Monday, June 15, 2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/15/2009

Gates of Vienna News Feed 6/15/2009Even though Iran and its nukes are still in the news, North Korea is heating up again. It has threatened a nuclear attack on South Korea if any sanctions are imposed on it, and South Korean intelligence thinks it has detected additional nuclear test sites in North Korea.

In other news, a Christian in Pakistan was murdered for drinking tea out of a Muslims-only cup.

Thanks to Barry Rubin, C. Cantoni, Fjordman, heroyalwhyness, Insubria, islam o’phobe, JD, KGS, TB, The Frozen North, The Lurker from Tulsa, and all the other tipsters who sent these in. Headlines and articles are below the fold.
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Financial Crisis
China and the Great Recession
Fraudsters Eye Huge Stimulus Pie — Market Watch
Gulf: Oil Kingdoms’ Economies Recovering Quickly
Spain: Taxes Raised to Support Unemployed
Abuse of Power Backfire
Bill O’Reilly: Farewell, War on Terror
Government Implemented Thousands of New Regulations Costing $1.17 Trillion in 2008
Linda Chavez: Power Grab
Obama’s EPA to Institute Oppressive Tax and Control Plan for Farmers
US Cities May Have to be Bulldozed in Order to Survive
Europe and the EU
18-Year-Old Serial Rape Suspect Arrested
Berlin Expected to Reject Guantanamo Prisoners
Books: Falcones Sets New Best-Seller in Cordoba
Denmark: Valdemar’s Banner Proves Popular on Flag Day
Denmark: Wilders Attacks Hate Speech Laws
EU Agrees to Take Guantanamo Detainees
Gaddafi in Rome: Women Are Bits of Furniture in Arab World
Gaddafi: Carfagna, UN to See Genital Mutilation Condemnation
Hungarian Far-Right Announces New National and International Agenda
Ireland: Second Referendum on Lisbon May be Held in Late September
Italy: Photographer Has “Embarassing “ Images of PM
Italy: No Charge for ‘Crime’ of Passion
Italy: Police Raid, Hacker Financing Fundamentalist Group
Italy: More Slowly, President Obama…
Italy: Right-Wing Guard Sparks Outrage
Italy, US Break Up Hacking Group
Prosecutor Seeks Dissolution of Scientology in France
Report Says UK ‘A Haven for War Criminals’
UK: Iraq Inquiry Will Hear Evidence in Private
Welfare Excuses: The Causes of Multiculturalism and Western Self-Loathing
North Africa
Egypt Court Rejects Ex-Muslim Convert’s Case
Tunisia: Man to Re-Sit High School Exam for 19th Time
Israel and the Palestinians
Assessing Binyamin Netanyahu’s Speech at Bar-Ilan University
Barry Rubin: What’s Unsettling About Obama’s Policy Toward Settlements
Israeli Comedian Likens Muslims to Cockroaches
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech
Middle East
Barry Rubin: When Middle East Policy Doesn’t Make Sense
Don’t Call What Happened in Iran Last Week an Election
Dr. Zakaria Al Sheikh Urges Arab Countries to Liberate Al Aqsa Mosque
Is Iran Nuking Up as Obama Fiddles?
Speed of Iran Vote Count Called Suspicious
Turkey-EU: Europarliament Must Keep Its Promises, Erdogan
Turkey: It’s Not a Crime to Speak Kurdish, Prosecutor
Turkey: ‘Finish Off AKP’ Debate Unfinished
South Asia
Dead Taliban Fighter in Afghanistan Had Aston Villa Tattoo
Help US or We’ll Grow Opium, Say Afghan Villagers
Malaysia Police Fire Tear Gas on Iran Election Protest
Orissa: Tensions in Kandhamal. Christians Still Targeted by Extremists
Pakistan: Christian Murdered for Drinking Tea From a Muslim Cup
Two Al-Jazeera Producers Arrested in Afghanistan
Far East
China Sees Foreign Direct Investment Drop 17.8pct
China: Teenage Girl Dug Up to be ‘Corpse Bride’
N. Korea May Have More Nuclear Test Sites: Report
North Korea Warns Seoul of Nuclear War Following UN Sanctions
Latin America
Internet Chat ‘Dupes Castro Son’
Obama Ready to Announce His Surrender to Big Business Lobby and Gut Workplace Verification?
Oklahoma: Illegal Immigrants to be Deported Under New Law
US to Open Immigration Files

Financial Crisis

China and the Great Recession

by Prof. Peter Morici

The United States now confronts its greatest economic challenges since the Great Depression. In addition to resolving crises in financial and housing markets, trade deficits with China and on oil must be addressed for the U.S. economy to achieve robust growth.

Fixing credit markets and energy policy are largely domestic challenges, whereas recalibrating trade with China requires cooperation from Beijing. However, such cooperation requires fundamental changes in Chinese industrial policies and a departure from maintaining an undervalued yuan to spur industrial development.

Chinese Industrial and Currency Policies

Since the late 1970s, China has transformed from a centrally-planned economy dominated by state enterprises to a public-private economy highly responsive to global market opportunities.

China has accomplished dramatic growth and modernization by empowering town and village enterprises, private businesses and foreign-invested enterprises, and delegating smaller, though still significant, roles to national state-owned enterprises. Exports are critical to this strategy.

In addition to exploiting comparative advantages in labor-intensive manufacturing, China has applied industrial policies and regulation on foreign investment to ensure the rapid development of priority industries where it may lack the resources, technology and a comparative advantage.

For example, China lacks adequate metallic resources to produce large amounts of steel competitively, and modern capital equipment and technology were initially purchased on global markets. Yet, China exports steel even when transportation costs to destination markets are greater than total labor costs in those markets. Similarly, China should be importing many more automobiles to meet its requirements, but Beijing encourages foreign automakers to assemble cars and source parts in China, and to transfer technology to indigenous firms.

China maintains an undervalued yuan that makes exports cheaper in foreign markets and imports more expensive at home. The Chinese government persistently purchases dollars and other currencies with yuan to suppress its value, rather than permitting market forces to determine its value…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Fraudsters Eye Huge Stimulus Pie — Market Watch

Williams suggested that the fraud and theft losses from the roughly $787 billion stimulus package approved earlier this year could reach about $50 billion.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Gulf: Oil Kingdoms’ Economies Recovering Quickly

(by Alessandra Antonelli) (ANSAmed) — DUBAI — Having been slowed down in recent months by the financial crisis and the consequent fall in oil prices, Gulf economies are on the up again. Contrary to predictions made at the start of the year, many Gulf countries will close the year with much better economic results than expected. The good news is shown in several analyses published in the last few days and seem to confirm the succession of positive signs seen in recent weeks: the rise in oil prices, the end of free-falling real estate prices in important cities like Dubai and renewed growth on the stock markets. Indeed, all the region’s stock markets yesterday closed out the week’s trading with positive results. Indexes in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Kuwait were amongst the highest seen since the start of the financial crisis. Dubai — one of the most prominent and talked-about cities in the regional economic panorama, first applauded and then demonised — has been reported as a city on the brink of collapse, with many professionals fleeing to other destinations. However, the latest data from the UAE’s immigration department reveals that although 400,000 work visas were cancelled between October and March, 600,000 new ones were issued. “These are positive and reassuring figures, above all because they cover the toughest months of the crisis”, comments Philippe Daube-Pantanacce, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank which produced the report: “GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] — positive developments”. Indeed, after months in the doldrums, the real estate sector — the UAE’s economic motor over the last five years — is showing timid signs of growth. Having “touched bottom” with an average price fall of 30-40% over the last months, the sector saw a 4% increase in April, which was confirmed by a further 5% increase in May, according to reports from real estate agencies. The recovery has been pushed along by capital injections by the federal government and the end of price-slashed clearance sales which had further contributed to the drop-off in prices. Mercer, a research company, has also conducted studies which show further reasons to be cheerful: 42% of businesses involved — 67% among the biggest, regional and international firms in the six GCC countries — are planning to hire more workers by the end of the year. The report also reveals that 73% of these businesses are expecting to achieve equal or better operating results than in 2008. Standard Chartered Bank has also estimated that the price of crude oil will reach 75 dollars per barrel by the end of the year with an average rise of 42%. This increase, if sustained, would bring the countries of the oil bloc an extra 114 billion dollars in income. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Spain: Taxes Raised to Support Unemployed

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 12 — The Spanish government has today approved a 16.9-billion-euro loan (around 2% of GDP) to be used to provide support for the unemployed, announced the Deputy Prime Minister, Maria Teresa Fernandez de La Vega, at the end of a cabinet meeting. The government decided to increase the budget deficit to provide special credit to unemployed people, guaranteeing their right to keep the subsidy. At the same time, the government announced an increase of tax on fuel and cigarettes, whose prices will rise 2.9 cents/litre and 2 euros/1000 cigarettes. According to de La Vega’s statement, Spain’s autonomous communities will receive an advance of 1.8 billion euros as compensation for the withholding of capital gains tax. Furthermore, the executive also revised its economic forecasts, claiming that the crisis would last into 2011 and will not end in 2010 as initially predicted. The government also said that unemployment will peak at 18.9%, with around 4.3 million people out of work, after ending 2009 at 17.9%. Unemployment is then expected to fall in 2011 to 18.4% and to 17.1% the year after. GDP growth forecasts were also revised, with initial expectations of a 1.6% loss in 2009 downgraded to a fall of 3.6%. The budget ceiling was also altered, with spending in 2010 to be 182.439 billion — 4.5% less than in 2009. The government is expecting a deficit of 7.9% of GDP next year, 0.9% more than previously forecast. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Abuse of Power Backfire

Golden Boy U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is having a hissy fit over a book, Triple Cross, How Bin Laden’s Master Spy Penetrated the CIA, the Green Berets, and the FBI, a 2006 by Peter Lance. Lance had the temerity (and documentation) to question the fiction of Fitzie’s infallibility. Fitzgerald calls the book a “deliberate lie masquerading as truth.”


Notwithstanding the ire and angst of Fitzgerald to Triple Cross: that Fitzgerald mucked up handling a key FBI informant who doubled as an Al Qaeda spy; a bogus sworn affirmation dissing Intel from an inmate snitch; and an alleged cover up involving an FBI agent and a mobbed up player, there are two key overlooked elements to this soap opera: 1) Abuse of Power; and 2) Unintended consequences.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Bill O’Reilly: Farewell, War on Terror

Bill O’reilly: Farewell, War on TerroDid you notice in his Cairo speech to the Muslim world last week that President Obama did not use the word “terrorism”? Interesting in light of reports that some in the Obama administration no longer refer to actions against al-Qaida and the Taliban as the “war on terror,” instead calling them an “overseas contingency operation.” But why? What is the reasoning behind this?

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Government Implemented Thousands of New Regulations Costing $1.17 Trillion in 2008

By Adam Brickley

An annual report issued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) shows that the U.S. government imposed $1.17 trillion in new regulatory costs in 2008. That almost equals the $1.2 trillion generated by individual income taxes, and amounts to $3,849 for every American citizen.


“The costs of federal regulations too often exceed the benefits, yet these regulations receive little official scrutiny from Congress,” said CEI Vice President Clyde Wayne Crews, Jr., who wrote the report.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Linda Chavez: Power Grab

The Obama administration is engaged in the most sweeping power grab in modern American history, but few people seem to care. In barely four months, we’ve witnessed the president and his minions taking over insurance companies, banks, and car companies, forcing private companies to sell off assets, appease unions, and stiff bondholders. Administration officials have insisted some companies take government handouts even if they don’t want them and told others they can’t pay back the money they’ve borrowed until the government gives them permission. Now, the president has decided he’ll appoint a “compensation czar” whose job it will be to decide what constitutes fair pay for corporate executives. Why stop there? And, of course, they won’t.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama’s EPA to Institute Oppressive Tax and Control Plan for Farmers

According to a segment on the Glenn Beck Show on Fox News Channel, the EPA will institute new rules and regulations to control greenhouse emissions by farm animals. During this tough economic time, it is unfair and irresponsible to levy such a tax on family farms, according to conservatives. Under Title V of the Clean Air Act, farmers would pay a hefty permit fee for animals that emit 100 tons of greenhouse gasses annually, affecting the vast majority of the nation’s livestock operations.


“Control the food production and you can control the people. What they are doing is creating starvation of Biblical proportions,” said a farmer who wished to remain anonymous.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

US Cities May Have to be Bulldozed in Order to Survive

Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic “shrink to survive” proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline.

The radical experiment is the brainchild of Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint.

Having outlined his strategy to Barack Obama during the election campaign, Mr Kildee has now been approached by the US government and a group of charities who want him to apply what he has learnt to the rest of the country.

Mr Kildee said he will concentrate on 50 cities, identified in a recent study by the Brookings Institution, an influential Washington think-tank, as potentially needing to shrink substantially to cope with their declining fortunes.

Most are former industrial cities in the “rust belt” of America’s Mid-West and North East. They include Detroit, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Memphis.

In Detroit, shattered by the woes of the US car industry, there are already plans to split it into a collection of small urban centres separated from each other by countryside.

