Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/22/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/22/2009Check out the news stories tonight about recent events in Sri Lanka, and also related news about the attack on the Sri Lankan embassy in Oslo.

In other news, the CFO of Freddie Mac has allegedly hanged himself in the basement of his home. This is beginning to look like 1929 all over again, only more so.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, EK, Fjordman, Henrik, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JCPA, JD, KGS, MB, moderntemplar, Paul Green, Reinhard, Steen, Tuan Jim, Vlad Tepes, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
Alleged: CFO of Freddie Mac Hanged Himself
France: Violent Workers Warned
IMF Says Recession Will be Deeper, Recovery Slower
UN Conference: Economic Crisis Could Fuel Hatred
Are You an ‘Extremist’?
Are You Licensed to Reload That Ammo?
California EPA to Rule Against Ethanol
CIA Confirms: Waterboarding 9/11 Mastermind Led to Info That Aborted 9/11-Style Attack on Los Angeles
Court to Weigh State’s Duty to English Learners
Ginsburg’s Judicial Globalism
High Court Hears Reverse Discrimination Arguments
House Votes on ‘Hate Crimes’ Bill
Killer ‘Green’ Bill to Slaughter U.S. Economy
Napolitano Regrets Anger Over Intelligence Report
New Law to ‘Manage’ 8 Million ‘Volunteers’
Obama Continues Assault on the Second Amendment
Obama Opens Door to Prosecutions on Interrogations
Pentagon Pick: Bush ‘Mindlessly’ Supported Israel
Promises, Promises: Obama and Black Farmers
Twin Crises: Immigration & Electricity Infrastructure
Canada Chides U.S. for Remarks on 9/11 Plotters
Europe and the EU
Briton John Irving Admits Iraq Kickbacks
Bruce Bawer: Heirs to Fortuyn?
Brussels Quietly Trains a Foreign Service
Denmark: Muslims Walk Out of Terrorism Conference
Dutch Parliament Agrees to Block All Dialogue With Hamas
Earthquake: Arab-Israeli Students, Co-mai Thanks Government
France Criticizes U.S. for Shunning U.N. Racism Talks
Fury at £121k to Fly Detainee Back to Britain
German Trial Begins for Four Accused in Terror Plot Against US Targets
Italian Judge to Rule in May on CIA Trial
Italy: Roma Gypsy Wins Big Brother
Italy: Milan Reports Illegal Immigrant Surge
Norway: “the Reality is That a Kind of Sneak-Islamisation of This Society is Being Allowed”
Norwegian Lawyers to Accuse Israeli Leaders of War Crimes
On Work and Freedom: For Holocaust Remembrance Day and Durban II
Spain: Condominiums to Appoint Energy Monitors for Savings
Spain: Genetic Proof, Hapsburgs Killed by Inbreeding
Spain: Minister, Safety for the Retired
UK: 9 Held Over Bomb Plot Fear Are to be Deported
UK: Government Attempts to Deport Nine Pakistani Students Held in Terror Raid Fiasco Then Released Without Charge
Kosovo: Saudi Arabia Recognises Independence
Kosovo: Unesco, Serbia Protests Church Appropriations
North Africa
Algeria: Al-Qaeda Leader ‘Resumes’ Terrorist Activity
Israel and the Palestinians
Gaza Aid Could be ‘Blocked’ Without a Palestinian Accord
Gaza: New Bank Supported by Hamas Opens
Palestinian Land Owner to be Tried for Treason for Selling Land to Jews
Middle East
McDonald’s Happy About Growth in Turkey, Eyes More
Outrage Reserved for Israel
Terrorism: Turkey; Heavy Blow for Al-Qaeda, 37 Arrests
The Iranian Dream…
The Russian Handicap to U.S. Iran Policy
Turkey: Sales of Alcoholic Beverages Untouched by Crisis
Turkey: Police Arrest Al-Qaeda Suspects in Raids
Turkey: History Texts Draw Set of Blank Pages
Russian Church Asks WCAR to Introduce Christianophobia Notion in Intl Law
Over a Dozen Wahabi Groups “Neutralized” in North Caucasus — Russian Ministry
South Asia
Afghan Women March, America Turns Away
Archbishop of Lahore: Sharia in the Swat Valley is Contrary to Pakistan’s Founding Principles
Elections in Orissa Rigged as Extremists Force Christians to Vote for Hindu Parties
Pakistan: Men Jailed 10 Weeks for Pamphlet
Sri Lanka Hails Surrender of Rebel Pair
Sri Lankan War in Endgame, 100,000 Escape Rebel Zone
Sri Lanka Will Not Accept Compensation for Damage to Mission in Oslo
Sri Lanka: Twists in Norwegian Peace Efforts
Uzbekistan Sentences Hizb Ut-Tahrir Leader, Accomplices to Lengthy Prison Terms
Far East
China: Jackie Chan’s China Comments Prompt Backlash
S. Korea: “Mini-Pig” a Promising Sign for Transplants
Australia — Pacific
Islamic School Would Breed Terrorists: Resident
Religious Leaders Unite to Fight Vilification Laws
Sub-Saharan Africa
24 Killed as Kenya Town Battles Violent Gang
A Teddy Bear Nightmare in Sudan
When Kindness Kills
Latin America
Hugo Chavez Says Venezuelan Socialism Has Begun to Reach U.S. Under Obama
Venezuelan Opposition Leader Formally Seeks Asylum in Peru
Colleges Push Tuition Aid for Illegal Immigrants
EC Deals With Conflict Between Italy and Malta
France: 200 Illegal Migrants Found in Id Check
Immigration: Obama Seeks Amnesty for Illegal Aliens
Malta: Ban Ki-moon to Arrive Tomorrow
Maroni Accuses Malta of Diverting 40,000 Refugees to Italy
Pinar. EU: Thanks Italy But Alarm Remains
Interview With Flemming Rose: an Islamist ‘New World Order’
Vatican: UN Racism Forum Should Not Promote ‘Extremist’ Views

Financial Crisis

Alleged: CFO of Freddie Mac Hanged Himself

WASHINGTON (AP) — WASHINGTON (AP)—David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer of money-losing mortgage giant Freddie Mac, was found dead at his home early Wednesday in what police said was an apparent suicide.

The Fairfax County police responded to a 911-call at 4:48 a.m. at the suburban Virginia home Kellermann shared with his wife Donna and five-year-old daughter Grace. The police would not release the exact cause of death, but spokesman Eddy Azcarate said Kellermann’s body was found in the basement.

Kellermann, 41, lived in Hunter Mill Estates, a well-off neighborhood of large single-family homes with manicured lawns. County records show Kellermann’s home is worth about $900,000.

Paul Unger, who lives across the street from the Kellermanns, called the family a “solid, salt-of-the-earth kind of family” that hosted the neighborhood’s Halloween party. “He was just a nice guy … You cannot imagine what kind of pressures he must have been under,” Unger said.

Some neighbors said Kellermann had lost a noticeable amount of weight under the strain of the job, and some said they suggested to him he should quit to avoid the stress. The neighbors did not want to be quoted by name because they didn’t want to upset the family.

Kellermann, a University of Michigan graduate who went to business school at George Washington University, worked for Freddie Mac for the past 16 years and was named acting chief financial officer last September when the government seized control of the company and ousted top executives. Freddie Mac lost more than $50 billion last year, and the government has pumped in $45 billion to keep the company afloat.

Kellermann’s death is the latest in a string of blows to Freddie Mac, which owns or guarantees about 13 million mortgages and us the No. 2 mortgage finance company after sibling Fannie Mae. The company has been criticized for financing risky mortgage loans that fueled the real estate bubble, and its first government-appointed CEO, David Moffett, resigned last month after six months on the job.

As the company’s financial chief, Kellermann was working on the company’s first quarter financial report, due at the end of May, with federal regulators closely overseeing the company’s books and signing off on major decisions.

That relationship has been tense at times. Freddie Mac executives recently battled with federal regulators over whether to disclose potential losses on mortgage securities tied to the Obama administration’s housing plan, said a person familiar with the deliberations who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Federal prosecutors in Virginia have been investigating Freddie Mac’s business practices. But two U.S. law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the Freddie Mac investigation, said Kellermann was neither a target nor a subject of the investigation and had not been under law enforcement scrutiny.

News of Kellermann’s death came as a shock to employees of the McLean, Va.-based company, with those who knew Kellermann tearing up on Wednesday morning and a quiet mood prevailing. Senior executives at the company heard the news on local radio before going to work.

John Koskinen, the company’s interim chief executive, said in a statement that Kellermann, “was a man of great talents …. His extraordinary work ethic and integrity inspired all who worked with him.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in a statement that “our deepest sympathies are with his family and his colleagues at Freddie Mac during this difficult time.”

Freddie Mac and sibling company Fannie Mae have both come under fire from lawmakers as they plan to pay more than $210 million in bonuses through next year to give workers the incentive to stay in their jobs. Kellermann was in line to receive retention awards totaling $850,000 over the next year.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

France: Violent Workers Warned

PARIS — FRENCH Prime Minister Francois Fillon called on Wednesday for charges against laid-off workers who vented their anger by trashing a government building as fears grew of labour unrest turning violent. Workers from a plant owned by German tyre company Continental ransacked the offices on Tuesday in the latest flareup of labour anger that has also seen employees take managers captive at factories hit by the economic crisis.

‘These are violent acts that are unacceptable,’ Mr Fillon said after Continental workers smashed windows and wrecked computers at the offices of the regional administration in Compiegne, northeast of Paris.

He said they should face legal action for the rampage triggered by a court’s refusal to block the company’s decision to shut down the factory and scrap 1,200 jobs.

‘But at the same time, these are violent acts carried out by a minority of workers and they should not be the focus of all of our attention, which should instead be directed at the future of Continental,’ he told France Inter radio.

Continental announced the closure of its factory in Clairoix, north of Paris in March, the biggest single closure announced so far in France, and workers have been been waging a vocal campaign to save their jobs.

The plight of the Continental workers and the wave of ‘boss-nappings’ have raised alarm over spiralling social unrest in France, which looks set to sink deeper into recession in the coming months.

Mr Fillon said the economy would shrink by 2.5 per cent in 2009, revising the government’s previous forecast of a 1.5 per cent fall, which had been viewed by independent economists as optimistic.

‘It’s unacceptable to target a government building because you’re angry, even if this anger is justified,’ budget minister Eric Woerth said separately.

‘At Continental and elsewhere, managers cannot be sequestered, government buildings cannot be ransacked. The people who do such things must be held responsible,’ he told Europe 1 radio. — AFP

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

IMF Says Recession Will be Deeper, Recovery Slower

April 22 (Bloomberg) — The International Monetary Fund said the global recession will be deeper and the recovery slower than previously thought as financial markets take longer to stabilize.

The Washington-based IMF said in a forecast released today that the world economy will shrink 1.3 percent this year, compared with its January projection of 0.5 percent growth. The lender predicted expansion of 1.9 percent next year instead of its earlier 3 percent projection.

The fund’s latest outlook highlights the precarious state in which the world economy remains, even amid signs the worst slump since World War II may be easing. Recovery isn’t assured and will depend on policy efforts to cleanse banks’ balance sheets and craft measures that spur demand, the IMF said.

“The key factor determining the course of the downturn and recovery will be the rate of progress toward returning the financial sector to health,” the fund said in its semi-annual World Economic Outlook. At a briefing in Washington, IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard said while a recovery will start early next year, a “return to normal” will take much longer.

Having said this time last year that the world economy would grow 3.8 percent in 2009, the IMF tied its more pessimistic assessment to a “recognition that financial stabilization will take longer than previously envisaged.” Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn foreshadowed the prediction of a contraction a month ago.

Credit Losses

The revised outlook comes a day after the fund calculated worldwide losses from distressed loans and securitized assets may reach $4.1 trillion by the end of 2010 as the recession and credit crunch exact a higher toll on financial institutions.

“Financial strains in the mature markets will remain heavy well into 2010,” that report said.

U.S. regulators are putting some of the largest U.S. banks through so-called stress tests to determine the amount of capital each needs to withstand a further economic slide. Morgan Stanley reported a bigger-than-estimated $177 million loss and slashed its dividend to 5 cents as real estate and debt-related writedowns overwhelmed trading gains.

Even as the IMF acknowledged “tentative indications” that the rate of contraction is moderating around the world, the fund said output per capita would decline this year in countries representing about 75 percent of the global economy.

Output Gap

The rebound will be slower than usual because the slump was caused by a financial crisis and is synchronized around the world, the fund said. The report included a table which showed the so-called output gap, the excess of world supply over demand, will remain negative for the foreseeable future.

Advanced economies will continue to lead the slump by shrinking 3.8 percent this year and failing to grow in 2010, the IMF said. The fund cut its forecasts for this year and next for all the Group of Seven economies and said Germany, Italy and the U.K. will still be shrinking in 2010.

The U.S. economy will slide 2.8 percent this year before stalling next year and the euro area will contract 4.2 percent in 2009 and 0.4 percent in 2010, the report said. While Japanese gross domestic product will fall 6.2 percent this year, it will then rise 0.5 percent next year.

Speaking ahead of the April 24 meeting of G-7 finance ministers and central bankers in Washington, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner today cited the IMF data as reason for officials “to strengthen the basis for recovery.”

‘Major Role’

Blanchard said in a Bloomberg Television interview today that the U.S. will play a “major role” in determining when the global economy and key nations start turning around. “The rest of the world is not going to recover unless the U.S. recovers.”

Emerging and developing economies will grow 1.6 percent this year and 4 percent next year, reductions of 1.7 percentage point and 1 percentage point respectively from previous forecasts, the IMF said. They will suffer net capital outflows of more than 1 percent of GDP this year and only the highest- grade borrowers will be able to tap new funding.

The risk of corporate defaults in such economies is also “rising to dangerous levels,” the IMF said.

Growth in China, where the IMF said there is scope for further easing of monetary and fiscal policy, is forecast to slow to 6.5 percent this year before climbing to 7.5 percent in 2010. India’s economy will grow 4.5 percent in 2009 and 5.6 percent in 2010, compared with 7.3 percent last year.

Deflation Risk

While stopping short of predicting deflation, the fund said the risk was greater than during the last such scare earlier this decade. Consumer prices will drop 0.2 percent in advanced economies this year before rising 0.3 percent next year and there is a risk of a steeper initial decline, the IMF said.

Policy makers were urged to “act decisively” and not delay their responses to the financial crisis. Balance sheets should be revived by removing bad assets and injecting new capital, the IMF said.

Monetary and fiscal policies should be “geared as far as possible” to bolstering demand and where flexibility remains for more monetary stimulus, such as at the European Central Bank, it “should be used quickly,” the fund said.

“In advanced economies, scope for easing monetary policy further should be used aggressively to counter deflation risks,” the fund said, forecasting interest rates will remain near zero in major economies. Governments should not prematurely withdraw stimulus measures, it said.

Fiscal Impact

At the briefing after the report was released, Blanchard said “strong” fiscal policies thus far have made a “gigantic difference,” while urging governments to resist complacency.

“Things are not great, they could have been extremely bad,” Blanchard said. “To the extent that more can be done, it should be done.”

Exit strategies also should be outlined for when recovery takes hold, the fund said. “Acting too quickly would risk undercutting what is likely to be a fragile recovery, but acting too slowly could risk a return to overheating and new asset- price bubbles,” it said.

Risks to the outlook remain skewed to the downside and include the possibility that policies will fail to stop weakening economies and financial conditions from feeding on each other. “In a highly uncertain context, fiscal and monetary policies may fail to gain traction,” the report said. Meanwhile, the fund said confidence and spending could be revived faster than expected should investors endorse policy steps by authorities.

Global Trade

Global trade is forecast to plunge 11 percent this year after expanding 3.3 percent in 2008, undermining economies that rely on exports such as those of Germany and China, according to the report. The crisis has prompted a “flight to safety” which boosted the major currencies.

The slowdown is hurting companies such as Caterpillar Inc., the world’s largest maker of bulldozers and excavators, which yesterday posted its first quarterly net loss in 16 years as a result of the global recession.

Peoria, Illinois-based Caterpillar said it expects the world economy to decline about 1.3 percent this year. Chief Executive Officer Jim Owens has already cut more than 24,000 jobs since December.

Such cutbacks will propel unemployment to 9.2 percent next year in the advanced economies from 8.1 percent this year, while in the U.S. the jobless rate will jump to 10.1 percent in 2010, the IMF said. The Labor Department said this month that unemployment in the U.S. climbed to a 25-year high of 8.5 percent in March.

Yahoo! Inc., owner of the second-most popular U.S. Internet search engine, announced payroll cuts yesterday, citing a slowdown in online-advertisement sales. The company, based in Sunnyvale, California, said it will cut 5 percent of its workforce or 700 jobs.

“It’s going to be a while before a report is going to say there’s clear signs of an economic recovery,” said Colin Bradford, an economist at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]

UN Conference: Economic Crisis Could Fuel Hatred

By ELIANE ENGELER, Associated Press Writer Eliane Engeler, Associated Press Writer — 18 mins ago GENEVA — The world racism conference looked beyond the Middle East on Wednesday to concerns over the economic crisis, with speakers warning that increased joblessness could lead to greater intolerance of foreigners if governments fail to act.

A day after more than 100 countries passed a declaration of solidarity, speakers focused on the economic plight affecting the whole world and how nations should put into practice their pledges to fight racism.

“It would be naive to expect that our efforts will succeed in putting a quick and irreversible end to prejudice and hate,” said Terry Davis, head of the Council of Europe, the continent’s human rights watchdog.

He said countries cannot force people to be tolerant, but can promote dialogue among people of different races, religions and ethnicities. In the battle against hatred, “there are no easy fixes and no quick wins,” he said.

Haiti, which relies heavily on money sent back by its citizens working abroad, said it could be hurt significantly by xenophobia linked to the crisis, which it claimed is already “increasing the hate against foreigners and especially against migrant workers.”

Haitian Vice Foreign Minister Jacques Nixon Myrthil said “racism and discrimination are far from being reduced and are even taking worse forms,” echoing a statement at the conference’s opening by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban said Monday it was important that nations address new technologies that were spreading hate messages more rapidly. He predicted “social unrest, weakened government and angry publics” contributing to increased intolerance, if countries failed to address the economic problems facing them.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the global economic crisis meant many countries were cutting back on government programs.

But “efforts to diminish racism and xenophobia need not be among them,” he said, adding that much of the effort to combat racism costs little money.

The discussions were more thematic on Wednesday after the tensions of the Middle East dominated proceedings at the start of the weeklong event.

On Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — the first government speaker to take the podium — launched into an angry diatribe against Israel, calling it the most “cruel and repressive racist regime.” That sparked a walkout by European delegates, and strong condemnations from the United Nations, U.S. and several other Western countries.

That row continued Wednesday with fierce words from Tehran and the Iranian ambassador in Geneva, Ali Reza Moaiyeri, condemning the “unwarranted” criticism by Western nations.

Iran protested at the “deplorable, irresponsible and unwarranted statements of certain high-ranking officials of the United Nations in relation with my president’s statement,” Moaiyeri told the meeting.

Ban said Monday he deplored “the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite. This is the opposite of what this conference seeks to achieve.”

The U.S. decided to skip the conference before it started out of concern it would focus largely on Israel at the expense of other issues.

Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand and Poland also boycotted. The Czech Republic delegation also walked out during Ahmadinejad’s speech and did not return to the conference.

Disruption by mainly pro-Israel, Jewish and Iranian groups throughout the conference has prompted the United Nations to withdraw 46 access passes, spokesman Rupert Colville said.

On Monday, a pair of rainbow-wigged protesters threw clown noses at Iran’s president and later about 100 members of pro-Israel and Jewish groups tried to block Ahmadinejad’s entrance to a scheduled news conference.

The anti-racism conference, including preparatory meetings, is estimated to cost around $5.3 million, Colville said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Are You an ‘Extremist’?

While the rest of us may be worried about violent Mexican drug gangs on our border, or about terrorists who are going to be released from Guantanmo, the director of homeland security is worried about “right-wing extremists.”

Just who are these right-wing extremists?

According to an official document of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, right-wing extremists include “groups and individuals that are dedicated to a single issue, such as opposition to abortion or immigration.” It also includes those “rejecting federal authority in favor of state or local authority.”

If you fit into any of these categories, you may not have realized that you are considered a threat to national security. But apparently the Obama administration has its eye on you.


All this activity takes on a more sinister aspect against the background of one of the statements of Barack Obama during last year’s election campaign that got remarkably little attention in the media. He suggested the creation of a federal police force, comparable in size to the military.

Why such an organization? For what purpose?

Since there are state and local police forces all across the country, an FBI to investigate federal crimes and a Department of Justice to prosecute those who commit them, as well as a Defense Department with military forces, just what role would a federal police force play?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Are You Licensed to Reload That Ammo?

Alarm raised over treaty provision to ban activity

President Obama, who supported the handgun ban in Washington, D.C., before it was tossed by the Supreme Court, since his election has watched various proposals to ban “assault” weapons, require handgun owners to submit to mental health evaluations, and sparked a rush on ammunition purchases that caused some retailers to name him their salesman of the year. Now he apparently is going after those to reload their ammunition.

