacing, he is wearing a ma’awis, the traditional robe of a clan elder, and a cimaamad, a decorative shawl. On his feet is a pair of shiny onyx leather sandals. He weaves his way around the tomato plants and lemon trees, before settling in a shady clearing, where he squats down. Other than the farm’s owners, there is no one near by, yet the two AK-47-toting police escorts, who accompany me wherever I go, stand guard with an amusing military officiousness.

Asking my first question through my interpreter, I hesitate to use the word “pirate”. Somali pirates are aware enough of themselves in the international media that the word has become part of their vernacular but its closest Somali translation is burcad badeed, which means “ocean robber”, a political statement I am anxious to avoid. Boyah likes to refer to him and his comades as badaadinta badah, “saviours of the sea”, a term that is most often translated in the English-speaking media as “coastguard”. Boyah jokes that he is the “Chief of the Coastguard”, a title he evokes with pride. To him, his actions have been about protecting his sea; his hijackings, a legitimate form of taxation levied in abstentia on behalf of a defunct government that he represents in spirit, if not in law…

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Prison Sentence for Insulting Gambian President

In Gambia, a Dutchman has received a year-long prison sentence and a 1500-euro fine for insulting President Yahya Jammeh reports press agency AFP. The Dutchman called the president “too greedy and corrupt” because taxi prices are higher for white people than for the black population. He was arrested two weeks ago. At first he claimed he was British, but later admitted being Dutch.

Insulting the president is a serious offence in Gambia. In December a British couple was sentenced one year’s forced labour for insulting President Jammeh.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S. Korean Navy Repels Pirate Attack

SEOUL — South Korean naval forces drove away pirates who were trying to board a Danish-registered ship in waters off Somalia, the military said Friday.

The incident occurred Thursday morning Somali time about 110 kilometres off the coast of Yemen, a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official said.

The Munmu the Great destroyer, carrying a crew of 300, received a distress call from the ship which reported it was being chased by a pirate boat, said Army Colonel Lee Hyoung-Kook, a JCS official who oversees the deployment.

The 2,100-ton ship Puma was about 55 kilometres from the South Korean destroyer, he told reporters.

The destroyer dispatched its Lynx anti-submarine helicopter, which arrived at the scene in just over 20 minutes, Lee said.

“The pirates gave up (their) attempt to board the ship and turned away when the helicopter threatened to fire,” he said.

The South Korean destroyer began operating this week to help fight piracy off Somalia, where several Korean ships have been seized.

Up to 20 foreign warships now patrol the waters off the Somali coast to safeguard major shipping lanes.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Scott Stinson: Got Pirate Problems? Hire Some Russians

Late last fall, I had dinner a few times with a former Russian spy. I’d like to say the circumstances were exotic; that I was being groomed by Moscow as a potential mole on the inside of a Canadian media giant, but the truth is more mundane. He and his wife were guests on the same cruise ship as myself and my wife, and we ended up assigned to the same dining room table.

Sergei was not shy about expressing his opinions, formed over a career in which he was a KGB officer whose cover as a foreign diplomat included postings at embassies in Washington and Ottawa.

His pronouncements were usually followed by a thump of the hand on the table for emphasis, whether the subject was Americans (lazy!), Vlad Putin (a thug!) or the previous night’s comedy show (stupid!). Thump, thump and thump.

Sergei also had a thing or two to say about Somali pirates. Western nations were being played for fools by these punks (thump!), he said, and it would only take one country to show it was serious about stopping the problem before the pirates would have second thoughts about the whole looting business.

I asked what such a strategy would entail. More gunships? Air support? Ground troops to roust the pirates from their home base? Sergei shrugged off such petty details. His point was simple: Go on offence, not defence.

Now, it must be said that Russia’s foreign policy record is dodgy at best so perhaps a former member of its spy network is not the ideal source of advice, but I admit Sergei had a point.

In the months that have passed since we met, pirate hijackings have continued at a steady pace, and Western nations have only really become involved when a specific incident forced their hand. In many of the cases, a bounty was simply paid and the hostage ship was released.

Yes, there are warships from several countries patrolling the dangerous waters around the Gulf of Eden, but it seems clear that the naval presence has not been strong enough to reverse the tide of piracy.

Perhaps the recent high-profile rescues of French and U.S. hostages will be enough to spur greater action. It is intriguing that one Congressman has gone so far as to call for a return to legalized private pirate-hunters, but the fact the demand is coming from Ron Paul suggests it will be met with a lot of eye-rolling in Washington.

Surely, though, something more can be done. It’s not like the pirates themselves present a huge challenge to the navies of the modern world. These are untrained young men who have scraped together a few weapons and an leaky boat and headed out to find an easy target. This is not the Kriegsmarine of 1939, is all I’m saying.

There must be something about saving the world from the scourge of piracy in here somewhere.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Latin America

Nicole Ferrand in the Americas Report: An Ideological Crusade Against Alberto Fujimori

Last week, on April 7th 2009, former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for “ordering two “massacres” that left 25 people dead during his time in office from 1990 until 2000.

