Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/26/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/26/2009We have so many news tipsters now that some sets of two-letter initials are being repeated.

If you are sending us tips, and want us to use a unique nickname for you rather than initials, please send it with the next tip.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, CB, Gaia, IH, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, Nilk, TB, The Frozen North, TSJ, TV, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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100 Days in Office, Coronated Messiah
Terrorists on Tour
Europe and the EU
Al-Qaeda Group in Threat to Kill British Hostage Unless Abu Qatada Freed
Berliners Vote on Religious Education
EU Judges Want Sharia Law Applied in British Courts
Flemish Jews Irked by State-Funded ‘Anti-Israel’ Samson Opera
‘Nazi’ Cattle Being Bred in UK
UK: Police Spy on Activist Groups
UK: Terror Preacher Abu Hamza Gets Round Hunger Strike With Crisps
Israel and the Palestinians
Dissolving in the Two-State Solution
Russian Death Squads ‘Pulverise’ Chechens
South Asia
Pakistani Taliban Shave Men Listening to Music
Taliban Gunmen Shooting Couple Dead for Adultery Caught on Camera
Australia — Pacific
Police Top Brass’ Secret Plan to Reduce Area Commands
Young Father Stabbed and Beaten to Death With a Baseball Bat in Sydney’s South-West
Sub-Saharan Africa
Israeli Guards Drive Off Somali Pirates
Italy Ship Thwarts Pirate Attack
Latin America
Ahmadinejad to Visit Latin America Next Month
Third Refugee Boat in Fortnight Intercepted
UK: Field Hits Out Over Immigration Levels
Culture Wars
Germany: Public Resistance Against Homosexualization of Society
Conficker Virus Begins to Attack PCs


100 Days in Office, Coronated Messiah

Arms outstretched, he wears crown of thorns on his brow

On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be “crowned” in messianic imagery at New York City’s Union Square.

Artist Michael D’Antuono’s painting “The Truth” — featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head — will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square’s South Plaza.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Terrorists on Tour

Bill Ayers’ terrorist associate Mark Rudd said on Wednesday that News Corporation Chairman Rupert Murdoch paid him $50,000 ($25,000 in advance and $25,000 on completion) to write his memoir about his days as a member of the Weather Underground. But “Fifteen percent went to my agent and the rest went up my nose for coke.”


In his talk, Rudd made it clear that his communist ideology had not changed and reiterated his support for Communist Vietnam and Communist Cuba.


During a previous appearance in Berkeley, California, at a left-wing bookstore, Rudd had declared that the election of Barack Obama was a major “advance” and provides an “opening” for the far-left to continue making gains. Rudd serves on the board, with Ayers and his wife, fellow terrorist Bernardine Dohrn, of the “Movement for a Democratic Society,” which hopes to resurrect a “new SDS” on the college campuses. The SDS was the predecessor of the Weathermen and the Weather Underground.


Because of the presence at Cal State East Bay of about 10 critics of Rudd, including this columnist, who passed out fliers about his involvement in a group that killed at least four police officers, university officials ordered seven members of the campus police to stand by. Two police were actually in the room, which was in the university library, and others were posted outside. But they never had to intervene. In fact, the police seemed disgusted they had to be there to protect someone who had specialized in calling police “pigs” and whose organization bombed police stations and killed police officers.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Al-Qaeda Group in Threat to Kill British Hostage Unless Abu Qatada Freed

Al-Qaeda in North Africa has threated to kill a British hostage unless the UK government releases Abu Qatada, a radical Muslim preacher in custody in a British jail.

The terror group said in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site today that it will execute the tourist, who has been held by the group since late January, if Abu Qatada is not freed within 20 days.

Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian, was jailed in Britain in 2002 accused of links with militant groups but was released in 2005. He was re-arrested and is pending deportation to Jordan where he was sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

Four tourists, including two Swiss, a German woman and a British man, were kidnapped by gunmen on January 22 in Niger, their tour operator said. It is understood that they was seized near the border between Niger and Mali while they were returning from a music festival in the Sahara desert.

Al-Qaeda in North Africa grew out of an earlier Islamist organisation based in Algeria called the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

It has been praised by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s deputy, but appears to operate independent of bin Laden’s control.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Berliners Vote on Religious Education

Berliners voted Sunday in a referendum on religious education in schools that goes to the heart of how Germany’s sizeable Muslim minority is integrated into modern society, reports AFP’s Simon Sturdee.