It was during an official visit earlier this month to Mexico that he affirmed his support for a proposed international treaty that addresses “firearms trafficking.”

According to a blogger who follows such issues, the treaty was adopted by President Clinton years ago, but never ratified by the U.S. Senate, a goal Obama now has adopted.

The answer is finally here to the real reason why guns and church must mix!

The writer, B.A. Lawson, says, “If you reload your own ammo you may find yourself engaged in ‘Illicit Manufacturing’ of ammunition under an arms control treaty that President Obama started pushing last week in Mexico.”


So how are the cartels armed if firearms are not pouring across the U.S. border? Keeping in mind that the cartels control BILLIONS of dollars, La Jeunesse and Lott shed some light on how they obtain the overwhelming majority of their guns:

— The Black Market. Mexico is a virtual arms bazaar, with fragmentation grenades from South Korea, AK-47s from China, and shoulder-fired rocket launchers from Spain, Israel and former Soviet bloc manufacturers.

[Comments from JD: long list of non US sources follows.]

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

California EPA to Rule Against Ethanol

Regulators conclude biofuel can’t help state reduce ‘global warming’

In a decision anticipated as a major setback for proponents of renewable biofuels, California regulators appear ready to conclude that corn ethanol cannot help the state reduce “global warming.”

In a hearing scheduled tomorrow in Sacramento, the California Environmental Protection Agency has evidently concluded that corn ethanol will not help the state implement Executive Order S-1-07, the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Jan. 18, 2007, mandating a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of the state’s fuels by 2020.

“Ethanol is a good fuel, but how it is produced is problematic,” Dimitri Stanich, public information oOfficer for the California Environmental Protection Agency, told WND. “The corn ethanol industry has to figure out another way to process corn into ethanol that is not so coal intensive.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

CIA Confirms: Waterboarding 9/11 Mastermind Led to Info That Aborted 9/11-Style Attack on Los Angeles

The Central Intelligence Agency told today that it stands by the assertion made in a May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that the use of “enhanced techniques” of interrogation on al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM) — including the use of waterboarding — caused KSM to reveal information that allowed the U.S. government to thwart a planned attack on Los Angeles.

Before he was waterboarded, when KSM was asked about planned attacks on the United States, he ominously told his CIA interrogators, “Soon, you will know.”

According to the previously classified May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that was released by President Barack Obama last week, the thwarted attack — which KSM called the “Second Wave”— planned “ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.”

KSM was the mastermind of the first “hijacked-airliner” attacks on the United States, which struck the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Northern Virginia on Sept. 11, 2001.

After KSM was captured by the United States, he was not initially cooperative with CIA interrogators. Nor was another top al Qaeda leader named Zubaydah. KSM, Zubaydah, and a third terrorist named Nashiri were the only three persons ever subjected to waterboarding by the CIA.. (Additional terrorist detainees were subjected to other “enhanced techniques” that included slapping, sleep deprivation, dietary limitations, and temporary confinement to small spaces — but not to water-boarding.)

This was because the CIA imposed very tight restrictions on the use of waterboarding. “The ‘waterboard,’ which is the most intense of the CIA interrogation techniques, is subject to additional limits,” explained the May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo. “It may be used on a High Value Detainee only if the CIA has ‘credible intelligence that a terrorist attack is imminent’; ‘substantial and credible indicators that the subject has actionable intelligence that can prevent, disrupt or deny this attack’; and ‘[o]ther interrogation methods have failed to elicit this information within the perceived time limit for preventing the attack.’“

The quotations in this part of the Justice memo were taken from an Aug. 2, 2004 letter that CIA Acting General Counsel John A. Rizzo sent to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Before they were subjected to “enhanced techniques” of interrogation that included waterboarding, KSM and Zubaydah were not only uncooperative but also appeared contemptuous of the will of the American people to defend themselves.

“In particular, the CIA believes that it would have been unable to obtain critical information from numerous detainees, including KSM and Abu Zubaydah, without these enhanced techniques,” says the Justice Department memo. “Both KSM and Zubaydah had ‘expressed their belief that the general US population was ‘weak,’ lacked resilience, and would be unable to ‘do what was necessary’ to prevent the terrorists from succeeding in their goals.’ Indeed, before the CIA used enhanced techniques in its interrogation of KSM, KSM resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, simply noting, ‘Soon you will know.’“

After he was subjected to the “waterboard” technique, KSM became cooperative, providing intelligence that led to the capture of key al Qaeda allies and, eventually, the closing down of an East Asian terrorist cell that had been tasked with carrying out the 9/11-style attack on Los Angeles.

The May 30, 2005 Justice Department memo that details what happened in this regard was written by then-Principal Deputy Attorney General Steven G. Bradbury to John A. Rizzo, the senior deputy general counsel for the CIA.

“You have informed us that the interrogation of KSM-once enhanced techniques were employed-led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles,” says the memo.

“You have informed us that information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discover of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemaah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave,’“ reads the memo. “More specifically, we understand that KSM admitted that he had [redaction] large sum of money to an al Qaeda associate [redaction] … Khan subsequently identified the associate (Zubair), who was then captured. Zubair, in turn, provided information that led to the arrest of Hambali. The information acquired from these captures allowed CIA interrogators to pose more specific questions to KSM, which led the CIA to Hambali’s brother, al Hadi. Using information obtained from multiple sources, al-Hadi was captured, and he subsequently identified the Garuba cell. With the aid of this additional information, interrogations of Hambali confirmed much of what was learned from KSM.”

A CIA spokesman confirmed to today that the CIA stands by the factual assertions made here.

In the memo itself, the Justice Department’s Bradbury told the CIA’s Rossi: “Your office has informed us that the CIA believes that ‘the intelligence acquired from these interrogations has been a key reason why al Qa’ida has failed to launch a spectacular attack in the West since 11 September 2001.”

           — Hat tip: moderntemplar[Return to headlines]

Court to Weigh State’s Duty to English Learners

The Supreme Court seemed to divide into liberal and conservatives camps Monday during arguments in a case that could limit the power of federal courts to tell states to spend more money to educate students who aren’t proficient in English.

Some of the court’s more liberal justices — David Souter and Stephen Breyer — repeatedly challenged assertions by attorney Kenneth Starr that court oversight of Arizona’s English learners program was no longer needed because the Nogales Unified School District, located near the state’s border with Mexico, had made progress educating students learning to speak English.

Souter pelted Starr, who as special counsel investigated President Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, with a series of statistics showing a vast gap in academic test scores between Nogales students learning to speak English and native English-speaking students in Nogales and elsewhere in the state.

“I’m sure progress has been made,” Souter said, “but it doesn’t seem to me that … you could say the objectives are achieved.”

Starr is representing Arizona state legislators and the state superintendent of public instruction, who want to be freed from a lower court order that the state come up with a new program to teach English learners and provide enough money for that program that it can reasonably be expected to achieve its goal. The state could be forced to spend potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to comply.

Starr said the amount of money being spent shouldn’t be the issue, but rather that the “sea change” that has taken place in state’s efforts to address the problem in the nine years since voters passed a ballot measure requiring intense English immersion for students learning the language. He called the court’s continued oversight an intrusion into state government.

A key issue in the case, now called Horne v Flores, is the power of federal courts to take over functions of state or local governments when trying to remedy civil rights violations.

Parents of students attending Nogales schools sued the state in 1992, contending programs for English-language learners were deficient and received inadequate funding from the state.

In 2000, a federal judge found that the state had violated the Equal Educational Opportunities Act’s requirements for appropriate instruction for English-language learners. A year later he expanded his ruling statewide and placed the state’s programs for non-English speaking students under court oversight.

Since then, the two sides have fought over what constitutes compliance with the order. Arizona has more than doubled the amount that schools receive per non-English speaking student and taken several other steps prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act, a broader education accountability law passed by Congress in 2002.

Breyer said the state’s increased spending still only amounts to $300 to $400 extra per pupil when estimates suggest it cost from $1,570 to $3,300 extra per student to get the job done.

Justice Ruth Ginsburg said the district court was careful not to tell the state what methods of instruction it should use or how much it should spend, only that it come up with a plan to address the problems of English learners and sufficient funding that could be reasonably expected to meet the plan’s goals.

But Justice Antonin Scalia, part of the court’s conservative wing, said he finds “it bizarre that we are sitting here talking about what the whole state has to do on the basis of one (school) district, which concededly is the one that has the most non-native English speakers.”

The case has attracted a flurry of legal briefs from school boards, teachers and civil rights groups in support of the Nogales parents and students. An array of conservative legal foundations have filed briefs in support of the legislators and the superintendent of schools.

The lead plaintiff in the case was Miriam Flores, a Nogales mother. She said her daughter had two years of instruction in her native Spanish, then was put into a class with a teacher who did not speak Spanish, the language the daughter — also named Miriam Flores — spoke at home. She began to fall behind and there were complaints she was talking in class. It turned out she was asking other students to tell her what the teacher was telling the class.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Ginsburg’s Judicial Globalism

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wasn’t dozing off when she appeared recently at a symposium at Ohio State University’s School of Law. Credited with writing several feminist precepts into U.S. constitutional law based on the spurious notion that our Constitution is a “living” (i.e., re-interpretable) document, she now wants to expand that process to welcome foreign law.


Ginsburg’s views may not seem so far out when we are confronted with Barack Obama’s appointments. His choice of Harold Koh, former dean of the Yale Law School, to be the State Department’s legal adviser may be a harbinger of things to come.

Koh has been quoted by other lawyers as telling a 2007 audience that “in an appropriate case, he didn’t see any reason why Shariah law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States.” Shariah is the Muslim law that, among other extreme punishments, allows stoning women to death for the “crime” of being raped.


Shortly after Obama was sworn in as president, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice praised the ICC as “an important and credible instrument for trying to hold accountable the senior leadership responsible for atrocities committed in the Congo, Uganda and Darfur.” This olive branch extended to the ICC raised foreign “expectations” that the United States will accept the authority of the ICC.

Some even argue that the ICC can grab and try U.S. political and military leaders even though the United States is not a party to the treaty. Just this year, an impudent Spanish court tried to assert jurisdiction over six Bush administration officials.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

High Court Hears Reverse Discrimination Arguments

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is weighing whether a Connecticut city’s decision to scrap a promotion exam for firefighters because too few minorities passed violates the civil rights of top-scoring white applicants.

The justices are hearing arguments Wednesday in a case from New Haven, Conn., that has the potential to change hiring practices nationwide. The court also was expected to issue opinions in cases argued earlier this term.

The firefighters’ dispute is one of two major civil rights cases on the court’s calendar in the next two weeks. The other deals with a key provision of the Voting Rights Act.

Underlying both cases are broader questions about racial progress and the ongoing need for legal protections from discrimination for minorities, especially after the election of President Barack Obama.

The discrimination lawsuit brought by 20 white firefighters — one also is Hispanic — challenges New Haven’s decision to throw out promotion exams for lieutenants and captains in its fire department.

The city argues that if it had gone ahead with the promotions based on the test results, it would have risked a lawsuit claiming that the exams had a “disparate impact” on minorities in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The federal appeals court in New York upheld a lower court ruling dismissing the lawsuit.

The case has drawn input from interest groups across the ideological spectrum. The Obama administration has weighed in mainly on the city’s side, although it recommends allowing the lawsuit to proceed on a limited basis.

Business interests also have lined up behind New Haven, worrying that a decision in favor of the white firefighters would place employers in an untenable position of having to choose whether to face lawsuits from disgruntled white or minority workers.

The consolidated cases are Ricci v. DeStefano, 07-1428, and Ricci v. DeStefano, 08-328.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

House Votes on ‘Hate Crimes’ Bill

Will Christians face prosecution for speaking out against homosexuality?

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee will vote tomorrow on a “hate crimes” bill that some say might allow federal officials to prosecute Christians who speak out against homosexual behavior.


Jeff King, president of International Christian Concern, warned that the bill could allow federal prosecutors to target Christians who teach that homosexual behavior is sinful and that Islam is a false religion.


But King noted that pastors in Europe and Canada have already been arrested for preaching against homosexuality based on similar legislation.

As WND reported, Julio Severo, a prominent Brazilian pro-family activist, has been forced into exile because of the “hate crimes” laws that are being implemented in his native land.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Killer ‘Green’ Bill to Slaughter U.S. Economy

Obama drains lifeblood from financial system with climate legislation

James Hackett, chairman and chief executive officer of Anadarko, one of the nation’s largest independent oil and gas companies, told the Financial Times, “The histrionic and maniacal focus on carbon dioxide” risks plunging the United States into an economic tailspin that could turn the United States into “the world’s cleanest third world country.”

Hackett attacked the Obama administration’s cap-and-trade proposal that will be included in the bill to be before the House committee next week, calling the plan an indirect tax on individuals that would be as open to manipulation as the European model.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Napolitano Regrets Anger Over Intelligence Report

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano says she regrets that some people took offense over a report warning that right-wing extremist groups were trying to recruit disgruntled troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But she says “a number of groups far too numerous to mention” were targeting returning veterans to carry out domestic terrorism attacks.

[Comment from Tuan Jim: And she can’t list even one of them?]

She said the warning report that went out American law enforcement agencies was consistent with reports that were issued before.

Napolitano spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

New Law to ‘Manage’ 8 Million ‘Volunteers’

Obama signs huge expansion of youth brigades legislation

President Obama today signed into law the “GIVE Act,” H.R. 1388, which expands massively the National Service Corporation and allocates to it billions of dollars, and one executive for the program now says it will allow for the “managing” of up to eight or nine million people.

WND has reported on the plans to assemble such a corps ever since Obama told a campaign stop in Colorado Springs in 2008 that he wants a “Civilian National Security Force” as big and as well-funded as the U.S. military.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Continues Assault on the Second Amendment

President Obama is determined to eradicate the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding American citizens.

In recent meetings with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the American President promised to urge the U.S. Senate to pass an international arms control treaty.

The treaty, cumbersomely titled the “Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials” (known by the acronym CIFTA), was signed by President Bill Clinton, but never ratified by the Senate.

President Obama is hoping to capitalize on an increased Democrat majority and push its quick ratification. The U.S. is one of four nations that have not ratified the treaty.

If ratified and the U.S. is found not to be in compliance with any provisions of the treaty — such as a provision that would outlaw reloading ammunition without a government license — President Obama would be empowered to implement regulations without Congressional approval.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Opens Door to Prosecutions on Interrogations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Barack Obama opened the door on Tuesday to possible prosecutions of U.S. officials who laid the legal groundwork for harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

Obama also said he would not necessarily oppose an effort to pursue a “further accounting” or investigation into the Bush-era interrogation program that included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, shoving people into walls and other methods.

That marked a shift for the Obama administration, which has emphasized it does not want to dwell on the past with lengthy probes into policies put in place by President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

But pressure in the U.S. Congress is growing for a full-blown investigation of the CIA interrogation program.

Controversy has erupted across the political spectrum over last week’s release by the Obama administration of classified memos detailing the program to question al Qaeda suspects.

Human rights groups say tactics such as waterboarding — a form of simulated drowning — constituted torture and violated U.S. and international laws. Conservative critics contend Obama has endangered the country by releasing CIA secrets.

The New York Times reported that Dennis Blair, Obama’s national intelligence director, told colleagues in a private memo last week that the harsh interrogation techniques yielded “high-value information” that “provided a deeper understanding” of the al Qaeda organization.

The newspaper reported that Blair sent his memo on the same day the Obama administration publicly released the Bush-era memos. It said Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods produced important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the news media.


A congressional report released late on Tuesday traced how a Bush-era policy on interrogation at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, helped set the stage for detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The report may add impetus to calls for a wider probe.

The report, released by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, laid blame for the abuses on former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other top Bush administration officials.

“The report represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse — such as that seen at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan — to low-ranking soldiers,” Levin said.

“It was senior civilian leaders who set the tone.”

Earlier, in an Oval Office question-and-answer session with reporters, Obama reiterated his vow not to prosecute CIA interrogators who relied in good faith on legal opinions from the Bush administration condoning the harsh methods.

However, Obama did not rule out charges against those who wrote the opinions justifying the methods used on captured terrorism suspects.

“With respect to those who formulated those legal decisions, I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws, and I don’t want to prejudge that,” Obama said after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah.

“I think that there are a host of very complicated issues involved there,” Obama said.

The comment seemed at odds with the position offered on Sunday by Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who told ABC that the president did not believe the authors of the legal opinions should be prosecuted.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs brushed aside questions about the contradiction. “Instead of referring to what anybody might have said … it’s important to refer to what the president said,” he said.

While human rights advocates have urged prosecutions for those involved in the interrogation program, Obama has received scathing criticism from some conservatives over the release of the memos detailing the harsh methods.

Among the most outspoken critics has been Cheney, who contends the questioning yielded valuable information about terrorist activities and has accused Obama of endangering the country by releasing the CIA memos.

But Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, welcomed Obama’s comments about a possible inquiry as a “step forward.”

Feinstein has urged Obama to withhold judgment on possible prosecutions pending a closed-door review by her committee of the interrogation program.

Obama said he would not necessarily oppose a U.S. panel to investigate the interrogation program. But he said he would prefer to see such an inquiry take place outside of the “typical hearing process” of Congress, where the issue could become politicized.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Pentagon Pick: Bush ‘Mindlessly’ Supported Israel

New top adviser warns Obama may not give Jewish state ‘blank checks’

While President Bush was “blindly” and “mindlessly” supportive of Israel, President Obama may be less willing to give the Jewish state “blank checks,” says Rosa Brooks, the Obama administration’s new adviser to one of the most influential Pentagon officials.

Brooks will advise Michelle Fluornoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, a position that wields enormous power over drafting U.S. military doctrine in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Until accepting her position earlier this month, Brooks, who did work on behalf of George Soros’ philanthropic foundation, also served as a columnist for the Los Angeles Times. A WND review of her opinion pieces in the newspaper finds trends that defenders of the Jewish state may view as anti-Israel, including distorting history to seemingly whitewash Palestinian terrorism.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Promises, Promises: Obama and Black Farmers

WASHINGTON (AP) — As a senator, Barack Obama led the charge last year to pass a bill allowing black farmers to seek new discrimination claims against the Agriculture Department. Now that he is president, his administration so far is acting like it wants the potentially budget-busting lawsuits to go away.

The change isn’t sitting well with black farmers who thought they’d get a friendlier reception from Obama after years of resistance from President George W. Bush.

“You can’t blame it on the Bush administration anymore,” said John Boyd, head of the National Black Farmers Association, which has organized the lawsuits. “I can’t figure out for the life of me why the president wouldn’t want to implement a bill that he fought for as a U.S. senator.”

At issue is a class-action lawsuit known as the Pigford case. Thousands of farmers sued USDA claiming they had for years been denied government loans and other assistance that routinely went to whites. The government settled in 1999 and has paid out nearly $1 billion in damages on almost 16,000 claims.

Farmers, lawyers and activists like Boyd have worked for years to reopen the case because thousands of farmers missed the deadlines for participating. Many said the filing period was too short and they were unaware of the settlement until it was too late.

The cause gained momentum in August 2007 when Obama, then an Illinois senator, introduced Pigford legislation about six months into his presidential campaign.

Although the case was hardly a hot-button political issue, it had drawn intense interest among African-Americans in the rural South. It was seen as a way for Obama to reach out in those areas where he was not well-known and where he would need strong support to win the Democratic primary.

The proposal won passage in May as sponsors rounded up enough support to incorporate it into the 2008 farm bill. The potential budget implications were huge: It could easily cost $2 billion or $3 billion given an estimated 65,000 pending claims.

With pressure to hold down costs, lawmakers set an artificially low $100 million budget. They called it a first step and said more money could be approved later.

But with 25,000 new claims and counting, the Obama administration is now arguing that the $100 million budget should be considered a cap to be split among the successful cases.

The position — spelled out in a legal motion filed in February and reiterated in recent settlement talks — would leave payments as low as $2,000 or $3,000 per farmer. Boyd called that “insulting.”

Boyd noted that Obama’s legislation specifically called for the new claimants to be eligible for the same awards as the initial lawsuit, including expedited payments of $50,000 plus $12,500 in tax breaks that the vast majority of the earlier farmers received.

“I’m really disappointed,” Boyd said. “This is the president’s bill.”

“They did discriminate against these farmers, maybe not all of them, but a lot of these people would prevail if they could go to court,” he said.

Boyd, whose organization is planning a rally in Washington next week, estimated that 40 percent to 45 percent of the farmers filing claims will be successful.

The administration wouldn’t discuss specific budget plans or commit to fully funding the claims.

But in a statement to The Associated Press, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the department agrees that more must be done and is working with the Justice Department to “ensure that people are treated fairly.”

Kenneth Baer, a budget spokesman for the White House, also suggested that the administration plans to do more.

“The president has been a leader on this issue since his days as a U.S. senator and is deeply committed to closing this painful chapter in our history,” Baer said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Twin Crises: Immigration & Electricity Infrastructure

In 1970, the United States featured the finest nationwide electrical grid known to any civilization. In a short 39 years: “It’s not the best anymore,” said Otto Lynch, chair of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“The Twin Crises: Immigration and Infrastructure” by, Volume XIX, No.2, pages 24-28, Winter 2009, by Edwin S. Rubenstein—addresses electrical infrastructure.