“The real question is not whether these cities shrink — we’re all shrinking — but whether we let it happen in a destructive or sustainable way,” said Mr Kildee. “Decline is a fact of life in Flint. Resisting it is like resisting gravity.”

Karina Pallagst, director of the Shrinking Cities in a Global Perspective programme at the University of California, Berkeley, said there was “both a cultural and political taboo” about admitting decline in America.

“Places like Flint have hit rock bottom. They’re at the point where it’s better to start knocking a lot of buildings down,” she said.

Flint, sixty miles north of Detroit, was the original home of General Motors. The car giant once employed 79,000 local people but that figure has shrunk to around 8,000.

Unemployment is now approaching 20 per cent and the total population has almost halved to 110,000.

The exodus — particularly of young people — coupled with the consequent collapse in property prices, has left street after street in sections of the city almost entirely abandoned.

In the city centre, the once grand Durant Hotel — named after William Durant, GM’s founder — is a symbol of the city’s decline, said Mr Kildee. The large building has been empty since 1973, roughly when Flint’s decline began.

Regarded as a model city in the motor industry’s boom years, Flint may once again be emulated, though for very different reasons.

But Mr Kildee, who has lived there nearly all his life, said he had first to overcome a deeply ingrained American cultural mindset that “big is good” and that cities should sprawl — Flint covers 34 square miles.

He said: “The obsession with growth is sadly a very American thing. Across the US, there’s an assumption that all development is good, that if communities are growing they are successful. If they’re shrinking, they’re failing.”

But some Flint dustcarts are collecting just one rubbish bag a week, roads are decaying, police are very understaffed and there were simply too few people to pay for services, he said.

If the city didn’t downsize it will eventually go bankrupt, he added.

Flint’s recovery efforts have been helped by a new state law passed a few years ago which allowed local governments to buy up empty properties very cheaply.

They could then knock them down or sell them on to owners who will occupy them. The city wants to specialise in health and education services, both areas which cannot easily be relocated abroad.

The local authority has restored the city’s attractive but formerly deserted centre but has pulled down 1,100 abandoned homes in outlying areas.

Mr Kildee estimated another 3,000 needed to be demolished, although the city boundaries will remain the same.

Already, some streets peter out into woods or meadows, no trace remaining of the homes that once stood there.

Choosing which areas to knock down will be delicate but many of them were already obvious, he said.

The city is buying up houses in more affluent areas to offer people in neighbourhoods it wants to demolish. Nobody will be forced to move, said Mr Kildee.

“Much of the land will be given back to nature. People will enjoy living near a forest or meadow,” he said.

Mr Kildee acknowledged that some fellow Americans considered his solution “defeatist” but he insisted it was “no more defeatist than pruning an overgrown tree so it can bear fruit again”.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

18-Year-Old Serial Rape Suspect Arrested

Several cases of unsolved rapes in Tensta might soon be closed, according Stockholm police authorities. An 18-year old man has been arrested on suspicion of three rapes and is suspected of an additional five rapes in Belgium.

“This involves aggravated rapes, and moreover, he has also subjected his victims to excessive violence,” detective Manne Jönsson of the Stockholm police told TT.

“With all likelihood, he will be convicted of three rapes or attempted rape.”

Police are looking into his possible involvement in several other incidents, according to news show Rapport on Sveriges Television.

Police have had the man under surveillance for several weeks. He was arrested in southern Sweden on Thursday night.

“We were assisted by colleagues who took him into custody. Then we went down to get him and issued the search warrant. The arrest was entirely uneventful,” Jönsson said.

TT: Has he denied the charges or confessed to the crime?

“We haven’t been able to thoroughly question him. He has only been subject to very short interviews.”

Police believe that the man has only been in Sweden for a few months. A comprehensive investigation is expected, as well as establishing his actions and whereabouts during his time in Sweden.

“We will investigate every last detail, and answer all remaining questions. It may very well be that he has committed additional crimes that we are unaware of at this point in time,” Jönsson said.

The man has likely spent the last few years in Belgium. He is suspected of having committed his first rape as a 16-year-old.

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Berlin Expected to Reject Guantanamo Prisoners

A Guantanamo Bay inmate said he wants to live in Germany because he has “good memories” of the country. So far, though, Germany’s Interior Ministry has no plans to accept a request from Washington to take two prisoners. Berlin fears the men, who allegedy trained at terror camps, could be dangerous.

Europe initially cheered US President Barack Obama’s pledge to close down the prison camp at Guantanamo which, for many, had come to represent the disrespect for human rights of the George W. Bush era. But when it comes to the thorny question of where the Guantanamo prisoners can resettle, the enthusiasm has faded.

Officials in the Czech Republic, currently the rotating president of the European Union, said earlier this month that the 27-nation bloc might admit “several dozen” prisoners, with decisions being left to each country. Germany, however, is digging its heels in. SPIEGEL reported over the weekend that, after reviewing information supplied about the former terror suspects by US officials, the German Interior Ministry has ruled out for the time being the possibility of taking in the men out of concern they might be dangerous. The German government, however, still hasn’t officially responded to the request to resettle the Syrian and Tunisian.

Meanwhile, US pressure for cooperation is running high and within Germany the discussion rolls on. The Financial Times Deutschland reported Monday that the Tunisian Guantanamo inmate Rafiq Bin Bashir al-Hami hopes to return to the country. “He has good memories of his times in Germany,” his lawyer Mark Denbeaux told the newspaper.

Hami reportedly lived in Germany under a false name between 1996 and 1999. During that time he said he worked for a restaurant and a cleaning company. A report in the newsweekly Focus claims he was known to the authorities in Frankfurt for drug crimes and attempted fraud in an asylum application.

Terror Camp Allegations

Following his time in Germany, Hami moved to Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to the files the US has collected, he attended a paramilitary training camp — a claim he disputes. They also state that he moved to Kandahar in Afghanistan in 2001 to study Islam. During interrogations at Guantanamo, al-Hami admitted to having received weapons training in the al-Qaida camp Khalden. Later, though, he retracted the statement, saying he had been forced to attend the camp by the Taliban.

Information in the US files indicate that the second man, a Syrian identified as Abd al-Rahim Abd al-Rassa Janku, had traveled to Afghanistan and, according to his testimony, was forced by the Taliban to take part in 18 days of weapons training at a terror camp. He claims that when he attempted to leave the camp, the Taliban suspected he was a US spy and stuck him in a prison in Kandahar where he claims he was tortured for months. He has been identified in a video found in the rubble of the house of al-Qaida military chief Mohammed Atef. There he appeared alongside Ramzi Binalshibh, who played a key role in planning the 9/11 attacks.

Berlin’s skepticism about the two men echoes its recent reluctance to take in a group of Uighurs, members of China’s Muslim ethnic minority. German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble then outlined tough criteria for accepting the men, asking why the inmates couldn’t be taken in by the US or other countries. He also pushed for proof that they weren’t dangerous, and that they had a personal connection to Germany. Finally, he insisted that Germany was unable to accept people who couldn’t travel to the US on a simple tourist visa. Ultimately, the Uighurs are expected to be taken in by Palau and Bermuda.

But with about 250 detainees still held at the US base on Cuba — some without any charges held against them — the clock is ticking for Obama, who vowed to shut the controversial facility by January 2010. Many of the inmates have already been cleared for release, but US officials are struggling to find countries that will take them in. There is also considerable resistance at home to moving them to the US.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Books: Falcones Sets New Best-Seller in Cordoba

(by Paola Del Vecchio) (ANSAmed) — MADRID — The winning formula has been discovered, the recipe for creating a best-seller, and he is guarding it as if it were the Holy Grail. After four million copies of his book ‘Cathedral of the Sea’ were sold worldwide, Spanish author Idelfonso Falcones, a 51-year old lawyer from Barcelona, is having another try with ‘The Hand of Fatima’, published in Spain by Grijalbo-Mondadori, which was launched yesterday in Cordoba, the city of three cultures, which was once the capital of the Caliphate. Falcones explained in a press conference that it took him three years to write the thousand-page account of Hernando-Ibn Hamid, of Christian and Muslim origins, who struggled between the two religions during a time of low tolerance, before the moors were driven out of Spain. Hernando-Ibn Hamid is the result of a rape by a priest with blue eyes and a Moorish woman, as the Muslims were known who stayed in Spain after the Catholic Kings of Spain decreed that they be driven out. They were forced to convert to Christianity and then thrown out once and for all in 1609. “He suffers his whole life from being disowned by the Moors and the Christians” explains the author. Just as in ‘Cathedral of the Sea’, the main character of ‘The Hand of Fatima’ “tries to go forward, to succeed in life”, and here too, the cathedral in Cordoba, built on the ancient mosque, is the scene of several key episodes in the novel. “It is Hernando’s hiding-place from the Inquisition, the place where he meets Italian painter Cesar Arbasia, who creates a Last Supper, which can still be seen today, in which Saint John is a woman”. Some 80,000 copies of Falcones’ first book were published initially, after being refused by a dozen publishers, to become the seventh best-selling novel worldwide, now half a million copies of the first edition of the latest novel will be printed. “My ambition is to write entertaining novels which excite the reader, like the ones I enjoy”. What are the winning ingredients? “Lively writing which is neither too lyrical or ornate, which says little but shows a lot, so that the reader can read quickly. Secondly, many things need to happen, continuously, because readers are excited by drama. And you should also learn something. I do not presume to teach anyone anything, but a tale which reflects real history is an added bonus”. Narrative fiction is mixed wisely with a faithful reconstruction of the facts and customs of the age, since Ildefonso Falcones has researched the subject, reading 200 books, including the chronicles of Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Luis de Marmol Carvajal, and in his many trips to Cordoba. Falcones has said that he is not intimidated by the expectations generated by half a million copies printed. “I already suffer from high blood pressure in my life as a lawyer” he confesses. “If I was distressed by literature I would stop writing”. Anyway he is ready to beat more records. The only Spanish writer to compare with him in terms of numbers of sales is Carlos Ruiz Zafon. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Valdemar’s Banner Proves Popular on Flag Day

Once shied away from by the left, the oldest flag in Europe is seeing a resurgence as a political symbol

As the nation celebrates Valdemar’s Day today, recent trends show that the popularity of the ‘Dannebrog’ as a political symbol is on the rise.

The national flag day commemorates the legendary descent of the Danish flag in 1219 from heaven upon the troops of King Valdemar the Conqueror during the Battle of Lyndaise, in modern-day Estonia.

More than just a national symbol, the Danish flag is an essential decoration at birthdays, Christmas and other festive occasions. But following the rise of the nationalist Danish People’s Party in the 1990s, many in politics, and particularly those on the left wing, sought to disassociate themselves from it as a symbol of the Danish nation.

But that trend, according to Michael Böss, a nationalism expert at the University of Aarhus, is coming to an end.

‘The flag has become a symbol that can unite us,’ ‘Because we use flags on a lot of different occasions, it can be used by the entire nation.’

He cited examples such as Social Democrat MP Mette Frederiksen calling for the Dannnebrog to be ‘taken back’ from the right wing, and members of the centrist Social Liberals bearing Dannebrog lapel pins — most recently during the European election earlier this month.

The increasing interest in the flag, according to Professor Uffe Østergaard, of the Copenhagen Business School, is a sign that ‘nationalism’, has lost its negative tint.

‘Some draw a difference between the slightly negative “nationalism” and the more acceptable “national identity”, but they mean the same — that feelings the nation, if they are kept in check, have a lot of benefits for national cohesion.’

The Danish Society Association, whose goal is to promote respect for the Dannebrog and Danish culture, reports that over the past two years its membership has doubled and now stands at 1000. Members include individuals, associations, companies and a local council.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Wilders Attacks Hate Speech Laws

Geert Wilders, well-known for his anti-Islam stance, spoke to a packed gathering at parliament

Outspoken Dutch politician Geert Wilders spoke at the city’s Free Speech and Islam Conference at Christiansborg Palace amid high security in the parliament buildings on Sunday.

The conference was organised by the Danish Free Press Society after the government’s own free speech and anti-racism conference was repeatedly delayed until this autumn.

Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen had previously said that Wilders, who heads the Dutch right-wing Party for Freedom, was not welcome at the autumn conference as he ‘associates an entire religion with hatred’.

Accompanied by a large number of Danish intelligence service agents, Wilders did not mince his words on the topic of the day.

‘Islam is not a religion, it’s a threat against everything we stand for,’ said Wilders, pointing to the spread of Islam in other countries to back up his argument.

According to Wilders, 40 percent of British Muslims want to introduce Sharia law, while half of all Dutch Muslim students look favourably upon the terror attacks of 9/11 in the US.

Wilders said the essence of Islam is a ‘totalitarian ideology’ and that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. He urged attendees to adhere to a number of proposals, including boycotting the UN’s human rights council and abolishing all hate speech laws in Europe.

In addition, Wilders said he wants to see all Muslim schools and mosques closed, as well as any future mosque building outlawed.

Naser Khader, founder of the Democratic Muslims political movement and current Conservative MP, said that Wilders’ speech painted a bleak picture for the future.