Germany’s biggest city, described by one sociologist as “the world capital of atheism,” got a wake-up call in 2005 with an “honour killing” of a woman from the country’s Turkish community by her brother.

Shocked by how such a crime could occur in the capital of a country that aspires to be a modern, multicultural success story, its left-wing city hall decided that schoolchildren needed a lesson in ethics.

The idea was to foster common values in schools in a city where over 40 percent of children come from immigrant families, most of them Muslims, and nip dangerous radicalism in the bud.

Germany, which opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq but has around 3,700 troops in Afghanistan under NATO command, has managed to escape terror attacks by Islamic radicals but authorities say there is still a serious threat.

Following the honour killing of Hatun Surucu, the city introduced ethics classes in 2006-7 that all secondary school students — from whatever background — in Berlin have to attend.

But now, many people are angry and that rage led to 265,000 people signing a petition which forced Sunday’s referendum organised by a group called Pro Reli.

The group wants children to be able to opt out of ethics and take religion classes instead.

This is the case in most of the rest of Germany. Pro Reli — “Reli” being the nickname among German kids for religion classes — says that the whole idea behind the compulsory ethics classes is wrong-headed.

Learning more about Islam, not less — and openly, not behind closed doors — will help stop young Muslims turning into radicals, Pro Reli claims.

Leaders from other religious groups say children must be steeped in teachings from their own faith in order to understand the beliefs of others.

Supporters of the compulsory ethics classes counter that allowing children to choose between either ethics or religion lessons would split classes up and mean less integration, not more.

And they say that hot-button issues such as abortion, women’s rights and sexuality should be aired in a secular forum where all sides can be considered.

“Particularly when it comes to fostering values, children should not be separated on religious grounds and classes split,” according to a leaflet from the city’s ruling Social Democrats.

This “would be bad for integration in Berlin and bad for the education of our children,” it says.

The campaign has seen billboards plastered up all over Berlin — many of which have been vandalised — and it has drawn in celebrities from the worlds of politics, sport and entertainment on both sides of a lively and sometimes heated debate.

According to a recent survey, a wafer-thin majority — 51 percent — of people support a “yes” vote in Pro Reli’s favour, but high turnout is key for the result to carry.

Polls were due to close at 6:00 pm (1600 GMT) with preliminary results expected around two hours later.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EU Judges Want Sharia Law Applied in British Courts

Judges could be forced to bow to Sharia law in some divorce cases heard in Britain.

An EU plan calls for family courts across Europe to hear cases using the laws of whichever country the couple involved have close links to.

That could mean a court in England handling a case within the French legal framework, or even applying the laws of Saudi Arabia to a husband and wife living in Britain.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank today attacked the so-called Rome III reform as ludicrous.

It warned it would slow down cases, increase costs and lead to unjust results.

However, in a report it says existing arrangements are ‘anti-family’.

Currently, a couple from different EU states can have their divorce heard in the first country where one of them files divorce papers.

Because different states offer varying financial advantages to spouses in terms of division of wealth, the resulting ‘race to court’ in the best jurisdiction discourages couples from trying to save their marriage, it says.

The report calls for a simpler solution, with each country applying its own laws and cases being heard in the country where the couple have the closest connection.

At least nine EU states — not including the UK — are said to want to push ahead with the Rome III plan.

           — Hat tip: CB[Return to headlines]

Flemish Jews Irked by State-Funded ‘Anti-Israel’ Samson Opera

By Cnaan Liphshiz, Haarez Correspondent

Prominent figures from the Jewish community in Belgium and Israel have harshly criticized the Flemish Opera for staging what they regard as an anti-Israeli, political event disguised as a première. The contested show was created by two Israelis.

The production of Samson and Delilah is scheduled to premiere Tuesday, along with a political debate. The community has condemned the opera — directed by Omri Nitzan and Amir Nizar Zuabi — for dressing the Philistine conquerors in Western clothing while Hebrew fighters like Samson wear Arab clothes.

Samson, who lived in the 11th century BCE, was a partisan living under occupation of the Philistines — a powerful and technologically-advanced people of European roots. The bible says he died in Philistine hands while killing many of his captors.

Zuabi and Nitzan’s reverse-role adaptation of his love story with a Philistine woman leads Samson to become “history’s first shaheed” (or martyr, in the Islamic tradition), the say. “Samson is a shaheed, and Delilah is his lover from the enemy camp,” the directors explained.

“This isn’t the first time public Flemish culture institutions stage unabashedly anti-Israel events,” David Lowy, founder of the JOBI group for Belgian youth in Israel, told Haaretz. “Israel is misunderstood in Belgium and distorting bible stories will only compound this. The analogy’s ludicrous and state-funded bodies mustn’t help it.”