None of the trial’s 80 witnesses could implicate Fujimori of ordering any killings, kidnappings or disappearances. This was in spite of being constantly intimidated and pressured to do so by the prosecutors and even the judges, who offered to lessen their time in jail if they accused the former leader. These individuals simply could not; one after the other, even the star witnesses of the prosecution, the members of ‘Grupo Colina,’ who allegedly carried out the ‘murders,’ emphatically denied that Fujimori ordered them to carry out these actions; in fact they declared they never even met him. According to a recent opinion poll, two thirds of the population says that Fujimori was found guilty without any poof or evidence and local opinion leaders, experts and lawyers agree.

According to most legal experts, Fujimori was convicted even before he set foot in the courtroom. They argue that the televised show-trial that lasted 16 months was a complete sham. First of all, the three judges who condemned the former President, Cesar San Martin, Víctor Prado Saldarriaga, and Hugo Príncipe Trujillo, were given this task even though they were laid off from their jobs in the Justice Department during the Fujimori regime. The charge was that they set terrorists and criminals free while accusing the police and the armed forces of being “too harsh” in their combat tactics. It is clear that, with this trial, they saw an opportunity to get revenge…

           — Hat tip: CSP[Return to headlines]

Obama Blames U.S. Guns in Mexico

Seeks treaty to fight drug violence

MEXICO CITY | Meeting face-to-face with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, President Obama on Thursday said the U.S. is to blame for much of Mexico’s drug violence, and he set up a major congressional gun-control battle by calling on the Senate to ratify a treaty designed to track and cut the flow of guns to other countries.

Mr. Obama said he wants to renew a ban on some semiautomatic weapons but that it is not likely to pass Congress. Instead, he called for the Senate to ratify a decade-old hemispherewide treaty that would require nations to mark all weapons produced in the country and track them to make sure no weapons were exported to countries where they were banned.

“I will not pretend that this is Mexico’s responsibility alone. The demand for these drugs in the United States is what’s helping keep these cartels in business,” Mr. Obama said at a joint news conference with Mr. Calderon. “This war is being waged with guns purchased not here, but in the United States. More than 90 percent of the guns recovered in Mexico come from the United States, many from gun shops that line our shared border.”

But the treaty is likely to run into opposition from gun rights backers, and the Senate’s top Democrat was noncommittal Thursday about the measure.

Mr. Calderon urged the U.S. to consider a gun registry and a prohibition on bulk sales of firearms.

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]


154 Illegal Immigrants Stranded at Sea

A merchant ship, which rescued 154 illegal immigrants, is blocked since Thursday in the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, in the intervention area in Malta, after the refusal of the governments of both countries to host migrants, announced Friday the Italian media.

The Turkish vessel bearding the Panamanian flag rescued Thursday two boats of illegal immigrants on drift and had also recovered a dead body, about 80 km south of the small island of Lampedusa (south of Sicily).

The Maltese authorities had asked the crew of the merchant ship to sail to the nearest port, that of Lampedusa. But Rome has found that immigrants were rescued in the area and jurisdiction of Malta, and that therefore it was in Valletta to welcome them.

“I asked and I will continue to ask Malta to take on the responsibilities it has undertaken to comply by signing international agreements, and it refuses to assume on the expense of Italy”, declared Friday the Italian Minister of Interior, Roberto Maroni.

The areas of intervention are well defined but often those who should intervene do not,” Mr. Maroni denounced at a conference on illegal immigration in the Mediterranean.

“The criticism of Mr. Maroni is unacceptable,” responded his Maltese counterpart, Carmelo Mifsud Bonnici, according to the Ansa agency.

“The State of Malta can not accept immigrants who were rescued near the Italian coast. These forty-five years, Italy has fulfilled the agreement which provides driving migrants rescued at sea to the nearest port. We see that Italy is trying to change the rules and this is unacceptable,” regretted the Maltese Minister.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: This sort of bickering would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic.]

Italy has seen landing on its shores 36,900 immigrants in 2008, a figure up 75% over 2007, according to the Italian Ministry of the Interior.

For its part, Malta has seen a record number of 2775 illegal immigrants in 2008.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia: Navy to Intercept Asylum-Seekers on Way to Australia; Police Warned of Increase

THE Navy is tonight moving to intercept another boatload of suspected asylum-seekers off the northwestern coast.

The latest boat is thought to be carrying at least 100 people, twice as many as the boat that was intercepted and later burned earlier this week.

It is expected to be intercepted overnight or sometime today.

Indonesian authorities have also detained 68 suspected asylum-seekers from Afghanistan, who were believed to be bound for Australia.

It is now emerging that the Rudd Government had been warned its softer border protection laws would encourage new waves of people smuggling.

Secret intelligence briefings prepared by the Australian Federal Police were recently delivered to senior government ministers. understands the AFP also expressed serious reservations last year as the Rudd Government wound back John Howard’s tougher approach to immigration detention.

Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus last night refused to disclose details of the AFP intelligence.

But the revelations are likely to harden the Opposition’s claim that Labor’s softer stance on border protection has contributed to a surge in the lucrative people-smuggling trade.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday hit out at the Opposition’s accusations, saying people smugglers should “rot in hell” and were the “absolute scum of the Earth”.