Lynch said, “The nation’s electric power grid is aging. Power lines with an expected life of 50 years are still in use 80 years after installation, and wooden poles that should have been replaced after 30 years are rendering as much as 20 additional years of service. The system faces new challenges as the population grows, industrial activity increases, and demand for power rises.”

Rubenstein reported, “The need for more generating capacity was starkly demonstrated by an electricity shortage in California in the first half of 2000—the most severe energy crisis in the U.S. for many years. This was followed in August 2003 by the most extensive blackout in U.S. history, affecting 50 million people across a wide swath of the northeastern U.S. and southern Canada.”

Since 2000, the U.S. added 26-29 million people driven primarily by legal and illegal immigration. Within the next 10 years, another 30 million people expect to call the USA home—again driven by unrelenting immigration.

The problem: too many people

“Why haven’t electric utilities built sufficient supply?” said Rubenstein. “Many factors can be cited as explanations, but a good place to start is at the source of all power: electric generators. They are costly and must be sized according to the population served. If a million people are added to the U.S. population, then utilities must come up with another $1 billion for a billion watts of new electric generators. If 142 million are added, the expected population growth between now and 2050, utilities must come up with an added $142 billion just to keep generator capacity at recommended per-capita levels.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Canada Chides U.S. for Remarks on 9/11 Plotters

OTTAWA (Reuters) — The Canadian government moved on Tuesday to correct U.S. homeland security chief Janet Napolitano after she wrongly said some of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks had crossed into the United States from Canada.

Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan — who met with Napolitano in March — said his aides had contacted her office on Tuesday after she made the remarks to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“She was well aware at that time (in March) and understood clearly that none of the 9/11 terrorists came across the Canadian border into the United States … We confirmed with her office this morning that she continues to be well aware of that,” Van Loan told reporters.

Napolitano raised concerns in Canada with remarks indicating she wants to clamp down on border security, which businesses fear could throttle vital trade flows.

She told the CBC on Monday that “to the extent that terrorists have come into our country or suspected or known terrorists have entered our country across a border, it’s been across the Canadian border”.

Asked if she was referring to the 9/11 plotters, she replied: “Not just those but others as well.”

Van Loan said Napolitano had been speaking about Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested in December 1999 as he crossed into the United States from Canada with a car carrying explosives.

Ressam was sentenced to 22 years in jail in July 2005 for plotting to set off a bomb at Los Angeles airport on December 31, 1999.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Briton John Irving Admits Iraq Kickbacks

A British man has admitted paying kickbacks to the Iraqi government under the UN oil-for-food program to facilitate the importation of a cargo of crude oil into the United States.

In a deal reached with prosecutors in return for a leninent sentence, John Irving, a Hampshire-based businessman, pleaded guilty to one charge of aiding and abetting illegal oil imports.

Mr Irving admitted in Manhattan District Court that he knew Bayoil Supply and Trading Limited, with whom he was working as a trader at the time of the offences, had paid a kickback to former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government for the oil cargo.

He could get up to 20 years in prison, however the prosecution is expected to seek a maximum six-month sentence.

Mr Iriving’s lawyer Andrew Preston told the BBC he was not “anticipating” any jail time for his client.

Mr Preston added: “The sentencing is within the discretion of the court”.

“But our discussions with prosecutors have been very cordial and we would expect a sentence on the lenient side.”

Mr Irving was released on bail of $US100,000.

Mr Irving was charged by US authorities in April 2005 and later extradited from Britain following an investigation into the $67 billion oil-for-food program, which allowed Saddam Hussein’s government to sell oil to finance purchases of civilian goods for its people living under UN sanctions.

When the investigation was revealed in 2005, Mr Irving insisted the claims were “entirely without foundation”.

Last year Bayoil owner, David Chalmers, was sentenced in 2008 to two years in prison after he admitted paying millions of dollars in kickbacks to Iraq.

The UN oil-for-food program ran from December 1996 until after the US-led invasion in 2003.

From mid-2000 to March 2003, Iraq required recipients of allocations of oil to pay a secret surcharge, or kickback, to front companies and bank accounts controlled by the Iraqi regime. The requirement violated UN sanctions and US criminal law.

Mr Irving is expected to travel to the UK later this week before returning to America in June for sentencing.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Bruce Bawer: Heirs to Fortuyn?

Europe’s turn to the right.

When the New Left emerged in the 1960s, something else was born that would mark American elites for decades thereafter: the notion that social-democratic Western Europe was far superior to the capitalist United States. Pity the poor American professor whose every junket to a European academic conference was marred by his continental colleagues’ sneering over cocktails about his nation’s shame du jour—Vietnam, Watergate, Iraq—or about American racism, capital punishment or health care. For much of the American left, Western Europe was nothing less than an abstract symbol of progressive utopia.

This rosy view was never accurate, of course. Europe’s socialized health care was blighted by outrageous (and sometimes deadly) waiting lists and rationing, to name just one example. To name another: Timbro, a Swedish think tank, found in 2004 that Sweden was poorer than all but five U.S. states and Denmark poorer than all but nine. But in recent years, something has happened to complicate the left’s fanciful picture even further: Western European voters’ widespread reaction against social democracy.

The shift has two principal, and related, causes. The more significant one is that over the past three decades, social-democratic Europe’s political, cultural, academic and media elites have presided over, and vigorously defended, a vast wave of immigration from the Muslim world—the largest such influx in human history. According to Foreign Affairs, Muslims in Western Europe numbered between 15 million and 20 million in 2005. One source estimates that Britain’s Muslim population rose from about 82,000 in 1961 to 553,000 in 1981 to two million in 2000—a demographic change roughly representative of Western Europe as a whole during that period. According to the London Times, the number of Muslims in the U.K. climbed by half a million between 2004 and 2008 alone—a rate of growth 10 times that of the rest of the country’s population.

Yet instead of encouraging these immigrants to integrate and become part of their new societies, Western Europe’s governments have allowed them to form self-segregating parallel societies run more or less according to Shariah. Many of the residents of these patriarchal enclaves subsist on government benefits, speak the language of their adopted country poorly or not at all, despise pluralistic democracy, look forward to Europe’s incorporation into the House of Islam, and support—at least in spirit—terrorism against the West. A 2006 Sunday Telegraph poll, for example, showed that 40% of British Muslims wanted Shariah in Britain, 14% approved of attacks on Danish embassies in retribution for the famous Mohammed cartoons, 13% supported violence against those who insulted Islam, and 20% sympathized with the July 2005 London bombers.

Too often, such attitudes find their way into practice. Ubiquitous youth gangs, contemptuous of infidels, have made European cities increasingly dangerous for non-Muslims—especially women, Jews and gays. In 2001, 65% of rapes in Norway were committed by what the country’s police call “non-Western” men—a category consisting overwhelmingly of Muslims, who make up just 2% of that country’s population. In 2005, 82% of crimes in Copenhagen were committed by members of immigrant groups, the majority of them Muslims.

Non-Muslims aren’t the only targets of Muslim violence. A mountain of evidence suggests that the rates of domestic abuse in these enclaves are astronomical. In Germany, reports Der Spiegel, “a disproportionately high percentage of women who flee to women’s shelters are Muslim”; in 2006, 56% of the women at Norwegian shelters were of foreign origin; Deborah Scroggins wrote in The Nation in 2005 that “Muslims make up only 5.5 percent of the Dutch population, but they account for more than half the women in battered women’s shelters.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-Dutch advocate for democracy and women’s rights, would no doubt say far more than half: When she was working with women in Dutch shelters, she writes, “there were hardly any white women” in them, “only women from Morocco, from Turkey, from Afghanistan—Muslim countries—alongside some Hindu women from Surinam.” When she and filmmaker Theo van Gogh tried to highlight the mistreatment of women under Islam in the 2004 film “Submission: Part I,” he was killed by a young Muslim extremist.

More and more Western Europeans, recognizing the threat to their safety and way of life, have turned their backs on the establishment, which has done little or nothing to address these problems, and begun voting for parties—some relatively new, and all considered right-wing—that have dared to speak up about them. One measure of the dimensions of this shift: Owing to the rise in gay-bashings by Muslim youths, Dutch gays—who 10 years ago constituted a reliable left-wing voting bloc—now support conservative parties by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

The other major reason for the turn against the left is economic. Western Europeans have long paid sky-high taxes for a social safety net that seems increasingly not worth the price. These taxes have slowed economic growth. Timbro’s Johnny Munkhammar noted in 2005 that Sweden, for instance, which in the first half of the 20th century had the world’s second-highest growth rate, had since fallen to No. 14, owing to enormous tax hikes.

Government revenues in Western Europe go largely to support the unemployed, thus discouraging work. Over the last decade or so, the overall unemployment rate in the EU 15—that is, Western Europe—has hovered at about 2.5 to 3 points higher than in the United States. In France and Germany, it has ascended into the double digits (and that was before the global financial crisis that began in 2008). Western Europe’s rate of long-term unemployment has consistently been several times higher than America’s, denoting the presence of a sizable minority either permanently jobless or working off the books, often for family businesses, while collecting unemployment benefits.

These two factors—immigration and the economy—are intimately connected.

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Brussels Quietly Trains a Foreign Service

A number of eurocrats will soon form part of an EU diplomatic corps, if European Commission President Jose Manual Barroso has anything to say about it. He’s looking forward to the day when the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect — and the EU has to build embassies.

The European Union, for now, lacks most trappings of central government because it has no constitution. Most “EU diplomats” are in fact diplomats from EU member nations, not from Brussels itself. Even Javier Solana, the EU’s high representative for the common foreign and security policy, can’t technically call himself a “foreign minister.” Instead, he is generally referred to in the media as the EU’s foreign policy chief. But European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is quietly working for the day when he can.

Hundreds of bureaucrats at Barroso’s European Commission, the EU’s executive body, are being educated in the diplomatic arts, taking courses at universities and international academies on “Political Analysis” and “Handling the Media” to prepare for a new role that would be created under the imperilled Lisbon Treaty. Among the key provisions of the treaty is the creation of a European External Action Service and the appointment of a “foreign minister,” though the title has been renamed as the “high representative of the Union,” as well as an EU president. The idea is to groom an EU diplomatic service so it can start its work the day the treaty — once known, and rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands, as the “EU constitution” — goes into effect.

The Lisbon Treaty, of course, may never be ratified. It could easily lose an upcoming vote in the Czech Senate or fail (again) in a new Irish referendum this fall. But Jose Manuel Barroso has ambitions to serve another term, so he’s busy creating facts on the ground.

If Lisbon is ratified, it would elevate the more than 150 EU representative offices around the world to the level of embassies and consulates. The EU is also moving in advance to insure it has the space it needs. In London, EU emissaries are moving into office building on Smith Square purchased for €27 million.

This purchase is something of a coup. The building once housed the headquarters of Britain’s Conservative Party, the Tories. Margaret Thatcher, an archcritic of the European Union, once celebrated an election victory in one of its open windows. Now — assuming the Lisbon Treaty is ratified — the EU’s blue flag is meant to wave in the same spot, in what is expected to become a “super embassy” for Brussels.

           — Hat tip: Henrik[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Muslims Walk Out of Terrorism Conference

Comments from a member of the Danish People’s Party resulted in Muslim guests walking out in protest from an intelligence agency conference A number of Muslim attendees walked out of a ‘Terrorism and Communication’ conference hosted by the Danish Security…

A number of Muslim attendees walked out of a ‘Terrorism and Communication’ conference hosted by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) today.

Public broadcaster DR reports that the Muslim guests, including an imam, decided to leave the event after Søren Espersen from the Danish People’s Party stood up and said that Islam is one of the world’s problems.

Espersen’s comments came after the head of PET, Jakob Scharf, opened the conference by maintaining that Islam cannot be equated with terrorism. Scharf argued that doing so is almost like running errands for al-Qaeda, because the terror organisation justifies its actions by saying Islam is under attack.

Speakers at the two-day conference include the counterterrorism coordinator from the Egyptian foreign ministry, Ashraf Mohsen; senior advisor from the US Department of Homeland Security, Irfan A. Saeed and former Danish foreign minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen.

The Copenhagen Post

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

Dutch Parliament Agrees to Block All Dialogue With Hamas

The Dutch parliament on Tuesday approved a motion seeking to block any dialogue between government officials and Hamas, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom announced.

The motion — made in effort to counter growing calls in Europe to engage the Islamist group in dialogue — was put forward by MP Raymond de Roon, third on Wilders’ list.

“We should never even talk to an organization that seeks the downfall of Israel. I am therefore glad that my resolution was accepted,? de Roon said. In the motion, de Roon requested the government “ensure the terrorist organization Hamas is excluded from any international debate or governance forum,” a party spokesperson told Haaretz.

“Hamas is not only anti-Zionist,” de Roon previously wrote about Hamas. “It is anti-Jewish and a racist organization. If the West speaks to Hamas, it will foment Jew-hatred.” He added this hatred “flows directly from the pages of the Koran.”

The controversial and publicly pro-Zionist Party for Freedom seeks to “protect the Netherlands from Islamization” by halting and minimizing the effects of immigration from non-Western countries. Recent polls predict the party, which in 2006 won nine seats out of 150 in parliament, would nab 32 seats if elections were held now.

Though in 2007 the party was described as a “pariah” movement, a rapprochement with other parties now seems closer. Last week former prime minister Dries Van Agt from the ruling party, the CDA, was quoted as warning his party members needed to “resist the temptation” of cooperating with Wilders’ party.

           — Hat tip: MB[Return to headlines]

Earthquake: Arab-Israeli Students, Co-mai Thanks Government

(ANSAmed) — ROME, APRIL 16 — The President of the Arab community in Italy (Co-mai) Foad Aodi has thanked Foreign minister Franco Frattini, undersecretary Gianni Letta and the director of Crisis Unity at the Foreign Office for what they have done for the many Arab-Israeli students at the University of L’Aquila following the earthquake, ‘and for our deceased student Hussain who died in the Student House”. Hussain, or Hussein Hamade was the only victim among the several dozen Israeli students, mainly from the Arab community, who were in L’Aquila when the tragedy struck. His funeral was on April 10 in his village in Galilee. ‘I hosted his family here in Rome” said Aodi, who is also president of the Association of doctors of foreign origin in Italy (Amsi) ‘and we went back to Israel together for the funeral”. The ceremony was watched by thousands of people, he added, and Davide Cecilia from the Italian embassy was also present. After repeating his condolences towards the people of Abruzzo and Italy, Aodi ended the written statement by saying that he hoped that positive news would soon be given to the Arab-Israeli student community in L’Aquila, who could be transferred to other Italian universities. ‘The earthquake in L’Aquila has been closely followed by the Israeli media, and many Arab-Israeli students are watching Italy. Hussain’s father found great solidarity there among the Italian students when his son was being looked for and when he was found”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France Criticizes U.S. for Shunning U.N. Racism Talks

PARIS (Reuters) — France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner criticized the United States Tuesday for boycotting a United Nations conference where Iran’s president launched a verbal attack on Israel.

France, which has strong diplomatic and business ties with the Middle East, had joined a walk-out of delegates in Geneva after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel cruel and racist in a speech Monday, but then returned to the meeting.

Kouchner said it was wrong of the United States to shun the conference after announcing it was open for negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

“It’s paradoxical — they don’t want to listen to Iran in Geneva but they are ready to talk to them,” Kouchner told French radio Europe 1. “More than a paradox, that could really be a mistake.”

France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy has worked hard to mend ties with the United States after a rift over the war in Iraq, and was eager to show off his good relations with U.S. President Barack Obama at this month’s NATO summit in Strasbourg.

But France has also been keen to maintain close relations with Arab governments, who have supported the conference.

Kouchner said France would continue to work on the draft text prepared for the Geneva meeting and expected a result later Tuesday, adding that the declaration would condemn anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

“It will be a defeat for Ahmadinejad because there will be, I hope by tonight, this declaration. But the politics of the empty chair is easy. You leave and you shout at the others,” Kouchner said.

The United States, Canada, Australia and a number of European governments stayed away from the conference on fears it would be hijacked by critics of Israel.

Ahmadinejad has in the past cast doubt on the Nazi Holocaust, and in his speech Monday accused Israel of establishing a “cruel and racist regime.”

“Following World War Two they resorted to military aggressions to make an entire nation homeless under the pretext of Jewish suffering,” Ahmadinejad told the conference, on the day that Jewish communities commemorate the Holocaust.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Fury at £121k to Fly Detainee Back to Britain

THE cost of bringing former Al Qaeda suspect Binyam Mohamed back from Guantanamo Bay to live in the UK was condemned yesterday.

It had just been confirmed that the taxpayers’ travel bill for the operation which returned him in February on a private jet was £121,269 — as the Daily Express revealed at the time.

But Foreign Office Minister Lord Malloch-Brown didn’t give details in a Parliamentary written answer of how much Mr Mohamed will cost the public purse while he remains in the UK.

He was replying to a question from Lord Kilclooney — former long-serving Ulster Unionist MP John Taylor.

Lord Kilclooney said last night: “The cost is outrageous.”

The taxpayer could have saved thousands of pounds, he claimed, if charter and scheduled flights been used and if fewer people had been in the party which included Foreign Office officials and seven British police officers. “I note also the Government has avoided giving a figure for the daily cost of keeping him in the UK.

“Clearly the Government has thousands of pounds to waste!”

The peer added: “I think the public will be shocked. It is not even as if he is a citizen of the UK. He only happened to be staying here.”

Ethiopian-born Mr Mohamed, 30, arrived in Britain in 1994 as a teenage refugee and in 2000 was given leave to remain for four years. In 2001 he travelled to Afghanistan, supposedly to kick a drug habit and not to fight with the Taliban, as his accusers claim.

He was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002 as he went to board a flight back to the UK. He claims he was tortured in Pakistan and Morocco with the knowledge of British officials before being transferred to the Guantanamo camp in Cuba for terror suspects.

After all charges were dropped last year, he was flown back to Britain and is expected to be granted indefinite leave to remain. That entitles him to up to £21,600 a year in benefits if he does not work and he could also sue the Government for damages.

Whitehall says he couldn’t have been flown from Guantanamo to the US because Britain had promised Washington not to give him a chance to claim asylum there.

The Home Office yesterday declined to comment on Mr Mohamed’s living arrangements.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

German Trial Begins for Four Accused in Terror Plot Against US Targets

DUESSELDORF- Four men charged over a foiled plot to attack American and other targets in Germany were motivated by hatred of the U.S. and aspired to emulate the scale of Sept. 11, prosecutors said as their trial opened Wednesday.

The suspects — two Germans and two Turkish nationals — were all arrested in 2007. They face charges including membership in a terrorist organization and conspiracy to commit murder.

“The defendants were driven by the will to destroy the enemies of Islam — particularly U.S. citizens — in Germany and to reach the scale of the Sept. 11 attacks,” prosecutor Volker Brinkmann said as he presented the charges at the Duesseldorf state court.

The four were moved by “profound hatred of the U.S.A. as the greatest enemy of Islam,” said another prosecutor, Ralf Setton, adding that German victims also would have been “welcome” to them. He said they aimed to kill “as many people as possible.”

Prosecutors allege that the group planned car bomb attacks on sites such as pubs, discos and airports, and considered targets in cities including Frankfurt, Dortmund, Duesseldorf, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich and Ramstein — where the U.S. military has a large air base.

They maintain the attacks were to be carried out before an October 2007 vote by the German parliament on extending German troops stay in Afghanistan.

German authorities arrested three of the men, alleged ringleader Fritz Gelowicz, 29; Daniel Schneider, 23; and Adem Yilmaz, 30, at a rented cottage in central Germany on Sept. 4, 2007.

Turkey picked up the fourth, 24-year-old Attila Selek, in Turkey in November 2007 and later extradited to Germany.

Gelowicz and Schneider are both Germans who converted to Islam.

All the suspects are accused of being members of the radical Islamic Jihad Union, an offshoot of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

According to the U.S. State Department, the Islamic Jihad Union was responsible for coordinated bombings outside the U.S. and Israeli embassies in July 2004 in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent. Members have been trained in explosives by al-Qaida instructors, and the group has ties to Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, according to the State Department.

The German cell had stockpiled 1,600 pounds (730 kilograms) of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide, purchased from a chemical supplier, and could have mixed the peroxide with other substances to make explosives equivalent to 1,200 pounds (550 kilograms) of dynamite, German officials say.

But German authorities — acting partly on intelligence from the U.S. — had been watching them and covertly replaced all of the hydrogen peroxide with a diluted substitute that could not have been used to produce a bomb.

Lawyers for Gelowicz and Schneider said in a statement that they would question whether some of the evidence could be used in court. Lawyers for Selek and Yilmaz raised similar questions, arguing that the role of informants for intelligence services in the case was unclear.

No formal pleas are entered under the German system.

Prosecutors maintain that during Schneiders arrest, the suspect grabbed a police officers handgun and managed to squeeze off a shot. The officer was uninjured, but Schneider faces an additional charge of attempted murder, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison.