Guido Joris from the Dutch-language Jewish-affairs newspaper Joods Actueel condemned the event’s political character, and a planned screening of a film calling Israel’s 2002 military operation in the West Bank a “blood bath” at the event.

The paper also criticized the involvement of a state-funded institution in the show. “I imagine we are in store for Israeli flags burned, as we’ve seen in the past in Belgium,” Joris said.

Nitzan insists that the opera’s political messages are not an attempt to jump on Europe’s pro-Palestinian bandwagon. A spokesperson from Flanders Opera said his institution isn’t anti-Israeli and that the criticism is “premature,” adding: “We may argue about the Mideast conflict, but there will be no flag burning.”

           — Hat tip: TV[Return to headlines]

‘Nazi’ Cattle Being Bred in UK


A Devon farmer has succeeded in introducing a breed of cattle that has not been seen in the UK for over 4,000 years.

During the Second World War, the Heck cow was a symbol of Nazi ambitions to rule the world.

           — Hat tip: TSJ[Return to headlines]

UK: Police Spy on Activist Groups

POLICE are using a network of hundreds of paid informants to feed them information about protest groups, according to secret recordings made by a potential recruit.

A member of the climate-change protest group, Plane Stupid, has released a series of recorded discussions with officers apparently offering her money to spy on fellow activists.

Matilda Gifford, 24, says she was approached by Strathclyde Police last month after being released on bail following a demonstration at Aberdeen airport.

In a series of discussions with police, recorded by Miss Gifford, an officer attempting to recruit her is quoted as saying “UK plc can afford more than 20 quid”.

The tax-free cash would be in exchange for information on individuals within the climate-change protest group and would not be paid into her bank account for fear of leaving an audit trail.

She was also told that her continued involvement with Plane Stupid could lead to her having difficulties finding employment in the future if she ended up with a criminal record.

In one section of the recording a police officer states hundreds of informants are on police books giving them information on a spectrum of organisations ranging from terror cells to environmental activists.

The officer is quoted as saying: “We work with hundreds of people, believe me, ranging from terrorist organisations right through to whatever. To the others as we like to call them. Environmentalists.

“We have people who give us information on environmentalism, leftwing extremism, rightwing — you name it, we have the whole spectrum of reporting.”

Strathclyde Police stated the force “had a responsibility to gather intelligence” after admitting officers had had meetings with Plane Stupid activists.

The Assistant Chief Constable of Strathcylde Police, George Hamilton, said: “Officers from Strathclyde Police have been in contact with a number of protesters who were involved with the Plane Stupid protests including Aberdeen airport.”

He added that the purpose of the meetings was to make sure future protests were carried out within the law and respected the rights of all concerned.

Plane Stupid, a direct action group fighting against airport expansion since 2005, maintains the attempted police infiltration of the group was an attempt to curtail people’s right to protest.

Lawyers for Plane Stupid have been able to identify the officers invovled.

A statement from Plane Stupid reads: “Our civil liberties were invaded and our right to peaceful protest called into question simply to defend the interests of big business.”

The group’s first protest was to release a barrage of rape alarms attached to helium balloons disrupting an international aviation conference being held in London.

In a statement in its website Plane Stupid states it welcomed any actions in its name “provided they are non-violent and accountable and help further the struggle against airport expansion and greenhouse gas emissions from aviation.”

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: Terror Preacher Abu Hamza Gets Round Hunger Strike With Crisps

HOOK-HANDED cleric Abu Hamza is cheating his way through a prison “hunger strike” by gorging on crisps.

The terrorist and his al-Qaeda followers in the High Security Unit in Belmarsh have refused to eat prison food all week.

They took objection to a strip search on an inmate and have refused cooked food from kitchen staff since.

But the protesters have been eating food from the prison shop and scoffing snacks during meetings with solicitors.

Hamza was spotted eating crisps and chocolate in his cell after calling on the Muslims Boys Gang to go on a hunger strike.

The weak-willed backlash came after a Muslim prisoner objected to a strip search along with two other inmates. All three lashed out and were placed in the segregation unit.

The officer who tried to search them received death threats and was moved to a new job.

A source said: “It is almost funny. They have been refusing food from the hot plate, but are still snacking on everything else.