“People smugglers are the vilest form of human life,” Mr Rudd said.

“They trade on the tragedy of others and that is why they should rot in jail and in my own view rot in hell.”

On the defensive, Mr Rudd said Labor’s immigration policies were hardline, tough and targeted.

He said his Government had dedicated more resources to combat people smugglers than any previous Australian government and would “continue to match the resources necessary as the challenges unfold”.

But the AFP warnings to the Rudd Government were based in part on intelligence picked up by officers in Indonesia, which has become a key base for the people-smuggling trade.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Fears of Foreigner Flood Just a Trickle

Denmark’s strict immigration policy seems to be working despite easier EU regulations on family reunions.

Claims by some Danish politicians that EU rules on family reunions would cause a tidal wave of immigration have been put to shame.

According to as yet unpublished figures from the Ministry of Integration, the Immigration Service awarded 39 family reunion permits under EU rules in January 2009. On an annual basis this would, at first glance, suggest that 2009 would result in three times the number of people being afforded family reunion permits under EU rules compared to the 155 in 2008.

But according to’s information, the increase is more a result of the Immigration Service handling a backlog of 250 cases from 2008. In real terms, although 39 permits were given in January, the number of Danes seeking family reunions under EU rules has actually fallen.

Minister: Fears groundless “This shows that there are more cases than there were applications in January. It’s a question of gnawing away at a backlog. All these suggestions that we would receive thousands of applications were wrong,” Integration Minister Birthe Rønn Hornbech tells

2008 saw only 50 more permits than in 2007 — a surprisingly low figure given widespread media attention to ways of getting through strict Danish rules, and not least the EU’s Metock verdict allowing foreigners who are illegals in one EU country to seek family reunions.

Rejections As a result it seems that experts and politicians who claimed that large numbers of foreigners would flood into Denmark were wrong.

The Marriages Without Borders Association said last year that some 1,000 couples wanted to come to Denmark under EU rules.

But January’s figures show that many more are being rejected. The Immigration Service declined six applications under EU rules in 2008, but 18 were rejected in January this year.

“The figures for January are not alarming. They also show that the number of rejections is increasing substantially,” says Hornbech.

The total number of family reunions in 2008 was 3,793, of which 155 were awarded under EU rules.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Finland: Thors Accuses Zyskowicz of Divisiveness in Asylum Debate

Minister criticised over backlog of asylum applications

Minister of Migration and European Affairs Astrid Thors (Swed. People’s Party) has accused National Coalition Party MP Ben Zyskowicz of violating basic rules set for government parties. The criticism came up after Zyskowicz severely criticised what he saw were meagre efforts to dismantle the backlog of asylum applications. According to Zyskowicz, the minister and her civil servants have an “attitude problem”.

“The use of expressions such as attitude problem with reference to the ministers of one’s own government is not in line with the rules of the game”, Thors said in Parliament on Thursday. She also said that the “public thrashing” from Zyskowicz was “strange”.

According to Zyskowicz, Thors is on a side track in the government on the issue of asylum policy. Speaking during the first reading of the bill for a new foreigners’ law, Zyskowicz urged Thors to implement policy lines of the government. “The government decided that handling times would be speeded up, which is in the interests of both applicants and of Finland.”

The National Coalition Party MP said that he does not want to see the kinds of problems that have emerged in neighbouring countries, after the asylum policy has “gone out of hand”, and where “integration has failed”. “We do not want suburbs where people riot, or where significant problems are caused”, Zyskowicz said. He said that Finland can prevent the problems from “coming to a head”. The number of asylum applicants rose last year to 4,000, whereas in the previous year there were just 1,400 applicants. Half of the applications were rejected, or lapsed.

“We have already agreed on a study on how application for asylum in Finland differs from that in the other Nordic Countries. In the first supplementary budget, the Finnish Immigration Service was granted more funding specifically to speed up the processing time”, Thors said. The government offered EUR one million, which Parliament doubled. Thors did not accept Zyskowicz’s claim that she was downplaying the implications of the growth in the number of applicants. “I have called for a sense of proportion. For instance, in Norway, the number of asylum seekers has grown to 15,000 already.”

Thors felt that Zyskowicz linked asylum seekers with the kinds of riots that have taken place in the Danish capital Copenhagen in drug-related battles between motorcycle gangs and criminal elements among immigrants. “That is labelling, and is in violation of an appeal by the chairs of the parliamentary groups”, Thors said. An appeal against racism emerged at the initiative of the Swedish People’s Party. Zyskowicz said that he regrets it if the minister took the feedback personally. He emphasised that what he said was politics, and that he had raised a serious problem. Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) sought to ease tensions, but was somewhat out of the loop, after having returned from a trip recently. “Confidence in Minister Thors is not on the line. The government has increased funding for the processing of asylum applications.” “Asylum applications are often without foundation, and if they are handled quickly, the news will soon spread around the world. The number of applications here is very low compared with the other Nordic Countries”, Vanhanen pointed out.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Indonesia: 68 Afghan Migrants Arrested

JAKARTA — SIXTY-EIGHT migrants from Afghanistan have been arrested in Indonesia as they were planning to enter Australia illegally, a report said on Friday.