The other charges together carry a 10-year maximum.

The trial, being held in a high-security courtroom, is scheduled to last at least until the end of August.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italian Judge to Rule in May on CIA Trial

By COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press Write Colleen Barry, Associated Press Write — 59 mins ago MILAN — A judge will decide next month whether to continue with the politically sensitive trial of 26 Americans and seven Italians accused in the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect after the high court threw out key evidence deemed classified.

Defense lawyers for the Americans — mostly CIA agents — and Italians argued Wednesday the exclusion of the evidence made it impossible to continue with the trial. The prosecution argued the indictments were still valid and the trial should go on.

Judge Oscar Magi said he would announce his decision May 20.

The viability of the two-year-old trial has been hanging on the Italian Constitutional Court’s ruling, issued in full earlier this month, on which evidence pertaining to the alleged CIA-run kidnapping as part of its renditions program is considered classified, and therefore inadmissible.

The high court’s ruling threw out key testimony from Luciano Peroni, an intelligence agent who acknowledged being present on Feb. 17, 2003 when Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, was taken from a Milan street in broad daylight.

Prosecutors say he was then transported in a van to the Aviano Air Force base, from where he was flown to the Ramstein Air Base in southern Germany, then onward to Egypt, where he was held and allegedly tortured. He has since been released.

The Constitutional Court also threw out any evidence that would reveal the workings between the CIA and Italian intelligence agents, who are among the defendants.

Defense lawyers for both the American and Italian defendants requested their clients be cleared — something not technically possible at this stage.

In one case, the defense for Nicolo Pollari, the former head of the military intelligence, said he needed access to classified information to prove his client had no involvement in the kidnapping.

Prosecutor Armando Spataro argued the indictments “maintained their integrity,” even without the excluded evidence. He noted that the case against the Americans began at least a year before the Italians were investigated, meaning that any evidence pertaining to the Italian secret services that is seen as classified was not used to build the case against the Americans.. Prosecutors have also said that state secrets cannot apply to illegal operations, such as kidnapping.

“Just at the moment in which the United State is lifting the veil on its secrets regarding illegal practices in the fight against terrorism with statements from President Barack Obama, here information protected as classified is being expanded excessively,” Spataro told the court.

Magi could decide to continue the case, throw out the indictments — which would send the case back to the preliminary hearing stage — or rule the trial can’t go on if he views the remaining evidence as insufficient.

Defense lawyer Alessia Sorgato, who is defending three American clients, said he could also decide to continue the trial for the American defendants while stopping it for the Italians, on the basis that classified information applied only to the Italian secret services.

Sorgato said a decision to simply end the trial “would be the worst decision possible. It would mean not guilty and not innocent. Simply, ‘I don’t have enough evidence.’ “

The CIA has refused to comment on the trial, and the Americans are being tried in absentia. The defense lawyers for the Americans have acted without any contact with their clients.

Italy’s government has denied any involvement in the kidnapping.

The trial has proved an embarrassment to both conservative and left-leaning Italian governments, with both Premier Silvio Berlusconi and his predecessor Romano Prodi having warned that testimony in the case could compromise operations between Italian spy services and the CIA.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy: Roma Gypsy Wins Big Brother

Cook arrived in Italy by boat as an illegal immigrant

(ANSA) — Rome, April 21 — A 22-year-old Roma gypsy from Montenegro who arrived in Italy as an illegal immigrant won the ninth edition of reality show Big Brother here on Monday evening.

Ferdi Berisa, who works as a cook in Italy’s central Marche region, beat off three other Italian finalists in the public vote to scoop the 300,000-euro prize money, winning over audiences with a tragic back story and touted by the media as a model of immigrant integration.

Abandoned by his mother and separated from his sister, Berisa arrived in Italy aged 9 on board a rubber boat with his father, who forced him to steal and participate in illegal fights between minors.

After the Italian authorities stepped in to separate the pair, Berisa grew up in an institution before finding work as a cook.

Berisa’s popularity was aided in the run-up to the final by an unlikely house romance with a 23-year-old Neapolitan student and model which other housemates believed to be less than genuine on the part of the student.

Altercations over the romance led to an incident in which Berisa was shoved to the floor during an argument with fellow finalist, self-proclaimed playboy entrepreneur Gianluca, who was subsequently the first finalist to be voted out.

Berisa also beat Cristina, a student with large breast implants, and runner-up Marcello, a baker, to the title in the final show, which was watched by eight million people, or 36% of the audience share.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Milan Reports Illegal Immigrant Surge

Milan, 21 April (AKI) — Police in the northern Italian city of Milan recorded 376 illegal immigrants during the first three months of 2009, around four per day, compared with an average three per day in 2008. Milan’s deputy mayor and city councillor for security, Riccardo De Corato, said on Tuesday the figures showed a “worrying” increase in the number of Milan’s illegal immigrants.

“These figures are especially worrying, given the continuing crime incidents involving illegal immigrants who have frequently already been served with expulsion orders,” said De Corato.

He gave the example of a jeweller’s savage pistol-whipping last week in Cinisello Balsamo on the outskirts of Milan by three suspected robbers. Two young Albanian men have since been arrested over the attack.

“The two men who were arrested were already due to be deported, but were still here, making trouble,” he said.

The greatest number of robberies against Italian shops are carried out by Romanians, Albanians and Moroccans, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

Africans currently make up almost half of Milan’s 38,000 illegal immigrants and their numbers will surge this year, according to Italy’s ISMU migration research institute, De Corato said.

Resentment towards immigrants has increased in recent years as the country has become a target for mass immigration, a change that has brought severe political and social strains.

Perceptions that immigrants are responsible for rising crime in Italy has sparked a backlash against immigration, especially among many conservative voters.

Northern Italy is one of the areas of the country with the highest number of immigrants and is the heartland of the conservative government’s anti-immigrant coalition partner, the Northern League party.

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

Norway: “the Reality is That a Kind of Sneak-Islamisation of This Society is Being Allowed”

Robert Spencer: “Six million Jews were murdered in Europe. No one is calling for any Muslim to be murdered, or anything close to that, and to frame the debate in those terms is simply an attempt to divert attention away from real concerns about Sharia supremacism. Jews had never proclaimed they were going to conquer Europe and subjugate non-Jews under the rule of Jewish law. Many, many Muslims have proclaimed that the Islamic conquest of Europe is imminent. To speak out against that, and in favor of freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, the equality of rights of all people before the law, and the non-establishment of religion in society is not to call for anyone to be killed.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Norwegian Lawyers to Accuse Israeli Leaders of War Crimes

OSLO (AFP) — Israel’s former prime minister Ehud Olmert and other top officials could face legal action in Norway over the Gaza offensive after six Norwegian lawyers said Tuesday they would accuse them of war crimes.

The lawyers, who plan to file their complaint with Norway’s chief prosecutor on Wednesday, said they will call for the arrest and extradition of Olmert as well as former foreign affairs minister Tzipi Livni, Defence Minister Ehud Barak and seven senior Israeli army officers.

Under the Norwegian penal code, courts may hear cases involving war crimes and other major violations of human rights.

The lawyers released a statement accusing Israel of “massive terrorist attacks” in the Gaza Strip from December 27 last year to January 25, killing civilians, illegally using weapons against civilian targets and deliberately attacking hospitals and medical staff.

“There can be no doubt that these subjects knew about, ordered or approved the actions in Gaza and that they had considered the consequences of these actions,” the lawyers’ statement said.

It also said the lawyers were representing a number of people living in Norway.

“It involves three people of Palestinian origin living in Norway and 20 families who lost loved ones or property during the attack,” one of the lawyers, Kjell Brygfjeld, told AFP.

When questioned on the chances of the case reaching court, fellow lawyer Harald Stabell said: “If we do nothing, it is more likely that a similar attack will happen again in the future.”

“In our eyes, the political aspect is less important than the preventive aspect,” he added when asked if the move could hinder Norwegian diplomacy in the region.

Israel’s embassy in Oslo said they were unaware of the lawyers’ attempt to bring the war crimes charges and could not immediately comment.

Israel said the aim of the Gaza offensive was to stop Islamist militants there from firing rockets into their territory.

Gaza medics said 1,300 Palestinians died during the attacks.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

On Work and Freedom: For Holocaust Remembrance Day and Durban II


I don’t know of any Holocaust survivors who entered a café in Germany or Poland circa 1946 or 1996 or 2006 and blew themselves up to liberate their family’s land or business stolen by the Nazis. Nor do I know of any Holocaust remembrance conferences where the chief subject is hating Hitler and his SS and the German and Polish and Hungarian people who kept quiet. The subject is remembering the dead and the lost. And how we’ve moved on. Grown, beyond survival. Celebrating the fact that Hitler ultimately failed miserably, precisely because he did not manage to infect his victims with the thing that drove him: Hate.

           — Hat tip: EK[Return to headlines]

Spain: Condominiums to Appoint Energy Monitors for Savings

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 17 — An ‘energy monitor’ will have to be appointed in each condominium in buildings larger than 1,000 square metres to check the building’s rate of power consumption on a monthly basis. This is one of the measures provided in the Efficiency and Renewables bill that is being examined by the Spanish government, featured in today’s ‘El Pais’. The energy monitor will have to issue a yearly report on the building’s rate of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in order to “identify anomalies” and suggest measures to save power an enhance the building’s power efficiency. The law is implementing an EU objective which sets a minimum level of 20% of renewable sources for the power consumed by Member countries by the year 2020. In 2007 Spain only had barely 7% of renewable sources. The EU set another objective which entails that within the same period at least 10% of used fuel must be of green origin. In 2008 in Spain this percentage only amounted to 1.8%. Aside from condominium savings, the bill also provides that new buildings must be built exploiting natural light as much as possible. Larger companies and industrial areas will have the duty of setting up collective transportation plans for their employees. The establishment of “power service companies” will be promoted by offering State assistance to improve energy savings in companies and buildings and to boost the use of renewable power sources. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Genetic Proof, Hapsburgs Killed by Inbreeding

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 15 — Up to today it has been no more than guesswork, but now it has been proved by genetic evidence. Spain’s Hapsburg dynasty was wiped out by a process of “endogamy” after being one of Europe’s most important and influential royal families for a period of 500 years, up to 1700 when king Charles died without leaving an heir. The proof comes from research carried out by investigators with the Santiago de Compostela University that has been published in the Public Library of Science PLoS One and which is based on genetic evidence that the ongoing inter-breeding between family members led to the demise of the Hapsburg dynasty. The team of investigators led by professor Gonzalo Alvarez used genealogical information on Charles II and 3,000 relatives and predecessors spanning 16 generations. Starting from this data, the scientists calculated the coefficient of consanguinity for each individual, establishing a value indicating the level of probability that the individual received two identical genes by descent because of the similarity of the parents’ genetic traits. Researchers were able to prove that consanguine ratios grew higher with each passing generation, and thus the team was able to prove that, from a genetic point of view, the end of the Hapsburg dynasty in Spain was caused by frequent interbreeding between family members. Gonzalo Alvarez explains that “At the time political alliances were sealed by marriage and this led to high rates of blood-relatedness that were the result of unions between cousins, uncles and nephews, cousins in the second degree and so on”. Charles II, “the hexed”, died heirless after being married twice. He was of feeble constitution, rather short, suffered from frequent bouts of vomit and diarrhoea, and when he died at the age of 39 he looked like an old man. In the Hapsburg family tree it is Charles II that turned out to have the highest ratio of endogamy, but he is closely followed by his father’s father, Philip II. Alvarez notes that ‘he king had a 25% ratio, which we would expect to see in a person born out of incest between brothers and sisters or between parents and their children”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Minister, Safety for the Retired

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, APRIL 16 — There is heated debate in Spain over the Governor of the Central Bank’s request for an amendment to the country’s pension plan as well as an extension of the minimum age of retirement to 67 years. “There is no reason to throw doubt upon a system which is fully functional, nor is there reason to panic the eight million pensioners in this country”. This was the response of the Minister for Work and Immigration, Celestino Corbacho, as quoted by Europa Press. Corbacho said he “was in severe disagreement” with the prediction made by Miguel Angel Fernando Ordoñez, the Governor of the Bank of Spain, who claims that in 2009 the country’s social security funds will enter negative balances. It is a situation which the Minister has claimed is “impossible”. Secretaries for the country’s major unions such as Candido Mendez of the General Union of Workers of Spain (UGT) and Ignacio Fernandez Toxo of the Workers’ Commissions (CCOO) have criticised the statements made by the country’s Central Bank. The president of the Spanish Confederation of Employers Organisations (CEOE), Jose Maria Lacasas, and the Jesus Barcena, head of Spain’s Confederation of Small and Medium Enterprises were quoted saying Ordoñez was overly “alarmist” and suffered an “excess of loquacity”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

UK: 9 Held Over Bomb Plot Fear Are to be Deported

NINE suspected terrorists arrested over an alleged Easter bomb plot have been released without charge.

The men are expected to be deported on the grounds of national security after being released into the custody of the Border Agency, Greater Manchester Police said last night.

The two remaining suspects are still being questioned by anti-terror officers. One man had already been released to the Border Agency.

Twelve men, 11 Pakistani nationals and one British man of Pakistani descent were seized in raids in the North-west earlier this month.

The 11 had come to Britain on student visas approved by the Home Office.

Despite extensive searches, police have found no bomb-making equipment at homes they have searched so far, although they are still looking at one property in the Cheetham Hill area of Manchester. The raids were brought forward after Met Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick accidentally revealed operational details when his briefing notes were photographed outside Number 10.

Last night a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said: “These arrests were carried out after a number of UK agencies gathered information that indicated a potential risk to public safety.

“Officers are continuing to review a large amount of information gathered as part of this investigation.”

The Home Office said: “We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security.

“The Government’s highest priority is to protect public safety.

“Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Government Attempts to Deport Nine Pakistani Students Held in Terror Raid Fiasco Then Released Without Charge

The fiasco over the botched north west terror raids threatened to spiral out of control today after nine men arrested over an alleged bomb plot in the north west were released without charge.

Instead the suspects — among 12 men originally detained over the alleged plot to blow up a nightclub or shopping centre — were released into the custody of the UK Borders Agency, in a humiliating set back for police.

The Pakistani men, most of them on British student visas, are now set to be thrown out for breaching the terms of their entry.

The final two men being questioned by police were released without charge this morning.

However, the lawyer acting for three of nine men said this would only add “insult to injury” and vowed to fight their deportation.

Mohammed Ayub said: “Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists.

“Their arrest and detention has been a very serious breach of their human rights.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Kosovo: Saudi Arabia Recognises Independence

(ANSAmed) — PRISTINA, APRIL 20 — Saudi Arabia today recognised the independence of Kosovo, announced the Kosovar Foreign Ministry, underlining that the decision taken by Riyadh is a very important one due to the impact it may have on the other countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. Saudi Arabia is the second Arab country to recognise Kosovo’s independence after the United Arab Emirates did the same on October 14 2008. A total of 59 countries now recognise the independence Kosovo proclaimed unilaterally on February 17 2008, including the US and 22 of the 27 EU countries, including Italy. Serbia — backed by Russia, its historic ally — opposes Kosovo’s independence and continues to consider Kosovo its southern province. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Kosovo: Unesco, Serbia Protests Church Appropriations

(ANSAmed) — BELGRADE — Serbian Foreign Minister, Vuk Jeremic, has protested against the attempt he defined as “scandalous” and “outrageous”, to register, as belonging to the Kosovo medieval culture, the monasteries and Orthodox churches and other examples of Serb cultural heritage in Kosovo with UNESCO. “This scandalous and outrageous attempt to mystify the cultural identity never happened before with this organisation, and we will not allow it to happen now”, said Jeremic to journalists in Paris, where he was speaking at the 181st plenary session of the UNESCO managing committee. Several countries, including Albania, proposed defining Serbian monasteries and other works of art from Serb culture located in the province with an Albanian majority which declared independence from Belgrade as Kosovo cultural heritage. The proposal will be presented at a meeting of the UNESCO committee meeting for cultural heritage scheduled for June 22-30 in Seville, Spain. These are works of art and sacred objects and don’t belong to Kosovo but to the Serbian Orthodox Church”, Foreign Minister Jeremic said in Paris, as reported by the Tanjug news agency. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Algeria: Al-Qaeda Leader ‘Resumes’ Terrorist Activity

Algiers, 21 April (AKI) — A North African Al-Qaeda leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has resumed his armed struggle in Algeria after two years of inactivity, security officials said on Tuesday, quoted by Algerian daily el-Khabar.

Belmokhtar, also known as Khaled Abu Al-Abbas, is considered is considered one of the key leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and one of the most wanted terrorists in the Sahara desert region.

Authorities said he marked his comeback by kidnapping Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and his assistant, Louis Guay, on their way to a United Nations mission in Niger last December.

He has also been implicated in the kidnapping of four tourists from Britain, Switzerland and Germany.

Belmokhtar (photo) reportedly suspended his terrorist activities in late 2006 because of differences between him, as leader of the so-called Mulatahamoun faction and militant leader Abdel Hamid Abu Zaid of the Tarik Ibn Ziyad group.

There was also a rift between Belmokhtar and Abdel Malik Droukedel, the current leader of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), one of the main components of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

However, Algerian media reports said Droukedel sent a representative and military advisor Yahia Djouadi, alias Yahoia Abu Amar, to reconcile the parties in 2007.

Belmokhtar is wanted by the international police organisation, Interpol, and is the subject of sanctions imposed against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda by United Nations resolution 1267 which includes an asset freeze, a travel ban and an arms embargo.

Fowler, UN special envoy to Niger, and Guay, deputy director of the Sudan task force in Ottawa, and their Niger-based driver were kidnapped on 14 December 2008 about 45 kilometres northwest of Niamey.

While the militant Front des Forces de Redressement initially claimed that its members had kidnapped Fowler and three others, a spokesman for the group later denied the claim.

In January four tourists, a Swiss couple, a German woman in her 70s and a Briton, were seized in the border zone between Mali and Niger as they were returning from a Tuareg cultural festival.

The North African branch of Al-Qaeda has claimed the kidnappings in an audio tape broadcast by the Arabic channel Al-Jazeera

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

Israel and the Palestinians

Gaza Aid Could be ‘Blocked’ Without a Palestinian Accord

Damascus, 21 April (AKI) — European Union aid for the reconstruction of the strife-torn Gaza Strip would remain blocked until the secular Fatah party reaches an agreement with the Islamist Gaza-ruling Hamas movement, a senior French diplomat has told Adnkronos International (AKI).

“Funds that were set aside for the reconstruction of Gaza will remain frozen if Europe is not convinced that this money will be used for humanitarian, social and development projects for all the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous.

The international community has pledged 4.5 billion dollars for the reconstruction of Gaza and the revamping of the Palestinian economy, which has been shattered by the recent Israeli military offensive in December and January.

The source added that the EU is afraid that reconstruction aid could flow to Hamas and be used for their own purposes.

“We do not want the aid to end up in Hamas’ hands, since we have no guarantee that they will not use it to carry out military operations or to buy weapons,” he said.

Responding to reports about a possible confederation with two separate governments representing the rival parties in Gaza and the West Bank, the source said that such a move would entrench divisions between the two entities and there would be no more elections.

“If the Palestinians approve the idea of two interim governments, we are convinced that the temporary solution will become a permanent one, entrenching the divisions between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After that, there would be no more general elections in the Palestinian territories,” he said.

Reports emerged last week of a proposed confederation that would create two governments: one in the West Bank led by Fatah and the Palestinian National Authority and the other in the Gaza Strip led by Hamas, sources told AKI.

Fatah and Hamas have been divided by a serious rift since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip by force in mid-2007 after it won a surprise victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections the previous year.

After the elections Hamas faced widespread political opposition and an economic boycott from western powers including the European Union due to its refusal to comply with three conditions: recognition of Israel, rejection of violence and respect for previous accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel meanwhile is refusing to lift its blockade of the aid-dependent territory and allow building and other materials into Gaza for reconstruction.

Around 1,330 Palestinians, of whom 412 were children, were killed during Israel’s recent military offensive which ended in January.

Thousands of homes and hundreds of schools and businesses were destroyed in the operation entitled Operation Cast Lead.

The stated aim of the Israeli offensive was to end cross-border rocket attacks by militants from Hamas and other Palestinian factions.

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

Gaza: New Bank Supported by Hamas Opens

(ANSAmed) — GAZA, APRIL 21 — The offices of a new bank supported by Hamas, the National Islamic Bank, have opened in the centre of Gaza city. It will operate according to Islamic financial criteria, which forbid any form of usury. Local sources state that the opening of the bank was made necessary as other local credit institutes are unwilling to maintain relations with the Hamas executive in order to avoid exposing themselves to the risk of being labelled by the outside world as “financing terrorism”. The new bank, which has no legal ties with Hamas, has already announced that it will accept payments of salaries for several thousands of employees of Ismail Haniyeh’s government ministries. The bank will be open to clients from the beginning of May. Several other credit institutes operate in Gaza, including the ‘Falastin Bank’, ‘Arab Bank’, ‘Jordan Bank’ and ‘Cairo Amman Bank’. Unlike the others, the National Islamic Bank has not received a licence from the Palestinian National Authority and its opening represents a further cause of friction between Gaza and Ramallah. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Palestinian Land Owner to be Tried for Treason for Selling Land to Jews

A special Palestinian tribunal on Tuesday discussed for the first time the sale of lands to Jews by Palestinians, which has made waves in the West since it was first reported by Ynet.