‘It’s important to make a distinction between Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political ideology. He’s not the only one who sees there is a problem. But I believe his solutions are far too narrow-minded. I completely disagree that the Koran should be banned — that is not consistent with freedom of speech,’ said Khader to Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

The Party for Freedom was founded just three years ago and has since become the second largest Dutch party in the European Parliament. Wilders said that the rise in popularity of his party could result in his becoming prime minister within two years.

‘Then your prime minister can no longer avoid meeting with me,’ said Wilders.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

EU Agrees to Take Guantanamo Detainees

LUXEMBOURG — The European Union agreed on Monday to help the administration of President Barack Obama “turn the page” on Guantanamo, saying individual EU nations will take detainees from the American prison in Cuba.

The EU and the U.S. issued a joint statement saying some EU nations are ready “to assist with the reception of certain former Guantanamo detainees, on a case-by-case basis.” It did not name the countries or how many detainees would be resettled across the 27-nation bloc, but that Washington was ready pay toward the costs of their resettlement.

Several hours later, an aide who traveled with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi to Washington for the leader’s meeting with Obama on Monday said Italy is open to taking at least three detainees from Guantanamo.

The United States seeks a home for those cleared for release from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility without trial but who cannot go to their own country for fear of ill-treatment.

About 50 of the 240 or so detainees left on Guantanamo fall in that category. At one point there were 778 detainees at Guantanamo. The first arrived in early 2002 as the United States widened its global war on terror after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and Washington.

Some EU nations have already accepted their own nationals from Guantanamo, while Albania, France, Sweden and Britain have also accepted non-citizens.

Germany is assessing a request to accept two after having refused at least nine. It will only accept people who pose no security risk and have some “connection” with Germany, German officials said. Berlin also wants Washington to say why they cannot be resettled in the United States.

Daniel Fried, the Obama administration’s special envoy for closing Guantanamo, is in Europe this week to discuss detainee transfers. He plans to visit Spain, Portugal and Hungary, a State Department official in Washington said on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the negotiations.

The EU-U.S. declaration states “the primary responsibility” for closing Guantanamo and resettling detainees rests with Washington and that accepting ex-detainees and resolving their legal status is up to EU governments.

It commits EU governments to share any data on incoming detainees with other EU governments and forces Washington to share “confidential and other intelligence and information.”

Referring to Obama’s bid to develop “a new, more sustainable approach” to security issues, the joint statement said “the EU and its member states wish to help the U.S. turn the page” on an issue that has caused deep trans-Atlantic divisions.

EU official Jonathan Faull said he saw it as “a new beginning” in EU-U.S. relations with “a resounding commitment on both sides to the rule of law and the respect for fundamental rights in the fight against international terrorism.”

Last week, Thomas Hammarberg — Europe’s top human rights official at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France — urged European governments to take in ex-Guantanamo detainees.

He said there were 50 or so — from Algeria, China, Libya, the Palestinian territories, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia and Uzbekistan — who cannot go home for fear of ill-treatment there..

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi in Rome: Women Are Bits of Furniture in Arab World

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 12 — Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has today said that in the Arab and Islamic worlds women are “like a piece of furniture that you can change whenever you like and nobody will ask why you have done it”. Gaddafi was speaking at a meeting with about a thousand women from the world of business, institutions and politics at the Parco delle Musica in Rome, with Italy’s Minister for Equal Opportunities, Mara Carfagna. “There is a need for a women’s revolution in the world, based on a cultural revolution”, said Gaddafi. With regard to Italy, “if the family continues to be treated as it is now”, with the number of young people falling and the number of pensioners on the rise, “could disappear in 2050”, said the colonel, quoting an unidentified report which should raise awareness of the need to “take care of the family and of women”. Gaddafi moved on to speak about child soldiers, saying that the family is so inexistent in Africa that “children are lost and picked up by warriors” who give them rifles and some food. This, he said, is the way that children and adolescents are recruited into the paramilitary outfits active in many conflicts in Africa, particularly around the Great Lakes and in the Horn of Africa. “I have presented a plan to the African Union”, added Gaddafi, “because in Africa the family should be respected, marriage must be based on a contract, divorce must be consensual and documented and those who bring children into the world must be responsible for them”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaddafi: Carfagna, UN to See Genital Mutilation Condemnation

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 12 — Italy is working alongside countries from Africa and elsewhere on an initiative to condemn female genital mutilation practices, which will be brought to the attention of the UN General Assembly. The news was announced today by Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities, Mara Carfagna, during her speech in front of Muammar Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, at Rome’s Parco della Musica. The minister, who highlighted the violence and abuse that women are subject to, particularly during conflicts, also paused for thought on the violation of rights in the home. “You think of genital mutilation, one of the most serious and systemic violations of human rights because it affects babies and really young girls who are forced to undergo such practices in the family. This is a custom which still affects many, many African children and then through immigration we have come to know it at home as well”. Carfagna was insistent in talking about violence against women, an issue which Gadaffi did not actually touch on. “Speaking for the Italian government, I can assure you that we will continue to pay the highest attention to women in Africa and we will commit to advancing all the intitiatives for the full recognition of their rights. African women can count on us and on our support. I am certain, and I will ask the president officially, that from today African women can also count on our commitment”. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Hungarian Far-Right Announces New National and International Agenda

****note: the following is a political blog entry — not a news link

Earlier this morning, it was reported that Jobbik would seek to revise the terms of the Treaty of Trianon within the European Parliament,

Hungary’s radical nationalist Jobbik party plans to fight for the toppling of borders set by the 1920 Trianon treaty, newly elected MEP Csanad Szegedi said on Saturday.

Jobbik considers it one of its main targets that “the Trianon borders should be dropped within a few generations or as soon as possible,” Szegedi told a Trianon memorial meeting organised in Budapest by the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement.

The three elected Jobbik MEPs in Brussels will first of all demand the abolition of the Benes decrees on the expulsion of Germans and Hungarians from Czechoslovakia after WW2, Szegedi said. German and Austrian MEPs will be invited to work towards the abolition of the decrees, he added.

Jobbik will demand territorial autonomy for Szekler land in Romania and will also press for Transcarpathia in Ukraine to become an independent Hungarian district, Szegedi said.

The Trianon memorial meeting was attended by around 250 members of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard and more than 500 supporters on a square near Budapest’s City Park.

The Trianon Treaty was signed by representatives of the Allies of WWI and Hungary on June 4, 1920. Under the treaty, Hungary’s territory was cut from nearly 283,000 square kilometres to 93,000, and its population dropped from 18 million to 7.6 million.

among some other things not to their liking. First off would be to overturn the Benes Decrees, ostensibly with German and Austrian support. The only problem with this idea is that the Germans have no far-right MEPs (not to mention they’ve not been so favorable toward the far-right since World War II didn’t end well for them), and the Austrian Freedom Party only has two members. Five MEPs do not a movement make, assuming the Freedom Party even cooperates with Jobbik, nor are Jobbik expected to get far in their plan to overturn the borders set up by the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, considering no other nation backs them in this endeavor.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Ireland: Second Referendum on Lisbon May be Held in Late September

TAOISEACH BRIAN Cowen has spoken to key EU leaders in recent days in an effort to get an agreement that will allow the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty to be held in late September or early October.

Mr Cowen spoke by phone to German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Czech prime minister Jan Fischer during the consultations on the legal guarantees being sought by Ireland before a second referendum can be held.

Mr Cowen and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin are engaging in intensive consultations in advance of the EU summit in Brussels later this week at which a decision on the wording and status of the guarantees will be made.

Mr Cowen is expected to talk to British prime minister Gordon Brown before the summit begins on Thursday in an effort to reassure him about the detail and the implications of the Irish guarantees. The Taoiseach has also briefed Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore and will meet Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny before travelling to Brussels.

The Government is hoping to hold the referendum in the last week of September or the first week of October. The legislation to enable the referendum to take place is expected to be passed by the Dáil before it adjourns for the summer recess in early July.

The referendum will only go ahead if all other 26 countries agree to the legal guarantees for Ireland covering the issues of abortion, neutrality, tax and workers rights.

Some other EU countries have concerns about the wording of the guarantees but the main concern relates to the legal mechanism that will give them effect.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the legal guarantees at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting today in Luxembourg. The issue was taken off the agenda of the meeting last week but ministers from several EU states are expected to raise the issue.

“We haven’t seen a draft text yet from the Irish so obviously there is some nervousness around,” said an EU diplomat.

The Government wants its 26 EU partners to provide legal guarantees to Ireland in the areas of taxation, neutrality, abortion, family life and education. It also wants member states to agree to a text outlining the high importance the union attaches to the issue of workers rights and the maintenance of public services, which is a controversial issue at EU level due to differences of opinion between member states.

Irish officials are hopeful that the guarantees can be signed off at ambassador level tomorrow before EU heads of state meet on Thursday and Friday.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: Photographer Has “Embarassing “ Images of PM

Rome, 12 June (AKI) — Antonello Zappadu, the photographer whose controversial photos of the Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi appeared in a Spanish daily last week, claims to have 5,000 other “politically embarassing” pictures. There has been widespread speculation recently about the prime minister and his activities at his exclusive Villa Certosa on the island of Sardinia.

Zappadu, a Sardinian photographer, had tried to sell his photos of the prime minister and his guests to an Italian magazine for 1.5 million euros. But Berlusconi successfully sought legal intervention to block publication of the photos in Italy to protect his privacy and many photos were seized.

“The 700 photos that were confiscated are not the only ones that I took,” Zappadu said in an interview with Italian daily, La Repubblica.

“If I had to tell you the truth, between 2006 and 2009 I took 5,000 photos. At the airport in Olbia (in northeast Sardinia and inside Villa Certosa,” said Zappadu.

“Let me say there is nothing compromising. But I would say the images are politically embarrassing.”

Zappadu said one of the photos included a “fake wedding” that took place between Berlusconi and a young girl in September 2008.

He said there was a bouquet of flowers and a group of other girls around him clapping happily.

Zappadu also talked about the controversial use of state aircraft, allegedly used by Berlusconi to fly personal guests to his villa in Sardinia.

“I have other photos where you can see about ten girls getting off a helicopter,” he said.

Rome prosecutor Giovanni Ferrara is currently conducting an investigation to clarify whether state aircraft were used to ferry guests to the villa and if there were any irregularities.

Some of Zappadu’s controversial pictures were taken during New Year’s Eve festivities in January 2009, when the 18-year-old lingerie model and aspiring actress Noemi Letizia linked to Berlusconi was reportedly among the guests.

Berlusconi has consistently denied claims he had a sexual relationship with the Naples teenager since news broke that he had attended her 18th birthday party at the end of April.

His wife Veronica Lario announced her intention to divorce Berlusconi after photos of her husband were published at Letizia’s birthday party.

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

Italy: No Charge for ‘Crime’ of Passion

Pavia, 8 June (AKI) — It was not quite a crime of passion but a case of sexual betrayal which has made the headlines in Italy. Police were called to investigate an intrusion at the home of a university professor in the northern town of Pavia and were surprised at what they found.

Instead of finding a thief inside, police officers reportedly discovered a half-naked man who was surprised to see them.

When the man came out of hiding police soon realised the man was not a thief, but the lover of the professor’s wife.

The professor had returned home for his keys and discovered his wife’s indiscretion.

He apologised to police and no charges have apparently been laid.

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

Italy: Police Raid, Hacker Financing Fundamentalist Group

(AGI) — Brescia, 12 Jun. — The State Police is currently carrying out an important investigation, in Brescia and other central and northern Italian cities, that has allowed them to locate and dismantle a transnational structure, which, thanks to sophisticated hacking techniques, broke into the computer systems of multinational telecommunications companies to acquire PIN numbers allowing them to make international phone calls, which were then re-sold in other countries, including Italy. According to the accusations, part of the profits from the criminal scheme contributed finances to Islamic fundamentalist groups in south-east Asia.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: More Slowly, President Obama…

Il Giornale, 3 June 2009

He should go more slowly, demonstrating that he understands that what is at stake is not his popularity. Instead, Obama seems to walk towards the road to Cairo in love with his own goodness, with his own innovative words, which go at full throttle before he has first looked in the eyes a world in which often courtesy appears as weakness. The president seems to be at this time in search of consensus estimates, blatant, his words before departure seem to repeat those of a bizarre gesture of deep reverence towards the King of Saudi Arabia, which have left even his greatest admirers perplexed.

Obama has spoken against the danger of trying to impose “our culture” on those who have a “different history and culture.” Dangerous, difficult as it can be. Surely, but when Obama says that “democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression and freedom of worship are not just the values of the West but are universal values” and are therefore embedded also within non-Western cultures, one comes to laugh (we hope that is the desired outcome) in relation to the ingenuousness of the statement in which one notices superficiality or cynicism; especially this ingenuousness sympathizes with dissidents, those condemned to death, oppressed women, those tortured by genital mutilation and homosexuals persecuted. The America that has always sought to save the oppressed, from Europe under the Nazis to the former Soviet Union and more recently Iraq, is tarnishing. It seems to retreat from the great race to establish worldwide freedom. Obama has declared simply that he will serve by passive example and ignores instead that the Islam perceives itself as an extreme, aggressively active example in a stage of expansion. It seems that the vision, which he has repeatedly expressed of the West, is that of a substantially oppressive world, that should make amends and therefore, be transcended, is winning out in the expression of his opinions.