The migrants were arrested in a hotel at the beach resort of Anyer, near the capital Jakarta, and are due to be handed over to immigration authorities, state news agency Antara said.

‘The 68 Afghan citizens will be picked up by immigration officials this afternoon,’ Cilegon district police chief Dwi Gunawan was quoted as saying.

Mr Gunawan said the Afghans planned to travel to Australia.

Indonesia has long been a transit country for illegal migration and people smuggling to Australia.

Authorities in March arrested an Afghanistan-born US national for fraud and people smuggling after he was suspected of bringing 47 Chinese to Indonesia on promises of work in Australia.

Forty-one Afghan migrants were detained and six suspected people smugglers arrested by Indonesian and Australian police on Sulawesi island in February. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Italy: European Rights Watchdog Attacks Immigration Record

Strasbourg, 16 April (AKI) — Europe’s top human rights watchdog on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over the conservative Italian government’s hardline immigration policies, including plans to make illegal immigration a crime and a controversial census of Sinti and Roma Gypsies in Italy.

“Criminalising migrants is a disproportionate measure which risks igniting further discriminatory and xenophobic tendencies in the country,” said the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg in a new report.

Hammarberg’s latest report followed a two-day visit to Italy in January, during which he visited Gypsy camps in the capital, Rome, and met Italian government officials, human rights organisations, and members of the Italian senate’s newly formed Human Rights Commission.

“Italy should eradicate discrimination and xenophobia and improve its migration policy,” he stressed.

Hammarberg expressed “serious concerns” about Italy’s policies towards its Roma Gypsy minority, which he said faces “a persistent climate of intolerance.”

“Their living conditions are still unacceptable in a number of settlements that I visited,” he warned.

There are an estimated 160,000 Roma Gypsies in Italy, nearly half of whom were born in Italy and have Italian citizenship.

Others come from European Union countries such as Romania and the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

Most live in illegal camps, many of which are being demolished following a series of high-profile rapes allegedly committed by Roma Gypsies.

There have also been vigilante-style attacks against Romanians in various parts of Italy.

Hammarberg conceded that some efforts had been made to improve the situation of the Roma. “Local good practices exist in the country, and they should be broadened,” he said.

But he voiced “deep concern” about the government’s controversial census of Roma and Sinti settlements in Italy and its “compatibility with European standards guiding the collection and processing of personal data.”

The Italian government claims the census, which began last year, is aimed at establishing who has the right to be in Italy and to give those individuals access to education and social services.

Hammarberg urged the authorities to create “consultative mechanisms” at all levels with the Roma and Sinti Gypsy communities. This is needed to avoid evictions without offering alternative housing and appropriate education for Gypsy children, he noted.

He also recommended that representation of ethnic groups in the police be increased and that the government establish an independent national human rights institution, such as an ombudsman to strengthen protection for their human rights.

He attacked Italy’s draft law on public security for its possible negative effects on migrants’ rights.

This includes making illegal immigration a crime, obliging health workers to report illegal immigrants to police and creating local security patrols made up of ‘concerned citizens’.

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

Netherlands Gets Tough With Somali Asylum Seekers

Somali asylum seekers will no longer be automatically accepted in the Netherlands. There has been too much fraud, says deputy justice minister Albayrak.

Whenever the sun comes out the residents of the Ter Apel centre for asylum seekers immediately emerge from their barracks. Many of them are from Somalia. The women wear long flowery dresses and bright-coloured headscarves. Some carry babies on their hips or wrapped to their chests.

The Netherlands are a popular destination for asylum seekers from Somalia. There were almost 4,000 of them last year — almost a third of all asylum seekers in the Netherlands. In the first two months of this year some 850 Somalis applied for asylum here, making them the second-largest group after the Iraqis.

People from central and southern Somalia benefit from what is known as “categorical protection”: these parts of Somalia are so dangerous that its entire population is considered at risk. Somalia has been involved in a civil war since 1991 and there has been no effective central government since. As a result, several European countries — the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Hungary and Luxembourg — made asylum for people from Somalis virtually automatic.

Filing fingertips

Until now. In early April, Dutch deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak (Labour) announced a review of the categorical protection programme for Somalis. There has been too much abuse, she wrote to parliament.

Some Somalis have taken to filing off their fingertips to escape registration. Since 2003 all asylum seekers in Europe are fingerprinted to prevent so-called “asylum shopping”. Asylum seekers are supposed to apply in the country of first arrival, but some people prefer to travel to another European country if they think they have a better chance of being accepted there, or after having been turned down in the first country.

There is also the matter of Somali foster children. After asylum has been granted, the refugee has the right to bring his spouse and children to the Netherlands. After DNA tests were introduced to verify blood ties there was a sudden peak in the number of Somali foster children. One Somali family claimed to have no less than 41 foster children.

Aybarak now wants to make Somali asylum seekers register any foster children immediately upon arrival. The children will only be admitted if the asylum seeker can prove that the foster children were an integral part of the family back in Somalia.

But according to Shamsa Said of the federation of Somali associations in the Netherlands (FSAN) there is no such thing as foster children in Somalia. There is no such thing as family either, at least not as we know it. Said is from Somalia and has lived in the Netherlands since 1993.