The first person put on trial was a Hebron resident suspected of selling lands to Israelis. The prosecution demanded that he be convicted of treason.

The court hearing lasted more than six hours and included a reading of the indictment filed against the man. The prosecution presented documents including the locations of the lands the suspect allegedly sold to Israelis in the Hebron area.

Sources in the Palestinian Authority said that if the man were to be convicted of treason, he would most likely be sentenced to death.

Ynet reported recently that many Palestinians suspected of selling lands to Jews — including Israeli Arabs living in east Jerusalem — were released following Israeli pressure, and that the investigations against them were closed.

Following the report, members of the Fatah faction in the Jewish area began looking for the person who issued the order to end the investigation against those suspect. At the same time, the Palestinians are conducting a media and political war aimed at preventing Israeli associations from purchasing lands and houses in Jerusalem.

Senior Fatah member Hatem Abdel Kader, who serves as Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s advisor on Jerusalem affairs, clarified Monday that the Palestinian prosecution was continuing its investigations into dozens of land sale affairs.

He added, however, that “there are difficulties in the interrogation of some of the Jerusalemite suspects due to Israeli pressures, and because the prosecution is finding it difficult to prepare indictments against them..”

Abdel Kader added that the investigations focused on the sale of some 13,000 dunam (3,212 acres) in Jerusalem and its surroundings. He stressed that the PA was working firmly in to combat the sale of land to Israelis, adding that those who are found guilty of selling land to Jews should be executed.

           — Hat tip: moderntemplar[Return to headlines]

Middle East

McDonald’s Happy About Growth in Turkey, Eyes More

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 21 — McDonald’s Turkey maintained a good run of expansion in 2008 and is planning to grow further in 2009, despite the gloom the global economic crisis has added to the domestic economy. Revenue from McDonald’s sales in Turkey increased 30% last year to TL 250 million, and the company aims to earn TL 290 million by the end of this year. McDonald’s Turkey opened its latest restaurant in Gaziantep last week. Speaking to the Anatolia news agency after the opening ceremony, McDonald’s Turkey General Manager Hakan Serim said the company currently has 120 restaurants in Turkey and plans to increase this number by nearly 15% this year. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Outrage Reserved for Israel

FEW places on earth have been as systematically brutalised over the past decade as Chechnya. So you might have thought that the Russian Government’s decision last week to declare an end to its “counter-terrorism” operations in the territory would have been an occasion for sombre reflection in the Western media. Forget it. It’s a 600-word news item at best.

Here’s a contrast to ponder. Since the beginning of the second intifada in the autumn of 2000, about 6000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. That figure includes combatants as well as those killed in January’s fighting in Gaza.

As for Chechnya, there are no solid figures for the number of civilians killed since the second war began in late 1999; estimates range from 25,000 to 200,000. Chechnya’s population, at a little more than one million, is about one third or one fourth that of the Palestinians. That works out to between 25 and 200 Chechen deaths per 1000 as against 1.5 to two Palestinian deaths per 1000.

Now type the words Palestine and genocide into Google. When I did so on Monday, I got 1,630,000 results. Next, substitute Chechnya for Palestine. The number is 245,000.

Taking the Google results as a crude measure of global outrage, that means the outrage over the Palestinian situation was 6.6 times greater than over the Chechen one. Yet Chechen fatalities were between 13 to 133 times greater.

Final calculation: With an outrage ratio of 6.6 to one, but a proportional kill ratio of one to 13 (at the very low end), it turns out that every Palestinian death receives somewhere in the order of 28 times the attention of every Chechen death. Remember that in both cases we’re mainly talking about Muslims being killed by non-Muslims.

I’ll admit this math exercise is a bit of a gimmick. But it raises a worthwhile question: Why is Palestinian life so dear in the eyes of the world, and Chechen life so cheap?

Maybe the answer is that the Palestinian cause is morally worthier than that of Chechnya. But that can’t be right. Yes, Chechen terrorists have committed spectacular atrocities, notably the 2004 Beslan school massacre. Yet modern terrorism is a genre Palestinians practically invented. As it is, Chechnya has been suffering grievously under Russia’s thumb since the 1800s. (Just read Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad.) If colonialism is your beef, the case for Chechen independence is inarguable.

Maybe, then, the answer is that there is no shortage of imagery of Palestinian death, and thus it engages more of the world’s attention. By contrast, the Russians imposed a virtual media blockade on Chechnya, and journalists who covered the story, such as Anna Politkovskaya, had a way of ending up dead.

But imagery need not be televised to be vivid, nor does the world lack for testimonials of Russian brutality. “I remember a Chechen female sniper,” a Russian soldier told Los Angeles Times reporter Maura Reynolds. “We just tore her apart with two armoured personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it.”

Maybe it’s that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply more important strategically than Russia’s war against Chechnya, in the same way that the attacks of 9/11 mattered more in the scheme of things than, say, atrocities by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

Yet even before 9/11, there was evidence that al-Qa’ida was feeding money and arms to Chechen fighters, putting Chechnya squarely into the context of what became the global war on terror. Evidence of al-Qa’ida involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sparser and only came to light in 2007.

Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflames the Muslim world in a way the Chechen one does not. But why is that, when so many more Muslims are being victimised by Russia?

Then too, why does the wider world participate in the Muslim world’s moral priorities? Why, for instance, do high-profile Western writers such as Portuguese Nobel laureate Jose Saramago make “solidarity” pilgrimages to Ramallah but not to the Chechen capital of Grozny? Why do British academics organise boycotts of their Israeli counterparts but not their Russian ones?

Why is Palestinian statehood considered a global moral imperative, but statehood for Chechnya is not?

Why does every Israeli prime minister invariably become a global pariah, when not one person in 1000 knows the name of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a man who, by many accounts, keeps a dungeon near his house in order to personally torture his political opponents? And why does the fact that Kadyrov is Vladimir Putin’s handpicked enforcer in Chechnya not cause a shudder of revulsion as the Obama administration reaches for the reset button with Russia?

I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances but not Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived victims of the Jewish state. That is when they are not being victimised by other Palestinians. Or being expelled en masse from Kuwait. Or being excluded from the labour force in Lebanon. Things you probably didn’t know about, either.

As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew is ever likely to become president of Russia.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes[Return to headlines]

Terrorism: Turkey; Heavy Blow for Al-Qaeda, 37 Arrests

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 21 — A heavy blow was struck by Turkish anti-terrorist police against Al Qaeda terrorism; 37 people were arrested today in various regions of Turkey on suspicion of belonging to the terrorist organisation led by Osama bin Laden. According to the Turkish news agency Anadolu, the operation leading to the arrests was conducted simultaneously in five provinces in central and southern areas of the country, including the provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, as well as Konya. The officers, according to the sources, also confiscated an undisclosed number of computers and weapons. Three more people are being sought by police. At the beginning of the month seven suspected members of Al Qaeda accused of “belonging to a terrorist gang and spreading propaganda” were arrested in the eastern province of Ekisehir. Al Qaeda is very active in Turkey, as shown by the number of operations to stop their activities. On July 9 last year in Istanbul, three terrorists and three policemen were killed during a shootout that started after an attack on a police checkpoint outside the US consulate. The following August 29, also in Istanbul, special anti-terrorism teams prevented an attack by arresting 21 people who had attended military and ideological training camps in Afghanistan. The previous April, in a similar operation in Istanbul, 45 people were arrested and accused of having Al Qaeda connections. Another dozen presumed members of the same group were arrested in January after 18 houses were searched at the same time in Gaziantep and Kahramanmaras, in south western Turkey. There is also a violent precedent, an Al Qaeda cell was responsible for attacks in Istanbul in November 2002 against two synagogues and two British targets (the consulate and the HSBC bank) that left 63 people dead and hundreds wounded. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

The Iranian Dream…

(The Iranian Dream, The Dutch Iran Commitee, The Press Centre in the Hague, 3/30-2009. The Iran committee will try to raise awareness in the Netherlands about the threats of the nuclear program of the mullah regime and the severity of their human rights violations.)

My name is Farshad Kholghi. I am a free citizen of the world. I believe in freedom. I believe in the freedom of speech.

I believe God is wiser than we imagine. I believe that God has humor, and that God created humor in order to keep out the devil. She is not a god who would waste her time making millions of rules. My God is not vain and has nothing against being depicted and even ridiculed.

I love my freedom, the freedom that was granted to me by my parents when they bravely defied gravity and fled from an Iran ruled by religious fanatics. They saw us as heretics and infidels, because my parents belong to the Bahâ’î religion which is not tolerated by the otherwise “so very tolerant” Islamic state. But we escaped and came to Denmark, .

I shall never forget the fear and terror we felt after the birth of the Islamic state in 1979 in Iran…

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

The Russian Handicap to U.S. Iran Policy

by Ariel Cohen

  • There are voices in the Obama Administration who believe that the Kremlin is able and willing to exert pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, perceived geopolitical and economic benefits in the unstable Persian Gulf, in which American influence is on the wane, outweigh Russia’s concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. The Kremlin sees Iran not as a threat but as a partner or an ad-hoc ally to challenge U.S. influence.
  • Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of “multipolarity,” both in the Middle East and worldwide. This strategy seeks to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions, and weaken or neuter NATO and the OSCE, while forging a counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
  • Russian technological aid is evident throughout the Iranian missile and space programs. Russian scientists and expertise have played a direct and indirect role in these programs for years. According to some reports, Russian specialists are helping to develop the longer-range Shahab-5, and Russia has exported missile production facilities to Iran.
  • Moscow has signed a contract to sell advanced long-range S-300 air-defense systems to Iran. Once Iran has air defenses to repel Israeli or American air strikes and nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, it will possess the capacity to destroy Israel (an openly stated goal of the regime) and strike targets throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Beyond that, if and when an ICBM capability is achieved, Tehran will be able to threaten the U.S. homeland directly.
  • Given the substantial Russian interests and ambitions, any grand bargain would almost certainly require an excessively high price paid by the United States to the detriment of its friends and allies. Russia simply does not view the situation through the same lens as the U.S…

           — Hat tip: JCPA[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Sales of Alcoholic Beverages Untouched by Crisis

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, APRIL 21 — Sales of alcoholic beverages in Turkey rose 19.96% last year compared to a year earlier, Anatolia news agency reported, citing data from the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Agency, or TAPDK. According to the TAPDK, the volume of alcoholic beverage sales last year surpassed 1.1 billion liters in the country, which has a population of 71.4 million and was visited by 26.5 million tourists last year, while the volume of alcoholic beverages sold in 2006 was 880.97 million liters. The figure includes both import and local brands and rose to 921.24 million in 2007. Then in 2008, alcohol consumption in the country increased another 180,34 million liters to reach nearly 1.1 billion liters. Some 5.96 million liters of the booze sold in the country in 2008 was import, while 1.96 billion was domestic. Turkey exported 78.91 million liters of alcoholic beverages last year. There was a significant increase in raki sales last year, according to TAPDK data. The sales of raki, the “national drink,” displayed a fall of 3.8 million liters in 2007 compared to 2006. But that changed last year with some 44.6 million liters of raki consumed. That was 1.89 million liters more than a year earlier. Nearly 122.2 liters of raki per day was sold in the country last year. The highest increase in sales volume was seen in wine. Wine consumption in the country increased 66% in 2008 compared to a year earlier. Some 37.91 million liters of wine was sold last year. That was an increase of 15.66 million from 2007’s 22.84 million liters. Champagne sales increased to 460,547 liters last year from just under 400,000 liters a year earlier. Whisky sales also rose to 1.67 million liters in 2008. Total whisky sales were 1.43 million liters a year earlier. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Police Arrest Al-Qaeda Suspects in Raids

Istanbul, 21 April (AKI) — Turkish police on Tuesday arrested at least a dozen suspected members of Al-Qaeda in simultaneous raids across four provinces, Turkish media reported.

While the exact number of suspects was still to be confirmed, at least 12 suspects were arrested in raids in the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Sanliurfa, the central province of Konya and southern city of Adana, said Turkish daily Hurriyet.

Earlier this month, seven people were arrested on charges of links to the extremist network following simultaneous operations in the western province of Eskisehir.

A Turkish newspaper reported in March that Ankara had received US intelligence that Al-Qaeda militants could be plotting attacks on foreign targets in Turkey.

A Turkish Al-Qaeda cell was held responsible for truck bomb attacks against two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul in 2003.

A total of 63 people, including the British consul, were killed and hundreds of others were injured.

Seven men were jailed for life in 2007 over the bombings, among them a Syrian national who organised and financed the attacks.

In January, a suspected Al-Qaeda militant was killed and three others captured in a shootout with the police in Istanbul after the group attempted to rob a post office.

Reports also said that anti-terror raids had been carried out in Gaziantep in 2008 and four suspected Al-Qaeda members were killed.

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

Turkey: History Texts Draw Set of Blank Pages

ISTANBUL — The Ministry of Education has published a revised chapter for Year 8 history books and asked instructors to teach from the new text. Changes include removing the names of influential politicians and a shifted definition of fundamentalism. The ministry’s move has sparked a lively debate over whether the chapter alters or updates the history of the Republic

Changes made to textbooks for Republic history classes have left significant gaps in the country’s past 40 years, revealing that Turkey’s recent history is still considered a difficult issue to tackle.

“Turkey after Atatürk: The Second World War and afterwards,” the seventh chapter of the book, was criticized for mentioning the 1999 capture of the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and significant alterations made by the department of the Education Ministry have raised eyebrows.

The ministry has published the altered, 27-page chapter on its Web site, asking instructors who teach Year 8 Republic history to use the revised version rather than the one in the book.

The chapter focuses on the history of the country after 1939, which includes Turkey’s role in World War II; the start of multi-party democracy; the 1960, 1971 and 1980 military coups; the 1970s, dominated by left-wing and right-wing terrorism; Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union; the start of PKK attacks in the 1980s and the capture of its leader in 1999; both Gulf Wars; and the region after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Historians believe that recent history should be held in an objective way. Toktamış AteÅŸ, an academic from Istanbul University, said the Board of Education and Discipline prepared the textbooks in line with their political views and opinions. “Recent history should be mentioned without any reference to values and opinions. Those people who experienced those days are still alive and praising [the coups] may hurt them,” he told the NTV news channel yesterday.

But Zübeyde Kılıç, head of the Education Personnel Union, or EÄŸitim-Sen, said the history textbooks do not meet their expectations, especially on the issues of the military coups. “The military coup of Sept. 12, 1980, was a major intervention into democracy and it should not be mentioned in such a shallow way,” she said.

Daily Milliyet focused on the changes, mainly on the section about fundamentalist threats to the country.

While the original version defined fundamentalist acts as efforts to create chaos through religious differences and accusing secularism of being anti-religion through propaganda against the state and Turkey’s founder Atatürk, the new version does not refer to secularism and instead accuses fundamentalists of trying to “perpetrate anti-scientific actions by rejecting the progressive values of the society in order to bring back a medieval system..”

Yunus Ã-ztürk, head of EÄŸitim-Sen’s Bahçelievler branch, said the changes reveal the intervention of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, to the curriculum as a way to defend political Islamic views. “The fundamentals define Alevism as the same as atheism, and they condemn Atatürk for introducing a secular system to Turkey,” Ã-ztürk said. “But those details were removed, which makes it difficult to teach children about fundamentalism in Turkey in a concrete way.” The new version also cites Atatürk’s statement warning that the republic faced threats from people and groups that wanted to turn back time. The chapter also argued that fundamentalists had been a threat since the establishment of the Republic.

Military coups The new chapter refers to the 1960, 1971 and 1980 military coups as suspending the country’s democratization process and adds that their negative consequences were overcome by constitutional changes, new political parties laws and broader reforms.

Two pages dedicated to the coups in the original chapter were removed and were replaced with two sentences. The section about the Feb. 28, 1996, statement released by the military that led to the toppling of the coalition government, referred to as the post-modern coup, was simply removed.

Mustafa Kovanlık, head of EÄŸitim-Sen’s Taksim branch, said the removal of the coups from the curriculum is a positive development because the former version depicted the coups as reasonable or legitimate things.

Among the sections that were not included in the new chapter were those that mentioned former Presidents Turgut Ã-zal and Süleyman Demirel and former Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit. Demirel and Ecevit were key political leaders starting from the 1960s until after 2000. Ã-zal, credited with opening the economy overseas, dominated Turkish politics from 1983 until his death in 1993.

Missionaries Missionary activities were included in a section on threats to the country and fundamentalist threats.

The chapter said: “Missionary activities are not simple religious proliferation efforts. It cannot be protected by freedom of thought and freedom of expression. It is an organized and systematic movement that forces individuals to change their religion. Missionary activities also carry a political, economic and cultural perspective and are supported by nongovernmental organizations and foreign forces. Missionaries exploit individuals’ economic problems and constitute a threat to national unity and sovereignty.”

The section called “Why are Armenians the problem?” in the original was replaced with a new section called, “Turkish-Armenian Relations.”

The new section lists the Armenian terrorist activities in the 1970s and 1980s directed at Turkish diplomats and notes that Turkey opened its archives concerning the 1915 incidents.

Daily AkÅŸam noted that the changes came as Turkey and Armenia were trying to improve bilateral relations.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]


Russian Church Asks WCAR to Introduce Christianophobia Notion in Intl Law

[Comment from Tuan Jim: not to say that I agree with this line of thought in principle (particularly with the continued worthless parallel of religion and race) — but it is rather clever.]

Moscow, April 21, Interfax — The Russian Orthodox Church has asked the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR), which started in Geneva on Monday, to introduce into international law the notion of Christianophobia.

“It is very important to the Russian Orthodox Church to raise the issue of introducing to the list of threats the notion of Christianophobia in addition to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate Department for External Church Relations Archpriest Georgy Ryabykh told Interfax-Religion.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon mentioned anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in his speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, the priest said, regretting that the UN secretary general did not “say a single word about Christianophobia.”

Today there are a lot of “examples of violations of Christians’ rights, insults of their feelings, public distortion of the Christian teaching to make the notion of Christianophobia enter the international circulation.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Over a Dozen Wahabi Groups “Neutralized” in North Caucasus — Russian Ministry

Moscow, April 22, Interfax — The Russian authorities dismantled the activities of more than a dozen radical Wahabi groups at the end of 2008 and at the beginning of 2009, said Yury Kokov, head of the Interior Ministry’s department for the fight against extremism.

“A large amount of work was carried out in the North Caucasus region, where we dismantled the operations of more than a dozen militant units involving supporters of radical Wahhabism, which has nothing in common with the fundamentals of traditional Islam, at the end of last year and this year,” Kokov told the Public Chamber’s forum for civil accord and against intolerance and extremism.

Several militant group leaders and emissaries of international extremist and terrorist organizations have been “neutralized”, he said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Afghan Women March, America Turns Away

LAST November, extremists on motorbikes opposed to education for women sprayed acid on a group of students from the Mirwais School for Girls in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Several young women were severely burned. Yet it did not take more than a few weeks for even the most cruelly disfigured girls to return to school. Like the crowds of women in Kabul this week who protested a new law that restricts their rights, the Mirwais students demonstrate unbending courage and resolve for progress. They don’t fear much — except that the world might abandon them.

That is why President Obama’s Afghanistan-Pakistan policy speech last month and his administration’s related white paper are worrisome: both avoided any reference to democracy in Afghanistan, while pointedly pushing democratic reforms in Pakistan. The new policy represents critical shifts — such as a new emphasis on civilian work, and recognizing the regional nature of the problem and the inadequacy and abuse of resources. But a faltering commitment to the democratization of Afghanistan and ambiguous statements from Washington on an exit strategy have left us Afghans scratching our heads.

The Obama administration’s bold declaration of what is to be defeated (Al Qaeda) and absence of equal zest for what is to be built (democracy) inspires a sense of déjà vu. The last time the United States was seriously involved in Afghanistan, its goal was the defeat of the Soviet Union. But after that “success,” extremist militias greedy for power brought our society to its knees. In the absence of the rule of law and legitimate and democratic institutions, the militias’ atrocities allowed the Taliban to rise to power and harbor those behind the 9/11 attacks.

To defeat the forces of oppression, Washington must promote and protect the ideals of democracy and human rights. It is true that Afghanistan has miles to go before it will be a real democracy. But why won’t the new administration state a commitment to helping us get there?

First, with the economic crisis and other domestic priorities, there is a sense in Washington that helping Afghanistan democratize is either a luxury American taxpayers cannot afford or a charitable cause they can delay. This shows a misunderstanding of both what is needed to help Afghans build a real democracy and the lasting interest of the United States.

Second, there is a temptation among some in Washington to believe that if the zeal for democratic reform or women’s and minority rights in Afghanistan were relaxed, Taliban insurgents would find “reconciliation” more attractive and the war would end more quickly.