On the eve of his departure to Cairo, Obama has asked U.S. embassies to invite Iranian diplomats to their July 4th celebrations. A significant concession without exchange to one of the most threatening countries in the world, one that looks upon our culture with disdain while it violates human rights and prepares the bomb. Will the U.S. be as useful example for Iran? We doubt it. Another very important point: Obama departs towards the Arab world after having deepened the gap with Israel. He starts after some prominent voices from the White House, later denied, reported that the U.S. would stop supporting Israel at the UN by using the right to veto. But in his trip there is already an original flaw: the choice of confronting the Middle East without a stop in Israel. He goes to visit the moderate Sunni Arab countries thus breaking the link between their good will for a peaceful future for the Middle East by the natural relationship of contiguity with Israel. So, he will give strength to those who place all the blame and responsibility on Israel, deferring the problems of democracy, of accountability. In fact, a great rise in anti-Israeli shields that Egypt, for example, hasn’t dreamed of for some time, mark the visit. Obama has taken care, just before his departure of using many harsh words: he has told Israel that “part of friendship is to be honest…and that today the current trajectory in the region is profoundly negative not only for Israeli interests but also for American interests. The U.S., in short, will be hard on you. I have already said that Netanyahu must now freeze all settlement construction and block the natural growth of settler communities. Start doing it.” Here Obama reaps applause from the Arab world, while he knows (we hope) that the settlements, 500 thousand people, are a difficult, long process in which Arab guarantees are very different from those at present. All the UN resolutions say it, as well as the various agreements, which have always been rejected by the Palestinians (that of Oslo, that with Olmert and Livni): they are the starting point of negotiations, after the Palestinians accept the end of violence and recognize a Jewish state, without the right of return for refugees, on which instead you have two loud “no’s” from Abu Mazen.

The feeling is that the great publicity machine surrounding Obama’s travel insists on settlements and on excellent relations with the moderate Arab world at Israel’s expenses, in order to blanket the difficulty of addressing the issue of Iran.

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

Italy: Right-Wing Guard Sparks Outrage

ROME — Italy’s interior minister defended plans Monday to allow citizen patrols to beef up security amid outrage over a new right-wing guard that has put Fascist and Nazi-like symbols on its uniforms.

The Italian National Guard was launched at a news conference over the weekend, sparking outcry from the center-left opposition, Jewish groups, police unions and others that it evoked Italy’s fascist-era paramilitary Black Shirts.

The guards’ uniforms feature an imperial eagle, a symbol often associated with Fascism. In addition, on the armband is a black-rayed sun, or Sonnenrad, an image found in a castle used by the Nazi’s paramilitary SS.

The guard was introduced by the right-wing fringe Italian Social Movement at a Milan party conference during which at least two speakers gave the straight-armed Fascist salute.

Party leaders said the guard’s creation was made possible by recent legislation — still to be approved by the Senate — allowing citizen patrols to help beef up security in Italian cities and towns.

The legislation, passed by the lower Chamber of Deputies last month, was pushed through by the conservative majority in parliament amid polls indicating most Italians link crime to illegal immigration.

The conservative government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi has made the fight against illegal immigration a priority, recently signing a controversial new accord with Libya to send back migrants intercepted at sea in a bid to stem the flow of thousands of would-be migrants who set sail for Italian shores from Libya each year.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, of the anti-immigrant Northern League, defended the new legislation Monday but insisted that such “do-it-yourself” groups wouldn’t be permitted once the bill becomes law.

“There is a clear and precise process” for citizen patrols to be registered with local government prefects, he told private Radio 24. “All the rest is either folklore or political maneuvering.”

Maroni, however, has long been a fan of such local citizen patrols. In 1996, he inaugurated a similar regional security force backed by the Northern League, the Padania National Guard. Those so-called “green shirts” are the model for the new Italian National Guard, organizers said.

The Italian National Guard says it is a nonprofit, apolitical organization of volunteers. However, its president is Gaetano Saya, who also is leader of the Italian Socialist Movement, and the guard was introduced at the party’s general conference, complete with a uniformed officer.

In a video message on the guard’s Web site, Saya says he is just a patriotic Italian — not a Fascist. He lambasted a reported investigation by Milan prosecutors into alleged violations of a law that makes it a crime to apologize for fascism.

“We aren’t Black Shirts, we aren’t Fascists, we aren’t Nazis,” he said.. “We are Italian patriots and we want freedom.”

Organizers also have defended the use of the eagle on the uniforms, saying it stems from Rome’s imperial, ancient past — not its Fascist one.

The opposition, which has denounced the citizen patrols as paving the way for vigilante justice, said the new guard clearly evoked fascist and Nazi paramilitary groups.

“The idea that security could be granted to militant groups that are identified with a political group is a strike to the heart of the principles of every free democracy,” the ANSA news agency quoted Marco Minniti, head of security matters for the main opposition Democratic Party, as saying.

The police union Sil-Cigl said such patrols not only wouldn’t help improve security but would increase problems by creating confusion, Apcom news agency said. And Jewish groups said they were prepared to create “counter-patrols” to ensure such security forces don’t commit any crimes themselves.

Benito Mussolini inaugurated his Black Shirts in 1919. They were mostly ultranationalist former soldiers who violently attacked communists, socialists and other progressive groups, breaking up strikes and attacking trade union headquarters. Their famous march on Rome in 1922 brought the fascist dictator to power

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Italy, US Break Up Hacking Group

ROME — Italian and U.S. authorities have broken up an international group that hacked into long-distance phone lines and may have provided funds to terrorists in Southeast Asia, officials said Monday.

Police conducted raids across Italy on Friday to arrest five Pakistanis linked to a hacking operation in the Philippines. On the same day, Federal authorities in New Jersey charged three people living in the Philippines in connection with the case.

The group electronically broke into the systems of international telecommunications companies and sold the access codes in several countries in a multi-million-dollar fraud, Italian police and the FBI said in separate statements.

By routing conversations from the call centers onto the hacked networks the suspects stole 12 million minutes, worth $55 million, from companies including AT&T, the FBI said.

Italian authorities shut down 10 call centers in various cities, according to police in the northern city of Brescia, where the probe was centered.

Two of the Pakistanis, a husband and wife, were arrested in Brescia, while three more were found in the central town of Macerata. Italy has also issued a sixth warrant for a Filipino citizen.

The six are accused of fraud for illegally accessing and selling the codes to the call centers — stores that are widely used by immigrants in Italy to phone home.

Much of the proceeds were sent to the Philippines and may have been forwarded to Islamic extremist groups in the region, including the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf, said Carlo De Stefano, head of Italy’s anti-terrorism police unit.

“There are strong suspicions and some clues, but nothing concrete,” De Stefano told The Associated Press on Monday. He did not elaborate.

De Stefano said officers from the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, had helped the Italians in the investigation and would take the lead in probing the destination of the money.

Authorities in Spain, Germany and Switzerland were also conducting investigations as groups similar to the one uncovered in Italy are believed to have operated in those countries, he said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Prosecutor Seeks Dissolution of Scientology in France

REUTERS — French prosecutor on Monday recommended a Paris court should dissolve the Church of Scientology’s French branch when it rules on charges of fraud against the organisation.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France, where it has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The Church’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in a fraud trial that began on May 25. Summing up her views on the case, state prosecutor Maud Coujard urged the court to return a guilty verdict and dissolve the organisation in France.

The Church of Scientology denies the fraud charges and says the case against it violates freedom of religion.

A ruling is expected within months.

French state prosecutors had previously resisted the idea of an outright dissolution of Scientology in the country.

If the court follows the prosecutor’s recommendation, Scientology could appeal and the verdict would be suspended.

The trial centres on complaints made in the late 1990s by two former members who spent huge sums on Scientology courses and “purification” sessions.

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

Report Says UK ‘A Haven for War Criminals’

Britain is becoming a safe haven for war criminals and those funding genocide, according to a new report.

The Aegis Trust says that war crimes suspects who come to the UK are escaping justice because of “legal loopholes”.

It found that suspected war criminals could not be deported easily because of human rights laws.

The Human Rights Act prevents them being sent home if they could face torture or an unfair trial.

Head of research Nick Donovan said: “This report shows that this not a hypothetical issue.

“It’s about individuals suspected of the most heinous crimes anyone can commit; individuals that this country needs to bring to justice if we do not want to remain a safe haven for war criminals.”

He added that some suspected war criminals could not be prosecuted if the acts were committed before 2001.

Similarly, anyone who comes here as an asylum seeker, student or tourist cannot be prosecuted.

The report names Felicien Kabuga, who is accused of financing the Rwandan genocide, and Liberian Chucky Taylor, who was convicted of torture by the US.

Both came to the UK, but were not brought before the courts.

Other suspects are alleged to have come here from Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Afghanistan.

Around 300 individuals screened by the UK Border Agency since 2004 have faced further action by immigration officials.

But in 22 investigations by the Metropolitan Police in the last four years, only one has resulted in successful prosecution.

The report calls for changes to the International Criminal Court Act 2001 to allow prosecutions when war crimes suspects arrive in the UK

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

UK: Iraq Inquiry Will Hear Evidence in Private

The inquiry into the Iraq war will be independent but evidence will be given in private, Gordon Brown has announced.

The Prime Minister told the Commons it must hear evidence in private so witnesses can be “as candid as possible”.

It will look at events between the summer of 2001 and July of this year, but will not report back until after the next general election.

It will be a privy councillor inquiry, headed by Sir John Chilcot who was a member of the Butler review of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

Other members include Baroness Usha Prashar, Sir Roderick Lyne, Sir Lawrence Freedman and Sir Martin Gilbert.

Gordon Brown Announces Inquiry Into The Iraq War

Tory leader David Cameron said he welcomed the report but that there was a danger people would think the inquiry had been “fixed” because it would not report until after the next general election.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the decision to go into Iraq was Britain’s worst ever foreign policy mistake and questioned the decision to take evidence in private.

“I am staggered that the Prime Minister today is seeking to compound that error, fatal for so many people, by covering up the path that led to it,” he said.

“He has taken a step in the right direction but missed the fundamental point.

“A secret inquiry, conducted by a clutch of grandees, hand-picked by the Prime Minister, is not what Britain needs.”

The mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, Rose Gentle, said: “We have fought and fought for this but it will be no use and it could all be for nothing behind closed doors.

“We will be lobbying parliament to make sure this is all transparent.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Welfare Excuses: The Causes of Multiculturalism and Western Self-Loathing

by Free Hal

Many writers are openly baffled by European Society’s self-loathing, currently manifesting as multiculturalism and political correctness. And resentment at the fierceness with which these orthodoxies are enforced.

Some more-or-less random examples:

  • A 14-year-old girl arrested, fingerprinted, photographed, held in a police cell for 3 1/2 hours, and questioned by police on suspicion of committing a race-based public order offence because she had, Oliver Twist-like, they had to approach a teacher to ask if she could sit at a different people for the science lesson because the other three children at the table only spoke Urdu.
  • A 10-year-old boy (just inside the age of criminal responsibility, “doli incapax” ending at age 10) arrested, charged, and brought before a judge for responding with “Paki” to taunts from an 11-year-old boy that he was a “skunk” and a “Teletubby”.
  • The makers of the Channel 4 documentary “Undercover Mosque” investigated subjected to a year-long police investigation for themselves investigating extremism and mosques.
  • Public funding of exclusive organisations for migrant populations, combined with the public prohibition of any such organisation by the host population. What reason, other than exclusiveness, could there be for the “Muslim Boy Scouts”? It isn’t hard to imagine the firmness with which the state squash a Non-Muslim Boy Scouts troop.

You can find similar stories most weeks, usually accompanied by “How did our elites get to be so witless?” commentaries. To say nothing of the comments section when these reports are published online.

Politicians ignore this frustration at their peril, perhaps in the belief that only eccentrics comment on news stories. But things are reversing: those not baffled by such stories are now the unusual ones.

In this essay I try to trace how such wretched attitudes arise in the first place, and why the wider population tolerate them…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt Court Rejects Ex-Muslim Convert’s Case

Christian wanted new religion recorded on Egypt ID

An Egyptian court refused Saturday a request by an ex-Muslim convert to Christianity to officially recognize his conversion and change his religious affiliation and name on his identity card.

Cairo’s Administrative Court dismissed Maher al-Moatassem Bellah al-Gohary’s request for a new national identification card listing his new religious affiliation and his new name, Peter Ethnasios. The court also ordered him to pay all legal fees.

Ethnasios, 57, converted to Christianity 34 years ago and has unofficially changed his name to match his new religious identity. He filed the request for official recognition in August of 2008 when his defense attorney presented to the court a baptism certificate issued by Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church as proof of his client’s conversion.