Group thinkers

“Here a family lives in one and the same house and it is the parents who raise their children. In Somalia children belong not to the parents but to the entire family. Children are often raised by people other than the parents. Your sister’s child is just as much yours as it is hers. Your uncle’s child is your responsibility too,”according to Said.

Somalis are group thinkers, she says. “I have lived here so long but I still find it difficult to think about myself. The first few years I still said ‘we’ when I was talking about myself.”

But asylum lawyer Loes Vellenga says Somalis are now also being punished as a group. She compares Albayrak’s new measures to a schoolteacher who punishes the whole class because of one pupil’s mischief. “A few people have committed fraud and the entire population is punished,” she says.

VluchtelingenWerk (RefugeeWork), a Dutch ngo supporting asylum seekers in the Netherlands, also calls Albayrak’s approach “disproportionate”. “Fraud needs to be punished,” says its director Edwin Huizing, “but the decision to give a person protection or not should depend on the security situation in the country of origin, not on fraud.”

Refugee Abdulahi is more understanding. Abdulahi (26) fled from Somalia to the Netherlands by himself five years ago; he now lives in a centre for asylum seekers in Bosmeer where he is taking an integration course. “I have heard the stories of Somalis filing off their fingertips,” says Abdulahi. “I understand that Albayrak wants to tighten the rules. But she should be careful because the situation in Somalia has become even worse lately.”

Individual basis

Shamsa Said agrees: everybody in Somalia wants out — by any means possible. The immigration service IND estimates that half of all Somali asylum seekers in the Netherlands have had some kind of help in getting here.

Albayrak admits it is “exceptional” to lift the categorical protection for Somalis at a time when the situation in many parts of the country is still critical. But she has no choice, she says.

Somali asylum seekers will now be judged on an individual basis. To determine if someone is really from central or southern Somalia — or from Somalia at all — a language test is used. Immigration officials also try to determine which clan an asylum seeker belongs to.

Shamsa Said wishes them luck. “There are no real family names in Somalia. It is: ‘I am Ayaan, daughter of Hirsi who was the son of Said…’ Sometimes you have to go back twelve generations to know for sure which clan you belong to,” she says.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Singapore: 245 Suspicious Vessels

More illegal immigrants tried to land in Singapore last year.

MORE illegal immigrants tried to land on Singapore’s shores but failed last year with 245 suspicious vessels detected by the Police Coast Guard — an increase of 71 more vessels than in 2007. However, the illegals immigrants have not been deterred with 58 vessels being chased away from Singapore’s borders in the first three months of this year, up from 27 in the same period in 2007.

The police coast guard’s elite team ambushed and scuttled 15 intrusions by sea between January and March this year. Thirty-five people were caught and 8,100 cartons of contraband cigarettes were seized. In the same period last year, there were only seven interception operations, with 46 people arrested and 4,620 cartons of cigarettes seized.

Police coast guard commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police Teo Kian Teck told reporters that intruders can be dangerous.

‘They resort to dangerous manoeuvering in darkness when they are being pursued and even lead our boats to hazards including kelong and fish farms,’ he said.

The coast guard is beefing up its arsenal of weapons to help catch illegal immigrants taking the sea route into Singapore, including putting up anti-intrusion barriers to cut off the Republic’s porous shores from the crooks.

The extra ring barriers are in addition to the 28km of fences that already exist along the coastline.

The coast guard’s operations and security head, deputy Superintendent Alan Xavier Tan said intruders usually take about two minutes to travel in small motorised boats from the nearby shores of Johor, Malaysia, which can be as close as 600m away from Singapore’s shores.

But the coast guard is well equipped to out-manouevre the boatmen with its high speed chase boats, enhanced radar systems on patrol vessels and night vision capability

“If the presence of our patrol vessels still does not deter them from entering Singapore waters, we will be sure to ambush and intercept them within seconds,” said Deputy Superintendent Tan.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Three More Landings on Lampedusa

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO — The migration wave to Lampedusa continues, with over 300 immigrants landing on the island on three rafts over the past few hours. The first raft — with 239 migrants of various ethnicities onboard, including 45 women and 2 children — landed at dawn at the port of Lampedusa. The raft was intercepted 13 miles south of the island by a Coast Guard patrol boat and a Financial Guard boat. A few hours later, another raft with 62 Somali migrants, including 15 women, was sighted close to the port. Finally, another 46 migrants on a dinghy were assisted by a Carabinieri (Italian militarised police) patrol boat. All of the immigrants who have arrived on the island today will be boarded onto a ship and transported to Porto Empedocle.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: We Can’t Let the Family Die

Successive governments are to blame for the demise of the traditional family. It will take a brave politician to save it now, says Kathy Gyngell

If the family fails, society breaks up, and there are many signs that this is happening. Britain may not lead the world in much, but we are certainly ahead when it comes to social pathology. So many children are neglected and, as a result, run out of control: we have high rates of truancy and exclusions, while violence and disorder among youngsters — even murder — have escalated in recent years to become daily headline fodder. Children who self-harm were virtually unheard of 25 years ago but today they are commonplace.