This belief is encouraged by the radically conservative forces that have increased their influence since 2005 over the Kabul government, which has been backtracking on its commitment to rights like freedom of the press and equality under the law. This was exemplified by two events last month: the upholding of a 20-year jail sentence given to a young journalist for printing a controversial article from the Internet that was critical of the role traditionally assigned to women in Islam; and President Hamid Karzai’s signing of a law affecting the country’s Shiite minority that places restrictions on when a woman can leave her house and states the circumstances in which she is obliged to have sex with her husband. That law prompted the protests this week in Kabul.

It would seem that the escalating violence the country has suffered since 2005 would be a pretty convincing demonstration that giving up ground on democracy and human rights is not helping end this war. Rather, the Taliban has interpreted it as a sign of the weakness of the Afghan government and its international allies. The Afghan public, even as it faces an unpopular and brutal insurgency, is no longer sure if a government that is reluctant to stand up for human rights deserves support. Afghans are also aware that if their government does not honestly commit to judicial and legislative reforms, it will lose American and European public support.

Third, and perhaps most important, many Westerners still cling to incorrect assumptions about Afghans, which they use as excuses for abandoning democratization. One such belief is that Afghans are a “tribal people” who probably do not want a say in choosing their leaders. Others claim that because Afghanistan is a traditional Islamic society, any promotion of democracy and women’s rights will be resented as an imposition of Western values. Another much-heard statement is that Afghans are “fierce independent fighters” who mercilessly defy external influence, so the United States better not get bogged down in this “graveyard of empires.”

These assumptions are wrong. In our first democratic elections, in October 2004, 11 million Afghans — 41 percent of them women — registered to vote. In a 2008 survey by the Asia Foundation, 76 percent of Afghans responded that democracy was the best form of government. An estimated 10 million people, one-third of the population, live in cities. Almost 65 percent of Afghans are under the age of 25. This dominant generation came of age not under the old tribal structures but in an Afghanistan whose traditional fabrics were torn apart by Soviet tanks and our long civil war.

As for women’s rights, the troubles that brewed in Afghanistan during the 1990s — civil war, followed by the Taliban’s totalitarianism and harboring of Al Qaeda — were in great part the result of the female half of our population being deprived of social and political participation. Like everyone else, Afghans crave security, justice, accountability, educational and employment opportunities, and a promise of a future.

Democracy and progress are not products to be packaged and exported to Afghanistan. Afghans have to fight for them. Last month, the two of us helped organize “Afghanistan: Ensuring Success,” a conference led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born former United States ambassador to the United Nations. Speakers included Afghans from all walks of life and there was broad agreement that, in the words of President Obama, it was time to “pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off” and strive for genuine democratic progress and self-reliance.

But as we approach Afghanistan’s second democratic elections, in August, we cannot afford to have our allies falter — through rhetoric or policy — in supporting our nascent democratic forces. Those brave and burned young women of Kandahar did not give up. How could we?

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Archbishop of Lahore: Sharia in the Swat Valley is Contrary to Pakistan’s Founding Principles

Archbishop Saldanha denounces the violation of minority and women’s rights. The archbishop expresses his concern “in matters concerning criminal justice,” and denounces abuses and violence by the Taliban toward Christian, Sikh, and Hindu places of worship and schools. The Catholic Church supports the Muttahida Quami Movement, the only party that has opposed the “forces of darkness.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Sharia law in the Swat Valley demonstrates a “total neglect” of minorities and their rights, sanctioned by the founding father of the country in 1947, at the Constituent Assembly. This is the position of Lawrence John Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore and president of the Pakistani bishops’ conference, who expresses special concern “in matters concerning criminal justice.”

The prelate has sent an open letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Raza Gilani, and the Justice Minister of the government of the North-West Frontier Province, in which he stresses his “sorrow that your government has failed to take stock of the concerns of civil society” about the introduction of Islamic law into the Swat Valley. This, in fact, “jeopardizes the socio-economic and cultural growth” in the region, legitimizes the claims of the Taliban, who are destroying “the constitutional protections for minorities and women.”

The letter was also signed by Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace. The Catholic leaders explain that the climate of “impunity” surrounding the Taliban’s “killing machine of terror” perpetrates crimes and violence against “the small communities of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.” The Christian minorities of the NWFP are forced to endure “unemployment, intimidation and migration” because of the imposition of the Jizya, the tax levied by Muslims on the faithful of the religions of the Book (Christians and Jews). The Islamic extremists have defaced the “statues of the Buddha” and razed to the ground “St. Mary’s School, Convent, and Chapel at Sangota (Swat).” The fundamentalists have also targeted the school of Don Bosco, in Bannu. Archbishop Saldanha says that “several of our institutions have received threats.”

Special concern has been prompted by the creation of “a parallel legal system,” based on Islamic law. “This decision,” the archbishop says, “must be put to a vote by the judges and the people.” Another significant aspect is the “ ideological extremism” that seems to be gaining a foothold in the country. In the open letter, there is a reference to the inaugural address — in 1947 — of the founder of the country to the Constituent Assembly: Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah recalled that religion is a “personal matter” and has nothing to do with “the affairs of state.”

In a second letter, addressed to the head of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), Archbishop Saldanha and Peter Jacob express their “appreciation” for the only party in parliament that has “opposed the introduction of Sharia in the Swat.” “This contribution,” the letter reads, “aimed to save the nation from falling into darkness, will always be remembered.”

Catholics “share” the concerns of the members of the MQM over the “tacit approval” of the actions of the terrorists, and their plans, aimed at overturning “the social and political order” of the country. Peter Jacob and Archbishop Saldanha invite the Muttahida Quami Movement to “continue its efforts” to create a “tolerant and pluralist” Pakistani society.

The Taliban, meanwhile, are continuing their battle to extend Islamic law to the entire country, and say they have no intention of “giving up weapons: we are Pashtun, and every Pashtun has a weapon,” says Muslim Khan, spokesman of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Last Sunday, Sufi Muhammad, the spiritual leader of the movement Tahrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi, recalled that “only Islamic law is valid” in the Swat Valley, and the entire judicial system of Pakistan must be regulated “according to the dictates of Sharia.” The fundamentalist leader emphasized that “there is no room for democracy” in Islam, and called Western governments “a system of infidels” that has divided the country thanks to the support of the Supreme Court and the local high courts.

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

Elections in Orissa Rigged as Extremists Force Christians to Vote for Hindu Parties

In Kandhamal villages BJP supporters kept an eye on polling stations, threatening Christian voters. Global Council of Indian Christians Chairman Sajan George says no violence took place but “these elections cannot be said to have been peaceful and calm.”

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — “Mark the lotus!” Christians in the village of Gujapanga, northern Kandhamal District, were repeatedly told on 16 April, first day of India’s election, or else. The lotus is the symbol of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supporters have kept villages in this Orissa district under a watchful eye in order to intimidate Dalits and Christians.

Global Council of Indian Christians (GCII) Chairman Sajan George told AsiaNews that he received reports from villages like Gujapanga with similar stories of intimidation.

“Extremists standing outside polling stations told Christians to vote for the ‘lotus’ if they wanted to avoid threats to their life.” Although no incident was recorded, “these elections cannot be said to have been peaceful and calm.”

Fr Ajay Singh, who heads Jan Vikas, a social organisation in the diocese of Bubhaneswar, visited several polling stations to “see the situation in person.”

“I left Gajapati District early morning for Kandhamal. Along the road trees had been uprooted to block the road. No one was around. When I got the polling station in my village I found out that I was the first voter to show up. Two hours after it had opened no one had come to cast a ballot. Only later, when villagers heard that someone had actually gone to vote, did a few others come out to vote.”

In light of the tense situation Father Singh decided to travel around some villages in the district.

“In the villages of Kattingia and Lingagada, anyone who dared to vote got threats. In Nulungia where a tribal Christian was killed a few months ago, people told me that at least 40 Christians (who fled last year’s violence) did not vote for fear of being beaten,” the clergyman said.

Many displaced people dared not go back to their villages. “All you have to do is visit Phirigada, Gunjibadi, Badabanga, Dodingia, Raikola, Chanchedi. In the area near the market at G Udayagiri 43 families (who abandoned their homes) are living in pitiful conditions, but do not dare go home,” he added.

The same is true for thousands of displaced people who left for the States of Maharastra and Gujarat.

Another case the clergyman cites is that of Betticola, a village where Hindu extremists want to build a temple on the ruins of a church that was destroyed in last August’s pogrom.

“Not one of the 38 families from the village is living in its own home,” Father Singh said.

“Not one of the seven Christians who went to vote was allowed to cast a ballot because they did not have the right papers,” he said. “Their explanations were of no avail even when they told election officials that their identity papers and certificates were lost to fire during the violence.”

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

Pakistan: Men Jailed 10 Weeks for Pamphlet

Advocates worry even police will be unable to protect Christians

Two brothers have been released after spending more than two months in jail and their advocates worry that even police won’t be able to protect them after they were accused of blasphemy, a charge local Muslims believe is sufficient for the death penalty, according to an international Christian ministry.

Officials with International Christian Concern say the brothers only recently were released from police custody in Pakistan, and there are high levels of concern for their future.

“These two brothers will face intense social pressure from Muslims who see even the accusation of blasphemy as reason enough for execution,” said Jeremy Sewall, ICC’s advocacy director.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka Hails Surrender of Rebel Pair

Reporting from New Delhi — The ethos of the Tamil Tigers rebel group in Sri Lanka has always been to fight and die for the cause, namely, a homeland for the minority Tamils. So it wasn’t surprising that the government treated the surrender today of two rebel officials as a significant coup — and further evidence of its imminent military victory.

The army quickly moved to score propaganda points after announcing it was holding Tiger media coordinator Velayuthan Thayanithi, who employed the alias Daya Master, and Velupillai Kumaru Pancharatnam, alias George Master, in custody after they approached government lines this morning with members of their families.

Their surrender came as “a rude shock to the outfit and its expatriates who have been pumping hard currency into the LTTE coffers,” the army said in a statement, using the initials of the rebel group.

The report, as with many aspects of the South Asia island’s protracted civil war, could not be confirmed. The military rarely allows media or international observers into the conflict zone, citing security concerns.

In recent months, the army has made significant advances in its quarter-century battle with the Tigers, known formally as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Most of the remaining militants are reportedly trapped in a sliver of land along the northern coast roughly the size of New York’s Central Park.

The army also said today it killed 43 guerrillas, suffered an undisclosed number of casualties itself and that 81,423 civilians have fled the war zone within the previous 72 hours. The United Nations, civic groups and foreign governments have repeatedly expressed their strong concerns for the welfare of the remaining trapped citizens.

As more people emerge, the government and aid organizations are struggling to ramp up relief efforts.

“The people are all absolutely exhausted and had a tedious journey and came out with little or nothing, many wading through waist-deep water, bringing their children,” said Suresh Bartlett, Sri Lanka director for the humanitarian group World Vision, in a telephone interview from the town of Vavuniya today after visiting a camp for displaced persons.

Bartlett said the camp he saw is housing 25,000 people, with another camp of roughly equal size under construction. In addition, many schools and playgrounds near the conflict area are being used as temporary quarters.

Once most of the displaced have the basics of food, water and shelter, the focus will shift to addressing some of the counseling and emotional needs of the stressed population, he added.

Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu, executive director of the Center for Policy Alternatives in Colombo, the capital, said the government had ample warning that tens of thousands of fleeing civilians would need help — especially given its repeated calls for noncombatants to vacate Tiger-held areas. As a result, it should have focused more on humanitarian issues earlier.

“The facilities made available for people coming out is woefully inadequate,” he said. “They were still woefully unprepared.”

The fact that rebel leaders are starting to give themselves up suggests the organization is conceding defeat, he added.

Among the highest-profile Tiger defection in recent years was Karuna Amman, a former eastern commander who joined the government side in 2004. In general, however, the Tigers have been known for their tight discipline and use of innovative technology and methods, some of which has been copied by other militant groups globally.

One example is the Tigers’ development of a suicide vest that detonates when its wearer lifts his or her hands in a sign of surrender, helping to ensure that far fewer Tiger suicide bombers were taken alive than Palestinians bombers, for instance.

According to local reports, Daya Master was a private English tutor before he joined the Tigers. Initially, his main job was to meet dignitaries from the south as part of the group’s bid to bolster political support. Eventually he caught the eye of Tiger leader and founder Velupillai Prabhakaran and was asked to head the group’s media and propaganda operation before being replaced.

George Master started out as a government postmaster before switching sides, serving as a translator and interpreter for senior rebel officials, including trips abroad as part of delegations taking part in ultimately unsuccessful peace talks.

The alleged capture of the two officials today has fueled further speculation on the whereabouts and ultimate fate of Prabhakaran. “You hear a lot of speculation,” Bartlett said, “but nothing can be confirmed.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sri Lankan War in Endgame, 100,000 Escape Rebel Zone

COLOMBO (Reuters) — Thousands more civilians surged out of Sri Lanka’s war zone on Wednesday, while soldiers and Tamil Tiger rebels fought the apparent endgame of Asia’s longest-running war despite calls to protect those still trapped.

In the third day since troops blasted through a massive earthen wall built by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and unleashed the exodus, the military said at least 100,000 people had been registered for onward transit to refugee camps.

Among those who came out was the LTTE’s ex-spokesman Daya Master, a former schoolteacher who was the Tigers’ voice to the English-speaking world for years and arranged media visits to the self-declared state the separatists had fought to create.

The military said he was the most senior rebel to surrender, an act that is in contravention of LTTE founder-leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran’s dictate that followers wear cyanide vials to be taken in case of capture.

He surrendered along with the translator for the late LTTE political head S.P. Thamilselvan as troops thrust deeper into a former army-declared no-fire zone that is now the last battleground in a war that erupted in 1983.

For a third straight day, the military progress drove the Colombo Stock Exchange higher, traders said. It closed up 1.4 percent, near a three-month high.

The military says troops now control all but 13 square km (5 sq miles) of the Indian Ocean island, where the remnants of the LTTE and Prabhakaran are fighting a final stand in their war to create a separate state for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority.

“Confrontations are taking place. Whenever we come across LTTE cadres, we are fighting them. The rescue operation is continuing,” military spokesman Brigadier Udaya Nanayakkara said.

The number of people who have fled this year is now around 173,439 according to the military tally.


The United Nations confirmed this week’s outflow.

“It is 60,000 plus and counting, and we have heard various reports of up to 110,000 coming out,” said the U.N. spokesman in Colombo, Gordon Weiss. He cautioned the reports were preliminary and not confirmed.

The LTTE has accused the military of fabricating the numbers and of capturing people it says are staying by choice. It has ignored all calls to free civilians while urging a truce, and on Tuesday vowed no surrender despite facing overwhelming firepower.

Independent confirmation of battlefield accounts is difficult because outsiders are generally restricted from it.

Dashing the LTTE’s hope India would step in to help a group it trained in the 1980s, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday told reporters: “We have no sympathy for the terrorists, but every sympathy for the civilians.”

Meanwhile, France and other countries raised alarm about those still trapped. The International Committee of the Red Cross on Tuesday warned the situation was “catastrophic” for the 50,000 or more still there with little, food, water or medicine.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in a statement said Paris wanted a U.N. Security Council meeting to “reiterate the absolute necessity of protecting civilian populations and enabling their evacuation.

China and Russia so far have opposed attempts to bring up Sri Lanka at the council. Earlier, Kouchner said France and Britain would try to send ships to Sri Lanka to evacuate the people.

The European Union said civilian protection was “now paramount” and urged both sides to work out an orderly surrender, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said.

The massive civilian presence in the no-fire zone had been the last crucial defense for the Tigers, who refused repeated calls from the United Nations, Western governments and neighboring India to release them.

They ignored a two-day pause by the government last week.

Sri Lanka’s government has rejected LTTE and international calls for a new truce, saying it cannot allow a group designated as a terrorist organization by more than 30 countries to use the time to rearm as it has done before.

Aid agencies have warned refugee camp conditions could quickly turn poor with the anticipated population doubling, but Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has ordered extra food and relief supplies to be sent.

After the conventional end of the war, Sri Lanka will face the challenges of healing divisions between the Tamil minority and Sinhalese majority, and boosting a $40 billion economy suffering on many fronts including a weakening rupee.

Sri Lanka is seeking a $1.9 billion International Monetary Fund loan to ease a balance of payments crisis and boost flagging foreign exchange reserves.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka Will Not Accept Compensation for Damage to Mission in Oslo

The Sri Lanka government will not accept the Norwegian offer of compensating the government for damage caused by an attack on Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo last Sunday by a group of pro-LTTE demonstrators.

“We will not be accepting the offer of compensation made by Norway,” a senior foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity. “We can meet the cost ourselves.”

Officials in Colombo are also unhappy that the Norwegian Foreign Minister had not directly contacted his counterpart in Colombo to express regret over this attack.

In a news release last week, the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Colombo said that Norway’s Foreign Minister “has personally conveyed his regrets through the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo.”

“Given the fact that a Norwegian minister could talk to the chief of the LTTE’s political wing and police, Nadesan, on the telephone, what is the difficulty for Norway’s foreign minister to talk to our minister about this attack?” an official of the Colombo foreign office asked.

The Norwegian news release said that “Norway will compensate the Sri Lankan government for the damages done to the property of the Sri Lankan Embassy.”

Diplomats in Colombo said that this was an indication of Norway accepting culpability for the attack by not providing the required security.

Norway has taken up the position that there was tight surveillance of LTTE groups and the only foreign diplomatic mission in Oslo provided a static police guard was the Israeli Embassy.

There has been extensive comment here that the fact that the attack was videoed by somebody who seem to have accompanied the group responsible for the outrage, it would be easy for investigators in Oslo to identify those who were present and take necessary action.

“Was it because those responsible are now Norwegians?” one source asked.

Information available suggested that only one person had been questioned and that he had not been detained.

“The Norwegian police are giving the investigation of the attack the highest priority, and the police are doing everything they can to bring the culprits to justice,” the Norwegian statement said.

Norway claimed a longstanding friendship with Sri Lanka with the Royal Norwegian Government saying that all their efforts have been to work for peace within a united Sri Lanka.

“All attention was now directed towards the precarious situation for the civilians trapped in the conflict zone, and to end the fight without further bloodshed,” a Norwegian statement said.

Earlier last week Mr. Jon Hanssen-Bauer, Norway’s Special Envoy to Sri Lanka, said that Norway had not been able to play a mediation role in Sri Lanka’s civil war since the peace process broke down three years ago.

“We cannot be facilitators in a peace process which has in effect been suspended since 2006,” Hanssen Bauer said.

He made this comment after the Sri Lankan government had announced that it “perceives that it is no longer feasible for Norway to act as facilitator in its engagement with Sri Lanka in the current context.”

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Sri Lanka: Twists in Norwegian Peace Efforts

Norwegian officials appear to have thrown overboard international obligations which they have undertaken to uphold in their haste to meddle in Sri Lanka’s internal affairs.

Though the most recent incident of turning a Nelsonian eye to the attack by suspected Tiger terrorist sympathisers on the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oslo and a deaf ear to its earlier repeated requests for security resulted in ‘pie in the face for Norway’ in the form of it being kicked out of its ‘facilitator’ role between the Government and the LTTE, a previous ‘indiscretion’ against Sri Lankan and Indian interests almost went un-noticed.

Clandestine visit It is the disregard of its obligations to the world’s largest international police organization, INTERPOL by Tore Hattrem, the Norwegian Ambassador to Sri Lanka when he undertook a recent clandestine visit to Malaysia. The visit was to meet an international criminal, wanted for the murder of a former Indian Prime Minister, Rajiv Ghandi and a violator of the Indian terrorist Act and the Indian Explosives Act. Perhaps to this descendent of the ancient Vikings, who plundered the countries they invaded with scarce respect for the inhabitants, it may not appear to be an act of insulting and disrespecting the Government or the people of India.

The man, identified as Tharmalingam, Shanmugam Kumaran alias Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP was placed on INTERPOL red notice, which seeks the arrest or provisional arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition, at India’s request following the murder of Rajiv Ghandi by the Tigers.

KP Operating the Tiger’s procurement network clandestinely from Thailand and Malaysia, KP has managed to evade arrest so far and was recently appointed as the LTTE Head of International Relations. Some analysts believe that this move is aimed at providing KP some ‘respectability’ which may enable him freedom of movement among western countries and would also lead to the INTERPOL red notice being observed in the breach by some well intentioned but ignorant officials sympathetic to the Tigers.

Whereas it beggars belief that the Norwegian envoy would have met KP without being briefed of his antecedents by the Norwegian authorities, one wonders (now that he has met a man on INTERPOL’s wanted list) whether he is willing to abide by the organization’s request to its members and the public to contact National or local police and provide information.

It is said that the meeting between the envoy and KP was to facilitate contact between the conspirator in the murder of a former Indian Prime Minister and UN Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Sir John Holmes. Did the Norwegian envoy inform the UN top official about the antecedent of KP or was Sir Holmes an innocent party to an international conspiracy against Sri Lanka which paid scant regard to the obligations towards a friendly country like India and an organization such as INTERPOL?