“Hamza has been sneaking crisps and chocolate into his cell.” A Ministry of Justice spokes man said: “Prisoners in Belmarsh are not on hunger strike.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Dissolving in the Two-State Solution

by Barry Rubin

Ring! Ring! The Israeli prime minister’s alarm clock went off. He quickly sat up in bed and immediately shouted out: “Yes! I’m for a two-state solution!”

At breakfast, lunch, and dinner, during his talks and all his meetings, in greeting his staff as he walked down the corridor to the office, endless he repeated that phrase.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what the world seems to want from Israeli policy.

But the fact is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution back in 1997 when he took over in the midst of the Oslo agreement peace process and committed himself to all preceding agreements.

This is not the real issue. The real issue is this: much of the world wants Israel to agree in advance to give the Palestinian Authority (PA) what they think it wants without any concessions or demonstration of serious intent on its part.

The first problem is that the demand is totally one-sided. Does the PA truly accept a two-state solution? That isn’t what it tells its own people in officials’ speeches, documents of the ruling Fatah group, schools, the sermons of PA-appointed clerics, and the PA-controlled media.

The second problem is that PA compliance with its earlier commitments is pretty miserable, though this is a point that almost always goes unmentioned in Western diplomatic declarations and media.

More often than not the PA’s performance could be called one of anti-confidence-building measures. In other words, what it does makes Israel and Israelis less certain that it is ever going to make a stable and lasting peace.

The third problem is that this leaves no room for asking the question: what does Israel want in exchange for accepting a Palestinian state, leaving West Bank territory, or even agreeing to a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

How about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state since, after all, the PA Constitution defines its country-to-be as an Arab Muslim state and the PA makes clear that all Jews who have come to live there since 1967 must leave. These stances don’t bother me in principle only the hypocrisy of doing one thing and demanding Israel do another.

How about agreeing-which any nationalist movement should be eager to do-that all Palestinian refugees be resettled in the state of Palestine.

How about accepting that a two-state solution would permanently end the conflict?

How about stopping daily incitement to kill Israelis and destroy Israel in PA institutions?

How about being open to border modifications or security guarantees like not bringing foreign troops onto Palestinian soil?…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]


Russian Death Squads ‘Pulverise’ Chechens

Elite commandos have broken their silence to reveal how they torture, execute and then blow captives to atoms to obliterate the grisly evidence

THE hunt for a nest of female suicide bombers in Chechnya led an elite group of Russian special forces commandos to a small village deep in the countryside. There they surrounded a modest house just before dawn to be sure of catching their quarry unawares.

When the order came to storm the single-storey property, dozens of heavily armed men in masks and camouflage uniforms — unmarked to conceal their identity — had no difficulty in overwhelming the three women inside. Their captives were driven to a military base.

The soldiers were responding to a tip-off that the eldest of the three, who was in her forties, had been indoctrinating women to sacrifice themselves in Chechnya’s ferocious war between Islamic militants and the Russians. The others captured with her were her latest recruits. One was barely 15.

“At first the older one denied everything,” said a senior special forces officer last week. “Then we roughed her up and gave her electric shocks. She provided us with good information. Once we were done with her we shot her in the head.

“We disposed of her body in a field. We placed an artillery shell between her legs and one over her chest, added several 200-gram TNT blocks and blew her to smithereens. The trick is to make sure absolutely nothing is left. No body, no proof, no problem.” The technique was known as pulverisation.

The young recruits were taken away by another unit for further interrogation before they, too, were executed.

The account is one of a series given to The Sunday Times by two special forces officers who fought the militants in Chechnya over a period of 10 years. Their testimony, the first of its kind to a foreign journalist, provides startling insights into the operation of secret Russian death squads during one of the most brutal conflicts since the second world war.

The men, decorated veterans of more than 40 tours of duty in Chechnya, said not only suspected rebels but also people close to them were systematically tracked, abducted, tortured and killed. Intelligence was often extracted by breaking their limbs with a hammer, administering electric shocks and forcing men to perform sexual acts on each other. The bodies were either buried in unmarked pits or pulverised.

Far from being the work of a few ruthless mavericks, such methods were widely used among special forces, the men said. They were backed by their superiors on the understanding that operations were to be carried out covertly and that any officers who were caught risked prosecution: the Russian government publicly condemns torture and extrajudicial killings and denies that its army committed war crimes in Chechnya.

In practice, said Andrei and Vladimir, the second officer, the Kremlin turned a blind eye. “Anyone in power who took the slightest interest in the war knows this was going on,” Andrei said. “Our only aim was to wipe out the terrorists.”