The rising level of social dysfunction mirrors a rising level of family fragmentation. Our expectations of parents and their responsibilities for their children’s wellbeing have never been lower. Despite numerous tragedies and endless inquiries into the failure of parents and the state to safeguard children, little appears to change — witness the death of Baby P.

That so many more of our children are now disadvantaged and neglected is rooted in the fact that so many more are being born to lone and cohabiting parents, while the Government remains wedded to the politically correct myth that this is OK.

The publication this week of the Social Trends Report from the Office of National Statistics marks a new point in the demise of the traditional family. Today, having a child is the first major milestone of adult life, ahead of marriage. Now 30 per cent of women under 30 give birth by the age of 25, but only 24 per cent of under-30s get married. Try as it might to lift children out of economic poverty, the state cannot lift them out of the emotional poverty that results from this situation.

The fact remains that children who grow up with parents who aren’t married are more likely to experience the double whammy of fatherlessness and disruption. One in two cohabiting couples splits up before their child’s first birthday. Exposed to disinterested boyfriends and multiple carers, children in single and cohabiting families are more likely to suffer physical abuse, fail at school, play truant, suffer from depression and other mental illnesses or turn to drugs and alcohol than children whose parents are married. Their progress through life is less safe and less secure. In adulthood they are less able to cope or to form stable, caring and responsible relationships, so the problem is amplified down the generations.

The tragedy is that the cost of family breakdown has been known for so long and yet has been wilfully ignored by politicians of both parties. Since the early Seventies, the decline in marriage, the rise in divorce and in the number of couples cohabitating has reflected the liberalisation of the divorce laws, changes in public opinion and the rise of feminism. The Finer Report in 1974 was first to note its impact, concluding that the effects of marital breakdown on children were underachievement, delinquency and psychological damage.

In 1990, the controversial American social scientist Charles Murray warned of an emerging British underclass resulting from rising rates of “illegitimacy”. Yet this was no reactionary Right-wing morality; the publication in 1993 of Families without Fatherhood, by sociologists Norman Dennis and George Erdos, proved that. It showed that even when economic circumstances are matched, the children of single mothers do worse, often much worse, than the children of married couples. Their work revealed the startling fact that the children of divorced parents did worse than both adopted children and those who had lost a parent.

Dennis and Erdos called time on the dominant anti-marriage, anti-masculine ideology of the 1970s and 1980s on the basis of their sociological research. Men, they said, had been relegated to the margins of family life in inner cities and council estates, and they pointed to the link between lone parenthood, crime and welfare dependency. But though their thesis has undoubtedly proved to be correct and is now endorsed by politicians as diverse as Frank Field and Iain Duncan Smith, it was outgunned by what I describe as “the Polly Toynbee School of Feminism”, which fostered a politically correct agenda to which politicians of both parties have genuflected.

Both political parties have contributed to the levels of breakdown we see today. Fiscal and legal anti-marriage policies have been pursued by successive governments. Back in the Eighties, the Tories took little heed of Keith Joseph’s concern that we should break the cycle of poverty by meeting the emotional needs of children as well as their economic requirements. It was Nigel Lawson’s reform of personal taxation that set in train the abolition of the married couple’s allowance. He failed, as he had planned in his Green Paper, to balance independent taxation by transferring the unused personal allowance to a non-earning, most likely child-rearing, spouse. It foundered on the rock of feminist ignorance and prejudice.

When Labour took office in 1997, sociological advisers, such as Professor Halsey and Norman Dennis, who wanted support for the traditional family, were marginalised, and irrational feminism triumphed. Gordon Brown’s first budget marked, as Harriet Harman emphasised triumphantly at the time, “the end of the assumption that families consist of a male breadwinner and a female helpmate in the home”. Labour’s new measures did not just recognise that women were in paid work and needed help with childcare, they pushed this agenda aggressively with tax incentives and a massive expansion of childcare facilities. The intention to cut back on lone-parent benefits in order to discourage dependency was abandoned in the face of party fury and threatened rebellion.

Since the 1970s, lone parents have, per household, received more state support for their children than couples with the same number of children. As Jill Kirby points out in The Price of Parenthood (Centre for Policy Studies, 2005), this bias against two-parent families has grown under Labour, exacerbated by the tax-credit system, which has enabled the Government to blur the distinction between tax allowances and welfare support. The present system penalises married (and overtly cohabiting) parents alike. Middle-income families are hardest hit; they are heavily taxed and, usually, have a mortgage to pay off.

Indeed, the benefits of being single under Labour are such that it led Shaun Bailey, a Tory candidate in Hammersmith, to assert in his report No-man’s-land, (CPS, 2005) that “People with our lives, in our circles, understand that you are better off if you are a single parent. If anybody thinks that people like us don’t sit around and have these discussions, they are deluding themselves. We soon figure out which way it will make us the most money. And that’s an example of how trapped we are by government policy. Because it discourages us from raising our children in nuclear families.”

Labour sought to reduce lone parents’ dependence on the state by persuading or coercing them into work — a policy that has singularly failed because the benefits system works against it. The result is tens of thousands of uneducated and unskilled single mothers who are, in effect, “married” to the state. Where a father figure exists, he is usually unemployed and emasculated.