“This certificate resolves the entire problem and proves beyond doubt that my client converted to Christianity,” the attorney told the court. “It thus gives him the right to change his religion in official documents.”Ethnasios first presented in April a certificate from the Roman Orthodox Church in Cyprus, where he was baptized, but the court asked for one issued by the Egyptian Coptic church to prove its endorsement of his conversion. The Coptic Church complied with the court request and granted Ethnasios a certificate, adding that it could not reject anyone wanting to convert to Christianity. There is no Egyptian law against converting from Islam to Christianity, but neither is there any legal precedence for officially recognizing such conversions. Converting from Islam to another religioun is considered apostasy under many interpretations of Islamic law, but Egypt has never prosecuted ex-Muslims on grounds of apostasy.

And while there is no legal precedence for officially recognizing Muslims who convert to Christianity, in the past the administrative court has recognized the re-conversion of Coptic Christians who revert back to Christianity after converting to Islam for a period of time. Ethnasios is the second Christian convert to demand official recognition. In 2008 Mohamed Hegazy, who changed his name to Bishoy, filed a similar request and was also rejected. Despite the unfavorable precedent, Ethnasios insisted on filing for official recognition, stressing that he would never give up Christianity “even if the Church itself ordered him to do so.” Gohary claimed his conversion has been the cause of much harassment, vandalism and death threats he received from strangers and family members alike, and that he plans to leave Egypt but only after he is officially recognized as a Christian.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: Man to Re-Sit High School Exam for 19th Time

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 12 — A 37-year-old Tunisian man who has been trying to pass the Bac’ high school exam since 1990, is to re-sit the test for the 19th time. The issue appears to be very close to Abdullah Souleiman’s heart and, as ever, he turned up punctually for the test, determined to emerge victorious this time. The results are not yet known, but however it goes, Abdullah could find a place in the Guiness Book of Records anyway. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Assessing Binyamin Netanyahu’s Speech at Bar-Ilan University

In a major speech today at the Begin-Sadat Center of Bar-Ilan University, Binyamin Netanyahu laid out his vision to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. In brief, it’s a fine speech, making many needed points, but it fails on the critical point of prematurely accepting a Palestinian state.

Here are some of the high points, important statements eloquently articulated…

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Barry Rubin: What’s Unsettling About Obama’s Policy Toward Settlements

Whether construction continues on Jewish settlements in the West Bank or not right now is, in my opinion, a very secondary question. If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were to say that he would suspend new building starts for three months this might be a reasonable way to prove his eagerness for peace and to establish cooperation with the new U.S. administration.

But that’s not quite the situation. There are four factors which really define the problem right now and which are generally ignored in media coverage and public debate…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Israeli Comedian Likens Muslims to Cockroaches

Muslims outraged by “racist” jokes against them Outraged Palestinians have called for legal action against a prominent Israeli comedian after a guest on his talk show launched a scathing tirade against Muslims and compared them to cockroaches.

In an attempt at humor, a guest on Israel’s “Tonight with Lior Shlein” mocked the way Muslims pray and to the audience’s delight likened the way they looked when in prostration to a penis.

The guest continued his jibe to cheers and applause and went on to compare Muslims to cockroaches.

But for some, the jokes were not so funny as Muslim MPs and activists threatened to file a lawsuit against the host of the show Shlein for allowing his guest to make the comments shown on Israel’s Channel 10, the London-based Asharq al-Awsat reported.”Muslims and Christians alike should boycott Israel’s Channel 10 as it deliberately and systematically derides religion and the prophets,” said Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, the chairman and chief judge of the Palestinian Higher Council of Islamic Courts.”These insults are done on purpose to hurt the feelings of Muslims and Christians,” he said in a statement. “This proves that Channel 10 is racist and demonstrates how low they can stoop and how they can go against all religious and ethical values.”Shleim has been under fire before for slurs against religion and in February he outraged Christians when he labeled the Virgin Mary “promiscuous” and joked that Jesus was probably extremely obese so he couldn’t have walked on water. In other Channel 10 controversies, a website affiliated with the channel, called Nana 10, posted a clip of the Israeli version of the reality show Survivor where one of the contestants calls his shoes Muhammad, probably a dig at Islam’s prophet.

“Free” to insult religionTamimi also slammed anyone who regards slandering religious symbols as freedom of expression and called for an international law that penalizes those who disrespect any religion.Masud Ganaim, Knesset member for the Islamic Movement, called for an end to making fun of religion under the pretext of entertainment or comedy. “It looks like Shlein is now addicted to swimming in contaminated media water stained with the worst ethical offences,” he said in a statement. “And now he is giving us more of his filth.”Ganaim said he was surprise that no measures had been taken against Shlein despite constant complaints of his mockery.”In a country that claims it promotes freedom of faith, this blasphemy should have been a disaster. If the same had happened with Judaism, the reaction would’ve been totally different,” Ganaim said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Speech

by Barry Rubin

In a much-awaited speech about his new government’s foreign policy, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explained Israel’s situation, experience, and views. Other countries, especially those which think they have all the answers for making peace, should pay close attention. They might actually learn something.

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated:

“We do have a view about Israel’s security. We see historical, demographic, political, technological trends that are very troubling as to Israel’s future.”

This was a most peculiar thing for a secretary of state to say. In effect, she claims that the United States knows best for Israel. I cannot imagine an American secretary of state saying such a thing about any other country in the world in this manner.

But the truth is that this administration doesn’t know best for Israel. (Whether it even knows best for the United States is still a very doubtful proposition.) It simply doesn’t understand the realities of the region, the nature of Palestinian movements and their goals, and lots of other things.

Lots of European countries say the same thing. Indeed, in the current American administration there seem to be two competing strains of thinking that amount to the same thing: Israel is so strong that it can afford to make huge concessions; Israel is so weak that it must make huge concessions.”

This is the massive misunderstanding-compounded by hostility and divergent national interests-that Netanyahu set out to address.

First, he tried to explain the Iranian threat, and his timing-immediately following an intensification of that country’s dictatorship and hard-line regime-showed that he and others in Israel who have been warning about the government in Tehran have been (unfortunately) quite correct.

“The greatest danger confronting Israel, the Middle East, the entire world and human race, is the nexus between radical Islam and nuclear weapons.”

The greatest danger confronting Israel, etc., is not the Palestinian problem, nor is it Islamophobia, nor an insufficient supply of American apologies and empathy.

Netanyahu stresses that he agrees with President Barack Obama on “the idea of a regional peace that he is leading….I share the President’s desire to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.” He also stressed the importance of economic cooperation in the region.

By the way, conscious of the disastrous, albeit well-intentioned, proposal by then Prime Minister Shimon Peres for a “new Middle East” sounding as if Israeli technology would combine with Arab labor and money, Netanyahu phrased the idea in a much more modest way, making clear that Israel could learn from Arab developmental successes in the Gulf.

Regarding the Palestinian issue, Netanyahu made the following points…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Barry Rubin: When Middle East Policy Doesn’t Make Sense

Leaving aside the merits of the issue which I discussed here and here, the fact that U.S. Middle East policy seems to hinge on whether or not Israel builds around 4000 apartments this year in West Bank settlements is bizarre in a number of respects.

First, let’s assume that after six months or so of back and forth, the Israeli government refuses to freeze construction. What is the United States going to do about it?

The problem is that the administration has already foreclosed the most obvious “punishments” since it isn’t going to do these things any way. After all, the biggest leverage the U.S. government has would be, for example, not to take a tough anti-Iran policy on nuclear weapons, not to intensify the isolation of Syria, not to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority unless it fulfilled its commitments more, and—well you get the picture.

So since it is already clear that Washington isn’t going to give Israel more help regardless of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does, this gives Israel less incentive to freeze construction. Indeed, since the administration has made it amply clear that there will be no reward or what Netanyahu has called reciprocity for an Israeli unilateral concession this further reduces any motivation for complying.

This brings us, then, to the possibility that there will be punishments for not giving the administration what it wants. But what is the U.S. government going to do? The most talked about possibility is that the United States won’t veto UN anti-Israel resolutions.

Yet the problem with this approach is that the more the United States does against Israel the more it undermines its leverage in advancing any peace process…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Don’t Call What Happened in Iran Last Week an Election

For a flavor of the political atmosphere in Tehran, Iran, last week, I quote from a young Iranian comrade who furnishes me with regular updates:

I went to the last major Ahmadinejad rally and got the whiff of what I imagine fascism to have been all about. Lots of splotchy boys who can’t get a date are given guns and told they’re special.

It’s hard to better this, either as an evocation of the rancid sexual repression that lies at the nasty core of the “Islamic republic” or as a description of the reserve strength that the Iranian para-state, or state within a state, can bring to bear if it ever feels itself even slightly challenged. There is a theoretical reason why the events of the last month in Iran (I am sorry, but I resolutely decline to refer to them as elections) were a crudely stage-managed insult to those who took part in them and those who observed them. And then there is a practical reason. The theoretical reason, though less immediately dramatic and exciting, is the much more interesting and important one.

Iran and its citizens are considered by the Shiite theocracy to be the private property of the anointed mullahs. This totalitarian idea was originally based on a piece of religious quackery promulgated by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and known as velayat-e faqui. Under the terms of this edict—which originally placed the clerics in charge of the lives and property of orphans, the indigent, and the insane—the entire population is now declared to be a childlike ward of the black-robed state. Thus any voting exercise is, by definition, over before it has begun, because the all-powerful Islamic Guardian Council determines well in advance who may or may not “run.” Any newspaper referring to the subsequent proceedings as an election, sometimes complete with rallies, polls, counts, and all the rest of it, is the cause of helpless laughter among the ayatollahs. (“They fell for it? But it’s too easy!”) Shame on all those media outlets that have been complicit in this dirty lie all last week. And shame also on our pathetic secretary of state, who said that she hoped that “the genuine will and desire” of the people of Iran would be reflected in the outcome. Surely she knows that any such contingency was deliberately forestalled to begin with.

In theory, the first choice of the ayatollahs might not actually “win,” and there could even be divisions among the Islamic Guardian Council as to who constitutes the best nominee. Secondary as that is, it can still lead to rancor. After all, corrupt systems are still subject to fraud. This, like hypocrisy, is the compliment that vice pays to virtue. With near-incredible brutishness and cruelty, then, the guardians moved to cut off cell-phone and text-message networks that might give even an impression of fairness and announced though their storm-troop “revolutionary guards” that only one form of voting had divine sanction. (“The miraculous hand of God,” announced Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, had been present in the polling places and had announced a result before many people had even finished voting. He says that sort of thing all the time.)


Mention of the Lebanese elections impels me to pass on what I saw with my own eyes at a recent Hezbollah rally in south Beirut, Lebanon. In a large hall that featured the official attendance of a delegation from the Iranian Embassy, the most luridly displayed poster of the pro-Iranian party was a nuclear mushroom cloud! Underneath this telling symbol was a caption warning the “Zionists” of what lay in store. We sometimes forget that Iran still officially denies any intention of acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet Ahmadinejad recently hailed an Iranian missile launch as a counterpart to Iran’s success with nuclear centrifuges, and Hezbollah has certainly been allowed to form the idea that the Iranian reactors may have nonpeaceful applications. This means, among other things, that the vicious manipulation by which the mullahs control Iran can no longer be considered their “internal affair.” Fascism at home sooner or later means fascism abroad. Face it now or fight it later. Meanwhile, give it its right name.

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

Dr. Zakaria Al Sheikh Urges Arab Countries to Liberate Al Aqsa Mosque

Dr. Zakaria Al Sheikh, the Chairman of the “Fact International” Media Group, demanded that all Arab countries which have borders with Israel ‘to open their borders for the people of the Islamic world in order to overcome the Zionist State.’

Dr. Sheikh said that, “the Zionist state is based on a great lie” and it’s systematic forging of history by “distorting facts for the purpose of justifying its illegal presence.”

Israel resorts to “a history and forged Old Testament references that were written by devil hands, which adopted terrorism and criminality as a way of life.”

Last Sunday, immediately after the ‘deceptive’ speech of Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the terrorist Zionist state, Dr. Zakaria Al Sheikh, in an exclusive statement, told Fact International that “Arab and Islamic countries must not be deceived by the initiative of this criminal, who expressed his willingness to visit your capitals. He has the blood of the children, women and the people of Palestine — both young and old — on his hands. There is a smell of the destruction of Mosques in his hands. Arab and Islamic countries must clearly announce that they will ‘use their financial, human, and oil capabilities to liberate Palestine.”

Dr. Al Sheikh demanded that Arab countries, which have borders with Israel, must open their borders immediately for the people of the Islamic world to liberate the ‘First Qiblah’ and the ‘Third Holiest Mosque’ as a direct response to Netanyahu’s speech.

Dr. Al Sheikh said “Palestine is Arab and Canaanite before the arrival of our Prophet Abraham, (the Chaldean), peace be upon him, from the Iraqi city ‘Owr’ in the 21st Century ‘Before Christ.’ The folks of ‘Israel’ appeared only in the 18th Century before the Christ, when our Prophet Jacob (Israel), peace be upon him, was born with his twelve sons. Judaism as a religion came in the 13th Century before the Christ.”

He said that Netanyahu’s claim that ‘Palestine is a Jewish land for the Jewish people’ is “a forging of history and the three heavenly books, because the Palestinians (the Canaanites) have been inhabiting the blessed land of Palestine for tens of centuries, long before the Israelis, the murderers of the Prophets, who disobeyed God and spread corruption.”