Distrust According to a former senior official of INTERPOL, such brash actions by short sighted officials of member countries not only tends to undermine the integrity of the organization but builds distrust between the Police Forces of member countries. Formed in 1923, INTERPOL is the world’s largest international police organization and comprises 187 member countries which include Norway, India and Sri Lanka. It facilitates cross border police co-operation and supports and assists all organizations, authorities and services whose mission is to prevent or combat international crime. One of its key functions is to help police in member countries share critical crime-related information using the organizations system of international notices. The notices are in different colours and have different objectives. Topping the list is the Red notice which seeks the arrest or provisional arrest of wanted persons with a view to extradition.

While on the subject of KP and Norway it would not be amiss to recall an incident which occurred in June 2000 in Phuket , Thailand from where KP was directing LTTE procurement operations.

Unmasked Thai police conducting operations against oil smugglers stumbled upon a shipyard making submersibles for the LTTE and the key man behind the operation was a Norwegian national named Christy Reginald Lawrence. Originally from Sri Lanka, Christy Lawrence, who was married to a Thai woman, was arrested along with several others. Sonar and Radar equipment, satellite telephones as well as other sophisticated equipment were recovered along with military fatigues and other equipment meant for the LTTE.

Credibility questioned Investigations by the Thais revealed that the a so called tourist operation engaged in by Lawrence was a cover up for smuggling arms and other items from the Thai Cambodian border via the Andaman Islands to the LTTE. The Norwegian was convicted by the Thai authorities but mysteriously disappeared from Thailand. This followed a visit by a woman posing as a representative of Amnesty International who had apparently got the Thai authorities to deport him to Norway.

In light of these events, where its dabbling had perturbed the authorities of several countries one wonders at the credibility of the Norwegian Government and its agents and their ability to mediate in world affairs. As a wag pointed out following the attack on the Sri Lankan Embassy, these people try to mediate peace in Sri Lanka but cannot do so in their own backyard and also fail to meet their international obligations to boot.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Uzbekistan Sentences Hizb Ut-Tahrir Leader, Accomplices to Lengthy Prison Terms

Tashkent, April 22, Interfax — Uzbekistan has sentenced a Hizb ut-Tahrir leader acting in the Ferghana Valley to 14 years in prison.

The Andijan Regional Court sentenced Mahmud Karimov, born in 1959, to 14 years in prison, a law enforcement source told Interfax.

“A group of his five accomplices were sentenced to lengthy prison terms along with Karimov,” the source said.

All the defendants had been charged with an attempt to violently change the constitutional system, the establishment of a banned religious extremist or fundamentalist organization, and circulation of documents threatening public security, he said.

Karimov had been first sentenced to 14 years in prison for his activities as a Hizb ut-Tahrir member in 1999 but was amnestied in 2003.

Karimov said during his trial that, soon after his release, he was approached by one Abdurahim Tukhtasinov, a man responsible for Hizb ut-Tahrir activities in Uzbekistan, who had been on the wanted list on suspicion of committing a number of serious crimes.

“After I was released, Abdurahim Tukhtasinov approached me and said that he would send me $500 monthly from the money coming from abroad. I was instructed to propagate Hizb ut-Tahrir ideas throughout the Ferghana Valley and recruit new supporters. This was an instruction from one of the organization’s leaders, Abu Rashta,” Karimov said at the court.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Far East

China: Jackie Chan’s China Comments Prompt Backlash

HONG KONG (AP) — Action star Jackie Chan’s comments wondering whether Chinese people “need to be controlled” have drawn sharp rebuke in his native Hong Kong and in Taiwan.

Chan told a business forum in the southern Chinese province of Hainan that a free society may not be beneficial for China’s authoritarian mainland.

“I’m not sure if it’s good to have freedom or not,” Chan said Saturday. “I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want.”

He went on to say that freedoms in Hong Kong and Taiwan made those societies “chaotic.”

Chan’s comments drew applause from a predominantly Chinese audience of business leaders, but did not sit well with lawmakers in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“He’s insulted the Chinese people. Chinese people aren’t pets,” Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Leung Kwok-hung told The Associated Press. “Chinese society needs a democratic system to protect human rights and rule of law.”

Another lawmaker, Albert Ho, called the comments “racist,” adding: “People around the world are running their own countries. Why can’t Chinese do the same?”

Former British colony Hong Kong enjoys Western-style civil liberties and some democratic elections under Chinese rule. Half of its 60-member legislature is elected, with the other half picked by special interest groups. But Hong Kong’s leader is chosen by a panel stacked with Beijing loyalists.

In democratically self-ruled Taiwan, which split from mainland China during a civil war in 1949, legislator Huang Wei-che said Chan himself “has enjoyed freedom and democracy and has reaped the economic benefits of capitalism. But he has yet to grasp the true meaning of freedom and democracy.”

Chan’s comments were reported by news outlets in Hong Kong and Taiwan, but were ignored by the mainland Chinese press.

Although Chan was a fierce critic of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in June 1989, which killed at least hundreds, he has not publicly criticized China’s government in recent years and is immensely popular on the mainland.

He performed during the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics and took part in the Olympic torch relay.

Chan also is vice chairman of the China Film Association, a key industry group.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

S. Korea: “Mini-Pig” a Promising Sign for Transplants

A team of Korean scientists has successfully produced a genetically engineered and cloned piglet that is partially deprived of the genes that cause the human body to reject pig organ transplants, the Science Ministry said yesterday.

The world’s second birth of a so-called ¡°mini-pig¡± is expected to pave the way for more successful pig-to-human transplants.

According to Korea Biotech R&D, a state-run research group composed of scientists from different universities nationwide, the piglet was born healthy on April 3 and is now being cared for at the National Institute of Animal Science in Suwon, on the outskirts of Seoul.

When pig organs are transplanted into humans, a type of immune reaction called hyperacute graft rejection occurs within minutes to hours, rendering the organ non-functional.

By removing one of two genes involved in the hostile immune response, the Korean scientists overcame a major obstacle in transplants between pigs and humans. A research team at the University of Missouri-Columbia, led by Randall Prather, initially succeeded in doing the same in 2002. Four such piglets were born at the time.

When human organs deteriorate to a certain stage, transplantation from other humans is the only real solution available now.

But huge demand and little supply has prompted scientists to come up with an alternative source — organs from animals. According to the Science Ministry, an average of around 6,000 people in the United States have died due to human organ shortage in recent years. The ministry estimates that there will be 1.58 million people on the waiting list for organ transplantation by 2015.

“Commercialization of mini-pig organ transplantation into humans may be possible around 2017,” said Lim Kyo-bin, a team member and professor at the University of Suwon.

The ministry said Korea Biotech R&D will conduct a joint study with the Welfare Ministry on commercializing pancreas islet cells, heart valves and hearts from mini-pigs for transplantation. With the National Institute of Animal Science, the research center will work on mass production of cloned piglets without the immune rejection genes.

Pigs are species deemed to be more acceptable donors for humans. The type of pigs used in the study comes from a unique line of miniature swine.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Islamic School Would Breed Terrorists: Resident

AN Islamic school in Camden would be “a breeding ground for terrorists”, says a resident who gave evidence in support of Camden Council at an appeal against its decision to block the school.

Judith Bond said the school would teach war and how to kill.

“Values of violence will be emphasised. It will be a breeding ground for terrorists … There will be a surge of gang rapes, looting and attacking infidels,” Ms Bond said..

Camden residents presented evidence via DVD at the second day of a hearing to decide whether the $19 million Islamic school should be built on the outskirts of the town south-west of Sydney..

The area’s Christian values were threatened by the proposal, said another resident, John Waterhouse, who warned Christmas decorations and nativity scenes would be “pulled down or withdrawn on some sort of process of religious nit-picking”.

Describing Camden as “the mouse that dared to roar”, he said he did not want prayer mats unrolled in shops or “[our] teenage daughters subjected to demeaning taunts wearing jeans, shorts or T-shirts”.

Another resident, Kate McCullogh, who was compared with Pauline Hanson when she addressed a meeting last year wearing an Akubra hat decorated with Australian flags, said she was “no redneck xenophobic racist like the media have put to me”.

“Let’s start making people understand that the Western way of life is the best way of life,” she said.

Other residents’ objections were based on urban planning matters, including traffic flow and proximity to working farms.

Until now, Camden Council has largely distanced itself from ideological justifications for blocking the development application for a 900-student school. When it voted unanimously to reject the project last May, it did so “on planning grounds alone”.

But on the opening day of the appeal to the Land and Environment Court on Tuesday, council’s barrister, Craig Leggat, SC, opened his evidence with a letter signed by a group of the region’s Christian leaders, who said Islam was an ideology with a plan for world domination.

The Reverend Fred Nile, leader of the Christian Democratic Party and an outspoken critic of the school, said the signatories had his full support.

None of the church leaders responded to the Herald’s calls yesterday. The hearing continues today.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Religious Leaders Unite to Fight Vilification Laws

POWERFUL and morally conservative religious leaders and laymen, including Christians, Jews and Muslims, have united to form a lobby group to fight what they say is the growing threat to religious freedom in Australia.

The Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty will be launched at NSW Parliament House tonight and formally brings together for the first time the leaders of several religious groups.

The centre’s chairman, the Sydney lawyer Rocco Mimmo, said the leaders were increasingly worried that religious vilification laws — such as the ones used in Victoria to prosecute a Pentacostal pastor for inflammatory comments about Islam — would be introduced nationally.

“All of us have concerns, for different reasons, that religious liberty is in danger,” Mr Mimmo told the Herald.

“Anti-vilification laws have a superficial appeal to people but, however inappropriate those comments made by the Victorian pastor, I doubt very much whether they actually incited people to violence.”

The centre’s heavyweight board includes the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Peter Jensen. While the men are friends, and have lobbied the state and federal governments on issues such as stem cell research and funding for church schools, they remain deeply divided by church doctrine — so much so that Sydney’s Anglican leaders will not attend ecumenical services if they involve a Catholic mass.

The board also includes the former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister John Anderson; the senior rabbi of Sydney’s Great Synagogue, Jeremy Lawrence; Haset Sali, a Brisbane lawyer and member of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils; the Adelaide academic My-Van Tran, a prominent Buddhist leader; and the Hindu leader Gambhir Watts.

Mr Sali said that as a Muslim, he was worried anti-vilification laws could be used against his faith. He also said the religious leaders were united by a common view on the “sanctity of life”, on issues such as abortion and stem cell research.

While a senior member of the Anglican Church’s Sydney diocese insisted the Ambrose Centre was not an organisation designed to encourage “interfaith dialogue”, and therefore not a break with the diocese’s tradition, other prominent Anglicans disagreed.

Stephen Judd, the author of the diocese’s official history, described Dr Jensen’s involvement as “a very significant step”. “This group is incredibly diverse,” Dr Judd said.. “I cannot recall other multifaith involvements of this stature.”

The Ambrose Centre has links with a prominent right-wing foundation in the US, the Action Institute, which describes itself as “an ecumenical think tank dedicated to the study of free-market economics informed by religious faith and moral absolutes”.

Mr Mimmo said the centre did not share the American institute’s embrace of free-market capitalism.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

24 Killed as Kenya Town Battles Violent Gang

NAIROBI (AFP) — At least 24 people were stoned and hacked to death when local residents in the central Kenyan town of Karatina formed posses to flush out the outlawed Mungiki gang, police said Tuesday.

The clashes started late Monday when residents organised in small groups armed with crude weapons decided to fight back against the Mungiki, a violent mafia-like extortionist group famous for beheading and skinning its victims.

“A total of 24 people are dead as we speak but we are not able to tell who is Mungiki and who is not,” Kenyan police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP. “It’s a very bad scene.”

“At night, the groups of locals started attacking some of the youths they suspected to be Mungiki members and slashed some of them to death,” he said.

Police sources said at least three people were wounded and 37 suspected were arrested.

Kiraithe said the town and its surrounding turned into a battlefield as Mungiki regrouped and fought back.

“We understand that the Mungiki also regrouped and engaged the locals in an all-out war in the villages,” he said.

“All of those killed were hacked or stoned to death. Our officers tried to restore order, otherwise the situation could have degenerated into something much worse than it is,” the police spokesman added.

At dawn, police forces were attempting to impose order in Karatina. Kiraithe said they had collected machetes and other crude weapons from the scene.

“Some suspects have been arrested and we are hunting for more,” he added.

At least 15 suspected Mungiki members were hacked, stoned or burned to death by mobs in the area over the past 10 days.

“Residents of the two divisions in Kirinyaga and Karatina appear to be tired of these illegal groupings and their activities,” Kiraithe explained.

“Last week, they killed about 15 of them, but we are urging the locals to refrain from lynching suspects. They should hand them over to the police.”

Karatina is north of Nairobi, one the road to the city of Nyeri, in the heartland of Kenya’s dominant Kikuyu tribe.

The Mungiki, which means “multitude” in Kikuyu, claim to be a sect founded by Mau Mau fighters who fought British colonial rule.

Once a quasi-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals, the Mungiki were banned in 2002 after evolving into a powerful extortionist gang with ultra-violent methods.

After a drive by police and security forces to dismantle the gang in early 2007, human rights activists say the Mungiki were enlisted as a pro-government militia during the post-election tribal clashes that erupted in early 2008.

Police was also accused in a UN report on extrajudicial killings of executing dozens of Mungiki suspects and intimidating rights groups investigating the deaths.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

A Teddy Bear Nightmare in Sudan

Recently divorced, and her children having left home, Gillian Gibbons took the opportunity to travel and teach at the same time — but she got a little more than she bargained for.

She told John Humphrys for the BBC’s On the Ropes programme how a teddy bear in a primary school in Khartoum led to her arrest and riots in the streets.

Anyone who is a teacher or had a child in Year Two [in the UK] would recognise Barnaby Bear as being part of the curriculum.

He goes to different places and sends postcards back, and we use this as a way of introducing the world and geography.

What tends to happen in most schools is the children take Barnaby Bear home with them. They take photographs and write in his diary and stick in the photos, especially if they are going somewhere for the weekend.

One of the children [at the primary school in Khartoum] brought one in but some of the boys in the class thought this was a bit babyish, so to make them feel more part of it I let them choose his name.

They actually named it Mohammed after a little boy in the class who is very popular. Schoolchildren borrowed him and took him home; none of the parents complained.

Then there a discussion in the school with certain people about whether it was appropriate [to name a teddy Mohammed].

When I realised I had caused offence I was extremely upset. I apologised and that seemed to be the end of it.

But four weeks later the headmaster came to me and said some of the Muslim teachers had complained about it and said I had to stop the [bear] project. So I told the class that the little girl who had brought in the bear was missing him and would take him home.

I never really found out who it was who actually went to the Ministry of Education to complain about it. On Sunday I went to the local hotel to use the swimming pool like I did every Sunday and when I came back the head teacher and deputy head teacher were there waiting for me. They said the police were coming to interview me.

When the police arrived they came with soldiers with machine guns and a warrant for my arrest. For the first time I realised the situation had got very serious.

It was confusing — terrifying — surreal, really. They put me in a police cell and they said they were going to organise bail for me. I waited for three hours then finally I asked for some water and they brought me in a plastic bag that the school had sent for me and it was then that I realised that I wouldn’t be going back home.

The problem with Sudanese jails is they don’t have any furniture in the cell — no chairs or beds — so basically if your relatives don’t send you any bedding you sleep on the floor. I actually stood up all night because the floor was filthy.

Eventually people [arrived] from the British embassy and they got in touch with my next of kin. That was when I realised my whole world had caved in.

They told me it had been in the Sudanese press, there had been demonstrations and that the police said they were holding me for my own safety.

I was never actually charged. But they kept telling me that it would never go to court and that if it did it would be thrown out so all the time I had the expectation that the nightmare would end.

I wasn’t treated badly in the police station. It wasn’t a three-star hotel, but after a while they realised I wasn’t this evil person, just a middle-aged woman who’d been caught up in this.

On the third day I was told I was going to the airport and I was bundled into a jeep with an armed escort. When we crossed the river I knew we were not going to the airport because we were going the wrong way — and then we arrived at another jail.

I was the only prisoner — it was brand new jail. It was worse in some ways sitting there with your own imagination.

In the middle of the night, I was lying on the floor when suddenly the door of my cell opened. I thought, oh well, this is when something horrible is going to happen to me.

The next minute they march in with a bed — a present from the Ministry of the Interior — and proceeded to make it up and sweep out my cell.

That bed changed my life because I could sit on it during the day and sleep on it during the night so it really was the best present anyone has given me.

Eventually the school found me a lawyer but I did not see him until the day of the trial; I saw his assistants the night before after they had been waiting all day.

I arrived in the courthouse and it was full of people and it was really noisy. Soldiers everywhere with guns, the press shouting at me.

As the trial proceeded they produced this teddy bear out of a plastic bag and sat him in front of the judge.

They pointed and said “Was this the bear?” as if the poor bear was on trial — you could almost see him shivering! Even in all that stress I could see the funny side.

They gave me a chance to speak. It caused an eerie silence in the court..

I think it was the sincerity with which I spoke — I think even the prosecution lawyers realised I was just just a middle-aged woman. The demonstrators outside had been told I was part of a conspiracy — Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoonist and me.

When the judge gave his guilty verdict I was whisked off back to the cell. They gave me 15 days and I had already served five but they had to give me more because the prosecution had 10 days to appeal against the leniency of my sentence.

One more bizarre thing in the string of many was [the appearance, totally unexpectedly, of the UK peers] Lord Ahmed and Lady Varsi. And they said they were going to appeal to the president on my behalf. Baroness Warsi and Lord Ahmed meet President Omar al-Bashir On the third day of their visit, Lord Ahmed and Baroness Warsi met Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir

By this stage I was being really well treated by the guards, they’d even put bottled water in the fridge, didn’t even lock me in any more. But there was always the possibility that [the good treatment] could end in a moment.

[The two peers had arranged my freedom but] it was only when the plane took off that I believed it was happening.

I’ve always taken responsibility for what happened. The fact that it turned into an international incident was not my fault, others used it.

The most touching thing of all were the messages I received from Muslims because I had said I still had respect for the religion. I was very concerned when I got back that I would be perceived as a racist. But if I could turn back time to the day when we chose the name I would change it all.

At the time being in that situation was so stressful, I carry around the guilt — the school was damaged by it and my family and friends could not even sleep.

I was very happy in Sudan and would be more than happy to be working there now.

On the Ropes was broadcast on Tuesday 21 April on BBC Radio 4

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

When Kindness Kills

Aid to Africa is stifling enterprise, feeding corruption and keeping oppressive governments in power.

Visitors to big cities in Africa notice that people live in the streets, partly because of the climate, partly because of the gregarious nature of the people, partly because of the poverty of their homes, and partly because outside is where things happen, especially where people earn their daily bread.

Such is Kibera in Nairobi, one of Africa’s largest slum settlements, made of shacks, some of baked mud, others of zinc sheets and cardboard. The informal sector, “jua kali” (in Swahili means “hot sun”) operates outdoors: food, clothes and all household items are on inviting display, and for sale. You can watch men making simple stoves, grills for your windows, hub caps for your car; you watch, you buy and you take home. Without the informal sector, the close to one million inhabitants of Kibera would either be unable to survive, or would rush down into the city centre, about two or three kilometres away, and start a riot.

On the outskirts of Kibera, safely close to a major urban highway, stands the headquarters of the United Nations agency for human settlements, whose mission is “to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities with the goal of providing adequate shelter for all”. It has an annual budget of millions of dollars to carry this out. Yet its headquarters is just close enough to catch the acrid smell of open sewage that permeates the slum. Its inhabitants live with it every hour of every day.

Foreign aid, especially to backward, suffering Africa has become one of the favourite activities of the last 30 years especially. It really kicked off with the Ethiopian famine in 1984, which was caused by drought, Marxist politics and mismanagement. Kenya is an NGO haven; yet local people see these organizations as mixed blessings. The day before the US elections last year, I was in Kibera, driving behind a van filled with white NGO staff. A local youth saw them and shouted: “Obama no win, we kill you!” A case of biting the hand that feeds, or something different?

Perhaps an intuition that, despite all the money that is pouring in, somehow life is no better. Young people are still unemployed and unemployable; there are no proper roads, no proper sewage, no money for school uniforms and textbooks; people are still surviving on less than a dollar a day; the rulers are taking everything; and the only improvements to be seen are the ones initiated by Kibera residents. So, what are the NGO bureaucrats doing with their expensive four-wheel drives, generous salaries and two-year service stints? To say this is the whole reality would be unfair, but it is the perception of many impoverished slum-dwellers.

On the same occasion I met with a youth group that needed ideas, encouragement — and money to get started. It was the first time I met them. One strong young man asked me: “Have you come to bring us money?” No, I told him, so he got up and left. Reliance on foreign aid has left much of Africa poorer and growth slower, more sunk in debt, more exposed to the vagaries of the currency markets, and less attractive to overseas investors. Zambian economist Dambiso Moyo recently claimed in the Wall Street Journal that “aid (to Africa) is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster.”

Sometimes aid is needed in Africa, as anywhere else, to deal with the aftermath of tsunamis, earthquakes and famines. But these are one-off events. Aid can alleviate immediate suffering, but treating it as the launching-pad for long-term growth is problematic.