So can any of this be reversed? Yes, because it does not need to be like this. Most European economies still support marriage through the tax and benefit system, and there is no reason that the UK has to be different. We are alone in Europe in having such a liberal and individualistic agenda, one that has proved so damaging both to individuals and to society. This is one area where we should come into line with Europe. But it will take great political bravery to change the tax system to stop discouraging marriage and to start discouraging single parenting. It will mean cultural change led by eloquent refutations of Labour’s false argument that any change in the tax laws would penalise and stigmatise the children of single parents. It will take a renewed understanding of children’s needs — above all, an understanding of their need for the stability of parental commitment and parental responsibility. Sadly, for all their fair words, and their Every Child Matters agenda, this Government persists in doing the opposite.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Romancing the Jihad

Why are so many on the Left enamored with Islamism?

By Clifford D. May

Ask those on the Left what values they champion, and they will say equality, tolerance, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. Militant Islamists oppose all that, not infrequently through the application of lethal force. So how does one explain the burgeoning Left-Islamist alliance?I know: There are principled individuals on the Left who do not condone terrorism or minimize the Islamist threat. The author Paul Berman, unambiguously and unashamedly a man of the Left, has been more incisive on these issues than just about anyone else. Left-of-center publications such as The New Republic have not been apologists for radical jihadists.But The Nation has been soft on Islamism for decades. Back in 1979, editorial-board member Richard Falk welcomed the Iranian revolution, saying it “may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.” Immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, longtime Nation contributor Robert Fisk complained that “terrorism” is a “racist” term.

It is no exaggeration to call groups such as pro-appeasement. Further left on the political spectrum, the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition sympathizes with both Islamists and the Stalinist regime in North Korea — which is in league with Islamist Iran and its client state, Syria. Meanwhile, Hugo Chávez, the Bolivarian-socialist Venezuelan strongman, is developing a strategic alliance with Iran’s ruling mullahs and with Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy.

In a new book, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror, Jamie Glazov takes a hard look at this unholy alliance. A historian by training, Glazov is the son of dissidents who fled the Soviet Union only to find that, on American campuses, they were not welcomed by the liberal/Left lumpen professoriate.

Glazov’s book indicts artists and intellectuals of the Left — e.g. George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, and Susan Sontag — for having “venerated mass murderers such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, habitually excusing their atrocities while blaming Americans and even the victims for their crimes.”

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Left spent several years wandering in the wilderness. Many of them, Glazov suggests, looked upon the terrorist attacks of 9/11 less as an atrocity than as an opportunity to revive a moribund revolutionary movement.

Jimmy Carter, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Lynne Stewart, and Stanley Cohen are among the luminaries of the Left Glazov accuses of having found common ground with Islamists…

           — Hat tip: Charlemagne[Return to headlines]

Stop Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth

As the world clamours for food, the environmentalist lobby continues to oppose genetically modified crops. How much longer?

In places as far apart as Egypt, Cameroon and Haiti people rioted for more food last year with dozens of deaths as a result. The world’s population is increasing and food prices follow close behind. There is simply not enough food to go around. An obvious solution is to increase food production by using more land for agricultural purposes, but this can only be done at nature’s expense. Increasing the productivity of the existing farm land is a better idea. Biotechnology and genetic modification offer a way out.

Scientists have succeeded in increasing corn and wheat productivity by several dozens of percents. A new type of rice has been developed that is more resistant to flooding, and wheat has been genetically modified to better withstand draughts. Both crops would give local populations more reliable harvests.

Unfortunately, none of these genetically modified crops are being cultivated in Europe. Their introduction is opposed by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations. Even experimental fields, where the impact of GM crops on the environment are tested, are destroyed on a regular basis by environmental groups. Most recently, two test fields run respectively by the agricultural university of Wageningen and the potato starch company Aveve in Groningen met with that fate.

It seems the environmental organisations are not that interested in the test results. Maybe they’re afraid of having been wrong all these years, if it turns out that the damage to the environment is not that bad. It doesn’t seem to bother them one bit that their guerrilla tactics are putting lives at risk.

One would think that the green movement would have plenty of smart people; many a biology student has ended up there. And yet, the environmentalists still don’t seem to realise that genetically modifying food is little more than an enhanced way of improving crops by crossing them. Have they ever compared a wild strawberry with one from a greenhouse? Or an original corn cob with a contemporary one? The latter has become a whole different thing just by crossing. But the green movement never mentions this.

Crossing plants has the same effect as genetically modifying them except that it is slower and less efficient. For instance, it took no less than forty years to make the potato plant resistant to the pathogenic Phytophtera fungus, which causes potato rot. Researchers in Wageningen managed to do the same thing in two years through genetic modification, and the resulting potato plant was six times more resistant than its crossed variation. Alas, the Wageningen potato plant is also a long way from being introduced to the market.

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth say genetically modified crops damage the environment. But dozens of articles in authoritative scientific publications such as Nature and Science paint an entirely different picture: the impact of genetically modified plants is negligible. The hundreds of thousands of hectares of GM crops that were cultivated in recent years have not caused any damage to the environment worth mentioning.