Dr. Al Sheikh said that statements of the ‘terrorist’ Netanyahu are clear. Netanyahu stated that ‘Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return, there will be no Palestinian State but a Zionist colony with weapons, a ‘unified’ Jerusalem will be the eternal Capital for the Zionist State and historical Palestine is a Jewish land.’

Dr Al Sheikh said that Arab and Islamic countries are required to adopt a clear attitude to challenge the words of the ‘terrorist’ Netanyahu. He demanded the Arab countries to immediately announce that “Palestine is an Arab and Islamic Land. It must be protected. The peace process should be buried, because it does not exist.

The liberation of Al Aqsa must start immediately by establishing an Islamic army, which is financed and provided by the Islamic countries to ‘smash’ the Zionist State.”

Dr. Al Sheikh emphasized that the Palestinian Platoons should be unified. “The Palestinian rifle must unify its Arab and Islamic brothers against the threats of the real enemy (the Zionists).”

Dr. Al Sheikh said that according to the ‘Prophetic Hadeeth’ one of the parties, which will liberate Palestine and Al Aqsa Mosque, has been completed in the western part of Jordan River.

‘The Zionist criminal gangs have gathered behind fortified villages and at the western area of the river walls.’

He said that “the ball, now, is on the pitch of the Muslims to complete the second part of the ‘Great Battle.’ The battle of liberating Al Aqsa and destroying the Zionist State of injustice and terrorism, by preparing armies of Muslims east of the River and facilitating the mission of the Islamic people to carry out their sacred duties for the liberation of Palestine.”

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Is Iran Nuking Up as Obama Fiddles?

Ex-Mossad chief ‘really worried’ about president’s ‘learning curve’

TEL AVIV — President Obama’s “learning curve” regarding his policies toward Iran might buy Tehran enough time to produce nuclear weapons, Shabtai Shavit, former chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, warned in an exclusive WND interview today.

“I do know that Obama is taking a very long learning curve experience in order to reach a conclusion about whether his thinking of diplomacy with Iran was right or wrong. I am really worried there will be a heavy price for us,” Shavit said.

“Until Obama is convinced personally that his policies may not work and until he has undergone the whole experience, it may be too late,” said Shavit.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Speed of Iran Vote Count Called Suspicious

CAIRO — How do you count almost 40 million handwritten paper ballots in a matter of hours and declare a winner? That’s a key question in Iran’s disputed presidential election.

International polling experts and Iran analysts said the speed of the vote count, coupled with a lack of detailed election data normally released by officials, was fueling suspicion around President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s landslide victory.

Iran’s supreme leader endorsed the hard-line president’s re-election the morning after Friday’s vote, calling it a “divine assessment” and appearing to close the door on challenges from Iran’s reformist camp. But on Monday, after two days of rioting in the streets, he ordered an investigation into the allegations of fraud.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad’s reformist challenger, claims he was robbed of the presidency and has called for the results to be canceled.

Mousavi’s newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, or the Green Word, reported on its Web site that more than 10 million votes were missing national identification numbers similar to U.S. Social Security numbers, which make the votes “untraceable.” It did not say how it knew that information.

Mousavi said some polling stations closed early with voters still in line, and he charged that representatives of his campaign were expelled from polling centers even though each candidate was allowed one observer at each location. He has not provided evidence to support the accusations.

His supporters have reported intimidation by security forces who maintained a strong presence around polling stations.

Observers who questioned the vote said that at each stage of the counting, results released by the Interior Ministry showed Ahmadinejad ahead of Mousavi by about a 2-1 margin.

That could be unusual, polling experts noted, because results reported first from Iran’s cities would likely reflect a different ratio from those reported later from the countryside, where the populist Ahmadinejad has more support among the poor.

Mousavi said the results also may have been affected by a shortage of ballot papers in the provinces of Fars and East Azerbaijan, where he had been expected to do well because he is among the country’s Azeri minority. He said the shortage was despite the fact that officials had 17 million extra ballots ready.

Interior Ministry results show that Ahmadinejad won in East Azerbaijan..

The final tally was 62.6 percent of the vote for Ahmadinejad and 33.75 for Mousavi — a landslide victory in a race that was perceived to be much closer. Such a huge margin also went against the expectation that a high turnout — a record 85 percent of Iran’s 46.2 million eligible voters — would boost Mousavi, whose campaign energized young people to vote. About a third of the eligible voters were under 30.

Ahmadinejad, who has significant support among the poor and in the countryside, said Sunday that the vote was “real and free” and insisted the results were fair and legitimate.

“Personally, I think that it is entirely possible that Ahmadinejad received more than 50 percent of the vote,” said Konstantin Kosten, an expert on Iran with the Berlin-based German Council of Foreign Relations who spent a year from 2005-06 in Iran.

Still, he said, “there must be an examination of the allegations of irregularities, as the German government has called for.”

But Iran’s electoral system lacks the transparency needed to ensure a fair election, observers said. International monitors are barred from observing Iranian elections and there are no clear mechanisms to accredit domestic observers, said Michael Meyer-Resende, coordinator of the Berlin-based Democracy Reporting International, which tracked developments in the Iranian vote from outside the country.

He noted that the election was organized and overseen by two institutions that are not independent, the government’s Interior Ministry and the Guardian Council, a 12-member body made up of clerics and experts in Islamic law who are closely allied to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s Interior Ministry released a breakdown of votes by province and city, but Meyer-Resende said that to be sure of the results, it must release data all the way down to the level of each polling station.

One of the central questions was how 39.2 million paper ballots could be counted by hand and final results announced by authorities in Tehran in just over 12 hours. Past elections took at least twice as long.

A new computerized system might have helped speed the process in urban centers, where most Iranians live, though it is unclear if that system was extended to every small town and village. And each ballot — on which a candidate’s name was written in — would still have to be counted by hand before any data could be entered into a computer, aggregated and transmitted to the Interior Ministry in Tehran.

“I wouldn’t say it’s completely impossible,” Meyer-Resende said. “In the case of Iran, of course, you wonder with logistical challenges whether they could do it so fast.”

Susan Hyde, an assistant political science professor at Yale University who has taken part in election monitoring missions in developing countries for the Carter Center, agreed that would be uncharacteristically fast.

“If they’re still using hand counting, that would be very speedy, unusually speedy,” she said.

The Interior Ministry released results from a first batch of 5 million votes just an hour and a half after polling stations closed.

Over the next four hours, it released vote totals almost hourly in huge chunks of about 5 million votes — plowing through more than half of all ballots cast.

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said a major rigging process would require the involvement of powerful advisory bodies, including those in which one of the other candidates and a key Mousavi backer are prominent figures.

“Given that Mohsen Rezaei, one of the other presidential candidates, is the head of the powerful Expediency Council, for instance, it is highly unlikely that he wouldn’t have received any information of such a strategic plan to hijack the election,” Adib-Moghaddam said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Turkey-EU: Europarliament Must Keep Its Promises, Erdogan

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 9 — “The European Parliament must keep all its promises on Turkey’s entering the European Union”, Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, said at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), CNN reported. “Turkey has implemented a lot of reforms and will continue this way. We have a right to ask the European parliament to keep its promises related to Turkey’s membership in the organization”, he said. According to Erdogan, “Christian Democratic Party’s winning in elections to the European Parliament will not change the policy of the European Union and the issue on Turkish membership will remain open”. “The issue on Turkey’s EU accession will not go into the background. Turkey will not stop but will continue to work in this direction”, Erdogan said. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: It’s Not a Crime to Speak Kurdish, Prosecutor

(ANSAmed) — ANKARA, JUNE 12 — A Turkish prosecutor ruled against launching proceedings into three politicians accused of spreading Kurdish propaganda by conducting campaign speeches in the language ahead of the March 29 local elections, Hurriyet daily reported today. The Digor district police department in the eastern province of Kars filed a criminal complaint against the three executives from the pro-Kurdish Democratic and Society Party, or DTP, claiming they broke laws by speaking Kurdish at the opening ceremony for the party’s regional election office in February. Turkey’s election laws do not allow election campaigners to use any language other than Turkish during their campaigning efforts. Digor Public Prosecutor, Omer Tutuncu, ruled against launching proceedings into the three, saying “the related provisions of law do not retain any applicability after Turkey’s state-run television and radio network started broadcasting in Kurdish on January 1, 2009.” “Even senior officials and bureaucrats have addressed Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent in Kurdish,” he added when handing down his ruling. Politicians have been charged for promoting separate Kurdish public service and disseminating Kurdish propaganda in election campaigns in the past. Turkey has recently taken steps to boost the cultural and democratic rights of Kurds, including the January 1 launch, attended by the prime minister, of state-run TRT-6, a TV channel that airs in Kurdish 24-hours a day. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Turkey: ‘Finish Off AKP’ Debate Unfinished

ISTANBUL — After conducting an investigation, the Turkish military declares that the alleged plan to dismantle the AKP as part of an effort to fight fundamentalism and stop religious movements is a fabrication. Meanwhile, politicians and observers express conflicting levels of trust in the army’s statements about the document

The Turkish military announced Monday that none of its units prepared an alleged action plan to finish off the ruling party, but government officials were unsatisfied with the army’s statement and experts remained divided on the issue.

“In line with the evidence we received in the investigation, we have concluded that no units of the General Staff prepared the alleged document,” the General Staff said in its statement Monday morning, adding that an investigation to understand whether the document is fake was ongoing. The document bears the signature of an on-duty colonel who has been accused of preparing a memorandum keeping records on many non-governmental organizations.

The General Staff launched its investigation last week after daily Taraf led with a story on an alleged clandestine action plan targeting the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and Fethullah Gülen, the leader of the religious “Gülen movement.” Allegedly drafted by the General Staff’s operations division, the plan is said to have contained efforts to fight fundamentalism and end the activities of religious movements G particularly the AKP and Gülen’s group G that are accused of trying to undermine Turkey’s secular order and establish an Islamic state.

However, ambiguity in military’s statement led the General Staff to make a second statement Monday afternoon emphasizing that the Turkish military depends on the rule of law and the principles of state of law, noting that the investigation was ongoing. The General Staff also said it would not allow personnel who are against the rule of law and democracy to work within the military.

“The alleged document was demanded both by daily Taraf and the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on June 12, but no document has arrived yet. It is deemed that a final conclusion on whether the document is fake or real could solely be reached as a result of the forensic examination of the alleged document, which is expected to be sent to the military prosecutor,” said the statement. “If it is proved to be false, the Turkish Security Forces [TSK] will employ every effort to uncover the individual and aim behind the preparation of this document.”

AKP officials expressed their dissatisfaction with the TSK’s statement Monday, a day after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was looking into the matter and would launch a legal case if necessary.

The AKP’s deputy parliamentary group leader, Bekir Bozdag, told reporters that the military’s statement should have clearly rejected or accepted the existence of the document.

“It is meaningful that the army did not make any statement for four days,” Bozdag said. “The prosecutors should find those involved in this crime and begin legal proceedings immediately. This investigation is under the mandate of civil prosecutors, not the military. The statement strengthens the doubts.”

Columnist Ali Bayramoglu is among the observers who are also unsatisfied with the statement. “It is not the first time that kind of documents has broken out,” he said, noting that since Feb. 28, 1999, the beginning of the process by which the military strongly warned the government against anti-secular activities, which led to the resignation of the government, “tons of memorandums became public, the military denied the documents but neither the public nor us was satisfied. We know that military interventions are done this way, regardless if this document is real or not.”

Skeptical of plan

Journalist Saygi Öztürk, on the other hand, is a skeptic not of the military’s statement, but of the alleged plan. “I thought that the military’s statement should be believed,” he said. “It is an important institution. It is impossible to underestimate their statement.”

When asked about the AKP’s dissatisfaction with the statement, Öztürk said there are question marks about the process of seizing the alleged plan from the Ergenekon suspect.

“According to the court testimony of the suspect, he has had no gun since 1997, but 250 bullets were found in his office,” he said. “Although he has all blue flies in his office, these documents are found in a white one. Although he has no CDs in his house, car and office, one CD was confiscated. These are all question marks.”

Columnist Mehmet Altan, speaking to private news channel HaberTürk, said the worries were increasing due to the military’s statement being unclear, although the identity of the person who is alleged to have written the document was clear. “There is the signature [of the person] who also prepared a memorandum,” he said. “Is it that difficult? They say they ‘were convinced’ [that it was not prepared within the military]; this increases the worries.”

Military statement not aiding clarification

Journalist Fatih Altayli disagreed, saying since the military said the document does not belong to the institution, for now there is no choice other than believing that statement. “For instance, an AKP member makes a critical statement, then the AKP says it is not the institutional statement of the party. This is like that,” he said.

“Either this document is fake, or it is independent from the chain of command prepared within the military,” Altayli said. If the second option were correct, this would not stay as an individual action of a colonel, Altayli said.

“It is a terrible mistake that the colonel dared to prepare this. If the military discharges officers because of fundamental religious movements, it should discharge officials because of this too.”

The military’s statement has made no contribution toward clarifying the situation, said author Semih Hiçyilmaz. “If this document is true, it is so important. If it is not true, it is again so important,” he said. “Those who are struggling for political power are trying to blur the minds of the masses.”