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Pakistani Taliban Shave Men Listening to Music

Taliban posters order women not to go shopping

Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest Buner district shaved the heads and moustaches of four Pakistani men as punishment for listening to music , one of the victims said late on Saturday.

“I was with three other friends in my car, listening to music when armed Taliban stopped us and, after smashing cassettes and the cassette player, they shaved half our heads and moustaches,” a young man from Buner told AFP by telephone, requesting not to be identified.

“The Taliban also beat us and asked us not to listen to music ever again,” said the terrified man. Local police said they had no information about the incident.

The victim said neither he nor his friends lodged a complaint with police, as this would have been “useless.”

“It might have annoyed the Taliban further and I fear for my life,” the man said.

Buner has been subject to huge U.S. concern after hundreds of Taliban fighters advanced into the area from the neighboring Swat, where the hardliners fought a brutal, nearly two-year insurgency to enforce Islamic law.

Although Taliban and local officials said the fighters retreated from Buner by Saturday, local members of the movement remain. Residents said many fighters were still present in the hilly outskirts of the district.

Women ordered not to go shopping

Residents in Mingora, the main town in Swat, said Taliban posters had been put up in streets and markets ordering women not to go shopping. The posters had appeared after the Taliban’s controversial agreement with the government to enforce Islamic law in the region.

“We will take action against women who go out shopping in the markets and any shopkeeper seen dealing with women shoppers will be dealt with severely,” read the poster from the Swat branch of Tehreek-e-Taliban.

“The peace agreement does not mean that obscenity should be re-born,” it added.

Hardline Islamists in the extremist Taliban consider it “obscene” for women to leave their homes, and ban females from venturing out in public without an immediate male relative—namely a father, brother, son or husband.

For years, Swat was a popular ski resort frequented by Westerners but the Pakistani government effectively lost control of the mountainous district after the violent Taliban campaign to enforce Sharia law.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Taliban Gunmen Shooting Couple Dead for Adultery Caught on Camera

Taliban gunmen have been filmed executing a surprised couple whom they repeatedly shot for the alleged crime of adultery.

Their deaths were squalid, riddled with bullets in a field near their home by Taliban gunmen as the execution was captured on a mobile telephone.

In footage which is being watched with horror by Pakistanis, the couple try to flee when they realise what is about to happen. But a gunman casually shoots the man and then the woman in the back with a burst of gunfire, leaving them bleeding in the dirt.

Moments later, when others in the execution party shout out that they are still alive, he returns to coldly finish them with a few more rounds.

Their “crime” was an alleged affair in their remote mountain village controlled by militants in an area that was only recently under the government’s sway. It was the kind of barbarity that has become increasingly familiar across Pakistan as the Taliban tide has spread.

But this time, with black-turbaned gunmen almost at the gates of Islamabad, the rare footage has shown urban Pakistanis what could now await them.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned that Islamic extremists could take over the nation.

In the past few days the footage has circulated among Pakistanis who usually show little interest in the rough ways of the distant frontier regions.

They have now started to wake up to the fear that al-Qaeda-linked rebels from the frontier could take over their nation.

The killings happened in Hangu district, in North West Frontier Province, about two hours drive from the regional capital Peshawar. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban, the Islamic militia which has swept across the NWFP towards the capital Islamabad.

Last week, the Taliban had reached within 60 miles of Islamabad, in Buner district. Their takeover sparked panic in the West, which was already appalled by a peace deal that the government had signed this month with Taliban in adjacent the Swat valley.

In an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, called on the people of Pakistan to defy their government, saying they “need to speak out forcefully against a policy that is ceding more and more territory to the insurgents”.

The Taliban had agreed a withdrawal, in the last couple of days, to their stronghold of Swat. That will scarcely make the government and elite in the capital Islamabad feel much safer, as Swat is only 100 miles from them.

“The Taliban are steady and confident, the government is weak and faltering,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor at Islamabad’s Quaid-e-Azam University and one of Pakistan’s leading intellectuals.

“A Taliban victory will enslave our women, destroy Pakistan’s rich historical and cultural heritage, make education and science impossible, and make the lives of its citizens impossibly difficult. Some are already contemplating an exodus.”

Pakistan today stands on a knife-edge, threatened with anarchy. The desperate deal signed with the Taliban in Swat looks set to fall apart. The result will almost certainly be violence. An army convoy heading into Swat on Saturday morning was stopped by the Taliban and forced to turn back, in a naked display of their power.

They seem to have been only emboldened by the peace agreement. Many believe that a bloody military operation now looks inevitable,

For those in areas falling under Taliban control, their harsh rule is terrifying.