Still, because of the influence the environmental lobby wields, many companies are afraid of investing in gentech crops. What’s more, the cost of research and development has increased manifold because of the risk analysis requirements, which are entirely disproportionate in comparison with what is required for traditionally crossed crops.

Add the costs from sabotage and other guerrilla tactics used by the environmental fanatics, and only the largest biotech multinationals such as Monsanto and Bayer can still afford to develop GM crops. It is a cynical thing that it is precisely the dogmatic position taken by the environmentalists that is driving the monopolies of the multinationals, the very thing the environmental movement so vehemently opposes.

How much longer are politicians going to allow themselves to be held hostage by the environmental movement? How many more food riots do we need before the environmental movement is ready to let go of its dogmas? If we want to meet the goal set by the G8 to double food production by 2050, the time to invest in biotechnology is now.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Zenster said...

Cultural Bridge Builder Tariq Ramadan Can Stay in Rotterdam.

The Rotterdam local authorities under recently appointed Moroccan-Dutch mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb decided to investigate the matter. More than 50 tapes on which Ramadan speaks in French and Arabic were translated and scrutinised to find out once and for all what the man really said. Last Wednesday, the results were presented in Rotterdam and the outcome is clearly in Mr Ramadan’s favour. “Mr Ramadan does not speak with a double tongue”, says Rotterdam city councillor Rik Grashof. [emphasis added]

Thus did Rotterdam city councillor Rik Grashof demonstrate his profound and lethal ignorance of taqiyya. After all, what better person to "investigate the matter" of Tariq Ramadan's well-know soft jihadism than fellow Muslim, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.

In other news: Fox gives faulty henhouse security top marks.

Zenster said...

Denmark: Absalon Returns From Pirate Duty.

In addition, the crew caught 88 suspected pirates, but the lack of an international piracy court made it difficult to follow-up with prosecutions.

Rope + yardarm. Some assembly required. Job done.

Sadly, Denmark has strayed a wee bit too far from its Viking roots. The ancient Danes knew exactly what to do with those who encroached upon their turf, craft and waters. Needless to say (Then why say it?), it didn't involve dithering around in a quandry over what to do with Muslim pirate scum.

Zenster said...

'I’m Not a Pirate, I’m the Saviour of the Sea'

Boyah is a pirate. One of the original “Old Boys”, he quietly pursued his trade in the waters of his coastal home town of Eyl, years before it galvanised the world’s imagination as Somalia’s infamous “pirate haven”.

... Pirates are easy to spot on the streets of Garowe, the regional capital
: [emphasis added]

Why are Garowe and Eyl still standing? These and all other Somali pirate communities should have been bombed out of existence years ago. With the only satisfactory followup coming in the form of bouncing the rubble another few times.

There is no reason why the civilized world must endure this sort of typical Islamic predation. As is always the case with Muslims, there is nothing to negotiate and no way to productively negotiate anything were that even a possibility.

Ergo, Boyah needs to assume room temperature and these terrorist nests should be bombed flatter than piss on a plate.

Zenster said...

Romancing the Jihad

Why are so many on the Left enamored with Islamism

Ask those on the Left what values they champion, and they will say equality, tolerance, women’s rights, gay rights, workers’ rights, and human rights. Militant Islamists oppose all that, not infrequently through the application of lethal force. So how does one explain the burgeoning Left-Islamist alliance?

Brain damage?

Hereditary insanity?

Terminal stupidity?

Hypertrophied cognitive dissonance?


Pure outright evil?

Glazov’s book indicts artists and intellectuals of the Left — e.g. George Bernard Shaw, Bertolt Brecht, and Susan Sontag — for having “venerated mass murderers such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, and Ho Chi Minh, habitually excusing their atrocities while blaming Americans and even the victims for their crimes.

History will eventually condemn these "useful idiots" to the celebrity Hell they so richly deserve. By whitewashing some of the very worst oppressors and mass-murderers our world has ever known, they have abetted these crimes against humanity and allowed for their repetition.

Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Left spent several years wandering in the wilderness. Many of them, Glazov suggests, looked upon the terrorist attacks of 9/11 less as an atrocity than as an opportunity to revive a moribund revolutionary movement.

Viewing the 9-11 atrocity as anything but an atrocity borders on some sort of criminal mentality. The "Truthers" all uniformly exhibit some of the most disgusting "ends justify the means" mindsets of any living beings.

Ron Russell said...

The pirate question could be settled quickly if several sharp-shooter were assigned to each merchant ship.

As to the question of why so many liberals favor the Islamic position thats a more difficult one. I have a theory and its just that a theory. Love to hear comments on it. Liberal see themselves as part of the new emerging order and anything that ties them to the existing old order they rebell against. They see the state of Israel as an extension of old 19th and 20th century colonialism and any force that opposes that they support. There is a continuing systemic revolution and within that a protracted conflict. An ongoing struggle between the old order and the new. Those on the left see themselves as soldiers in this stuggle and they are fighting for what they believe is a new emerging order. The truth, however is that no one knows what the new order will be or exactly how it is shaped. The history of the Systemic Revolution is far to lenghty to go into here. But the left does feel that their position on Islam in the winning one and who doesn't love a winner.