Some experts also focused on the fact that, regardless of whether the document is fake or not, it exists. “If this is a slander against the military, it is critical that this slander suits the military. I hope we will see the days that people would say the military will never do that,” Altayli said.

Bayramoglu agreed that what is of critical importance is establishing whether such a document exists since that is the main concern generated in this situation.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Dead Taliban Fighter in Afghanistan Had Aston Villa Tattoo

BRITISH soldiers claim a Taliban fighter killed in Afghanistan was found with an Aston Villa tattoo on his body.

The unnamed Muslim insurgent lost his life following clashes with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces.

Details of forensic investigations on the bodies of dead Taliban fighters are normally top secret.

But a British military source said that the terrorist had an Aston Villa tattoo — showing he could be from the West Midlands.

The claims follow news that RAF radio spies picked up Birmingham accents while listening in to Taliban ‘chatter’ over the airwaves.

The military source said: “It’s been well-known for some time among soldiers in Afghanistan that at least one Aston Villa fan was fighting for the Taliban.

“A body of one of the men was found to have an AVFC tattoo on it.

“We’ve known for a long time that foreign fighters, many with thick Birmingham accents, have been recruited to fight against us for the Taliban.

“Some of the linguistics specialists have picked up West Midland and Manchester accents too.

“But it was a shock to hear that the guys we were fighting against supported the same football clubs as us, and maybe even grew up on the same streets as us.

“I’m not sure if the army uses the story to try and stir up a bit of passion in us when we get into fire-fights with them.”

The British Foreign Office said they were working with governments in Afghanistan and Pakistan to stop British-born Muslims going abroad to “wage Jihad”.

But the claims about the Villa tattoo and Midland accents could indicate that a growing number are turning their backs on the West to fight for the Taliban.

A Government official, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “There will always be a number of people who are radicalised in this country and want to leave the UK.

“The details of Aston Villa fans in the Taliban does not shock or surprise me.

“We have never had any hard and fast evidence to tie all of these snippets of information together, but we are sure they equate to a wider ongoing radicalism in the UK.”

RAF radio operators, listening to the conversations from Nimrod planes flying above the lawless Afghan provinces, are previously said to have heard young Taliban fighters speaking in clear West Bromwich and Bradford accents.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Wherever there is any firm evidence of Brits going abroad to wage Jihad, we work with governments overseas to stop them.

“There is a long-term set of work with the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan to look at issues of radicalisation, both in the UK and abroad.

“It is important that British Muslim communities make clear that they reject this kind of activity.”

Incredibly, brave British soldiers said they harboured no ill-feeling against British mercenaries recruited by the Taliban.

But they admitted that it was almost impossible to understand their motivation.

Bombardier Mark Leinster, of 40 Regiment Royal Artillery, who was injured during an operation that led to the death of a key Taliban leader earlier this month, said: “It’s baffling.

“Why would these people leave Britain, where you have all the freedoms of a democracy, to stop Afghan people having the same benefits that are enjoyed in the UK?

“I don’t think squaddies have any hatred for these people.

“But it’s definitely difficult to understand why they would do it.”

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

Help US or We’ll Grow Opium, Say Afghan Villagers

TALBOZANG, Afghanistan — Fifty-year-old Abdul Wadud walked for two hours across Afghanistan’s remote northern mountains to hear a police commander give yet more promises of aid for those who turn their backs on growing opium.

Wadud does not grow drugs. But if no money comes soon, he will.

“The government told us several times they would help us and they didn’t,” he said, crouching barefoot on the ground in traditional Afghan loose shirt and trousers and explaining he feeds a family of 15 on occasional work as a day labourer.

“If the government or the aid organizations don’t help us — yes we will have to start growing opium,” he said.

“If they build us schools and roads we promise never to grow opium.”

Wadud and around 30 other village elders from the area had gathered on a hillside deep inside the Hindu Kush mountains, to attend a “shura,” or meeting, organised by provincial authorities to dissuade the men from growing the drug.

Their Badakhshan province in remote northern Afghanistan has been a showcase for government efforts to battle the drugs trade, which accounts for nearly all the world’s heroin.

Until 2006 Badakhshan was one of the main opium growing areas in Afghanistan, producing the country’s second biggest crop.

But last year its output fell by 95 percent, to a mere 200 hectares under cultivation, close to being declared ‘poppy free’ by the United Nations, which credited government information campaigns and eradication programs for the success there.

The United Nations has warned, however, that last year’s improvement may not hold without more aid for poor farmers.

“Badakhshan may bounce back to opium cultivation if the government fails to deliver promises made to farmers for alternative development activities,” the U.N. drugs agency said in its opium survey report last August.


Sayed Musqin Wafaqish, a police commander sent in from Kabul to head counter-narcotic efforts in the area, told the bearded men seated on rolled-out plastic carpets that the aid is coming, as long as they do not revert to growing opium.

“We know you are poor and because you are poor you want to grow poppy,” he said. “It is bad for Afghanistan. It is a disgrace. It gives a bad name for Afghanistan because we are growing poppy. I promise you in the near future you will get some help. Your village is on the top of the list.”

Despite a marginal drop in production, Afghanistan last year still produced more than 90 percent of the world’s opium, a thick paste from poppies which is processed to make heroin. But the overall numbers hide wide variations from province to province.

As a result of improvements in areas under government control in recent years, most of the production is now concentrated in southern provinces such as Helmand, in areas partly or wholly controlled by Taliban militants.

Fighters use the trade to fund their insurgency, and it also breeds corrosive government corruption. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said this year Afghanistan was in danger of becoming a failed “narco-state.”

The government and its Western backers say the drop in production in northern provinces under their grip, like Badakhshan, is a sign they can fight drugs in areas they control.

Afghan and Western anti-narcotics officials tout “alternative development” projects such as providing wheat seeds to farmers. But locals at the shura say they have yet to see the benefits.

Sayed Amir, 60, an elder from the village of Talbozang, shook his head when asked if he has received any government help.

“No, no, no. Never,” he said. “The government promised us seeds but we never received them.”

Officials in the peaceful north say they have received far less international aid than in the violent south, where donors spend money to win over hearts and minds from insurgents.

“We hear in radio broadcasts that the international community is helping our country. Where is the help?” said Sayed Ayub, head of Talbozang’s development council, as U.S. military and State Department officials who travelled to the shura looked on.

“We are ready for any cooperation with the government. If the government asks us not to grow poppy, they should help us.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Malaysia Police Fire Tear Gas on Iran Election Protest

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — - Malaysian police on Monday fired several rounds of tear gas to break up a noisy protest held by Iranians residing here against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial election victory.

Earlier more than 200 people gathered at the city’s United Nations building to hand over a protest note demanding the world body nullify elections the Iranian opposition allege was rigged.

“We want all the countries in the world not to recognise Ahmadinejad as Iranian president. The election was fraud. The actual winner is (Mir Hossein) Mousavi,” Ali Bozrgmer, a 28-year-old student told AFP.

He said the protest lasted for about one hour during which they shouted slogans such as “Where is my vote?” and “Ahmadinejad go to hell”.

The protesters, who were mainly students from the local Iranian community of some 9,000 people, then continued their march along a busy road outside the UN building, he said.

Witnesses said the police warned protesters to end the demonstration before firing tear gas.

“The police gave us warning to disperse. But they suddenly fired several rounds of tear gas. We ran away,” Bozrgmer said, adding that they plan more protests.

Mousavi has lodged a formal protest calling for an annulment of the result of Friday’s presidential election, which he lost to hardliner Ahmadinejad, complaining of vote-rigging.

Iranian opposition supporters worldwide have staged demonstrations to protest at the election which returned Ahmadinejad to another four years in power.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Orissa: Tensions in Kandhamal. Christians Still Targeted by Extremists

A Christian woman recognises her husbands assassin after meeting him at the market. The police intervenes and arrests the man, but immediately Hindu fanatics protest in front of the police station for his release.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) — Tensions and clashes between extremists and police following the arrest of a leader from the Sangh Parivar, guilty of the murder of tribal Christians and officers from the Central Reserve Police Force (Crpf). That is what has taken place in the village of Sirsapanga, Kandhamal district (Orissa).

On June 6th, the widow of a tribal Christian killed in October by Hindu extremists recognised her husbands assassin while she was at the market. Kalia Pradhan, the murderer, had been in hiding for over 9 months but had recently been seen in public places in the village.

Eye-witnesses report that the woman, as soon as she recognised the man, began screaming: “My husband’s killer is here” greatly agitating the crowds. Reached by AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (Gcic) tells that “she went to the police who were initially reluctant to arrest the man, however, her brother telephoned the Superintendent of Police, who immediately ordered the local police to arrest him”.

Following the security forces operations, supporters of the Sangh Parivar immediately began protesting outside the Raikia police station demanding the assassins release. Officers dispersed the crowd of protesters and immediately alerted priests and Christians in the area, for fear of fresh tensions.

Sirsapanga village became the theatre of fresh violence when the government decided to withdraw the Crpf force on May 31st last. Coinciding with the demobilisation of the soldiers, sent to the area to protect Christians, the homes of three Christians were set on fire.

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

Pakistan: Christian Murdered for Drinking Tea From a Muslim Cup

WASHINGTON, June 12 /Christian Newswire/ — International Christian Concern ( has learned that radical Muslims running a tea stall beat a Christian man to death for using a cup designated for Muslims on May 9. The young man, Ishtiaq Masih, had ordered tea at a roadside stall in Machharkay village, Punjab, Pakistan, after his bus made a rest stop.

When Ishtiaq went to pay for his tea, the owner noticed that he was wearing a necklace with a cross and grabbed him, calling for his employees to bring anything available to beat him for violating a sign posted on the stall warning non-Muslims to declare their religion before being served. Ishtiaq had not noticed the warning sign before ordering his tea.

The owner and 14 of his employees beat Ishtiaq with stones, iron rods and clubs, and stabbed him multiple times with kitchen knives as Ishtiaq pleaded for mercy.

The other bus passengers and other passers-by finally intervened and took Ishtiaq to the Rural Health Center in the village. The doctor who took Ishtiaq’s case told ICC that Ishtiaq had died due to excessive internal and external bleeding, a fractured skull, and brain injuries.

Makah Tea Stall is located on the Sukheki-Lahore highway and is owned by Mubarak Ali, a 42-year-old radical Muslim. ICC’s correspondent visited the tea stall and observed that a large red warning sign with a death’s head symbol was posted which read, “All non-Muslims should introduce their faith prior to ordering tea. This tea stall serves Muslims only.” The warning also threatened anyone who violated the rule with “dire consequences.”

A neighboring shopkeeper told ICC on condition of anonymity that all Ali’s employees are former students of radical Muslim madrassas (seminaries).

Ishtiaq’s family said that they immediately reported the incident to the police and filed a case against Ali. However, the murderers are still freely operating the tea stall.

When ICC asked the Pindi Bhatian Saddar police station about the murder, the police chief said that investigations were underway and they are treating it as a faith-based murder by biased Muslims. When asked about Ali’s warning sign, police chief Muhammad Iftikhar Bajwa claimed that he could not take it down. However, the constitution of Pakistan explicitly prohibits such discrimination.

The public is encouraged to call the Pakistani embassy of their country to protest this heinous crime.

Pakistan Embassies:

USA: (202) 243-6500,

Canada: (613) 238-7881,

UK: 0870-005-6967,

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Two Al-Jazeera Producers Arrested in Afghanistan

KABUL — Al-Jazeera called for the immediate release of two of its Afghan producers after they were arrested by Afghan intelligence agents. The network said it has been unable to contact them.

Qais Azimy and Hamedullah Shah, who work for the network’s English and Arabic services, have been held by Afghan authorities since Sunday, the station said Monday in a statement.

“Al-Jazeera is officially requesting information from the Afghan authorities and is calling for Qais and Hamedullah’s immediate release,” it said..

It was unclear why the two were arrested.

In a news report over the weekend from the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, Al-Jazeera showed Azimy meeting with Taliban fighters and interviewing a Taliban commander who said that he was in charge of hundreds of men and had 12 suicide bombers waiting to strike.

Afghan authorities may have been angered by the report, Al-Jazeera correspondent David Chater said in a statement.

“We don’t know why they’ve been taken. We don’t know what they’ve been charged with, if they’ve been charged at all. We don’t know why they’re being interrogated, if indeed they’re being interrogated,” Chater said.

Afghan officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment late Monday.

Northern Afghanistan had been one of the few peaceful regions in the country. But Kunduz province, where about 3,500 German soldiers are stationed, has seen a sharp rise in violence in recent months.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Far East

China Sees Foreign Direct Investment Drop 17.8pct

BEIJING (AFP) — Foreign direct investment in China dropped 17.8 percent year-on-year in May for the eighth straight monthly fall, the commerce ministry has said.

China attracted a total of 6.38 billion dollars of foreign investment last month, the ministry’s spokesman Yao Jian told reporters.

The decline compared with a fall of 22.5 percent in April from the same month in 2008, according to previously released statistics.