An SOS text message sent out on Friday by a terrified local resident, in an area of Swat called Bahrain, says that the Taliban have established total control. Asking not be named for fear of reprisal, he said that they have set up check posts at the entrance to Bahrain, from where they kidnap those they want, including young women.

“They’ve even warned the local schools to close the girl classes or face dire consequences. Yet the government says its writ is in Swat.”

Another Swat resident said: “Every day I see armed Taliban move around freely. At the time of prayer, if they see anyone in his shop or walking about, they whip him with a stick.”

The Pakistani Taliban, a copy of the Afghan extremist movement, have long controlled the tribal area along the Afghan border, which is a sanctuary for militants, including al-Qaeda. But it is their march into the heart of the country that has horrified ordinary Pakistanis, and the wider world. And the threat comes not just from the Taliban to the west. Islamic extremists, who are not part of the Taliban, are already entrenched in Islamabad and across the Punjab, the most populous province, seemingly ready to surface when their moment comes.

Islamabad’s defences are being hurriedly fortified, with paramilitary troops stationed on the Margalla Hills, which overlook the city from the West. In the capital, there are thousands of followers of the radical Red Mosque, where there are now open calls for Islamic revolution at the weekly Friday prayers.

“The Taliban will not stop at Swat. They will come towards Islamabad,” said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst based in Lahore. “If the army is to take action against them, it is going to be a really bloody battle. And then civil government will be knocked out.”

“Extremist groups based in Islamabad will move from within and they (Taliban) will build pressure from outside.”

The footage Pakistanis have been watching shows them what they could expect.

A local journalist was invited to witness the execution, who filmed it with his mobile phone for a Pakistani channel, Dawn News. The Sunday Telegraph is showing the footage in the West for the first time.

There were no names for the two victims.

“Using the media is part of their (the Taliban’s) psychological warfare,” said Imtiaz Gul, chairman of Centre for Research and Security Studies, an independent think tank in Islamabad. “This way, they inject fear into the minds of people who might oppose them, keeping the majority silent.”

After the couple were shot, the family were told to take their bodies away for burial. The punishment was administered by a local group of the Pakistani Taliban linked to warlord Baitullah Mehsud.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Police Top Brass’ Secret Plan to Reduce Area Commands

HE police force has revealed a secret proposal to amalgamate commands, six months after it denied those plans were afoot.

The number of commands will be cut from 80 to 70 — all believed to be in Sydney — but the force has refused to reveal further details.

Commissioner Andrew Scipione said no stations would close but that it would “reduce management numbers”, “increase flexibility” and “put more police on the street”.

His spokesman would not answer further questions as to which commands would be amalgamated or when the process would start.

Former police commissioner Peter Ryan tried to amalgamate the commands in 1999 but came under heavy criticism with the plan aborted by then police minister Michael Costa in 2001.

The force revealed the latest attempt last week during pay negotiations with the NSW Police Association.

See what police on the beat were offered and why they

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Young Father Stabbed and Beaten to Death With a Baseball Bat in Sydney’s South-West

A YOUNG father was stabbed and savagely beaten to death with a baseball bat by a mob of up to 15 people who turned on him in Sydney’s south-west yesterday.

Wayne Boyce, 23, from Bonnyrigg, was set upon in Trevanna St, Busby, just after 3am.

The father of two infant boys had driven to the address after a friend, known as Joel, called him for help when the angry group turned up at his house, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

Neighbours said they awoke to the sound of smashed windows, as members of the group shouted for Joel to “come outside”.

A car parked in the driveway was also badly damaged by the men, who had allegedly come after Joel for reasons which are still unclear.

It is understood he had called Mr Boyce, a long-time friend, who at first dismissed the problem, saying he should just tell the men to “go away”. Eventually the dangerous situation became clear and Mr Boyce rushed over from his home in Bonnyrigg.

His brother-in-law, Mohammed, said the moment Mr Boyce arrived at the Busby address and got out of his car, the group turned its anger onto him.

He attempted to escape, but was stabbed in his lower back and fell to the floor where his killers continued to bash him with bats and metal poles.

Paramedics were called and attempted to revive him at the scene, but he died a short time later from his injuries at Liverpool Hospital.

Police yesterday formed Strike Force Harney to help track down his killers, who had fled the scene, and forensic officers and local detectives later secured evidence.

Authorities said the trouble had occurred as a result of an altercation between “two groups of men” outside the home.