Over the past 60 years, at least US$1 trillion of development-related aid has reached Africa from the wealthy countries, yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was 30 years ago, and still more than half of Africans live on less than a dollar a day. Even after the debt-relief campaign of the 1990s, African countries still pay close to $20 billion in debt repayments per annum, as if to remind us there is no such thing as a free lunch! To keep the system going, debt is repaid at the expense of education, health care and infrastructure.

Moreover, aid is linked with rampant corruption. Aid for poor Africans supports obese bureaucracies instead. In 2002, the African Union, an organization of African nations, estimated that corruption was costing the continent $150 billion a year, as many international donors were apparently looking the other way if aid money went into graft. The political and business elites get richer, while more and more poor people slip down even further to the level of bare subsistence.

Often with no strings attached — or when there are strings, they are the wrong ones, such as an aggressive birth control policy, complete with equipment and lavishly-paid local staff — it is easy for funds to be used for anything except real development, such as getting people started in business.

Examples of graft abound: Congo’s Mobutu Sese Seko is reputed to have stolen at least $5 billion during his 32-year reign. Zambia’s former president, Frederick Chiluba is in court to answer for millions of dollars taken from healthcare, education and infrastructure to his own private account. Kenya goes from one major scam to the next, with no one called to account, no one put in prison; rather, the suspects are shuffled around in ministerial posts.

Young economies need transparent, accountable governments and an efficient civil service, that is, civil servants who serve the interests of their people, not their own interests. Yet doing business in Africa puts off the average businessman. In Cameroon it takes a potential investor 426 days to perform 15 procedures to get a business license; in Angola, 119 days; in South Korea, only 17. No surprise few investors come to Africa. Ordinary citizens need employment or self-employment. Endless flows of aid do not achieve these goals. In fact, a continuous stream of “free” money — presently 70 percent of public funding comes from foreign aid — only manages to keep inefficient governments in power. A government like this is accountable to no one, and merely needs to pay its army to keep dissatisfied citizens in their place.

Some types of aid should be prohibited in order to develop local economies. For example, when a foreign government supplies 100,000 free mosquito nets, it immediately puts out of work a local mosquito-net maker who perhaps employs ten people to manufacture 500 nets a week. Each of these ten employees supports fifteen relatives each. When the nets tear and are useless, there’s no longer a local manufacturer to go to — he will have moved to an urban slum or given up on life — and so more aid will be needed from outside, keeping foreigners employed and local people deeper in poverty.

Aid and politics are intertwined. In Africa civil clashes (often called tribal clashes, ethnicity being the convenient conflictive factor) are invariably motivated by the thirst for power. The winner will have unlimited access to the aid package that comes with power. Aid-financed efforts to force-feed democracy to precarious African economies generally do not work. Long-term political stability can only be achieved on a solid economic base. Africa needs fair trading partners, not an endless cycle of aid, especially from the West, that keeps it dependent and oppressed.

Martyn Drakard writes from Kampala, in Uganda.

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

Latin America

Hugo Chavez Says Venezuelan Socialism Has Begun to Reach U.S. Under Obama

Inspired by his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the Americas Summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared on Sunday that Venezuelan socialism has begun to reach the United States under the Obama administration. “I am coming back from Trinidad and Tobago, from the Americas Summit where, without a doubt, the position that Venezuela and its government has always defended, especially starting 10 years ago, of resistance, dignity, sovereignty and independence has obtained in Port of Spain, one of the biggest victories of our history,” Chavez said. “It would seem that the changes that started in Venezuela in the last decade of the 20th century have begun to reach North America,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Venezuelan Opposition Leader Formally Seeks Asylum in Peru

The mayor of Maracaibo and top Venezuelan opposition leader, Manuel Rosales (Un Nuevo Tiempo, UNT), has formally applied for political asylum in Peru on Tuesday to avoid what he calls an unfair trial in Venezuela. Javier Valle Riestra, a lawmaker who is member of Alan García’s ruling APRA party and former prime minister of the government of Alberto Fujimori, identified himself as the attorney of Rosales. Valle Riestra said that the “request of territorial asylum” was filed at noon, a day after the Venezuelan politician entered Lima as a foreign tourist.

In Lima, Rosales has the legal advise of Peruvian pro-government lawmaker Jorge del Castillo, a former prime minister of Peru and a leader who has been considered a close ally of President García, told Reuters a source close to the mayor of Maracaibo, the second largest city of Venezuela.

“The territorial asylum application was filed on Tuesday at 12:15 (local time in Peru),” Valle Riestra said to RPP, a Peruvian radio station.

A source close to Rosales in Lima told Reuters that Rosales is in Peru with three of his sons and with a group of other 20 opposition activists.

Valle Riestra said that the reply of the Peruvian government to the asylum request could take up to two months. The incumbent mayor is receiving protection from the Peruvian government from the time he submitted the request. Valle Riestra warned that the fact that asylum is granted to Rosales cannot be viewed as a move of the Peruvian government against Chávez. “If asylum is granted, and this is logical, this does not mean that Chávez is being considered as a thug, a scoundrel or a despot. It just means that there are the conditions for asylum were met.”

Timoteo Zambrano, a vice president for International Affairs of UNT, confirmed at a press conference in Lima that Rosales had applied for political asylum. He mentioned the steps Venezuelan opposition groups have taken before international organizations in the hemisphere as well as in Europe to denounce the violation of the justice system in Venezuela and the weakening of the democratic system. He said that there is greater awareness in the international community about the situation in Venezuela.

“Today, the Venezuelan democratic society is under suspicion,” Zambrano said. The UNT leader admitted that Chávez has legitimacy when he was elected by popular vote. He said, however, that Chávez has been delegitimized during his tenure.

“Rosales is in Peru as a tourist” Peru’s foreign minister, José Antonio García Belaunde, had confirmed on Tuesday morning that the mayor of Maracaibo entered Lima on a tourist visa. “He is in Peru as a tourist,” he said.

“Relations between Venezuela and Peru are heading along a good path, and they will continue that way,” the Minister said.

Peruvian lawmaker Rolando Sousa, who is the coordinator of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Congress of Peru, said that if Manuel Rosales asks for asylum in Peru, the government must evaluate the application and determine whether he is a victim of political persecution and whether there are sufficient guarantees to make a fair trial in Venezuela, website said. “The government is able to decide whether the asylum is granted or not and to do that, it has to evaluate the situation,” Sousa said.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]


Colleges Push Tuition Aid for Illegal Immigrants

[Comment from Tuan Jim: I’m trying to figure out how this would work at all — since on all my applications for financial aid, it always required a SS# — and since I would think the fact of declaring yourself to be illegal would be a red flag — that could/would get you arrested/deported.]

WASHINGTON (AP) — Wading into the politically charged immigration debate, a group of colleges and universities is urging Congress to give illegal immigrants tuition aid and a path to citizenship in light of efforts in several states to block them.

The College Board, made up of 5,000 schools and best known for its SAT college admission tests, released a report Tuesday that cites a need for federal legislation that would open up in-state college tuition, financial aid and legal status to many illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Speaking publicly on the issue for the first time, the board is making its push after states in recent years have moved to bar illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition and, in some cases, enrolling in their public colleges. It also comes as opponents are warning that immigration reform now could reduce already-scarce jobs and college enrollment slots in the ailing economy.

“This is a new area for us, but it was an easy call,” said Thomas W. Rudin, a senior vice president for the College Board.

He noted the contradiction in which illegal immigrants who are legally entitled to a K-12 public education suddenly hit barriers when applying to college, even when many are “honor roll students, athletes, class presidents and valedictorians.”

“We absolutely believe it’s important for opening up economic opportunities,” Rudin said.

Under House and Senate bills known as the Dream Act, illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children — defined as age 15 and under — and have lived here for five years could apply to the Homeland Security Department for conditional legal status after graduating from high school.

Such legal status would make the immigrants eligible for in-state college tuition rates and some forms of federal financial aid. Then, if they attend college or participate in military service for at least two years, the immigrants would qualify for permanent legal residency and ultimately citizenship.

The legislation, which has been introduced in various forms since 2001, comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to address the contentious issue of immigration reform later this year. The Dream Act has previously passed the Senate but failed to become law as it was folded into proposals for more comprehensive reform.

“It’s a straightforward test of what America is about: Do we punish children for the actions of their parents?” said Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. “If, as we try to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, we can’t get this simple element done, I don’t know what we can get done.”

Opponents disagree.

“It’s a massive amnesty effort being laid for this fall,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to restrict immigration. “Since many of these illegal aliens and their families are overwhelmingly on the lower end of the economic scale, they’re going to take the lion’s share of need-based financial aid.”

Among the College Board’s findings:

_About 360,000 illegal immigrants who have a high school degree could qualify for the tuition aid. Another 715,000 immigrants between the ages of 5 and 17 would also benefit if they are motivated to finish high school and pursue a college degree.

_States that offer tuition aid to illegal immigrants generally saw increased college revenue by enrolling these additional students, rather than financial burdens caused by an influx of immigrants paying cheaper tuition.

_An estimated 5 percent to 10 percent of the 65,000 illegal immigrants who graduate from high school each year go to college. Their ability to receive a higher education and move into better-paying jobs would help the U.S. economy in the form of increased tax revenue and consumer spending.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that illegal immigrants are entitled to a K-12 public education, but federal law is silent as to their college rights. As a result, states have been divided over providing benefits, and in many cases leave it up to individual colleges to decide.

South Carolina bans illegal immigrants from enrolling at any of its public colleges, and Alabama blocks them from its two-year colleges. Missouri and Virginia are also considering laws that deny enrollment.

At least four states — Georgia, Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona — generally prohibit illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition rates.

The nine states that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants are California, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Utah and Washington. New Jersey is now reviewing whether to offer in-state tuition, while California is considering whether to let immigrants compete for financial aid.

           — Hat tip: Tuan Jim[Return to headlines]

EC Deals With Conflict Between Italy and Malta

(ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS, APRIL 21 — The conflict between Italy and Malta over rescue operations for immigrants on the Pinar ship have reached the European Commission. Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot will present the case to his colleagues. Italy has asked the EC to intervene. Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, has prepared a file for the Commission, which the EC will examine together with those sent by the Maltese authorities. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

France: 200 Illegal Migrants Found in Id Check

CALAIS, France — French police raided tent camps for a mass identity check Tuesday and detained nearly 200 people found without residency papers around Calais, an English Channel port that is a magnet for illegal migrants trying to reach Britain.

France is being pressed by Britain to do more to keep migrants from crossing the channel. Immigration Minister Eric Besson is scheduled to visit Calais on Thursday to lay out proposals for stopping illegal migration as well as deal with the growing humanitarian problem in the city.

Police in full riot gear joined regular officers in a sweep of sites where migrants have set up camp, including one area dubbed “the jungle” where tents and even a makeshift mosque have been set up in a field in an industrial zone.

As home to ferry terminals and an entrance to the English Channel train tunnel, Calais is a leading jumping off point for migrants who try to sneak into Britain, often hiding in trucks. Britian’s asylum rules are seen as more lax than those in France.

Migrant numbers, many of them Iraqis, Iranians, Afghanis and Pakistanis, had diminished after a Red Cross-administered shelter in nearby Sangatte was torn down in 2002 but recently began growing again.

Tuesday’s sweep, in which 194 migrants were detained, was aimed at weakening networks of smugglers, local authorities said in a statement.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Immigration: Obama Seeks Amnesty for Illegal Aliens

President Barack Obama is determined to succeed where G.W. Bush failed. According to many published reports, he fully intends to grant amnesty to tens of millions of illegal aliens. In fact, granting amnesty to illegal aliens is on Obama’s short list of priorities. That short list includes the nationalization of America’s financial systems, the nationalization of America’s healthcare and energy systems, expanding the wars in the Middle East, strengthening and increasing global agreements and associations, gun control (perhaps using international treaties where congressional legislation has failed), and amnesty to illegal aliens.

Watch for Obama to make a full-court press for an amnesty proposal next month. He has already appointed working groups to study strategies. Administration sources have said Obama wants amnesty legislation on his desk by this fall at the latest.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Malta: Ban Ki-moon to Arrive Tomorrow

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA (MALTA), APRIL 20 — The phenomenon of illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and the responsibility of the international community to stop this humanitarian tragedy will be discussed tomorrow by the Maltese government and the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, on his official visit to Valletta. Ban Ki-moon, who is to receive an honorary degree from the University of Malta, will have meetings with President George Abela, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and the Foreign Affairs minister, Tonio Borg. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Maroni Accuses Malta of Diverting 40,000 Refugees to Italy

Interior minister sends report to EU of 600 cases of failure to assist by Maltese authorities

ROME — The moment of greatest tension came one month ago, when the Italian navy’s Minerva was denied entry to the port of La Valletta. On board, were 76 illegal migrants rescued in Maltese waters. Despite this, the Minerva’s commander was refused permission to dock and had to sail for Porto Empedocle. It wasn’t the first time.

Italy has repeatedly accused Malta of redirecting towards Sicily ramshackle boats from Libya bearing refugees to Europe. It happened in 2004, when 13 Kurds hidden in an empty container on a merchant ship from Turkey were turned away at Gioia Tauro, denied permission to land at La Valletta and finally disembarked at Augusta in the province of Siracusa. On that occasion, too, the government of the day allowed humanitarian consideration to prevail. The report that Italy’s interior minister, Roberto Maroni, is set to deliver to the European commissioner for justice, Jacques Barrot, lists the dates and circumstances. It also makes a specific accusation: on 600 occasions, Malta’s failures to intervene have forced Italy to assist 40,000 individuals who should have been given shelter in Maltese centres. According to figures supplied to the interior ministry by the Italian coastguard, whose patrol boats are coordinated by Admiral Vincenzo Melone, in 2008 Italian vessels carried out 186 operations in the Maltese SAR (Search and Rescue) region, recovering 12,900 migrants. Things were a little better in 2007, when 148 boardings were effected and 6,255 non-Italians given shelter.

The decision by chief of police Antonio Manganelli to delegate the task of drafting the report to Prefect Rodolfo Ronconi, the central director of immigration, was carefully calculated. Mr Ronconi is an expert in international affairs. He has a thorough knowledge of maritime law treaties and is therefore competent to draft a precise list of the alleged violations. The report makes specific reference to the 1982 Montego Bay convention and above all to the 1974 Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) treaty, which obliges signatories to guarantee safety in navigation.

Italy alleges that the Maltese authorities agreed to monitor too large an area for their available resources simply to obtain more European funds…

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Pinar. EU: Thanks Italy But Alarm Remains

(by Chiara De Felice) (ANSAmed) — BRUSSELS — Now that the 140 migrants from the Turkish ship Pinar are safe on Italian territory, the EU Commission has thanked the government in Rome, is not getting into the matter of responsibility, but considers the subject far from closed, in that tomorrow the Italy-Malta case will be on the agenda of the Commissioners meeting in Strasbourg. Minister for the Interior, Roberto Maroni will send the Pinar dossier to the Commission for examination tomorrow along with the dossier from the Maltese authorities. “A solution has been found for the Turkish cargo, but the problem remains over what other dramas could happen in future” said EU Commissioner for Justice Jacques Barrot today. He thanked Italy for accepting the migrants and the help given to the Africans who had spent days waiting for a solution. While Italy calls loudly for EU intervention, Barrot is not budging: “The European Union must express a more concrete and efficient solidarity, and so I will take up the discussion on the immigration emergency again during the next Council of Ministers”, he explained. In particular, the Commissioner expressed his hopes that unanimous support will be given by the 27 nations for the policy of cooperation with transit countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. Furthermore, the member States which are not exposed to flows of migrants could take on some of the burden, at least that of immigrants who have already been declared refugees. For the moment intervention by Brussels is only taking the form of “mediation between Malta and Italy”, Barrot pointed out, and legal intervention to regulate traffic in the Mediterranean has been ruled out. “There is no specific directive under scrutiny” said the Commissioner’s spokesman today, explaining that marine policy remains regulated by international maritime law. Brussels also notes, without pointing the finger at anyone, that “international maritime law is not easy to interpret” said Barrot. It is not easy then for the Commissioner to ascertain responsibility for the Pinar case: “The law states that persons at risk of shipwreck must be taken to the closest port, but where reception conditions are acceptable”. He added that “evidently Malta and Italy both had objections” over this point. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Interview With Flemming Rose: an Islamist ‘New World Order’

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) member-states at the Durban II gathering in Geneva is pushing for “a new world order” that would expand and impose “nondemocratic and illiberal values on the West,” says the Danish editor who in 2005 commissioned and published a series of cartoons, one of which depicted the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban that led to worldwide Muslim rioting.

Flemming Rose, editor of Jyllands-Posten, Denmark’s largest-circulation newspaper, is visiting Israel under the auspices of the Hebrew University’s Shasha Center for Strategic Studies, headed by former Mossad director Efraim Halevy. He’s here to lecture on how nations need to find the right balance between religious sensitivities and freedom of expression.

Rose says the OIC is trying to use Durban II to rewrite the rules of human rights and international law in a way that undermines the values of liberty enshrined in the Western canon — including the US Bill of Rights, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It’s all part of an ongoing Muslim campaign that has been making significant strides, says Rose.

European liberal values, which dominated United Nations voting following the fall of the Soviet Union, are now in retreat. Muslim states attending Durban II are pushing the conference to say that criticizing Islam is a form of incitement.

“We’re seeing an erosion of support in the West for freedom of expression in the guise of preventing incitement against Islam,” says Rose.

He wants the West to stop being so defensive, pointing out that “Muslims in Demark enjoy far more civil and political rights than they would have in their home countries.”

Rose would distinguish between criticizing Islam as a theological and political idea and insulting its adherents…

           — Hat tip: Paul Green[Return to headlines]

Vatican: UN Racism Forum Should Not Promote ‘Extremist’ Views

Vatican City, 21 April (AKI) — The Vatican on Tuesday reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations racism conference and said it deplored the use of the forum for “extremist and offensive” political views. In a statement released through its press office head Federico Lombardi, the Vatican attacked the controversial speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in which he described Israel as “the most cruel and racist regime”.

Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday asked delegates to the UN conference to support dialogue and put an end to every form of racism, discrimination and intolerance. On Monday the Vatican, which has a delegation at the conference being held in the Swiss city of Geneva, said Ahmadinejad’s comments about Israel were “extremist and unacceptable”.

“The Holy See deplores the use of this United Nations forum for the adoption of political positions, of an extremist and offensive nature, against any state,” the Vatican said on Tuesday.

“This does not contribute to dialogue and it provokes an unacceptable atmosphere of conflict. What is needed, instead, is to make good use of this important opportunity to engage in dialogue together.”

The Vatican reaffirmed the pope’s earlier appeal and reiterated the commitment of its own delegation to the conference to work in a spirit of cooperation and tolerance.

Pope Benedict XVI has urged countries to join forces to eliminate intolerance, even though the Vatican appeared to distance itself from a boycott of the meeting by the US and other countries.

The conference which began in the Swiss city of Geneva on Monday was an important initiative, the pope said.

Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, the United States and Israel, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have boycotted the conference.

At a media conference on Monday, Ahmadinejad said countries have decided to boycott the UN racism conference out of “arrogance and selfishness.”

The first UN conference on racism in the South African city of Durban eight years ago was marred by anti-Semitic comments from non-governmental organisations.

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


heroyalwhyness said...

Quote from JD's article titled "Twin Crisis" :

Since 2000, the U.S. added 26-29 million people driven primarily by legal and illegal immigration. Within the next 10 years, another 30 million people expect to call the USA home—again driven by unrelenting immigration.26-29 million in less than a decade?

And then another nearly equal 30 million more?

I question the figures. Considering the open border policies of the current administration, either the recent decades immigration figures of 26-29 million number is off - or the future estimate for 30 million additional immigrants appears too conservative.

There is also reason for serious concern about the source of the next generations of immigrants, given the current narcissist-in-chief's most recent display of respect and chummy handshakes - not to mention callous indifference and tasteless/thoughtless exchanges of gifts with one time revered allies.

heroyalwhyness said...

Bruce Bawers' terrific article at WSJ led me to this interesting op/ed also in the WSJ:

Presidential Poison -
His invitation to indict Bush officials will haunt Obama's Presidency.
"Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret."

Zenster said...

[From the Bruce Bawers article] So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices -- and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice. And by the way, everyone agrees that senior officials, including President Bush, approved these interrogations. Is this President going to put his predecessor in the dock too?

Should this sort of across-the-aisle political back-stabbing form a precedent, perhaps Obama may look forward to a time where his bowing and scraping before America's sworn foes finds him brought up on charges of consorting with the enemy or even outright treason.

laine said...

Obama is either so stupid that he can't think a few moves ahead on the political chessboard to possible unwanted (by him) outcomes OR he thinks he'll be able to do away with term limits and become dictator for life like his preferred leftist thug role models. If the latter, would THAT wake up some of the dimwit Dems who are not extreme left?

Obama's turning out to be a one man particularly demented version of 24 but there's no Jack Bauer? (whatever the name of the "hero" in that show is).