Foreign direct investment in the first five months was down 20.4 percent from the same period last year to 34.05 billion dollars, the spokesman said.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

China: Teenage Girl Dug Up to be ‘Corpse Bride’

Five people have been arrested in China for digging up the corpse of a young woman to be a “ghost bride” for a man killed in a car crash.

The suspects included a grieving father who allegedly paid his four accomplices around £2,700 pounds to find a female to be his son’s companion in the afterlife.

The men were caught after unearthing the remains of a teenage girl who had poisoned herself after failing her university entrance exams last year, a newspaper in Xianyang in China’s Shaanxi province reported.

In rural China, superstitious villagers have for centuries sought out the bodies of recently deceased woman to be ghost brides for young men who die single.

Marriage ceremonies are conducted for the two corpses, and the bride is placed in the same grave as her husband.

Under Chairman Mao’s rule, officials made strenuous efforts to stamp out the ghoulish practice but it has since resurfaced in some rural areas.

Last year, a gang in southern China was arrested for strangling young women to sell as ghost brides when the supply of female corpses in their area ran short.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

N. Korea May Have More Nuclear Test Sites: Report

SEOUL (AFP) — North Korea may have built more underground nuclear test sites in the northeastern district where it staged its first two tests, a news report has said.

South Korean intelligence sources quoted by Yonhap news agency said the North could have built two or three such sites in and around Punggyeri in Kilju district near the coast.

US intelligence sources quoted by American TV networks said last week the North intends to respond to new UN sanctions with a third nuclear test.

“There are no signs yet of preparations for a third test,” a source told Yonhap.

News of the hardline Stalinist state’s nuclear developments come as South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak left for talks with US President Barack Obama on growing tensions with North Korea, with Obama expected to reassure the US ally of security commitments.

Trade and economic issues will also figure in Tuesday’s summit.

In further developments on the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programme JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, quoting intelligence sources, said South Korean and US officials have intensified satellite monitoring of 11 underground facilities for a possible test.

It said some sites are in the north of the country and include Kumchang-ri in the northwest, which came under suspicion back in 1998 as a possible hidden atomic facility.

The United States gave the North 600,000 tons of food aid in return for permission to inspect the site but US visits in 1999 revealed only empty tunnels.

An intelligence source told AFP that the North’s activities are being closely monitored but it was not true that 11 sites were being watched.

“It’s not easy to pick a multiple number of possible nuclear test sites and closely monitor all of them,” one official told Yonhap.

“In 2006 we made a list of suspected North Korean nuclear facilities for possible verification. But we cannot just conclude that these facilities are all possible nuclear test sites.”

The National Intelligence Service declined to comment on the media reports.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

N. Korea Nuke Tests Sites May be Found (AP)

AP — The U.S. and South Korea have pinpointed 11 underground sites in North Korea where it could conduct a third nuclear test, a newspaper reported Monday ahead of a summit between the two allies on the communist regime’s growing atomic threat.

Tension on the Korean peninsula spiked after the North declared Saturday it would accelerate its nuclear bomb-making program by producing more plutonium and uranium, two key ingredients.

The North also threatened war with any country that tries to stop its ships on the high seas as part of new Security Council sanctions passed in response to Pyongyang’s May 25 nuclear test. It conducted its first test in 2006.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak departed for summit talks in Washington on Tuesday with President Barack Obama that are expected to be dominated by the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

In Pyongyang, a massive crowd of North Koreans packed the capital’s main square in a rally to condemn the U.N. resolution, footage from APTN in North Korea showed. The isolated, totalitarian regime often organizes such rallies at times of tension with the outside world.

APTN North Korea estimated the crowd at about 100,000.

“We strongly condemn and wholly reject the U.N. Security Council’s resolution on sanctions, fabricated at the instigation of U.S. imperialism hell-bent on its attempt at stifling” the North, Kim Ki Nam, a top Workers’ Party official, told the crowd.

Participants clapped and chanted “Condemn! Reject!” in unison, pumping clenched fists into the sky.

The North is believed to have enough weaponized plutonium for at least half a dozen atomic bombs, and a U.S. government official said last week that Pyongyang may be preparing for another nuclear test, its third.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the unreleased information and provided no details.

Also Monday, Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified intelligence official as saying the North may have already built two to three underground test sites near its known Punggye-ri site in the remote northeast, where it conducted its first and second tests.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they could not confirm the reports.

A news report from Moscow quoted an official in the Russian military general staff as saying there has been a decrease in visible activity around North Korea’s nuclear facilities in recent days.

This could either indicate that the North has prepared for a new underground nuclear test or is taking a break, according to the state-owned RIA-Novosti news agency. It did not name the official, and the general staff could not immediately be reached for comment.

North Korea has also been preparing to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the United States, U.S. officials have said.. The North says the nuclear and missile programs are a deterrent against the United States.

Washington fears that cash-strapped North Korea will sell its nuclear technology to rogue nations, spreading the atomic threat.

The regime has also warned it cannot guarantee the safety of South Korean and U.S. navy ships sailing near the disputed western sea border, raising the specter for a maritime confrontation. The area is the scene of two bloody maritime skirmishes between the Koreas in 1999 and 2002.

South Korea’s navy chief of staff said a maritime skirmish could occur “at any time” and that his forces were prepared.

“We will cut off the enemy’s wrist even if they touch the tip of our finger,” Jung Ok-keun said at a ceremony marking a deadly naval clash with North Korea in 1999.

But the Defense Ministry said Monday it has spotted no unusual moves by the North’s military.

The strong ties between South Korea and the United States are a thorn in the side of wartime foe North Korea, which accuses the two countries of plotting an attack to topple the communist regime. The allies deny harboring any such intention.

But President Lee said his country’s ties with the United States are “key” at a time of “intensifying” security crisis because of North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

“I will use this summit to reconfirm the strong Korea-U.S. alliance,” Lee said in a radio speech before his departure for Washington.

The two Koreas remain technically at war because their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953, and they remain divided by a heavily fortified border. The U.S. has 28,500 troops in South Korea.

The two Koreas signed an accord to ease military tensions and promote economic cooperation nine years ago Monday. However, ties have significantly frayed since Lee, a conservative who advocates a hard-line approach, took office last year. The North responded by cutting off ties and halting joint business projects.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

North Korea Warns Seoul of Nuclear War Following UN Sanctions

North Korea has warned of a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula while vowing to step up its atomic weapons programme in defiance of new UN sanctions.

Today’s Rodong Sinmun, a state-run North Korean newspaper, claimed the US has 1,000 nuclear weapons in South Korea. Another state-run publication claimed that America had been deploying nuclear weapons in Japan as well.

North Korea “is completely within the range of US nuclear attack and the Korean peninsula is becoming an area where the chances of a nuclear war are the highest in the world”, the Tongil Sinbo said.

A spokesman at the US military command in Seoul dismissed the claims as “baseless”, saying Washington had no nuclear bombs in South Korea. US tactical nuclear weapons were removed from the country in 1991 following the cold war.

Yesterday, Pyongyang threatened war on any country that dared to stop its ships under the new sanctions approved by the UN security council on Friday.

Pyongyang’s sabre-rattling presents a growing diplomatic headache for Barack Obama as he prepares for talks on Tuesday with his South Korean counterpart on the North’s missile and nuclear programmes.

President Lee Myung-bak told security ministers at an unscheduled meeting today to “resolutely and squarely” cope with the North’s latest threat, his office said. He leaves for the US tomorrow morning.

South Korea’s unification ministry today demanded that the North stop stoking tension, abandon its nuclear weapons and returned to dialogue with the South.

It is unclear whether North Korea’s statements are simply rhetoric. But they are a setback for international attempts to rein in the country’s nuclear ambitions following its second nuclear test on 25 May.

In yesterday’s statement, Pyongyang said it has been enriching uranium to provide fuel for its light-water reactor. It was the first public acknowledgment that the North is running such a programme in addition to its known plutonium one.

Today, Seoul’s Yonhap news agency reported that South Korea and the US have mobilised spy satellites, reconnaissance aircraft and human intelligence networks to obtain evidence of the programme.

North Korea says its nuclear programme is a deterrent against the US, which it routinely accuses of plotting to topple its regime. Washington, which has 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea, has repeatedly said it has no such intention.

The latest UN sanctions are aimed at depriving Pyongyang of the financing necessary for its nuclear programme. The UN also authorised searches of North Korean ships suspected of transporting illicit ballistic missile and nuclear materials.The new sanctions

The UN penalties provided the necessary tools to help check North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, said the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton yesterday.

They show that “North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver those weapons through missiles is not going to be accepted by the neighbours as well as the greater international community”, she said.

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

Latin America

Internet Chat ‘Dupes Castro Son’

A Cuban exile blogger from Miami says he used a female internet alter ego to gain access to a member of the usually impervious family of Fidel Castro.

Luis Dominguez says he used the character to begin an online relationship with 40-year-old Antonio, the son of ex-leader Mr Castro.

He refused to apologise for the deception, saying he wanted to show the “opulent lifestyles” of the Castros.

Cuban authorities have not confirmed or commented on the online chats.

Daily life

Many internet users have engaged in a series of flirtatious chats only to find the person they have met online is not who they say they are.

As anyone who covers Cuban politics and the Castro family knows, gaining access of any sort is far from easy.

The Castro family has had a massive security cordon around it for decades — in large part due to the many attempts to remove the island’s communist government from power.

Mr Dominguez used Antonio Castro’s alleged weakness for young women and sports.

Mr Dominguez created Claudia, a 27-year-old Colombian sports journalist.

Claudia made contact with Antonio and they chatted on and off for an eight-month period.

Antonio shared details of his daily life in Cuba and his trips around the world with his uncle Raul, the Cuban president, but did not reveal any state secrets.

However, Mr Dominguez says that by showing what he describes as the opulent lifestyles the Castros live in a communist country like Cuba he has achieved his aim.

Mr Dominguez has published pictures and documents of his chats with the younger Mr Castro on his blog.

He refuses to apologise for violating Antonio Castro’s privacy and says he has no regrets about what he did.

“I’m a Cuban and I’m a Cuban American and I have not been able to go back to my country since 1971 when I left.

“I use whatever tools I have to be able to get back at these people. In Cuba people are put in prison for no reason at all.. Their rights are violated… So, why can’t I do the same thing to them? I have no remorse whatsoever.”

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


Obama Ready to Announce His Surrender to Big Business Lobby and Gut Workplace Verification?

By Roy Beck

Informed sources are telling our Capitol Hill Team that the Obama Administration plans to announce today or tomorrow new orders and rules that will gut most of the improvements in fighting illegal immigration at the end of the Bush Administration.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Oklahoma: Illegal Immigrants to be Deported Under New Law

OKLAHOMA CITY — A law passed by Oklahoma’s Legislature will allow the state to deport illegal immigrants who already are serving prison sentences for nonviolent crimes.

The Oklahoma Criminal Illegal Alien Rapid Repatriation Act passed both houses of the Legislature with only one vote against it.

Its author, Rep. Randy Terrill of Moore, says the law, which will take effect on July 1, could save the state at least $4 million in its first year.

He says the goal of the law is to return responsibility to the federal government for paying to house illegal immigrants.

Under the law, an offender who is in the country illegally can be considered for deportation if that person has been convicted of a nonviolent crime and has served one-third of his or her sentence.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for the central region of the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, says that the federal government must issue any deportation order. He says that if an offender has pending federal charges, he or she cannot be deported.

           — Hat tip: The Lurker from Tulsa[Return to headlines]

US to Open Immigration Files

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Millions of files containing detailed information about U.S. immigrants -including their spouses’ names, as well as personal photographs and letters — will soon become available to the public through a federal facility in suburban Kansas City.

Preservationists had been worried that the documents providing an important picture of immigration after 1944 would be lost because the federal government considered them temporary and could have destroyed them after 75 years.

But a deal signed this month between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the National Archives and Records Administration preserves all 53 million files. About 21 million will be sent to the National Archives and made available in batches to genealogists, families and others.

“It’s a big deal because basically at this point they could have just incinerated them all,” said Jennie Lew, a spokeswoman for Save Our National Archives, a San Francisco-based group that worked to preserve the files. “And these give a fuller picture of those that were allowed to immigrate later in American history.”

The U.S. has been “very good at preserving the records of the Puritans and western Europeans … but you’d miss the whole history of those” who came to the U.S. later if the A-files weren’t kept, she said.

Some files contain items such as Chinese wedding scrolls or the locations of family homes, said Jeanie Low, another SONA spokeswoman.

“We’re not just talking about European immigrants. We’re talking about Africans, war brides, southeast Asians, every political struggle you have had,” she said. “All we have before these files was immigrants coming through Ellis Island, and that is not representative of the U.S. anymore.”

The first batch of about 135,000 files is expected to be available to the public this fall at National Archives’ storage facility in Lee’s Summit.. People also can ask the archive to mail them copies of records.

Immigrants will continue to be able to get copies of their own files under the Freedom of Information Act.

The files will not be open to others, however, until 100 years after an immigrant’s birth.

Lists of documents contained in A-files had been previously available to the public with a FOIA request. But the files themselves were not open for viewing or copying.

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]