Friends and family gathered at the home of Mr Boyce’s parents, just metres away from where the attack occurred, to offer support.

His girlfriend, Casey Tyrell, 19, was too distraught to speak yesterday, but her mother described him as a beautiful soul who should not have died in such a senseless way.

“Wayne loved my daughter and my daughter loved him,” Sharon Tyrell said.

“She loved him so much.”

She said it was incomprehensible why he had to die.

“It was just a fight — they didn’t have to bloody stab him,” she said.

Police continue to appeal for witnesses to come forward with information or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

Sub-Saharan Africa

Israeli Guards Drive Off Somali Pirates

Israeli private security guards exchanged fire with pirates who attacked an Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board far off the coast of Somalia, and drove them away, the ship’s commander said Sunday.

Cmdr. Ciro Pinto told Italian state radio that six men in a small white boat approached the Msc Melody and opened fire Saturday night, but retreated after the Israeli security officers aboard the cruise ship returned fire.

“It felt like we were in war,” Pinto said.

None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members were hurt, Melody owner Msc Cruises said in a statement issued by its German branch.

Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said Msc hired the Israelis because they were the best trained security agents, the ANSA news agency reported.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Italy Ship Thwarts Pirate Attack

A captain of an Italian cruise ship has given the BBC a dramatic account of how his crew fended off a pirate attack near the coast of Somalia.

Capt Ciro Pinto said six pirates in a speedboat approached his Melody ship and opened fire, but then fled after security men fired in the air.

He said his crew also sprayed water on the gunmen when they tried to climb aboard using a ladder.

No-one was hurt in Saturday’s incident. Some 1,500 people were on the vessel.

Somali pirates have also seized an empty Yemeni oil tanker and clashed with coast guards on Sunday, a Yemeni official said.

Two pirates were killed in the action as the Yemeni coast guard tried to free the vessel, a Yemeni government official was quoted by Reuters news agency as saying.

The official said three pirates and two Yemeni coast guards were also wounded in the exchange.

See map of how piracy is affecting the region and countries around the world

Last year, pirates attacked more than 100 ships in the region, demanding huge ransom for their release. Their attacks have intensified recently.

‘Throwing chairs’

Capt Pinto told the BBC that the pirates tried to hijack his ship late on Saturday, about 290km (180 miles) north of Victoria in the Seychelles.

“One white small boat with six people on board approached the port [left] side of the ship and started shooting..”

The captain said the pirates fired some 200 rounds of shots on the vessel.

His said “our security started shooting in the air… and also we started spraying some water” to beat off the attackers.

Capt Pinto said the pirates were forced to give up after about five minutes of shooting and a high-speed chase.

Samantha Hendey from Durban, South Africa, told the BBC that her sister Tabitha Nicholson was on board the ship during the attack and the situation was “pretty dramatic”.

“She said that there were lots of passengers on deck watching it unfold and they even took action themselves by throwing chairs overboard, trying to hit the pirates,” Samantha said.

“She said there were lots of bullet holes in the ship but that they were not serious enough to force it to return to port.”

The head of the Italy’s MSC Cruises, which owns the Meloday, credited the captain for his “cool-headed” handling of the incident, Italy’s Ansa news agency reported.

The ship was on a cruise from South Africa to Italy. It was now headed as scheduled for the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

Somali pirates have hijacked about a dozen ships since the start of April, despite the presence of around 20 foreign naval vessels in the area.

International warships have been patrolling the waters off Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden in recent months as part of an effort to counter piracy.

They have freed a number of ships, but attacks have continued.

Somalia has been without an effective administration since 1991, fuelling the lawlessness which has allowed piracy to thrive.

Shipping companies last year handed over about $80m (£54m) in ransom payments to the gangs.

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

Latin America

Ahmadinejad to Visit Latin America Next Month

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is slated to go on a three-nation tour of Latin America early May.

Sources said that the Iranian president will likely have a short stop in Syria on his way to Latin America.

Sources also named Brazil as among the Latino nations to be visited by President Ahmadinejad.

Iran and Brazil recently agreed to boost mutual cooperation in building power plants and developing oil and gas fields.

The agreement was made in meetings between Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Hamid Chitchian and Deputy Energy Minister Hossein Noqrekaar Shirazi and Brazilian deputy mine and energy minister.

At the meetings, the two sides agreed that Iranian companies introduce their plans for building power plants in Brazil, given the existing potentials in the Latin country for exploiting water and thermal resources.

It was also agreed that the Brazilian companies expand their investments in gas, oil and petrochemical fields in northern and southern Iran, and Iranian companies, in turn, run activity in Brazil’s oil fields.

The issue is to go under further discussions during an upcoming trip to Brazil by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad next month.

           — Hat tip: IH[Return to headlines]


Third Refugee Boat in Fortnight Intercepted

Another boat load of asylum seekers has been intercepted off the Australian north-west coastline, in the same region a vessel exploded less than two weeks ago, killing five refugees. The vessel, carrying more than 50 passengers and two crew, was intercepted yesterday 90 nautical miles south-west of Ashmore Reef, about 900km from Darwin, by a Royal Australian Navy patrol boat.

It is the eighth boat of asylum seekers to approach Australian waters this year and the 15th boat to be intercepted since last August when Labor made changes to Australia’s immigration policy, including the scrapping of temporary protection visas.

Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus said in a statement the boat was in international waters and the group voluntarily transferred from their boat to the HMAS Albany.

It is believed the boat was travelling from Indonesia and the passengers were most likely Afghans.

It is also understood the vessel was not being tracked by Australian authorities, although its sighting was confirmed by a Customs and Border Protection Command Dash 8 aircraft following an alert by an oil rig tender vessel. Within an hour of receiving the alert, the navy had made contact with the boat, Mr Debus said. The interception demonstrated the effectiveness of Border Protection Commands surveillance, he said. The interception came as another boatload of asylum seekers was transferred to Christmas Island.

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

UK: Field Hits Out Over Immigration Levels

THE United Kingdom will have to build one house every six minutes, day and night, seven days a week for the next 20 years to meet the current scale of immigration, Labour MP and former minister Frank Field warned yesterday.

He said immigration would account for 70% of population growth in the next 20 years — that is seven million, or seven times the population of Birmingham. In 2007, immigrants were arriving at the rate of almost one every minute.

Field, MP for Birkenhead, issued his stark warning in an article in parliament’s The House Magazine.

He recalled that he and Tory MP Nicholas Soames had established a cross-party group on balanced migration, designed to stimulate and inform a non-partisan and calm debate about the issue.

“For many years, probably a generation, immigration has been a no-go area to British politics. ‘Racist’, ‘Little Englander’, ‘xenophobe’ — those who have raised the subject have been insulted, abused and, all too often, silenced.”

Field went on: “The beneficiaries of this have been the extremists, lurking in the wings, eager to piggyback on the public’s concern for their own despicable ends. The losers have been the citizens of this country.”

He said that over the past few years immigration had reached unprecedented levels. “Net migration — the number of people coming to the UK minus the people leaving — has more than quadrupled since 1997.”

In 2007, 502,000 migrants arrived in the UK — almost one every minute, Field said. “Our population is officially projected to reach 70 million by 2028 and 80 million in mid-century, with immigration the main driver and the only one that the government can directly influence.

Field said that these projections were based on the Government’s own net immigration assumptions. “But cold statistics do not paint the whole picture,” he said.

“Delve beneath ‘seven new Birminghams’ and we see that in the next 20 years, one-third of projected household formations will be a result of immigration, meaning we will need to build 260 houses a day for the next 20 years to meet the requirement.”

And he warned: “If the Government does not adopt the policy of balanced migration, or something close to it, our population is set to rise to a level to which the vast majority of people are strongly opposed. They are not opposed to immigration or immigrants, but to the present scale of immigration, which is bound to have a negative aspect on life in Britain.”

           — Hat tip: The Frozen North[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

Germany: Public Resistance Against Homosexualization of Society

Preparations for a conference on psychotherapy set for May in Marburg, Germany are being disrupted by an “action alliance of queer, feminist, and anti-fascist and anti-sexist” groups that want two Christian therapists removed from the roster of speakers.

In response, a group of at least 600 prominent German professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds has issued a public statement and petition to protest the “totalitarian aspirations of the gay and lesbian associations.” These organizations, they said, are trying to suppress freedom of expression and academic inquiry at the upcoming 6th International Congress for Psychotherapy and Counseling in Marburg.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]


Conficker Virus Begins to Attack PCs

A malicious software program known as Conficker that many feared would wreak havoc on April 1 is slowly being activated, weeks after being dismissed as a false alarm, security experts said.

Conficker, also known as Downadup or Kido, is quietly turning thousands of personal computers into servers of e-mail spam and installing spyware, they said.

The worm started spreading late last year, infecting millions of computers and turning them into “slaves” that respond to commands sent from a remote server that effectively controls an army of computers known as a botnet.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]